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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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
See it for its visual qualities and forgive the melodrama and pretentiousness
Albert Lewin's 1951 movie injects the Flying Dutchman legend into an upper-class English-speaking community in a small port in 1930s Spain. Ava Gardner, never more beautiful and just about to emerge as a star, is the Pandora of the title, a night-club singer and femme fatale, engaged to be married to a gentlemanly racing car driver (Nigel Patrick), but with a hotheaded bullfighter (Mario Cabré) eager to win her.
Enter the Flying Dutchman, Hendrick van der Zee, trying to find a woman willing to give up her life for him so he can gain release from his eternal roving of the seas. James Mason's performance as Hendrick is one of the main salvations of the movie. With his grace, good looks and wonderfully expressive voice, he is able to give credibility to situations and lines that would be fatal for other actors.
But the film's prime asset is its visual richness. At a straightforward level there is lovely Mediterranean scenery, and some great action sequences, notably the flamenco dancing, land-speed record, and bullfight scenes. Then there are quite a few references to surreal art, matching the surreal nature of the film, such as Hendrick's Chirico-like painting of Pandora, and a remarkable shot of her, lying on her back with the profile of her face in close-up, like a Dali painting. (The film is set on the Costa Brava, near Dali's home town of Cadaques.) And throughout, there is Jack Cardiff's creative camerawork in beautiful technicolor. These visual qualities outweigh such flaws as an intrusive voice-over, and the stress laid on the - for me - irrelevant "Moving Finger" quatrain from the Rubaiyat.
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