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Thread: David Lean

  1. #1
    Stuartieboy
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    This is in response to the David Who jibe. It fascinates me that a lot of people do not take him seriously. Why is that? Most people would accept that he was behind some of our finest films: Brief Encounter; Great Expectations; The Bridge on the River Kwai; and Lawrence of Arabia - but the admiration always seems pretty grudging. Is there a feeling he "sold out"? Is there a sense of, if only certain other directors had had the same resources at their disposal they would have done much better? Is it just that his films were and are popular, and it wouldn't be done to celebrate popularity? Do we in Britain just like either worthy, pseudo-working class movies shot in black and white or elitist little arty films that no one wants to see? Is it possible to produce great art that is also enjoyed by the masses?

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    Maybe im getting confused, but did Lean edit the P&P film "one of our aircraft is missing" (1942), which was shot at Denham Studios around the same time as "In Which we serve"?

    I dont know much about the way in which British studios worked, so was Lean in the employ of the studio, or freelance, and how did Coward come to use Lean in "In which we serve"?





    Cheers....

  3. #3
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Maybe im getting confused, but did Lean edit the P&P film "one of our aircraft is missing" (1942), which was shot at Denham Studios around the same time as "In Which we serve"?

    I dont know much about the way in which British studios worked, so was Lean in the employ of the studio, or freelance, and how did Coward come to use Lean in "In which we serve"?





    Cheers....
    Yes, Lean did edit OOOAIM, also 49th Parallel (1941) for P&P. It was while he was editing OOOAIM and there was a scene between Sir George and one of the younger members of the crew which was cut and Lean suggested that there was a movie in their comparisons between youth and age - that was the germ of an idea that led to Colonel Blimp.



    Many senior jobs like editors were freelance at the time.



    One day Noel Coward visited the set of OOOAIM and after seeing how the crew staged and wrapped up an elaborate sequence in about 2 hours decided to use most of them on his film In Which We Serve.



    Lean was getting quite experienced by then and although Coward was originally the director of In Which We Serve, Lean helped him so much (Coward knew nothing about directing a film) that Coward insisted he get joint credit as director. Lean was really employed as the editor.



    The production dates for OOOAIM are 11 August 1941 - March 1942 so I'd guess Lean (& the other crew that worked on both) finished that before starting In Which We Serve.

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    Thanks Steve for the post....very informative.



    I was also trying to work out the relationship between the realist style of OOOAiM and the avante garde British documentary movement. Such as Jennings' Spare Time, Listen to Britain and London can take it etc.

    Was the GPO/Crown Film Unit a major influence on Studio made productions?

    Humphrey Jennings is often credited with the first use of a documentary realist approach with "Fires Were Started". So stylistically, were P+P the first to use the documentary format in OoOAiM or do they not come into consideration because of the use of trained actors and a Studio made film?



    Soz about the question being off thread topic

  5. #5
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Thanks Steve for the post....very informative.



    I was also trying to work out the relationship between the realist style of OOOAiM and the avante garde British documentary movement. Such as Jennings' Spare Time, Listen to Britain and London can take it etc.

    Was the GPO/Crown Film Unit a major influence on Studio made productions?

    Humphrey Jennings is often credited with the first use of a documentary realist approach with "Fires Were Started". So stylistically, were P+P the first to use the documentary format in OoOAiM or do they not come into consideration because of the use of trained actors and a Studio made film?



    Soz about the question being off thread topic
    Michael Powell wasn't a fan of the "documentary movement". He knew all movies are fiction, even those that appear to portray real life.



    Flaherty's "Man of Aran" was a case in point. Hailed as one of the first of the documentary style of British films, in fact he got the fishermen to use techniques they'd abandoned a generation before. I think it was really Flaherty who started the documentary style - and that was in 1934. OOOAIM was a drama, it wasn't meant to be (and isn't) a documentary. Yes it may be in a more realist style than the more famous P&P films but that's just the style that suited the drama. Note that the only music heard in the film is "natural" like from the church organ or the gramaphone records.



    But it could never be considered a documentary, not with a crew of extreme characters like that :)



    It's not the only film they ever did in such a realist style either. It's very much a compainion piece (same problem from the other side) to 49th Parallel.



    I think Jennings was more interesting than Flaherty because he brought a more artistic style to his documentaries.



    The influence of the documentariasts on mainstream British films was quite strong, their influence on Powell was minimal. He fought against them.



    But the critics loved the documentary films and thought that that's what all British film-makers should be doing which is why the P&P films often only got a medium to bad reception from the critics. Luckily, most filmgoers liked them anyway.

