One of the treats of last year was the digitally remastered version of The Red Shoes, Powell and Pressburgers marvellous film with the stunning Technicolor photography of the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff (who died last year). This documentary looks back at his long life and work, with lots of interviews with great stars and a slight brush-over of some of his lower moments.
Cardiff began his work as a cameraman on the British quota quickies, which is where he learned two things how to use a bulky camera quickly and how not make any mistakes. As Charlton Heston says later in the film, there are a handful of great cameramen, and a handful of quick ones, but not many who have both qualities.
He got his big break on A Matter of Life And Death, and there are plenty of clips of the wonderful switch from black and white to colour in that landmark film. From there he shot the Red Shoes one of the great Technicolor films and the equally exquisite Black Narcissus. Having established himself with Powell and Pressburger he went on to make lots more films, even the likes of Rambo II and Conan The Destroyer.
Stars queue up to pay tribute to his greatness, including a radiant Lauren Bacall, a stuttering Scorsese, Kathleen Byron, who was astonished when she saw herself in Narcissus, and Kim Hunter. Mainly though its some great footage of Cardiff himself talking to the docs director, and he is charming, funny, interesting and has lots and lots of anecdotes. After all, he shot some of the worlds most beautiful women, describing Marilyn Monroes face as near-perfect and described lighting Ava Gardner as pretty easy with that face. Dietrich, Bacall and Hepburn all came under his gaze, and his surviving black and white photos are gorgeous.
Its only when the film tells of his directing career it becomes a little hagiographic his first films, Sons And Lovers and Young Cassidy were fine films indeed, but Girl On A Motorcycle was certainly not, but this is never stated. At least director McCall does delve into why he gave up directing to go back to being a cameraman, at which he was clearly more talented. The film will also make you want to re-watch films like Hitchcocks Under Capricorn and The African Queen again just to see his great work. For film fans this is a real treat.
Overall Verdict: Detailed, absorbing look at the work of one of the greatest cameramen ever to emerge from Britain.
Reviewer: Mike Martin