David Lean Reviews

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Lawrence Of Arabia

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 Dangerous Man - Lawrence After Arabia

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.
Doctor Zhivago

Review LAWRENCE OF ARABIA 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION Winner of 7 Academy Awards® including Best Picture of 1962, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA stands as one of the most timeless and essential motion picture masterpieces. The greatest achievement of its legendary, Oscar®-winning director, David Lean (1962, Lawrence of Arabia: 1957 the Bridge on the River Kwai), the film stars Peter O’Toole — in his career-making performance — as T.E. Lawrence, the audacious World War I British army officer who heroically united rival Arab desert tribes and led them to war against the mighty Turkish Empire. Newly restored and re-mastered at 4K resolution, the massive scope and epic action of the Director’s Cut of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA can now be experienced like never before in this landmark 50th Anniversary Edition.
The Bridge On The River Kwai

Review Ryan's Daughter: Special Edition (Dbl DVD)

Lovely, headstrong Rosy (Sarah Miles) cannot forsake her passionate romance with the handsome British officer (Christopher Jones). Yet there is a greater love ? the devotion of her reserved schoolteacher husband Charles (Robert Mitchum), who stands by Rosy when her illicit affair leads to a charge of treason. Two honored alumni of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago director David Lean and screenwriter Robert Bolt frame this brooding tale within the expansive beaches, craggy cliffs and heathered hills of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula. Freddie Young's lush cinematography and John Mills' memorable portrayal of a town simpleton won Academy Awards.* The remarkable movie containing them casts a haunting spell.

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On The Waterfront

Review In 1970, Ryan's Daughter had the distinction of being the first David Lean film to be included in Playboy magazine's annual "Sex in the Cinema" round-up, thanks to a back-to-nature sex scene that earned the film its R rating. This old-school epic went on to win two Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor for a grotesquely made-up John Mills as the cruelly put-upon village simpleton. But the years have not been quite kind to Ryan's Daughter. This brooding and storm-tossed epic is lovely to look at, but hard to hold with its miscast principles and unsympathetic characters. The film is set in 1916 in a British-occupied Irish village on the seacoast of Western Ireland. Lean's Ireland is a world apart from the colorful characters and close-knit community of John Ford's The Quiet Man. The village is populated by hooligans, slatterns, and traitors. No wonder the local priest (Trevor Howard) is compelled to haul off and slap several of his parishioners, including Rosy Ryan, the dreamy-eyed romantic daughter of the local "publican." The "graceless gal," as the priest calls her, is married to "a good man," a middle-aged local schoolteacher (a cast-against-type Robert Mitchum). She has enough money, and she has her health. But it's not enough, she declares. Enter--at the film's hour mark--a shell-shocked British officer (Christopher Jones) with whom she enjoys an illicit and scandalous affair that offers the promise of the "satisfaction of the flesh" for which she yearns. Ryan's Daughter reunited Lean with Robert Bolt, the screenwriter of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. Alas, the third time was not quite the charm. Miles and Jones generate little heat and Rosy's heedless behavior rouses even less audience empathy. Little in Maurice Jarre's sweeping score equals the high notes of his Oscar-winnings scores for Lawrence or Zhivago. But the landscapes, magnificent and foreboding, cast a ravishing spell of their own. Ryan's Daughter, too, will be embraced by those who have a soft spot in their hearts for love stories set against the backdrop of historical events and this Hollywood epic that in the year of M*A*S*H and Five Easy Pieces, was stubbornly out of style. --Donald Liebenson

On the DVD
This two-disc special edition would seem to be everything for which champions of Ryan's Daughter would wish. It presents the film in its original 206-minute running time, and preserves the original aspect ratio of the theatrical 70mm presentation. The audio commentary views the film from a variety of perspectives, including Miles, Lean's widow, Lean's biographer, Robert Mitchum's daughter, and directors John Boorman and Hugh Hudson. These and others are also featured in an illuminating new three-part documentary, "The Making of Ryan's Daughter," which also features archival interviews with Lean, and is candid enough to address the film's less-than-welcome reception with critics and audiences. Rounding out this set are two period documentaries that went behind the scenes of the production. --Donald Liebenson


