Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010) Poster

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Top-Notch Documentary On One Of Cinema's Most Talented Behind-The-Scenes Artists
ShootingShark25 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A documentary about acclaimed cameraman and film director Jack Cardiff, who had a lengthy career in British films, Hollywood and internationally, and worked with many of the biggest names in cinema.

Jack Cardiff had a pretty amazing life. The son of theatrical performers, he was a child actor in silent pictures, then a jobber in British films in the thirties, was selected by Technicolor in 1936 to be the first person in the UK to be trained in its use, won an Oscar for Black Narcissus in 1947, went on to work with everyone from Humphrey Bogart to Marilyn Monroe to Sylvester Stallone, directed a dozen movies of his own (my favourite of which is Girl On A Motorcycle but the most famous is probably Sons And Lovers), was still making features in his seventies and carried on working pretty much up until his death in 2009 aged 94. What a guy. This film is a series of interviews with him and those who worked with him, shot over several years, and he is witty, informative, modest and insightful. His conception of what movie photography should really be - a moving extension of painting - is fabulous, with many clips beautifully illustrating this ideology. Good movie photography should convey the action clearly and simply. Great movie photography should do this but also have artistic merit in its use of colour, shade, composition and movement through the frame. Outstanding movie photography should do all this but somehow contribute to the emotion of the film as well, and this is what Cardiff's cinematography somehow achieves. He has many interesting stories to tell, both technical and otherwise, and the film is crammed full of amazing photos from his life, like the one of Marlene Dietrich (who also knew a thing or two about cameras) looking through one of his lenses. He's also refreshingly honest and forward-looking - he doesn't dismiss digital technology when it would be so easy for someone of his calibre to do so, and like all great artists he adapted and evolved his style over time. Even if you're not really interested in movie photography, check out this great little documentary about a guy who - as far as movies are concerned - pretty much saw it all. The film includes footage previously shot by McCall for his shorts The Colour Merchant and Painting With Light, had a small but deserved theatrical release and was showcased at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. For those seeking more detail on Cardiff, he also published an excellent autobiography entitled Magic Hour. 6/10
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A master cameraman who learned his art from the masters...
Doylenf6 January 2012
Jack Cardiff began his life in show biz, part of a touring troupe with his mom and dad and even appeared in bit roles in silent films. But it wasn't until he got behind a camera and discovered all the lighting techniques he would go on to use for either color or B&W that his fame spread.

I've always felt that if he had filmed no other works than BLACK NARCISSUS, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP or THE RED SHOES, his immortality was guaranteed.

By an interesting use of film clips, good narration, and comments from stars who worked with him on various films, this documentary is among the best I've ever seen on any celebrity whose work on film has so many highs and lows.

Modest about his fame, he mentions how he's seldom recognized by fans at premieres of epics he photographed. "Who's that?" they will say. "Oh, he's nobody."

Absolutely riveting use of clips from BLACK NARCISSUS and THE RED SHOES, in particular, show just how masterful his use of Technicolor was.

Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Moira Shearer, Kathleen Byron, Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas are among the stars who speak about the experience of working with him. Bacall tells how Bogart never cared much about his appearance in a film, only the film itself and he had complete confidence in Jack Cardiff on THE African QUEEN.

Excellent documentary, well worth any film fan's attention.
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Explore Jack Cardiff's wonderful life
Steve Crook11 December 2011
Jack Cardiff was an amazing man who had a wonderful life. He started in show-business as a child actor in a touring show working with his parents. He was still working right up until the last of his 94 years. In that time he had worked with most of the great names in the business and earned their respect and admiration.

This documentary covers most of his working life with lots of examples from clips or stills and interviews with the great man himself as well as many of those whose lives he touched. The documentary was many years in the making and was fortunate enough to interview a lot of the people that Jack worked with who are no longer with us.

It's not often that a feature length documentary leaves you wanting more, but this one does.

