The Tales of Hoffmann


Action / Fantasy / Music / Musical / Romance

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 88%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 74%
IMDb Rating 7.4 10 2339


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May 11, 2015 at 11:50 PM



Robert Helpmann as Lindorf / Coppelius / Dapertutto / Dr Miracle
Moira Shearer as Stella / Olympia
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
875.36 MB
23.976 fps
2hr 13 min
P/S 0 / 3
1.95 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 13 min
P/S 1 / 4

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by tomgillespie2002 9 / 10

An acquired taste, but there is nothing else quite like it

Michael Powell, the great under-appreciated British film director mainly recognised for his work alongside Hungarian Emeric Pressburger, spent most of his early career working towards the perfect marriage of the power of operatic music and the visual splendour of cinema. This can be glimpsed in the masterpieces Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948), and to a certain degree, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1949), but it wasn't until 1951 that he completed his ultimate goal. With The Tales of Hoffmann, an adaptation of Jacques Offenbach's flamboyant opera, Powell and Pressburger achieved what no other film has succeeded in doing since: bringing the opera to life on screen and infusing it with all the colour and vibrancy of cinema. Martin Scorsese, an lifelong admirer of P & P, recently oversaw a 4K remastering of the movie; the perfect medium to take in this lavish picture.

Staying true to the structure of Offenbach's vision, The Tales of Hoffmann comes with a prologue, epilogue, and three central acts all centred around the past loves of man-of-the-world Hoffmann (Robert Rounseville). As a stage performance featuring his current love plays out in the background, Hoffmann tells an eager group of friends of three women he has loved and lost. The first act, which is the brightest and most farcical, sees him duped into loving an automaton called Olympia (played by the beautiful Moira Shearer) by a pair of magical glasses that seemingly bring inanimate objects to life. The second act takes place in a hellish Venice, where an evil magician promises his courtesan Giulietta (Ludmilla Tcherina) expensive jewellery in exchange for her seduction of Hoffmann and the theft of his shadow. In the third and final act, Hoffmann falls for Antonia (Ann Ayars), a soprano suffering from a mysterious illness that forbids her to sing.

The disregard for traditional cinematic narrative structure means that The Tales of Hoffmann is certainly an acquired taste, but there is also nothing else quite like it. Backed by a thumping score from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Thomas Beecham and brought to life with ravishing set and costume design by Hein Heckroth (who was Oscar nominated twice for the film), Hoffmann is a treat for all the senses. It's particularly adored by filmmakers, with Cecil DeMille voicing his admiration for the film, and George A. Romero stating it to be his favourite movie of all time and the reason he wanted to become a director. There are also fine performances throughout, in particular Moira Shearer, who I fell head over heels for in The Red Shoes, and Robert Helpmann, the Child Catcher himself, who plays Hoffmann's nemesis in all the stories. Only Rounseville and Ayars perform their own vocals, but the film is graceful enough to reward the vocalists by a credits sequence that sees both singers and performers take a bow.

Reviewed by gavin6942 7 / 10

Opera Come to Life!

A melancholy poet reflects on three women he loved and lost in the past: a mechanical performing doll, a Venetian courtesan, and the consumptive daughter of a celebrated composer.

Although I am not an opera fan by any stretch of the imagination, I have to admire this film. The vibrant colors in a time before color was common, the makeup, costumes, camera angles and tricks to create a world of dreams. One would think this would be near the top of many classic lists, but it does not seem to be... in fact, it was not even one of the first Michael Powell films I saw. Not even close.

What surprised me the most was actually not the film itself, but the fact George A. Romero praises it on the Criterion disc. That is quite a strange thing. Not that Romero is a fan of the film -- that makes some deal of sense. But the fact Criterion thought to track him down for the release? How did that come about?

Reviewed by lasttimeisaw 5 / 10

a 4K restoration cannot save an artsy maladaptation

This is a 4K restoration of directors-duo Powell and Pressburger's cinematic adaptation of Jacques Offenbach's eponymous opera about German Romantic author E.T.A. Hoffmann (Rounseville), attends a ballet performance by a prima ballerina Stella (Shearer), who intends to meet Hoffmann after the show, but the note is intercepted by his nemesis Councillor Lindorf (Helpmann), which leads Hoffmann to get intoxicated in a tavern and triggers his nostalgic recounts of three stories from his past lovers, Olympia (Shearer), Giulietta (Tchérina) and Antonia (Ayars), respectively these three operettas happen in Paris, Venice and an unknown Greek island.

This is an excellent restoration to authentically register the movie's original theatrical opulence for opera die-hards to luxuriate in its live-emulating performances (although only tenor Rounseville and soprano Ayars can sing in their own voices, while other danseurs and danseuses have to all be dubbed in this case), it is an innovate endeavor to couple two different art media together at that time, when opera meets motion pictures, all the renditions can be rehearsed and redone to a fabricated perfection thanks to the snappy editing and the magic of montage, although sometimes Shearer is obviously not lip-syncing to the lyrics while ravishingly gyrating as the mechanical doll Olympia in the first story. Mainly as a ballet piece, the story of Olympia also consummately incorporates the utilisation of puppetry into its harlequin mise en scène.

Unfortunately, the film gradually slumps to be enervating in the second story of Giulietta, although Tchérina strikes a fierce appearance as an exotic courtesan who makes a deal with an evil magician (Helpmann) to steal Hoffmann's reflection, but the fantasy ingredients never transpire to be an impressive cinematic manoeuvre itself apart from some rudimentary magic tricks to provoke eye-rolling for finicky viewers. What's more frustrating is that the opera pieces are far from supremacy, the narrative descends into hollowness and the melody doesn't effectively to our ear's rescue.

Ultimately, the third story of Antonia comes to the nadir as it all relies on the singing, a soprano suffers from consumption and is forbidden to sing, but she is persuaded by an devilish doctor (Helpmann again) to belt out a dirge for herself. Strangely enough, all the way through, the film can only be occasionally captivating but uniformly no emotional vibrations are teased out, it seems that all its artsy charms are losing its mojo along its running time.

This is the second Powell-Pressburger collaboration I've watched, as much as I adore BLACK NARCISSUS (1947), THE TALES OF HOFFMANN is subjected with a troubled transmutation from opera to the media of cinema, flashily dazzling but without a sounding frisson to win over audience who is not afraid to shrug off the high-art hypocrisy and spill one's true feelings about it.

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