“Stairway to Heaven" (1946) is one of the most audacious films ever made - in its grandiose vision, and in the cozy English way it's expressed. The movie, which is being revived at the Music Box in a restored Technicolor print of dazzling beauty, joins the continuing retrospective at the Film Center of 15 other films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the most talented British filmmakers of the 1940s and 1950s.
"This is the universe," a voice says at the beginning of "Stairway to Heaven." "Big, isn't it?" The camera pans across the skies - but the story, as it develops, is both awesome and intimate, suggesting that a single tear shed for love might stop heaven in its tracks.
The story opens inside the cockpit of a British bomber going down in flames over England in the last days of World War II. The pilot, Peter (David Niven), establishes radio contact with a ground controller, an American named June (Kim Hunter). Peter is unflappable in the face of death, and an instant rapport springs up between the two disembodied voices ("I love you, June. You're life, and I'm leaving it"). Then Peter jumps out of the plane before it crashes.
What follows is a breathtaking pastoral moment, as the pilot, somehow alive, washes ashore and sees a young woman, far away, riding her bicycle home. It is, of course, June, and soon they are deeply in love. But there is a problem. Peter was not intended to live. Heaven has made an error, and an emissary, Heavenly Conductor 71 (Maurice Goring) is sent to fetch him back. Peter refuses to go, and a heavenly tribunal is convened to settle the case. This fantasy is grounded in reality by a brain operation the pilot must undergo; perhaps his heavenly trial is only a by-product of the anesthetic.Showing on Thursday June 29 2017 1:00 PM (120 Minutes)