Title: Blithe Spirit
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Director: David Lean
based on the play of Noël Coward
Music: Richard Addinsell
Cinematography: Ronald Neame
A pristine restoration of David Lean’s fantasy comedy based on Noël Coward’s successful play, BLITHE SPIRIT is Lean’s third feature film and pairs Rex Harrison and Constance Cummings as a middle-class couple Charles and Ruth, both have been married before, out of his whim, Charles invites a kooky medium Madame Arcati (Rutherford) to their rural house to arrange a séance, which he naively thinks is good for inspiration since he is a novelist and Ruth, takes the whole arrangement ever so light-heartedly, only participates out of sheer curiosity, but after the supernormal session, it turns out Madame Arcati is not a fraud at all, Elvira (Hammond), Charles’ deceased first wife, has been invoked from the other side and materialises, but only to Charles, who is pleasantly surprised and they start to banter with each other, which vastly irritates Ruth.
Seeking help from Madame Arcati of no avail, Ruth realises she must fight Elvira for Charles, and a subsequent outlandish accident, secretly plotted by Elvira, puts her in the same circumstance as Elvira, while Madame Arcati’s final attempt to exorcise the dead from the living world fails, her crystal ball indicates a cue that there is another human being under the same roof is actually capable of accomplish that task.
The story does sound idiotic and Coward’s original play has no ambition to be a wacky science fiction other than a farcical fairytale (the film begins convivially with the “once upon a time” introduction), a frivolous (but also cartoon-ishly lethal) tug-of-war between two women divided by two worlds, with poles apart temperaments (Elvira is mischievously petulant while Ruth is uncompromisingly virtuous), thus, the acting is fairly engrossing, the four main characters all cop an attitude with their respectively distinct personalities, the repartees among Harrison, Cummings and Hammond are as rapid as any theatrical live performance, whereas Dame Margaret Rutherford’s eccentric actualisation of Madame Arcati is an uplifting phenomenon, such a force of nature and she defies any ridicule of her calling.
However, more essentially, it is Lean’s cutting-edge job in fabricating a human-ghost co-existent magic presence becomes a major reason why this little piece of gem sustains its life-force, under the stunning Technicolor palette, this restored version is truly a boon for a first-time viewer, if you are into some carefree diversion of spectres, death and necromancy.