Something remarkable happens when famed cinematographers turn their attention to directing; its as if their exquisitely subtle sense of judgment in manipulating light has left them completely in the dark in terms of distinguishing between the illuminating and the vacant in their choices of material. (This is a general rule with rare but glorious exceptions, as in Raoul Coutard’s poetic 1970 Vietnamese drama “Hoa Binh”.) The great cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who at one point in his career took an admirable stab at directorial legitimacy in entertainingly simplifying D.H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers”, proves with the appalling “The Girl on a Motorcycle” that such opportunities for lightning to strike twice come with a caveat that the material must be prudently chosen and accessible to the demands of intelligent motion picture adaptation. “La motocyclette”, an unrelievedly self-consciously arty novella by André Pieyre de Mandiargues is a negative case in point, a work whose sole purpose seemed to be to impress impressionable literary juries and win awards; it is a slight work (both physically and artistically) filled with pretensions but no truths and strictly undramatic; a spartan work for an artist never mind a still journeyman director, so perhaps the end result is of no real surprise.
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