Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Pandora, Ava, Cardiff, Lewin ... Magic Time

A new print of PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, 1950, is the centrepiece of retrospectives on Jack Cardiff and Albert Lewin at London's BFI at the moment (as well as on Agnes Varda - but more on her and Jacques Demy later). Everything about PANDORA is everything that cinema should be - unlike say that drearily predictable new Robin Hood of Crowe and Scott! From that lush Technicolor and Cardiff's way with lighting Ava Gardner and James Mason in their swooning romanticism; I found myself pausing several scenes just to take in the astonishing detail and those great Cardiff shots (as in that fabulous restaurant scene with the blue sky and Ava in that yellow dress) its very surreal in places ... it has a lot in common actually with Mankiewicz's THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA which Cardiff also lit and photographed in '54. (I've just realised Ava and Mason were Franz Joseph and Elizabeth of Austria [Sissi] in Terence Young's MAYERLING in '68 but can't remember any scenes they had succeeded though in making Deneuve and Sharif pallid and uninteresting, at least Genevieve Page was also briefly on board.)

Albert Lewin was one of Hollywood's eccentric talents with that legacy of fascinating films like the 1945 PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY and THE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI where George Sanders excels, as ever. Cardiff - who died in his 90s last year - has related how he shot all those great films in his memoir "Magic Hour": the Powell-Pressburger productions in the '40s, rousing adventures like THE VIKINGS and that Sahara western LEGEND OF THE LOST (where he relates a chaste romance he had with young Sophia Loren (before her marriage to Ponti) and did Marilyn Monroe ever look more adorably beautiful than in THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL? His chapter on Monroe makes all those other books on her redundant.

Cardiff turned to directing himself - his 1960 SONS AND LOVERS has some great black and white photography and is a terrific version of Lawrence with that great pairing of Wendy Hiller and Trevor Howard as the warring parents, and Mary Ure in one of her rare film roles. YOUNG CASSIDY in 1965 - taken over from ailing John Ford - is an adequate version of Sean O'Casey's early life (as depicted by Rod Taylor) and is a great example of American movie-making in England in the '60s with again a superlative cast: Maggie Smith, the radiant young Julie Christie, Edith Evans, Michael Redgrave, Flora Robson, Sian Philips and a lot of familiar Irish faces.

But back to PANDORA - delirious wonderful film-making at its best, as of course are BLACK NARCISSUS, THE RED SHOES, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH.


  1. Oh, I must see Pandora - I can't even imagine the lushness of Ava Gardner, as photographed by Cardiff!

    I saw Matter of Life & Death for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was an absolutely mindblowing experience.

    I'm browsing through your blog, and am in awe of your scholarship and breadth of knowledge! I tip my hat, sir.

  2. Thank you - your blog is terrific too, I am going through it all, terrific photos and erudition. Jack Cardiff also makes Ava stupendous in that scene on the balcony with Bogart in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA in '54 ... moonlight never looked more entracing, but PANDORA is absolutely amazing and surreal.