Ben Hur

Review IN ONE OF THE GREAT TRANSLATIONS OF LITERATURE INTO FILM, AND THE DEBUT FILM OF ALEC GUINESS, DAVID LEAN BRINGS DICKENS' MASTERPIECE TO ROBUST ON-SCREEN LIFE. THE CHARACTERS POPULATE LEAN'S MAGNIFICENT MINIATURE, BEAUTIFULLY PHOTOGRAPHED BY GUY GREEN AND DESIGNED BY JOHN BRYAN.
Casablanca

Review David Lean's handsome adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic novel captures the warm humor and richness of character that so many filmmakers miss in their reverent recreations of Victorian England. From the nightmarish opening sequence on the windswept graveyard where young orphan Pip (Anthony Wager) meets the desperate escaped criminal Magwitch (Finlay Currie) to the shadowy, musty mansion of the widow Miss Haversham (Martita Hunt) where he first meets the impertinent young beauty Estella (Jean Simmons), Lean captures a childlike exaggeration of reality with his elegant expressionism. When Pip's sudden change in fortune sends him to London as a burgeoning gentleman in high society, Lean sketches a beautiful, bustling city. John Mills's performance as the adult Pip charts his change from the wide-eyed wonder and generous spirit of the child he was to the class snob transformed by money and social standing, an ugly flaw that Pip confronts when his mysterious benefactor is finally revealed. The outstanding cast also features Valerie Hobson as the grown-up Estella, now a beguiling enchantress, a bright young Alec Guinness in his film debut as Pip's jovial London roommate Herbert Pocket, and the imposing Francis L. Sullivan as the decidedly humorless lawyer Jaggers. Exquisitely photographed by Guy Green (who won an Oscar for his work). Lean and his collaborators effectively maintain the heart of Dickens's epic drama while cutting it to its essentials in this vivid, compelling film. --Sean Axmaker
The Guns Of Navarone

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
Vertigo

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)


Citizen Kane

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


The Day of the Jackal

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.
David Lean Directs Noel Coward (In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter) (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Review LAWRENCE OF ARABIA 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION Winner of 7 Academy Awards® including Best Picture of 1962, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA stands as one of the most timeless and essential motion picture masterpieces. The greatest achievement of its legendary, Oscar®-winning director, David Lean (1962, Lawrence of Arabia: 1957 the Bridge on the River Kwai), the film stars Peter O’Toole — in his career-making performance — as T.E. Lawrence, the audacious World War I British army officer who heroically united rival Arab desert tribes and led them to war against the mighty Turkish Empire. Newly restored and re-mastered at 4K resolution, the massive scope and epic action of the Director’s Cut of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA can now be experienced like never before in this landmark 50th Anniversary Edition.
Portrait of Jennie [Blu-ray]

Review Ryan's Daughter: Special Edition (Dbl DVD)

Lovely, headstrong Rosy (Sarah Miles) cannot forsake her passionate romance with the handsome British officer (Christopher Jones). Yet there is a greater love ? the devotion of her reserved schoolteacher husband Charles (Robert Mitchum), who stands by Rosy when her illicit affair leads to a charge of treason. Two honored alumni of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago director David Lean and screenwriter Robert Bolt frame this brooding tale within the expansive beaches, craggy cliffs and heathered hills of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula. Freddie Young's lush cinematography and John Mills' memorable portrayal of a town simpleton won Academy Awards.* The remarkable movie containing them casts a haunting spell.

