Five in­dis­putably great David Lean pic­tures

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

THIS HAPPY BREED (1944) Though set in a hum­ble south Lon­don house­hold in the in­ter-war years, Lean’s adap­ta­tion of Noël Coward’s play has un­ex­pected as­pects – its scope; its am­bi­tion of the later epics – about it. Mike Leigh ad­mits that the film was an in­flu­ence on his Life is Sweet. BRIEF EN­COUNTER (1945) Trevor Howard, a charis­matic doc­tor, and Celia John­son, a pinched house­wife, pine over the tea­cakes in one of the great dra­mas of re­pressed pas­sion. GREAT EX­PEC­TA­TIONS (1946) John Mills, play­ing the work­ing-class boy made good, brings warmth to this flaw­less Dick­ens adap­ta­tion, but the film’s most mem­o­rable scenes tend to­wards gothic hor­ror. Pip’s pas­sage through the grave­yard and Miss Hav­isham’s wretched demise still chill the blood. BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957) The plot strand in­volv­ing William Holden – a sop to pro­ducer Sam Spiegel – still feels some­what bolted on. But Alec Guin­ness’s por­trayal of a Bri­tish of­fi­cer driven close to mad­ness by his own ded­i­ca­tion to hon­our still has the power to

dis­con­cert. What have I done? LAWRENCE OF ARA­BIA (1962) Si­mul­ta­ne­ously a cel­e­bra­tion of hero­ism and a med­i­ta­tion on the in­tox­i­cat­ing power of slaugh­ter, Lean man­aged to layer Lawrence’s abun­dant ex­trav­a­gant set pieces with real psy­cho­log­i­cal acu­ity. Sadly, his sub­se­quent ex­trav­a­gan­zas seem empty by com­par­i­son.

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