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You DO Know Jack: Jack Cardiff Retrospective at TIFF Bell Lightbox (until Feb 21)

JACK CARDIFF. More than likely you have seen at least one film photographed or directed by Jack Cardiff. The legendary cinematographer has worked such diverse pictures as the Bogart/Hepburn classic, The African Queen (screens Sat. Feb. 19th, 4:30 pm) and Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo 2. Admired by many cinematographers for his black and white photography and his innovative use of the Technicolor camera, Jack Cardiff, is the man behind the lens, the man often requested by top directors and box office stars.

I can’t think of a better place in Toronto to see his work than in a place called The Lightbox. Beginning February 13th and running until February 21st, you will have the opportunity (and please do take it!) to experience the world created by Jack Cardiff. It doesn’t matter in which order you see the films in the TIFF Bell Lightbox retrospective, but if you can only see one film then I suggest you see the Craig McCall’s documentary Cameraman: The Life & Work of Jack Cardiff, which features conversations with the cinematographer as well as clips from the many films he has worked on or directed.

To learn just how influential a photography talent Cardiff was (he recently died, by the way, at age 94), then you might want to attend In Person: John Bailey and Paul Sarossy (Wednesday, February 16th, 6:30pm) and listen to the award-winning cameramen talk about the impact of Cardiff on their respective works (demonstrated with film clips). Once you hear the talk you just might want to stick around that night and see the fine-art lighting compositions in Black Narcissus (screens at 9:00 pm). The film is so beautiful and told so well cinematographically that you could turn the sound off and still follow the emotional plot of the film.

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (Feb. 17th, 6:30 pm) stars David Niven as a “dead” bomber pilot pleading his case to return to Earth (and love, Kim Hunter) against Afterlife authorities. The film is best known for its early Technicolor achievements (Cardiff was a pioneer in this field) and its use of black and white photography for scenes on Earth and colour for Heaven. Not an easy editing feat in those early days in England.

Whether or not ballet is your thing, if you recently saw the driven world of the dancer in Black Swan, or just love photography, you should see The Red Shoes (Feb. 20th, 6:00 pm-FREE!). It was so audacious in its day (1948) that the directors, Powell and Pressburger, (as well as Cardiff) never worked for their studio again, and their indie style that had been such a success was quashed. While the The Red Shoes did not do big box office in its day, it has gone on to become a favourite of many including Martin Scorsese, who was involved with the film’s restoration.

I am a huge fan of Ava Gardner. No one today smolders the way she did on screen. (If you can name an actress who does, please leave a comment to this post because I am stumped.) I credit Jack Cardiff for my love of Gardner, and you will too after you have seen her photographed in Joseph L. Mankiewicz, The Barefoot Contessa (Feb. 18th, 6:30 pm) and Albert Lewin’s Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Feb. 19th, 7:00 pm). Garner’s Contessa is earthy, passionate, and naïve in The Barefoot Contessa, a tragic Cinderella/Hollywood insider film about a poor girl’s rise to stardom, her search for love and her inevitable death. (The film starts with a funeral, so I am not giving anything away.)

Cardiff’s trademark use of light and shadows on Gardner’s face is just as stunning as his earlier photography work on her in Dutchman (1949). Cardiff’s lighting of a moonlight scene in which Garner’s wet head and shoulders rises from the water to climb about James Mason’s yacht is shear sensuous magic.

Jack Cardiff Retrospective
Feb. 13th - 21st
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Reitman Square
350 King Street West (corner of King and John Streets)

Complete details and screening dates/times:
416-599-TIFF (8433) or toll-free at 1-888-599-8433

Credits: Film stills some source material courtesy of


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