Saturday, January 7, 2012
15: CAMERAMAN: THE LIFE AND WORK OF JACK CARDIFF (2010)
But of everything covered by this film, what struck me as most meaningful was Cardiff's confession of his penchant for taking still photographs of his leading ladies and his unveiling of literally dozens of never-before-seen, certifiably immortal images of Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Anita Ekberg, Janet Leigh, and so on, and so on. Watching this film -- with not only these images, but all the most exalting clips from A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, BLACK NARCISSUS, THE RED SHOES, PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN and more -- I was taken very close to a place I haven't felt much since the time I first saw PINOCCHIO in childhood, when I felt so overwhelmed by beauty on the screen, I almost wanted to hide my eyes. The clips from his home movies are illuminating, too; I especially liked the footage he captured of Kirk Douglas practicing his oar dance in THE VIKINGS and falling off once or twice. The interview bytes with Cardiff and a galaxy of stars are mostly terrific (Charlton Heston looks great, fit and poised, but hasn't much more to say than "film is the art form of the 20th century and you can't make a movie without a cameraman"); it's a testament to the duration of this film's long production that more than half the interviewees are now dead, Cardiff himself (who died in 2009) outlasting many of them.
When the climactic montage of Cardiff's directorial credits omitted any reference to THE MUTATIONS (1974), which would have looked like a bottoming-out in context, I couldn't help thinking of the extent to which Mario Bava's career paralleled that of Cardiff, except that Bava hid his immense light under a generic bushel and had no ambitions other than to keep working as far from the limelight as possible. With Donald Pleasence in the cast, THE MUTATIONS would have looked like a career highlight in Bava's filmography, and I'd wager it would have been a better film, as well.
Viewed on Turner Classic Movies.