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    I only ask because the BBC classed OooAiM as documentary drama, and it seemed to be a bit odd in that assumption..but what do they know lol! For sure its by no means a Doc, but it still has that approach to it. The opening credits are presented as factual, ie the list of partisan names in the firing squad. But whatever P+P meant by the syntax of the editing, its one hell of an opener to a movie! It looks so fresh and totally modern. The use of the circle as a theme is beautiful. The sound draws you into the the very heart of the film, with the firing squad drum beats, the drone of the aircraft engines, and the space left between each characters introduction.

    I do believe that (even though i admire the film) that it sits uncomfortably within the period. You might have seen the film, "F for Freddie", about a wellington bomber crew. It is very much a propaganda piece, but presented " as it happened" , with splices of documentary footage. It was most definately shown not as drama, but as a recreated factual event. F for Freddie also used actual bomber pilots who were serving with the RAF, (the flight captain being later killed in a mosquito). The similarities are quite noticable to One of our Aircraft... but without the jaunt through Holland!



    will continue some other time! 5:15am !!!



    PS Steve, if you havent seen F for Freddie, i can send you a tape. Its not a well made film by any means, but its worth a look..

  7. #7
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    OOOAIM was wrongly categorised as a documentary on the IMDb for a while - that might be where the BBC got the idea from. Or they might have thought it should be categorised as a docu-drama but I think even that is pushing it a bit.



    The "F for Freddy" you mention is better known as "Target for Tonight (1941)". Thanks for the offer but I've already got a copy.



    Most P&P films sit uncomfortably in the period - that's why we love them so much :)

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    True true, thats IS why we luv 'em!

    Re: Target for tonight.

    I ordered this and other films from the States some time ago, and along with different title names, they appear with american commentary. In most cases, drastically different editing too. Presumably for showing in Amercan cinemas. The quality of the prints is terrible, and films such as Listen to Britain are totally dissimilar to the UK releases. But it is interesting to see how wartime Britain was presented to them....Dont know if theyre still available stateside. Will post cat nos. soon.



    Cheers Steve



    Dara

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    Whilst you are on David Lean, does anyone know if Ryan's Daughter is likely to get DVD treatment?

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    Excellent question Silverskin, as someone who is currently reading what must be the greatest non fiction read of all time Kevin Brownlow's superb autobiog of the great man this thought occured to me.

    His other "big" films are extremely well served on 2DVD sets this seems to be the exception, surely well worth a 2dvd release.

  11. #11
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    What's this about the "David who?" jibe, how dare anyone diss this filmic genius :)

    He's the best film director Ebgland ever had and after the critics maulled his films he refused

    to ever make another film after Zhivago, though he did make two more and planned another.



    For once, it's great to be a Region 2 David Lean fan. There are more of Lean's masterpieces

    available on DVD in the UK than there are in the US. Although a few Criterion DVDs in the US

    are superior to the UK ones, the availability of more Lean DVDs in the UK more than makes

    up for this in my opinion. Though I do plan on buying the US DVDs too.



    Ive been planning on getting up a David Lean collection on DVD for ages but never got around

    to it. So I had a look on the net for his films on DVD. 12 out of his 16 films are available in the

    UK which is fantastic!. And in october, theres a special making of DVD release about Lawrence

    Of Arabia. See below for details.



    I buy my DVDs from Play.com which is a hell of a lot cheaper than Blackstar.co.uk.



    When I buy the films below, ["madness!"], I've worked out that I'll be saving £101 by buying

    the below DVDs from Play instead of Blackstar!. That's a lot of money to me and it means

    with what I'll be saving, I can get the four Criterion David Lean DVDs.



    £101 ["Ah, then it's a gift."]





    In Which We Serve

    £7.99



    Special Features:

    Documentary

    Interactive Menus

    Scene Access

    Digitally Remastered

    Behind the scenes stills gallery

    Cast and crew biographies

    Theatrical trailer





    This Happy Breed

    £5.99



    Special Features:

    Interactive Menus

    Scene Index





    Blithe Spirit

    £5.99 Delivered



    Special Features:

    Interactive menus

    Scene selection





    Brief Encounter

    £7.99



    Special Features:

    Documentary

    Interactive Menus

    In-depth Biographies

    Scene Access

    Collector's booklet

    Stills gallery

    Original theatrical trailer





    Great Expectations

    £7.99



    Special Features:

    Interactive Menus

    In-depth Biographies

    Scene Access





    Oliver Twist

    £7.99



    Special Features:

    Exclusive documentary: 'A profile of Oliver Twist'

    Interactive Menus

    Scene Access

    Theatrical trailer





    Hobson's Choice / The Sound Barrier [David Lean Double Bill]

    £11.99



    Special Features:

    Interactive Menus

    Scene Access





    The Bridge On The River Kwai - 2 Disc Set

    £9.99



    Widescreen 2.35:1

    Special Features:

    'The Making Of the Bridge On The River Kwai' documentary (60 mins)

