British cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who passed away in 2009 at the age of ninety-four, was a Technicolor trailblazer. When the American film lab opened an outpost at England’s Denham Studios in the mid-thirties, Cardiff was one of a select few trained to use the nascent technology. He eventually applied his knowledge and painterly sense of color to Powell and Pressburger’s incomparable 1940s melodramas Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. Those films are two of the selections in TIFF Bell Lightbox’s upcoming series Jack Cardiff: Cameraman, which was recently announced on the new Toronto theater’s website. The program, which runs from February 13 to February 21, also includes four screenings of Craig McCall’s terrific documentary Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff.
One of the highlights of the TIFF series will come on February 16, when the world-class cinematographer John Bailey (who shot Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters and was camera operator on Days of Heaven) will introduce Black Narcissus and discuss Cardiff’s influence on his own career. Bailey’s credentials as a Cardiff aficionado are unimpeachable: see his in-depth, four-part online essay “Jack Cardiff’s Magic Life,” which he posted at the American Society of Cinematographers website in October. It’s a splendid look back at the man’s career, from his start as a child actor in silent cinema to his first behind-the-scenes jobs, as set runner and clapper boy, to his introduction to the world of Technicolor and its applications, including both World War II footage and the vivid storytelling of the Archers. In addition to being a great read, the series has a trove of visual supplements, including old photos of Cardiff, beautiful screen captures, clips from his films and interviews with him, and even examples of some of his extracurricular creative work, like painting and still photography.