Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

  • Film
  • Drama
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Albert Lewin wasn’t your average Hollywood director. A professor and antiquities expert, friend of artists Man Ray and Max Ernst, he wound up at MGM, who funded this flamboyant 1950 fantasy. Exemplifying the true magic of Lewin’s cinema, its 1930s-set retelling of the ‘Flying Dutchman’ tale enshrines a vision of desire stronger than death. A brooding, restrained James Mason is the yachtsman who moors at a Costa Brava fishing port, where his destiny is soon entwined with Ava Gardner’s man-eating playgirl Pandora. A ruby-lipped incarnation of the eternal feminine, she toys with matadors and racing drivers, but in this enigmatic voyager – doomed to wander the seas – she meets a match which could be the making of them both.

Lewin brings off the near-impossible task of positing a transcendent love in a sceptical age, succeeding through his own conviction, and indeed because Gardner, in the role of a lifetime, seems as much screen goddess as mere mortal – an apotheosis rendered by cameraman Jack Cardiff in Technicolor so heady it’s the stuff of legend. Unlike Powell and Pressburger at their peak, however, the storytelling remains earthbound, with a beardy English academic character on hand to explain the references lest 1950s viewers didn’t get it. A film ahead of its time? Quite possibly, though you forgive the stodgy pace for the sheer uniqueness with which Lewin conjures a celluloid equivalent of the canvasses of De Chirico and Dalí – passionate, classical, mysterious and surreal all at once.

Release details

Rated: PG
Release date: Friday May 14 2010
Duration: 123 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Albert Lewin
Screenwriter: Albert Lewin
Cast: James Mason
Ava Gardner
Nigel Patrick
Sheila Sim
Harold Warrender
Mario Cabré
Marius Goring
John Laurie

Average User Rating

5 / 5

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