Friday, November 14, 2014

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff

Directed by Craig McCall, Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff is a documentary about the cinematographer who helped innovate the use of Technicolor as well as providing the cinema some of its greatest images. Especially as he was revered by the filmmakers he worked with as well as actors and actresses. The result is one of the most fascinating documentaries about one of cinema’s great photographers.

Famous for his beautiful work with Technicolor film stock for films like The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, The African Queen, Barefoot Contessa, and Under Capricorn among many others. Jack Cardiff was a cinematographer who was considered one of the best as he would push the film stock to great heights as he went from being a cameraman to a top cinematographer. Shot partially in 2008 (a year before his death) as well as footage from his trip to the 1998 Cannes Film Festival where he was a guest of honor. Cardiff talks about many of the films he shot as well as the filmmakers, actors, actresses, and technicians he worked with in his illustrious career.

Some of which involves his process into the art of photography where Cardiff revealed that he was inspired more by painters rather than what was happening film. When Technicolor arrived in Britain in the late 1930s, Cardiff was the first who would understand the process as he would serve as a cameraman for a few documentaries that led to him working with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger as a second unit cameraman in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. This would get him a job to work as a cinematographer in their great works such as A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus, and The Red Shoes. Cardiff also talks about some his early experiences as a cameraman in the 1930s where he talked about Marlene Dietrich’s fondness for lighting which he was impressed by.

With interviews from actors like Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall as well as filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Richard Fleischer plus Scorsese’s editor Thelma Schoonmaker, many of them discuss Cardiff’s methods in the art of photography. Even as Bacall, who would often visit’s the sets where her husband Humphrey Bogart was starring in, talked about how good he shot the actors which made actresses like Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Marilyn Monroe look great as they would do photos for him for fun. There’s also discussions about Cardiff’s brief period as a filmmaker where despite getting accolades for films like Sons and Lovers and My Geisha in the 1960s, he would eventually return to cinematography in the late 1970s.

With some unique editing from Dan Roberts and Chris Dickens along with some terrific sound design from Sandra Portman, the film definitely takes a unique look into Cardiff’s career as he also talks about some of the drawbacks he had upon his return when it came to photographic special effects as Scorsese, who is an admirer of Cardiff’s work, expresses the sense of loss in the transition between film and digital where Scorsese favors the former. With some wonderfully low-key yet whimsical music from Mark Sayer-Wade, the film has this appreciation for Cardiff‘s contributions which begins and ends with the honorary Oscar he would receive at the 2001 Academy Awards.

Cameraman: The Life and Work with Jack Cardiff is an extraordinary film from Craig McCall. The film isn’t just a mesmerizing piece on one of cinema’s great photographers but also a man who brought a lot of new things to cinematography when film was getting a sense of how to present color. In the end, Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff is a sensationally rich film from Craig McCall.

© thevoid99 2014


Brittani Burnham said...

Ooohhh this sounds interesting. Thanks for reviewing! I'm going to have to find this now.

thevoid99 said...

It's usually on Turner Classic Movies. Just check on the schedule and DVR it.