When Jack discovered the world of movies as a child actor in some early silent films he decided that being a cameraman was the best job going because they got to travel to such exotic locations. He was mainly self-educated because the life of a touring theatrical didn't allow much time at any one school. But that self-education included study of the old masters in art galleries wherever he went. So when he started working as a cameraman he was able to bring his knowledge of lighting and composition.
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Man with a movie camera.
st-shot20 January 2012
Made shortly before his death Cameraman: the life and work of Jack Cardiff is an excellent bio on Cardiff and due to his long career the history of color film as well. Working into his nineties the highly lucid and spry octogenarian covers a lot of ground with emphasis on his collaboration with the the team of Powell and Pressburger at Archer studios which produced two of the finest color works in film history Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. There of course were decades of others that also shined from Archer and beyond with The African Queen, Pandora and the Flyiong Dutchman, War and Peace and The Vikings and Cameraman shows healthy snippets from each.

Amiable and self effacing Cardiff himself makes for a wonderful guide mixing anecdotes and methods free of ego and judgment. This doc is a must for film historians as well as anyone that has ever been under the spell of celluloid magic.
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Celebrating an 80-year career...predictably colorful, unexpectedly moving
moonspinner555 January 2012
British cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who made a name for himself with his splashy camera-work on the classic Powell & Pressburger films "A Matter of Life and Death", "Black Narcissus", and "The Red Shoes", recounts the cinematic milestones of his long career. Transitioning from British cinema to Hollywood filmmaking in the 1950s, Cardiff went on to work with such diverse directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Henry Hathaway, King Vidor, and John Huston. The film clips are well used, and the celebrity fans (such as Martin Scorsese) and co-workers who comment are interesting, though the second half of this documentary (after Cardiff moved from director of photography to the director's chair) is left a bit sketchy. Receiving an Academy Award nomination as Best Director for 1960's "Sons and Lovers", Cardiff admits this was the peak of his professional career...and yet we are left uncertain why such a talented and respected man didn't receive better assignments in later years. Still, finishing off with Cardiff's recent honorary Oscar celebration for the bulk of his work was a nice touch, proving that wisdom and talent go hand in hand--and age doesn't necessarily diminish either.
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A must for cinema myself.
MartinHafer29 December 2011
This is a wonderful tribute to Jack Cardiff and really gives the viewer insight into what it was to be a cinematographer during film's glory days of the 40s, 50s and beyond. This is wonderful, as MOST biographies about movie folks were about the actors and directors--and NEVER about technicians. So, in this case, you get to see and appreciate the use of color, framing, the use of matte paintings and other aspects of camera-work.

The film consists of lots of clips of films Cardiff made. In addition, they were fortunate enough to have lots of footage of Cardiff reminiscing about his work and the people he's known over the years. And, considering how incredibly old Cardiff was, he sure seemed a lot younger and alert than you'd expect from a man nearly 100! In addition, there are lots of interviews with those who worked with him or who appreciated and learned from him (such as Martin Scorsese). All in all, a wonderful tribute but also a great lesson to die-hard film buffs. Well worth seeing.
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Film History in One Man
gavin694223 April 2014
In 2001 Jack Cardiff (1914-2009) became the first director of photography in the history of the Academy Awards to win an Honorary Oscar. But the first time he clasped the famous statuette in his hand was a half-century earlier when his Technicolor camera-work was awarded for Powell and Pressburger's "Black Narcissus".

Cardiff is not as well known as he should be, despite 80 years behind the camera and being key in bringing color to film. Color was inevitable, but he showed the world how to make it look good and made Technicolor a household name.

I love that the director was able to track down Martin Scorsese. Scorsese always has stories to share and knows more about film history than just about anyone -- is there a more passionate fan? I could hear him ramble for hours on the minutiae everyone else overlooks.

This is also great for Cardiff's anecdotes on Orson Welles and the stolen mink coat, John Wayne as a cowboy and Kirk Douglas as a perfect stuntman. This is a man who worked with everybody and made them all look so good.
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Portrait of an Artist
blanche-25 July 2013
Jack Cardiff was a cinematographer who used art as his inspiration, with magnificent results, which can be found in films such as Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. His sense of color, lighting, and knowledge of painting all fed his work, creating some of film's most stunning moments.

