Brief Encounter (1945 – Blu-Ray)

Do you know, I believe we should all behave quite differently if we lived in a warm, sunny climate all the time. We shouldn’t be so withdrawn and shy and difficult”

I’ve got a nice DVD box set of Rank films which is generally great. But when I started to watch the ‘Brief Encounter’ disc I found the transfer was so disappointing that I decided I’d wait for the Blu-Ray to watch this celebrated classic. I’m glad I did, as the BFI have done a great job, not only by cleaning up the picture but by bringing crystal clarity to the 70 year-old soundtrack. No wonder as the BFI rank ‘Brief Encounter’ as the official second greatest British film ever (Behind ‘The Third Man’).

From the outset I found Celia Johnson’s cut-glass, terribly, terribly, English accent annoying, as it sounds like some parody of Englishness. This however was the only niggle in an otherwise perfect movie. Noël Coward’s story and David Lean’s script portray a 1940s world of stifling repression that would be otherwise hard to imagine. The brief chaste romance between Johnson’s yearning housewife and Trevor Howard’s stoic Doctor is very touching.  When later films and actors would be ripping each other clothes off, Howard and Johnson only need the slightest glance to convey the volcanoes of desire they have beneath the surface.

David Lean’s direction is breathtaking from the smoky shadows of the railway station to the way he capturing his actors every nuance in closeup.  ‘Brief Encounter’ is rightly praised as a classic but I wouldn’t rank it as Britain’s second best.  In fact I’d rank it as David Lean’s fifth best film, which is still a rarified recommendation.

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