The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)

Directed by Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell

A young poet named Hoffman broods over his failed romances. First, his affair with the beautiful Olympia is shattered when he realizes that she is really a mechanical woman designed by a scientist. Next, he believes that a striking prostitute loves him, only to find out she was hired to fake her affections by the dastardly Dapertutto. Lastly, a magic spell claims the life of his final lover.

Cambridge Film Festival 2023: Film #3

Oh wow… With more narrative frame devices than Conrad's Heart of Darkness, all those Royal Opera House live 'simulcast' presentations at my local cinema are going to look pretty tame after this. And this dress is surely the template for the one in Poor Things (2023)?


Though lacking the thematic depth that characterized the Archers’ earlier work, The Tales of Hoffmann ranks among their finest triumphs for its purely aesthetic self-justification. If The Red Shoes suggested that cinema transcended the limits of earlier art forms, this film finds a synthesis of old and new that honors previous traditions while remaking them into something new and bold. Cinema here is not the usurping Young Turk of the art world but a long-missing element that unifies every other medium into an all-encompassing Art. […] [On the Criterion DVD,] George A. Romero […] recounts a youth spent renting the same library print of the film over and over and finding himself in competition for the reels with another New York cinephile who turned out to be none other than a teenaged Scorsese.

Jake Cole (Slant)