Cinematographer Jack Cardiff was born for Technicolor. One of the company’s first technicians, Cardiff mastered the three-strip process in the late-1930s with industrial and instructional films before getting a chance to work as a 2nd unit cameraman on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1943, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. But Cardiff’s real break came three years later when Powell and Pressburger offered him the job of cinematographer on A Matter of Life and Death—a multi-dimensional post-war fantasia that is about as perfect as a movie can get.
All of this and more is documented beautifully in Craig McCall’s 2010 film, Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff, the anchor film in The Criterion Channel’s 10 film salute to Cardiff‘s prowess behind the camera. Blimp and AMOLAD are featured, as are Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes—also made for Powell and Pressburger, and also practically perfect—alongside The African Queen for director John Huston, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman for Albert Lewin, War and Peace for King Vidor, The Vikings for Richard Fleischer, Fanny for Josh Logan, and The Girl on the Motorcycle, which Cardiff both shot and directed.
When we talk about cinema, contributions from cinematographers (along with other technicians) are often left in the margins. And though Criterion is certainly an auteur-driven platform, their Cardiff series is a welcome addition to their magnificent collection.