David Lean Reviews

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A Passage To India

Review Set in 1928, this film portrays an indelibly sardonic picture of British life in territorial India.The story concerns Adela Quested, who is a free-spirited British woman, played by (Judy Davis), whohas settled in India and is to marry Ronny Heaslop (Nigel Havers), a town magistrate. She is befriended by the charming Dr. Aziz (Victor Banerjee), but it's a friendship that ultimately leads to tragedy.
The Jewel in the Crown

Review In the 1940s, the wit of playwright Noel Coward (Design for Living) and the craft of filmmaker David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) melded harmoniously in one of cinema’s greatest writer-director collaborations. With the wartime military drama sensation In Which We Serve, Coward and Lean (along with producing partners Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan) embarked on a series of literate, socially engaged, and enormously entertaining pictures that ranged from domestic epic (This Happy Breed) to whimsical comedy (Blithe Spirit) to poignant romance (Brief Encounter). These films created a lasting testament to Coward’s artistic legacy and introduced Lean’s visionary talents to the world.

In Which We Serve In the midst of World War II, the renowned playwright Noel Coward engaged a young film editor named David Lean to help him realize his vision for an action drama about a group of Royal Navy sailors (roles that would be filled by Coward himself, Great Expectations’ Bernard Miles, and Ryan’s Daughter’s John Mills, among others) fighting the Germans in the Mediterranean. Coward and Lean ended up codirecting the large-scale project—an impressive undertaking, especially considering that neither of them had directed for the big screen before (this would be Coward’s only such credit). Cutting between a major naval battle and flashbacks to the men’s lives before they left home, In Which We Serve (an Oscar nominee for best picture) was a major breakthrough for both filmmakers and a sensitive and stirring piece of propaganda.

1942

114 minutes

Black & white

Monaural

1.37:1 aspect ratio

This Happy Breed David Lean brings to vivid emotional life Noel Coward’s epic chronicle of a working-class family in the London suburbs over the course of two decades. Robert Newton (Oliver Twist) and Celia Johnson (Brief Encounter) are surpassingly affecting as Frank and Ethel Gibbons, a couple with three children whose modest household is touched by joy and tragedy from the tail end of the First World War to the beginning of the Second. With its mix of politics and melodrama, This Happy Breed is a quintessential British domestic drama, featuring subtly expressive Technicolor cinematography by Ronald Neame and a remarkable supporting cast including John Mills, Stanley Holloway (My Fair Lady), and Kay Walsh (The Horse’s Mouth)

1944

111 minutes

Color

Monaural

1.37:1 aspect ratio

Blithe Spirit Blithe Spirit, David Lean’s delightful film version of Noel Coward’s theater sensation (onstage, it broke London box-office records before hitting Broadway), stars Rex Harrison (Unfaithfully Yours) as a novelist who cheekily invites a medium (The Importance of Being Earnest’s Margaret Rutherford) to his house to conduct a séance, hoping the experience will inspire a book he’s working on. Things go decidedly not as planned when she summons the spirit of his dead first wife (Kay Hammond), a severe inconvenience for his current one (Constance Cummings). Employing Oscar-winning special effects to spruce up Coward’s theatrical farce, Blithe Spirit is a sprightly supernatural comedy with winning performances.

1945

96 minutes

Color

Monaural

1.37:1 aspect ratio

Brief Encounter After a chance meeting on a train platform, a married doctor (The Third Man’s Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (This Happy Breed’s Celia Johnson) enter into a muted but passionate, ultimately doomed, love affair. With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Rachmaninoff score, and pair of remarkable performances (Johnson was nominated for an Oscar for her role), David Lean’s film of Noel Coward’s play Still Life deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since its release.

1945

86 minutes

Black & white

Monaural

1.37:1 aspect ratio


A Room with a View

Review Spectacularly produced, and the winner of seven Academy Awards® (1957), including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Alec Guinness), THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI continues to be one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of all time. Experience director David Lean’s legendary classic like never before with this 60th anniversary edition.
Before the Rains

Review An unsung comic triumph from David Lean, Hobson's Choice stars the legendary Charles Laughton as the harrumphing Henry Hobson, the owner of a boot shop in late-Victorian Northern England. With his haughty, independent daughter Maggie (Brenda De Banzie) decides to forge her own path, romantically and professionally, with the help of none other than Henry's prized bootsmith Will (a splendid John Mills), father and daughter find themselves head-to-head in a fiery match of wills. Equally charming and caustic, Hobson's Choice, adapted from Harold Brighouse's famous play, is filled to the brim with great performances and elegant, inventive camera work.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:
New high-definition digital transfer--restoration by the BFI National Archive, funded by the David Lean Foundation and StudioCanal
Audio commentary featuring film scholars Alain Silver and James Ursini, co-authors of David Lean and His Films
The Hollywood Greats: Charles Laughton, a 1978 BBC documentary about the actor s life and career, featuring interviews with his friends and colleagues
Theatrical trailer
PLUS: A new essay by critic Armond White
The White Countess

Review Britain's greatest-ever film director David Lean wasn't feted for providing belly-laughs. His finest films, from Great Expectations (1946) to Lawrence of Arabia (1962) are resolutely sober, which is more than can be said of Henry Horatio Hobson in his wonderfully comic encounter with the moon in Hobson's Choice. Lean's only other comedy was Blithe Spirit (1945), but here he approaches matters of the heart with a surprising lightness of touch and wins a marvellous performance from Charles Laughton--himself soon to make his one and only film as a director, Night of the Hunter (1955). The setting is late-19th century Salford (the b/w location filming is exceptional), and widower Henry Hobson forbids his three daughters to marry to avoid paying their dowries. Romance will not be thwarted by economics, and much humorous conflict ensues, interspersed with some serious and even disturbing moments--the shaving scene when Laughton gets the DTs is a queasily unbalanced. Brenda De Banzie is splendidly spirited as the eldest daughter, Maggie, while her fiance is played by the ever excellent John Mills, who would later win an Oscar for his part in Lean's much more serious love story, Ryan's Daughter (1970). --Gary S. Dalkin

Stills from Hobson's Choice (Click for larger image)


The Remains Of The Day

Review David Lean's Doctor Zhivago is an exploration of the Russian Revolution as seen from the point of view of the intellectual, introspective title character (Omar Sharif). As the political landscape changes, and the Czarist regime comes to an end, Dr.Zhivago's relationships reflect the political turmoil raging about him. Though he is married, the vagaries of war lead him to begin a love affair with the beautiful Lara (Julie Christie). But he cannot escape the machinations of a band of selfish and cruel characters: General Strelnikov (Tom Courtenay), a Bolshevik General; Komarovsky (Rod Steiger), Lara's former lover; and Yevgraf (Alec Guinness), Zhivago's sinister half-brother. This epic, sweeping romance, told in flashback, captures the lushness of Moscow before the war and the violent social upheaval that followed. The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Boris Pasternak.

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