    'On Seeing Film': Movie School Featurette

    'Build The Bridge' Desktop Game

    Map And History Of The Events Surrounding The Actual Building Of The Bridge

    DVD ROM Features: Script And Screensaver





    Lawrence Of Arabia - 2 Discs

    £9.99



    Widescreen 2.20:1

    Special Features:

    Documentary: ´The Making of Lawrence of Arabia´ (61 mins)

    ´A Conversation with Steven Spielberg´ (9 mins)

    Four Publicity Featurettes (16 mins)

    New York Premiere

    The Marketing Campaigns

    Original Theatrical Trailer

    Maps - Journey with Lawrence set-top

    DVD-ROM features: Archives of Arabia photos, Screensaver

    Filmographies





    Lawrence Of Arabia - Superbit

    £9.99





    NEW!!! - The Making Of Lawrence Of Arabia -

    £5.99

    Due for release on 13/10/2003



    A documentary about the making of the film 'Lawrence Of Arabia' which is the story of a British Officer,

    T.E.Lawrence, who helped the Arabs revolt against the Turks during World War I. Also includes rare

    footage of the production of this epic.



    Duration 1 hour and 20 minutes





    Dr Zhivago - Deluxe Series Box Set

    £29.99



    Widescreen 2.35:1

    Special Features:

    2 Disc Special Edition

    Lobby Cards: 8 original Limited Edition lobby card prints

    Collectible Senitype®: Exclusive Limited Edition image from movie with 35mm film frame

    Original Theatrical US one sheet cinema poster (40� x 27�)

    Exclusive Collection: 6 original Limited Edition black and white photograph stills Introduction by Omar Sharif

    Feature-length audio commentary by Omar Sharif, Rod Steiger and Sandra Lean Music Only Audio Track

    Interactive Menus

    Scene Access

    Doctor Zhivago: The Making of A Russian Epic – 60 minute Documentary

    Vintage Documentaries (73 minutes): Zhivago: Behind the Camera with David Lean David Lean’s Film of

    Doctor Zhivago / Moscow in Madrid / Pasternak / New York Press Interviews / Geraldine Chaplin Screen

    Test / This Is Julie Christie / This Is Geraldine Chaplin / Chaplin in New York / This Is Omar Sharif

    Original Theatrical Trailer

    Cast & Crew List

    Awards Listing





    A Passage To India

    £8.99



    Widescreen 1.85:1

    Special Features:

    Interactive menus

    Scene selection

    Original theatrical trailer





    REGION 1 US DVDs



    The Criterion Collection has Twist, Expectations, Encounter and more importantly, David Lean's favourite

    of his own films, Summertime. Play.com [the US version] has these DVDs cheaper than Amazon.com and

    they still give you free delivery.



    I'd love to know what people think about David Lean's films as everyone always seems to be slagging him

    off. Lean was the greatest English film-maker Britain ever produced. We should be proud of his films and

    his artistic achievements. No one makes films like Lean anymore, he invented the modern epic film and

    whether he was filming a scene on a frozen lake with hundreds of horses or a scene with two people

    talking, he still made simple things seem epic in scope and depth.



    When I first saw Dr. Zhivago I was astounded, and I mean astounded. I've seen 1000's of films, a few of

    Lean's other films, but I can honestly say that I've never seen a film that's 40 years old and still out-shines

    all modern forms of film-making. There are techniques, styles and motions that Lean uses in Zhivago that

    I could not quite believe I was witnessing. His use of sound in the first 30 minutes of Zhivago blew me away.



    Throughout the film he uses every technique he can manage to dazzle you. The simple scene of Guinnes

    clicking his fingers and commanding the attention of the screeen and the audience had me astounded.

    There are not many films that have stirred my participation, captivated my attention for 200 minutes and

    left me with the greatest admiration for a British film-maker than David Lean.



    It's about time that he got the attention and praise that he deserved. The critics panned Zhivago and his

    subsequent films, even though Zhivago was the biggest money-maker in the sixties. It puzzles me how

    people can say Lawrence Of Arabia is better than Zhivago. I think it's down to the critics representation

    of his films. Everybody simply assumes that Lawrence Of Arabia is his best work. Watching Zhivago only

    once doesn't satisfy the films artistic structure. Dr. Zhivago, to me, is the only film that comes close to

    architecture. This film was crafted by Lean for over three years to get it to the screen. There is everything

    in every shot, every single scene is perfect. The film is perfect, and I can honestly say that Dr. Zhivago is

    my favourite film of all time. I challenge anyone with this, Dr. Zhivago is the greatest film of all time, it's just

    nobody has given it enough attention yet. I love it. The first time I saw it I clapped. Now I've never done that

    for a film, and I doubt there'll be another to beat it.

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    David Lean was a tragic genius and one of the greatest film directors of all time.



    Kevin Brownlow has written a fascinating biography on Lean, which shows all sides of him through his history.



