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The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff, Cameraman [DVD]
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Apparently 17 years in the making this film by Craig McCall was not actually released until after the death of Jack Cardiff in 2009 at the venerable age of 94. Jack had truly enjoyed a 'wonderful life' in the film industry working with many of the cinema greats in a career that spanned so many changes. His important contribution was recognised in 2000 when he was awarded an OBE. In 2001 he became the first director of photography in history to be awarded an honorary academy award. An honour that he thoroughly deserved in a unique career. He once accurately described the film industry as "full of hypocrisy and hyperbole", but thankfully that did not put him off of leaving his indelible mark on film.

I am a great lover of fine cinematography which is often the difference between a good film and a great film. It was the beautiful colour cinematography of Winton Hoch that helped kindle an early love of cinema. When I look back at many of the films I loved, I find that Jack Cardiff was often behind the lens. Take a moment to consider his amazing CV. The beautiful Vermeer like lighting of Powell and Pressburger's "Black Narcissus". The same teams classic little wonder of technicolour in "The Red Shoes". That hauntingly atmospheric film "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" graced by the beauty of Ava Gardner. John Huston's great African odyssey in "The African Queen" with Bogart and Hepburn. Perhaps less well known but equally impressive was the stunning photography in Richard Fleischer's epic "The Vikings", where the gorgeous Norwegian fjords never looked better. Then there was the sublime desert scenery brought magically to life in Henry Hathaway's strange, all but forgotten Saharan western "Legend of the Lost", starring that colossus of the industry John Wayne. Cardiff even went on to forge a fine sub career as a director of films, but later following the collapse of the British film industry went back to camera work.

This film has interviews with many of the actors and directors that Cardiff worked with. Sir John Mills, Charlton Heston, Moira Shearer, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall and Richard Fleischer are amongst those who contribute. Most notable perhaps is the contribution of Martin Scorcese a living encycopedia of film lore, who acknowledges how influential Cardiff was in his own films, and interestingly describes how he used techniques from "The Red Shoes" in his own film "Raging Bull". Films that you might be forgiven for thinking as polar opposites. Cardiff himself gives a fascinating insight into his own work and how he was influenced by great painters like Turner who's stunning use of light he tried to replicate on film. One only has to look at his films to see that he succeeded in this aim. Cardiff talks candidly about the legendary characters he worked with like Bogart, Wayne, Flynn, Hepburn, Gardner, Hepburn, Huston and many others. There are even clips shown from his own home movies and studio portraits that he took of beauties like Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe. The only pity is that this documentary is just a whistle stop tour of a great career. It could have been so much longer. But as tributes go, this is a pretty good one. Cardiff seemed to be a genuinely humble man who was happiest behind the camera where he created his little miracles of colour and light. The glowing tributes of so many luminaries seem to testify to the high regard he was held in by those who had the privelege to work with him. Well worth watching for those who are interested in how cinematic art is created.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Craig McCall has put a film together capturing the essence - though certainly not the life story of, the great Jack Cardiff. In a series of frank and casual interviews with Cardiff himself, and through contemporaries - actresses, directors and cinematographers he has worked with, we get a real flavour of the artistic drives the man had, and how he became the legend of cinematography, arguably most synonymous with Technicolor. His pioneering work on the very first British colour films of Powell and Pressburger (The Red Shoes [Blu-ray] [1948], A Matter Of Life And Death [DVD] [1946] and Black Narcissus [Blu-ray] [1946] of course being the most famous) is covered, as are snapshots throughout his career, even going back to his time as a clapper boy after the First World War, and mentions of his later career as director and also as cinematographer on movies with less artistic resonance (Rambo 2!). However also included are insights into his relationship with painting and photographs. The way he talks about collecting beautiful women in his astonishing set of portraits of some of the biggest names of the Golden age of Hollywood is illuminating, as he talks about how the importance of altering the light to suit the face and the circumstances. It is surprising to see his painting, and how prolific an artist he was, and to hear how much of his understanding of painting coloured his view of `painting with light'.
At one point, he casually mentions how cinema has elements of all the art forms, with the added dimension of movement. It's no wonder Scorcese speaks so highly of this warm and vibrant character, who has influenced so much of the 20th Century artform we call cinema.
The extras are carefully chosen and work well - an interview with the director, and some expanded scenes which were cut from the movie but are fascinating in their own right. Also an expanded section of Jack talking about his photographs of great actresses, as well as a photo gallery of the same. Finally, the segment on the working of Technicolor is the logical final touch, so inextricably linked was he to its evolution in British cinema.
Documentary made up of interviews on a `behind-the-scenes' guy might seem like a hard sell, but for even the most casual movie buff, there is much here to enjoy and to learn. I can only hope when I have been working for 8 decades in my chosen field, I am at least half as sprightly and engaging.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2010
This is a superb documentary about Jack who was a pioneer of Technicolor film making. Jack's films are amongst the very best - The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death and many more. He comes across as modest, hugely well connected and a true gent of the old school. The interviews with people who knew him are terrific including John Mills, Kirk Douglas et al and Martin Scorsese is, as usual, lucid and enthusiastic. As well as the main film there's a host of excellent extras making up a really great package. Thoroughly recommended to film fans of any vintage!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2013
This is an excellent DVD about an amazing fellow, who really knew what lighting meant, particularly good was his account of his interview whereby he discussed light rather than technical specifications. Sadly his techniques have been over-ridden now by Computer Graphics, the difference is between coffee beans and instant coffee, after tasting 'proper' coffee you know where the quality is. I'm really glad that I have this DVD.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2013
The great Jack Cardiff what a man just a brill doc a must, enjoyed every minute so well done , I joy to watch simply a must for any serious cinema person Technical quality excellent
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2013
Excellent film very much like Visions of Light dvd, it would be great if we had more dvds like this on other cameramen who sadley can be overlooked and sometimes very underrated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2014
On the whole, very enjoyable watching Mr. Cardiff in action, however, the star actors' interview segments were disappointing tiny, example - Mr. Douglas's experience on working with the cameraman during the making of The Vikings was non-exsistant. What gems of stories about this important film in the life of both men have been lost.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2015
mother loves this. She is theatrically minded and loves the stories of Jack's days as early Hollywood took hold, his meeting with and stories about how the stars were as his photographed them and brings out the general humanity of them as well as his pictures being lovely to look at.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2010
I had the good fortune of seeing the documentary on the big screen last week in the presence of the director/producer and an audience nicely balanced between film fanatics and film students.
The film follows chronologically that part of Mr Cardiff's career which is the most interesting (only just mentioning his career as a child actor and glossing over (almost) his career as a film director).
The film is well paced, contains many interesting film excerpts, many of which familiar - as they are from very well-known movies. But the commentaries are fresh, interesting and illuminating, the interviews with Cardiff himself are central to the film (good choice) and it is also good choice to include a part of his later career when he was cinematographer on less-well known or at least much less artistically interesting films (Rambo 2)
This documentary is certainly one of the best and most entertaining I have seen within the genre - recommended to all those interested in film as an art form that requires master technicians to achieve its full effect.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2010
This shows how good, how imaginative, and how technically sound Cardiff was.
And such a decent chap too. Worth watching again and again.
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