23 October 2010

CAMERAMAN: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (Dir. Craig McCall, 2010, UK) - Visions of Light

British Cinematographer Jack Cardiff pioneered the creative possibilities of using technicolor in the 40s and 50s.

I have always been a great admirer of the director of photography but aside from the AFI backed Visions of Light documentary made way back in the 90s, featuring enlightening interviews on cinematography as an art form, it is still an aspect of film making that has never really been elucidated in terms of getting behind the process and letting the artists speak for themselves. Like editing, cinematography is no longer the hidden art form that it once was and many cinematographers are able to leave an identifiable authorial stamp on their work. This documentary is a rarity in many respects as directors continue to be celebrated endlessly but cinematographers are somewhat pushed to one side. Craig McCall's celebration of Jack Cardiff as perhaps the most innovative and accomplished cinematographer of his generation is equally an affectionate tribute to an age in which what was possible with colour and light could only be accomplished on set and via the camera. Whilst the focus is on Cardiff's career, we are also taken through the history of cinematography as an art form and the real spirit of the documentary is forged in the sequences exploring the groundbreaking and singularly unique creative collaboration between Cardiff and Powell-Pressburger. As an aid to teaching the cinematography process, this comes highly recommended and much of the critical commentary is supported by impassioned interviews from Martin Scorsese, Kirk Douglas and Richard Fleischer. Cardiff's astonishing work on both Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) has made me want to revisit both films again. Of course like John Alton and Conrad Hall, the influence of painters is what makes the work of Cardiff so aesthetically superior and timeless. He truly was a master of his profession.

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