"Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff": Doc on Legendary Lenser

Location Info


Balboa Theater

3630 Balboa St.
San Francisco, CA 94121

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Richmond (Outer)


Not rated. Opens Friday at the Balboa; screening with The Red Shoes.

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He gave me half my performance with the lighting," says actress Kathleen Byron of cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who shot her in 1947's Black Narcissus. A rebuke to style-versus-substance segregationists, these words pay tribute to the star of Craig McCall's documentary, a soapbox for the wizened eminence to explain the innovative effects he achieved with a Technicolor camera the size of a sedan while narrating his epoch-spanning career. The son of music hall actors, Cardiff began in movies in 1918 as a child performer. An autodidact whose "film school" was the National Gallery, he trained as England's first color cinematographer; shot Narcissus and other legendary collaborations with Michael Powell; directed Sons and Lovers and several ingenious, scurrilous B-movies; then returned to cinematography to immortalize the sweat-beaded torsos of Stallone and Schwarzenegger in the '80s. Cardiff shows off a gallery of famous co-workers on his wall and counts the casualties: "He's dead, she's dead ... " You can do the same with interviewees in Cameraman, 17 years in the making: directors Peter Yates and Richard Fleischer, DP Freddie Francis, Charlton Heston — and Cardiff himself, whose inextricable life and work ended in 2009. Director Alan Parker (still living) nicely describes the tightrope teeter of Cardiff's hothouse imagery: "It's great art, and then it will be kitsch, and then it will be art again." Or is he summing up cinema itself?

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