Apr 23, 2009

RIP Jack Cardiff

A great artist has died: Jack Cardiff was 94, a cinematographer of genius and a notable director. Perhaps the most brilliant "painter of light" with Technicolor that the movies have had--I certainly would given him that title without any hesitation. He worked with Hitchcock, Olivier, and John Huston("The African Queen") to name a few highlights, but for me it was his collaboration on the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, "The Archers", that seals it.

Kim Hunter in the opening minutes of "A Matter of Life and Death", one of my favorite films. It was the first Powell & Pressburger film I saw, and its color took my breath away. Id never seen anything like it before.

Obviously this isn't about "animation", but animation is filmmaking, and this is filmmaking of the highest standard-and also, the most imaginative and artistic. Thankfully not "artistic" in the usual way it's used for film-something noncommercial, or worse, dull-but in the very same sense as it's applied to the best of animation. I've always felt that animation has as much to teach live action film as the other way round, and I've been pleased to find that some of the top talents in live action today agree. Yet so much of what could be done with design, color and every other aspect of assembling a film shot by shot, scene by scene seems to make no use of the extra-ordinary applications that animation can produce so brilliantly.

In Jack Cardiff live action had a man who thought out of the box, and the results are obvious. Each of the shots reproduced here is a screen capture from his films. I could and should add more, but these are what I found from some of the DVD review sites on the net. One of those has a terrific review of AMOLAD, great reading for anyone, which is here. If it doesn't make you want to see it, nothing will. I've seen it myself several times with an audience(Martin Scorcese, a huge P&P fan, was responsible for its rerelease some years ago), and it's a wonderful experience, but it's on DVD as well. However you watch any of these films, turn off the phone, sit yourself down and don't do anything but give them your full attention for their running time. I'm sure it will take only the first few minutes to see why..

from "Black Narcissus", another masterpiece

So here's to the life work of a very important figure in our shared industry-film. Hail and farewell, Jack Cardiff.


Daveland said...

Wonderful post; I don't know much about Cardiff, but I do know that "The Red Shoes" is a visual masterpiece.

Lissa said...

Wow, these are really beautiful.
I'm not nearly as up on these old cinema guys as i should be.

Miss you at work! Hope you're doing well :)

Dan said...

Excellent, just what I need. He's an unknown to me, but based on those screen caps I'll be viewing his films shortly. Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Check out the story reels for the ballet on the Criterion DVD of "The Red Shoes." Great stuff, and no doubt he was a big fan of animation.

Unknown said...

"Black Narcissus" uses color as few other films ever have. That movie loses more than half of its dramatic impact when seen in monochrome.

David Nethery said...

Wonderful tribute to a master.

Thank you for posting this Jenny.

Alisa said...

Thanks for this post, looks like some wonderful films to check out.

Floyd Norman said...

Thanks for a wonderful tribute to Jack Cardiff. I'm so pleased that so many of you recognize his work.

My pal, Jim Fletcher and I were both fans of Cardiff way back in the fifties. It's nice to know his work is still remembered.

Inkwell Bookstore said...

On the dvd extras of Black Narcissus, the filmmakers talk about being heavily influenced by Disney's Snow White.