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Briefed by the Ministry of Information to make a film that would foster Anglo-American relations in the post-war period, innovative filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger came up with A Matter of Life and Death, an extravagant and extraordinary fantasy in which David Niven stars as a downed pilot who must justify his continuing existence to a heavenly panel because he has made the mistake of falling in love with an American girl (Kim Hunter) when he really should have been dead. National stereotypes are lampooned as the angelic judges squabble over his fate. In a neat reversal of expectations, the Heaven sequences are black and white, while Earth is seen in Technicolor. Daring cinematography mixes monochrome and color, incorporates time-lapse images, and even toys with background "time freezes" 50 years before The Matrix. Roger Livesey and Raymond Massey lead the fine supporting cast. This is one of the undoubted jewels of British cinema. --Mark Walker
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