"Cameraman: The Life of Work of Jack Cardiff" was assembled in 2010, though obviously some of the interviews were much older. The documentary traces Cardiff's life back to its beginnings with show business parents, some work as a child actor, as a gopher on film sets, and finally, interested in travel, joining a film studio's camera department so he could see the world.

With his knowledge of the master painters and the way they used light and color, Cardiff rose through the ranks, as a camera operator, and director of photography for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Archers.

There were interviews with Martin Scorsese, Lauren Bacall, Moira Shearer, Kathleen Byron and Charlton Heston speaking about Cardiff's work -- and he worked with everyone, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Sylvester Stallone, etc. - but what speaks to the viewer most are the glorious images on the screen, and Cardiff talking about how he created them.

As much as the program focused on the beauty of Black Narcissus, I wanted more! The incredible Himalayan scenery, created in the studio with glass shots and hanging miniatures is some of the most magnificent work ever.

Highly recommended, a great portrait of an energetic artist who worked into his nineties and said he might slow down in ten years - just fantastic.
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Painting With Film.
rmax3048235 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
What a talented, honest, and generous man Jack Cardiff was. Talented not just because as a camerman or a director he worked on so many successful films but because it was his work that made them memorable. He's honest because in this hour-and-a-half biographical tribute he confesses his weaknesses and never brags. He began knowing nothing about technicolor except what he learned from studying painting. And how would he like to end his career? He'd like to "drop dead on the set." Generous because he credits his co-workers, though he's willing to refer generally to certain "strains." He knows nothing of CGIs but he doesn't put them down, as some curmudgeons might. His presentation of self is easy going, laid back, quietly ironic.

This cinematic study gave me a greater appreciation of the use of lighting and shadows, of colors, and of the technical aspects of shooting a film -- all of which I may forget tomorrow.

But -- well, look at this. There is a startling scene in "The Red Shoes" in which Leonide Massine in a garish costume leaps in from offscreen and lands next to the still and reflective figure of Moira Shearer. It's not just scary. It's spooky. And here's how photographer Cardiff shot the scene. Massine leaps in at the usual 24 frames per second. At the top of his leap, for a fraction of a second, Cardiff speeds up to 48 frames per second, before returning to the 24 fps standard. That overcranking of the camera slows the leap down for a moment at its zenith, so that Massine's slightly demonic figure seems to pause and hang in the air before dropping to the floor. It's barely noticeable but it adds to the impact of the movement.

Cardiff grew old and wound up directing shorts and a couple of crummy B movies, but it didn't seem to depress him much because he loved his work, taking whatever came his way. (He died at 94.) And he continued his painting. Some were originals but many were precise copies of studies by people like Degas and Renoir, whose work he enjoyed but couldn't afford to buy. Pretty sensible when you come to think about it.

Anyway, I'll pretty much skip over the "educational" value of the documentary because, after all, that's its main function, isn't it? As it turned out, I learned some things about things I thought I already knew things about. Chiaroscuro can have more than one light, source, for instance. Cardiff illustrates this point in showing us a beautiful photographic portrait he took of the flawless Audrey Hepburn. And Marlene Dietrich -- every film freak knows that she was fussy about how she was lighted, having brought certain obsessions with her from von Sternberg. I knew she had a "good" profile but never dreamed that she insisted the overhead light be at an angle of 45 degrees from her facial place in order to disguise what she thought was a tiny but unsightly bump in her nose. And it never occurred to me -- nor would I have cared if I did know -- that she insisted her make up man draw a wight line from her eyebrows to her nostrils to make her nose seem straighter.

What a remarkable man.
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For all the film buffs and film historians, this movie is a testament on cinematography.
braddugg7 September 2014
For all the film buffs and film historians, this movie is a testament on cinematography. I say this precisely because it covers many years of films. From 1930's to 1990's and beyond, it shows an array of history of cinema itself.

Actually titled as CAMERAMAN - THE LIFE AND WORK OF JACK CARDIFF, I put the title as simply CAMERAMAN.

Jack Cardiff, is considered by many as the greatest cinematographer ever and this film, which is a documentary shows us glimpses of the work of Jack Cardiff and why is he essentially considered as great by many.

