A wispy dream of a film, Albert Lewin’s labour about love has a cracking start full of intrigue, invention and fragile mortality.
It begins with a portentous quote from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: "The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
|The villagers crowd to view the tragedy|
Amidst the distress that follows we learn that one of the two dead was known and loved very well by the local expats - a mix of archaeologists, drunks and speed racers – and is an American singer called Pandora…
|There goes the fourth wall...|
|Now that's a pasodoble!|
Almost unmoved by this inevitable waste of a miss-guided life, Pandora simply walks off.
She drives off with Nigel in his racing car – his pride and joy – and, stunningly, asks him if he would push it over the cliff in order to prove his love to her. This is duly does and there’s some marvellous shots of Pandora throwing her head back in ecstasy as the machine falls to the sea behind her.
|Pandora is impressed by sacrifice|
Man Ray is rumoured to have worked on the film and such moments might reflect such input but, then again, the cinematography is from Jack Cardiff fresh from his triumphs on The Red Shoes. This is a sumptuous-looking film and – allowing for some deterioration even on the restored Blu-Ray – must have looked stunning on the big screen.
|Pandora swims out|
Pandora is shocked when she meets this strange man – a look of recognition or of love? She tries to regain her stride but she has been shaken to the core.
|At first sight...|
It’s from this point that the film begins to lose some of that early energy as the viewer calculates the ways in which things will play out. Yet the chemistry between the simply gorgeous Gardner and the manly Mason is good and both act exceptionally well – blasting pretty much everyone else off-screen (such a shame Goring got “injured” so early on…)
|The genuinely great, James Mason|
I won’t give much away as this story relies so much on mystery and anticipation to work.
|Bull fighting and car racing... the men compete|
But who will Pandora chose…
The film is a stylistic delight and strangely charming… OK the story may be fantastic but then isn’t that what we want? It’s a more spiritually straightforward counter-point to A Matter of Life and Death at a time when audiences still needed to believe that there’s more to life than death… and we haven’t changed that much.
Watch it and be entranced by Gardner and Mason and to marvel at a fantasy that is ultimately disarmingly frank. As Professor Fielding says: "the measure of love is how much you are willing to sacrifice for it" and there's simply no easy answer to that.
It’s available here in a fine new Blu-Ray/DVD combo.
|John Laurie's in it too!|
|Pendine Beach in South Wales, home of the World land speed record once upon a time.|