Posts tagged ‘David Lean’

April 4, 2012

Great Expectations (1946 – Blu-Ray)

“I realized that in becoming a gentleman, I had only succeeded in becoming a snob”

The all time BFI top five film is David Lean’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ from 1946, and I’d never seen it.  I spotted it was available on Blu-Ray so added it to my LoveFilm list and it turned out to be a treat.  The transfer, while very scratchy (Showing little digital restoration) is very sharp and looks wonderful if a little antique.  Lean brings a dark brooding Noirish feel to the story making use of his ever-present eery wind-swept landscape shots.

I’d heard John Mills (Then in his late 30s) looked way too old to pay the young character Pip but I thought he just about got away with it.  Alec Guinness (Also in his thirties) gives great support as Pip’s scampish young friend in the first of many roles he would play for Lean.  Francis L. Sullivan gets all the best comic moments as the imposing rotund lawyer Mr Jaggers.  But for me the 14-year-old Anthony Wager as the young Pip (In the first third of the film) steals the show from any of these seasoned old thesps.

March 8, 2012

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 We shouldn’t be so withdrawn and shy and difficult”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.