Sprinkled with interviews from, Martin Scorsese, Kirk Douglas and many many varied film personalities, this documentary shows us scenes from various films. Most of the scenes are actually known to us, and here we see the work that went to make that scene.

There is wonderful information in this film and also, the humility of the great man is presented wonderfully, in his own words, he seems to be lost and unrecognized for much of the time. He mentions, that in premieres, people would ask "Who's that?" and they will say "Oh, he's nobody" Many moments like this give us insights into this great man and his body of work.

This is a documentary that should be watched by film buffs. Also, did I mention that he is first cinematographer to have been given an honorary Academy award. So, boy how he did all of that is worth knowing. A 4/5 for this wonderful documentary by Craig McCall. I am told, it took nearly two decades to complete this. Salute to the sheer amount of effort kept by Craig and his team.
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Excellent Profile of one of Cinema's Unsung Heroes
l_rawjalaurence26 November 2013
The cinematographer Jack Cardiff might not be that well known. but he worked as director pf photography on some seminal productions, notably for Powell and Pressburger in the late 1940s. The visual style of THE RED SHOES (1948) and BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) is chiefly down to Cardiff's brilliant photography, allied to Powell's imagination. Cardiff began his career in the 1930s working on quota quickies in the British film industry, and was still working in 2007-8, when much of this documentary was filmed. In between he worked on other seminal productions, notably THE African QUEEN (1951), THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954), and THE VIKINGS (1957). Cardiff comes across as a modest person with a highly developed visual intelligence. The documentary also contains reminiscences from stars who are no longer with us, such as Sir John Mills, and Kathleen Byron, as well as such luminaries as Scorsese. Definitely worth a look for anyone interested in photography in the pre-digital era.
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Cardiff casts a shadow
Prismark106 November 2013
Jack Cardiff was a master cinematographer who became inspired through the Powell & Pressburger partnership with films such as Life and death of Colonel Blimp, A Matter of Life and Death, The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus which bagged him an Oscar for best colour cinematography.

Cardiff in interviews filmed over several years comes off as modest, engaging, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

We see the influence of paintings from the masters in his work as well as problem solving with the challenges he faced in the still early days of cinema, now it is the special effects people who take care of it all.

As well as numerous clips of films he had worked on, collaborators we have super fans such as Martin Scorsese who has previously expressed his admiration of the films of Powell & Pressburger.

It would had been nice to have heard from Francis Coppola another fan and some more British directors.

Cardiff later moved into directing and was Oscar nominated for Best Director for Sons and Lovers but when the directing work dried up he moved back into cinematography, even lighting Rambo: First Blood Part 2 a film I have in the past complained about not being able to see anything as all the action took place in the dark.
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A Must for Film Buffs
Michael_Elliott20 July 2012
Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Interesting documentary features interviews with Kirk Douglas, Martin Scorsese, Lauren Bacall, Charlon Heston, Kim Hunter, Thelma Schoonmaker, Alan Parker and many others as they discuss the now legendary work of cameraman Jack Cardiff. If you're unfamiliar with Cardiff's work then you'll notice here that he worked on some classic pictures and worked with a number of legendary directors including Michael Powell, Laurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston. The best thing that can be said about this documentary is the fact that it works perfectly as an educational piece because not only does it inform new people to who Cardiff was but it also educates the fans by showing in detail certain shots and skills that he brought to his profession. Some of the best moments include Douglas talking about working on THE VIKING and we even get some terrific outtakes showing the actor doing his stunts and messing up on a couple. We also get to hear Scorsese talk about how Cardiff's work made his love British cinema and we hear from Parker about the brilliant use of colors. I think fans of Cardiff will mainly enjoy the man himself being interviewed about the countless productions he worked on. He talks about what it was like in the silent era and how things changed when sound came into play. From here we learn about how he got involved in Technicolor and how THE RED SHOES pretty much changed and ended everything. We also hear about his attempts at directing and how critics really weren't too friendly to him. Fans of Cardiff will certainly love hearing about his life and career and it's certainly special having him go over so many important films.
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