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July 14, 2008

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Campaspe

God I would have loved to see & hear Jack Cardiff speak.

Those screen grabs make me feel as though after about five viewings, I still haven't seen Black Narcissus.

Glenn Kenny

Mr. Cardiff is still with us, God bless him, and was doing work on shorts and such up until a couple of years ago. I haven't heard of him doing a speaking engagement in a while, but his commentaries on the likes of such DVDs as "The African Queen," "The Red Shoes" (partial) and a couple of odd films he directed, "Girl on a Motorcycle" (starring Marianne Faithful and Alain Delon) and "The Freakmaker" (a Psychotronic classic!) are all well worth hearing. I of course cherish my signed copy of his wonderful autobiography "Magic Hour" (he dates his dedication 1997—so that is when the event I refer to above took place), which belongs on every film lover's book shelf.

It's true, Campaspe—"Black Narcissus" yields new, startling things with each viewing. An staggeringly rich film.

Tony Dayoub

I hate to open this thread up to any competition, but I have a question. Having seen Black Narcissus, and in fact being a fan of many visually rich films (sometimes regardless of story or dialogue), I have this to say. Not only do I think Narcissus is "Powell and Pressburger's most visually sumptuous Technicolor film," I can't think of any other one that I can so quickly call to mind when wanting to demonstrate the potential beauty of film to any friends.

Can anyone come up with any films that they believe rival or even surpass this film in that respect?

Campaspe

Funnily enough, I was just reading this very good piece at Movie Morlocks about the making of Young Cassidy.

http://moviemorlocks.com/2008/03/12/young-cassidy-1965-a-memory-piece/

And I just made a note to get a copy of Cardiff's memoirs. My own prize signed edition is of A Life in Movies. Powell drew a doodle on the title page that I had to stare at quite a while before I realized it's the Archers symbol, right by his signature. If my house were on fire, assuming all living creatures in it were safe, that book and my father's letters from the Army would be the only things I'd grab.

As for Mr. Dayoub's question -- it is delicious fun to think about, even if it's unanswerable. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, which also had Cardiff as DP, is stunning, with incredible surreal imagery. Since we are talking Technicolor (or I will, to keep from talking all day) I think any number of Freed unit films rival Black Narcissus in terms of beauty. The Adventures of Robin Hood is gorgeous. And while it's also a flawed movie, the opening sequence of Huston's Moulin Rouge is one of the finest uses of Technicolor I have seen. In his memoirs he said they were influenced by Gate of Hell, which is also a beautiful movie although because it's Japanese I don't think it was in actual Technicolor.

Surely Leave Her to Heaven has to rank way, way, up there too, as does The Red Shoes. And The Thief of Baghdad. And The Four Feathers ...

Okay, so I was just over here

http://www.lopek.com/3stf/3stf_index.php

looking at the list of 3-strip Technicolor movies and here's the problem. They are all beautiful. Even The Greatest Show on Earth is beautiful. There is just nothing else like real Technicolor and never will be.

BobFlak

Dear Glenn,

I read your comments on Black Narcissus and wanted to write to thank you - on behalf of Technicolor.

Also, I wanted to give you a few details about the new version you've commented on.

The HD master for the new Blu-ray version of Black Narcissus was created at Technicolor in London, from it's digital imaging center at our West Drayton lab - near Heathrow. (That facility is actually moving in the next weeks to a new location in Soho.)

The master was produced for Granada International (part of ITV), and was first projected at the Cannes Film Festival two years ago in the Classics section and its tribute to Michael Powell.

Later, it was shown at the Academy in Beverly Hills, with Jack Cardiff in attendance. Jack was very involved in the re-mastering of the film with our team in London. I can't stress how great this was - first the opportunity to work with one of the greatest living masters of cinematography but also to have has knowledge of what was originally intended by Mr. Powell and Mr. Pressburger.

That night at the Academy was quite special. Jack was interviewed before the film by David Thomson. And the high-def master was projected and looked amazing. Not as good as an original 3-strip dye transfer IB print - but still pretty great. A few days later, Jack joined us again, at the Cinematheque, for our 90th Anniversary retrospective of Technicolor.

I too think the film is extraordinarily beautiful. Possibly it is the most beautiful of all Technicolor classics - from either the US or UK. I don't know. It is so subjective. Is it better than The Red Shoes, or the original Robin Hood? Frankly, La Cucaracha is still remarkable to look at.

As it relates to vintage Technicolor, you might be interested in professor Scott Higgins new book, Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow, published last year by the University of Texas Press. It's a wonderful discussion of the aesthetics of color design in the 1930s.

Best regards,

Bob Hoffman

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