Based on Jacques Offenbach’s opera of the stories of romantic poet E.T.A. Hoffmann, The Tales of Hoffmann gave close collaborators Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger another opportunity to eschew realism and celebrate artifice and creativity.
Metropolitan opera star Robert Rounseville plays Hoffmann, a university student who is spectacularly unlucky in affairs of the heart. Each of his love affairs with Olympia (Moira Shearer), an animated doll, Venetian courtesan Giulietta (Ludmilla Tcherina) and singer’s daughter Antonia (Ann Ayars) is doomed for failure due to circumstances far beyond our hero’s control.
The entire film is shaped by Offenbach’s score, given a rousing rendition by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of the legendary Sir Thomas Beecham.
The Tales of Hoffmann has been beautifully restored in 4k by The Film Foundation, supervised by Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker and Ned Price. Newly discovered sequences from Act Three and the Epilogue, which were missing from previously released versions of the film, were found in the nitrate material held at the BFI and put back into the film as directors Powell & Pressburger originally intended.