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Albert Lewin's interpretation of the legend of the Flying Dutchman. In a little Spanish seaport named Esperanza, during the 30s, appears Hendrick van der Zee, the mysterious captain of a yacht (he is the only one aboard). Pandora is a beautiful woman (who men kill and die for). She's never really fallen in love with any man, but she feels very attracted to Hendrick... We are soon taught that Hendrick is the Flying Dutchman, this sailor of the 17th century that has been cursed by God to wander over the seas until the Doomsday... unless a woman is ready to die for him... Written by
Albert Lewin's work as director had not impressed me prior to seeing "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" I found myself frankly quite bored by his version of Maugham's "The Moon and Sixpence" as well as "The Private Affairs of Bel Ami". "The Picture of Dorian Gray" has quite the reputation, but I unfortunately haven't seen it yet.
'Exceeded expectations' cannot begin to describe how surprised I was at how absorbing, intense, captivating, and utterly gorgeous "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" is. Sure, there are flaws, mostly in the script which occasionally seems to think it's smarter than it actually is and goes for the sort of intrusive voice-over narration that never fails to annoy, but also in scenes where Lewin's decisions as director become frustrating and in the score which is generally quite good but often overbearing.
Regardless of its flaws, "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" is a literate, creative, fairly original, and exceptionally well-acted film, with the exceptional feature of being photographed by Jack Cardiff OBE, who was on quite a run going into this film having photographed the three Powell/Pressburger classics from the 40's: "A Matter of Life and Death", "Black Narcissus", and "The Red Shoes" as well as the underrated if not exactly great 1949 Hitchcock offering "Under Capricorn". James Mason and Ava Gardner are really excellent here in the lead roles.
I was not looking forward to "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" but I found myself very pleasantly surprised by it. It's far from a perfect film but I did find it to be quite excellent; even the melodrama that tends to bother me in romances from this era of film worked in the context of this film. A surprisingly good film, overall.
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