]]>
They Live By Night (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Review In 1970, Ryan's Daughter had the distinction of being the first David Lean film to be included in Playboy magazine's annual "Sex in the Cinema" round-up, thanks to a back-to-nature sex scene that earned the film its R rating. This old-school epic went on to win two Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor for a grotesquely made-up John Mills as the cruelly put-upon village simpleton. But the years have not been quite kind to Ryan's Daughter. This brooding and storm-tossed epic is lovely to look at, but hard to hold with its miscast principles and unsympathetic characters. The film is set in 1916 in a British-occupied Irish village on the seacoast of Western Ireland. Lean's Ireland is a world apart from the colorful characters and close-knit community of John Ford's The Quiet Man. The village is populated by hooligans, slatterns, and traitors. No wonder the local priest (Trevor Howard) is compelled to haul off and slap several of his parishioners, including Rosy Ryan, the dreamy-eyed romantic daughter of the local "publican." The "graceless gal," as the priest calls her, is married to "a good man," a middle-aged local schoolteacher (a cast-against-type Robert Mitchum). She has enough money, and she has her health. But it's not enough, she declares. Enter--at the film's hour mark--a shell-shocked British officer (Christopher Jones) with whom she enjoys an illicit and scandalous affair that offers the promise of the "satisfaction of the flesh" for which she yearns. Ryan's Daughter reunited Lean with Robert Bolt, the screenwriter of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. Alas, the third time was not quite the charm. Miles and Jones generate little heat and Rosy's heedless behavior rouses even less audience empathy. Little in Maurice Jarre's sweeping score equals the high notes of his Oscar-winnings scores for Lawrence or Zhivago. But the landscapes, magnificent and foreboding, cast a ravishing spell of their own. Ryan's Daughter, too, will be embraced by those who have a soft spot in their hearts for love stories set against the backdrop of historical events and this Hollywood epic that in the year of M*A*S*H and Five Easy Pieces, was stubbornly out of style. --Donald Liebenson

On the DVD
This two-disc special edition would seem to be everything for which champions of Ryan's Daughter would wish. It presents the film in its original 206-minute running time, and preserves the original aspect ratio of the theatrical 70mm presentation. The audio commentary views the film from a variety of perspectives, including Miles, Lean's widow, Lean's biographer, Robert Mitchum's daughter, and directors John Boorman and Hugh Hudson. These and others are also featured in an illuminating new three-part documentary, "The Making of Ryan's Daughter," which also features archival interviews with Lean, and is candid enough to address the film's less-than-welcome reception with critics and audiences. Rounding out this set are two period documentaries that went behind the scenes of the production. --Donald Liebenson


Blow-Up (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Review IN ONE OF THE GREAT TRANSLATIONS OF LITERATURE INTO FILM, AND THE DEBUT FILM OF ALEC GUINESS, DAVID LEAN BRINGS DICKENS' MASTERPIECE TO ROBUST ON-SCREEN LIFE. THE CHARACTERS POPULATE LEAN'S MAGNIFICENT MINIATURE, BEAUTIFULLY PHOTOGRAPHED BY GUY GREEN AND DESIGNED BY JOHN BRYAN.
Rebecca (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Review David Lean's handsome adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic novel captures the warm humor and richness of character that so many filmmakers miss in their reverent recreations of Victorian England. From the nightmarish opening sequence on the windswept graveyard where young orphan Pip (Anthony Wager) meets the desperate escaped criminal Magwitch (Finlay Currie) to the shadowy, musty mansion of the widow Miss Haversham (Martita Hunt) where he first meets the impertinent young beauty Estella (Jean Simmons), Lean captures a childlike exaggeration of reality with his elegant expressionism. When Pip's sudden change in fortune sends him to London as a burgeoning gentleman in high society, Lean sketches a beautiful, bustling city. John Mills's performance as the adult Pip charts his change from the wide-eyed wonder and generous spirit of the child he was to the class snob transformed by money and social standing, an ugly flaw that Pip confronts when his mysterious benefactor is finally revealed. The outstanding cast also features Valerie Hobson as the grown-up Estella, now a beguiling enchantress, a bright young Alec Guinness in his film debut as Pip's jovial London roommate Herbert Pocket, and the imposing Francis L. Sullivan as the decidedly humorless lawyer Jaggers. Exquisitely photographed by Guy Green (who won an Oscar for his work). Lean and his collaborators effectively maintain the heart of Dickens's epic drama while cutting it to its essentials in this vivid, compelling film. --Sean Axmaker
Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

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
Woman of the Year (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

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)



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