29 Jul 2010

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

It is one of the greater tragedies of British cinema history that the name Jack Cardiff is not better known. Cardiff was recognised throughout the industry as one of the world’s greatest cinematographers before he passed away in April last year, and will soon be the subject of a retrospective at the BFI which will include a newly restored version of the stunning Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Martin Scorsese, who was heavily involved in producing this new 35mm print, sums it up best when he says “watching this film is like entering a strange and wonderful dream”. Hitchcock’s Vertigo excluded, this is possibly the most perfect blend of classical filmmaking and surrealism ever produced.

Ava Gardner stars as Pandora, the most glamorous woman by far in a small sleepy Spanish town who has her pick of potential suitors, but no one can satisfy her until she falls for a mysterious sailor played by James Mason, the actual Flying Dutchman condemned to sail the seas alone until he finds a woman who would be willing to die for him. Anyone familiar with the work Cardiff did with Michael Powell (The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus) will know what to expect here: stunning Technicolour camerawork, sweeping widescreen vistas and gorgeous locations, all of which add up to create an ethereal quality that permeates every frame of this masterpiece. Though some of the melodramatic acting and clunky excessive narration may have aged badly Cardiff’s gorgeous images will live on forever, and there is no better way to experience this magnificent film than on the biggest screen possible.

Matthew Kleebauer

Director: Albert Lewin
Starring: James Mason, Ava Gardner
Certificate: PG
Runtime: 126 minutes
Release date: 14 May 2010