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TIME (30/Apr/2009) - Jack Cardiff

(c) TIME (30/Apr/2009)

Jack Cardiff

by Martin Scorsese

A lovely, Generous man, Jack Cardiff, who died on April 22 at 94, was a very talented director who made several pictures -- including Sons and Lovers, Young Cassidy and Dark of the Sun -- that I've gone back to time and again. But as a camera operator and then as a director of photography, he was a truly revolutionary figure in the history of movies. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, A Matter of Life and Death (above), Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, Under Capricorn, The African Queen, The Barefoot Contessa, War and Peace -- that's an extraordinary list, because those are the movies in which film color came into its own.

In collaboration with directors like Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, King Vidor and, perhaps above all, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Cardiff made color into a genuinely and dynamically expressive element in filmmaking. The flames shooting from the burning engine of David Niven's plane, Ava Gardner in a yellow dress against a midnight-blue sky, the red shoes themselves -- they vibrate with color, and once seen, they're never forgotten. To witness Cardiff's work on those pictures is to find yourself in the presence of a master craftsman and a great artist. Jack never lost his love for cinema, his enthusiasm, his willingness to share the secrets of his craft or his sense of wonder at the form he himself had helped create.