Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Most baby-boomers are familiar with the Powell-Pressburger production of the Offenbach opera Tales of Hoffman only through the full-color stills from the film which were reproduced in the "Motion Picture" section of The World Book Encyclopedia. If this is your only memory of the film, we advise you to seek out a copy of this lengthy but visually enthralling picture as soon as possible. Metropolitan opera star Robert Rounseville plays Hoffman, a university student who is spectacularly unlucky in affairs of the heart. Each of his love affairs with Olympia (Moira Shearer), Giulietta (Ludmilla Tcherina) and Antonia (Ann Ayars) is doomed to failure due to circumstances far beyond our hero's control (Olympia, for example, turns out to be nothing more than a life-sized mechanical doll). As in the previous Powell-Pressburger collaboration The Red Shoes, the film's best moments are its ballet sequences, choreographed by Jane Ashton. Offenbach's score is given a splendid rendition by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of the legendary Sir Thomas Beecham. Most prints of Tales of Hoffman run 118 minutes, eliminating the closing "Tale of Antonia" sequence; the laserdisc version has been restored to 127 minutes, while the search goes on for the complete 138-minute negative.
poet, dreams, magic, romance, bizarre, desire, doll, life, mischief, mystery [unexplained phenomenon], ballet-dance, music-student, opera, performer