    David Lean: A Biography

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0...9342057-6832401



    Gibbie

  13. #13
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    Yes,David Lean,for me,was the greatest British film maker ever.

    Lawrence of Arabia is my all time favourite film. It was the thinking man's epic. I believe it inspired a certain young Spielberg to make films. In fact,in the restoration credits,Mr Spielberg and Mr Scorsese gave a hand to Robert Harris.

    I think most directors worth their salt would rate David Lean as being the director's director.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B

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    I'm not sure about David Lean. Great Expectations is one of my favourite movies, but there is something about the 'epics' (Bridge onwards) which leave me cold. I'd say he was a good director but not a favourite of mine (directors like McKendrick and Hamer are more my cup of tea).

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    Yes, Great Expectations is a classic great. One of the best in Britfilm history.



    Lean's later epics were expressions of his worldview I think. Read Brownlow on this point. I was mesmerized by Zhivago as a child when my dad took my brother and I to see it, but over time, I found the story depressing - Greek tragedy in the 20th century Russian sense (read the real stories of Eugenia Ginzburg and this will make sense). I also saw Ryan's Daughter when it came out and was strangely mesmerized by the story and the music, but later became repelled by the self-abasing anti-English storyline, which also came up in a Passage to India (although, it did provide great insight and sympathy to the Irish and Indian condition in a complex realism that shows how life is more complicated than tribal jibes). These films still have some of the greatest cinematography in film. My father was amazed at how Lean waited for a real storm in Ryan's Daughter to get a realistic shot (when the village folk went to collect German weapons).



    On a brighter memory, his earlier films like Great Expectations, Brief Encounter, Oliver Twist, This Happy Breed, Pygmalion, etc., showed his great depth of narrative and visual location. Lean's great contribution from a technical point was his incredible eye for visual narrative that few have mastered. Instead of Scorsese's getting in your mind to take you down to a lower level, Lean got everybody on the same road to see the same thing at once - quite a gift. When I was a child, I wanted to be a movie director and Lean was the model.



    Some recommended reading:



    "David Lean : An Intimate Portrait" by Lady Sandra Lean and "David Lean: A Biography" by Kevin Brownlow.



    Gibbie

  16. #16
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    I can't really add to anything said i like most of leans films and i would love a dvd release of ryans daughter and i'm sick of the TCM logo on my only copy.



    cheers Ollie.

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    At last,I found a way to get back on to the site! :scarf:

    David Lean I would rate as Britain's greatest director and certainly deserves to be in the top ten of world directors. However,whereas my favourite film is Lawrence of Arabia,I am not going to argue with anyone if they prefer Great Expectations,Oliver Twist,Brief Encounter or whatever. His Dickens' adaptations are universely acknowledged as being the best of the great writer's works,GE forever topping OT only marginally. In WHich We Serve and This Happy Breed were and always will be flagwavers in time of war,but still have stood the test of time. Brief Encounter,I admit,I couldn't get away with!. Blithe Spirit showed Lean had talent for comedy,proving more so in the excellent Hobson's Choice.

    However,his hunger for the epics proved to me to be no bad turn,as he could deliver them with intelligence and character,unlike some of the Hollywood overblown epics.

    Laurence of Arabia,as the Film Review recently said,set the standard for the epics of today. It was,I recall DL telling Terrry Wogan on his tv chat show,his personal favourite and that seemed evident as every scene,every frame was firmly under the control of the director. It was as if,this was the film he would nurture to the greatness he envisaged.

    The script was laced with humour,none of the big names in the film seemed out of place,the music set the tone for which we forever associate the desert,the desert and the sun were not props,but characters. Each character came on the film,like someone walking on the stage,being part of the play for most part,then as close neared,they walked off. Throughout the film,the three and half hours of it,one actor remained pivitol - Peter O' Toole. From the happy go lucky map drawer at the beginning,the idealist who came to respect the Arabs and their ways,their leader in the guerilla campaigns,he loved and worshipped the desert,but for it to turn sour after his rape from the Turkish bey. He returned to lead them again,but this time developed a perverse pleasure in killing,rather than it being act of duty.

    He lost control of the Arab council which he tried to develop for the Arabs,but their neverending tribal hatred prevented it,and finally sickened by the plight of Turkish prisoners,he wanted out.

    A scene I will always remember,is when Feisal and Allenby with Colonel Brighton and Mr Dryden,discuss Lawrence's future. Lawrence stands in the shadow,coming out with the occasional words,as they talk - for the best part of the film,the character and actor have carried the story,yet now paled into insignificance - no longer important.

    All of his friends gone,he is driven away,going to a port to take him home,going along a desert track,still trying to catch sight of his Arab friends,but finally espied a passing motor bike,a portent of what would eventually bring his death.

    Dr Zhivago,Ryan's Daughter and A Passage to India were still commendable epics,but all failed to to touch LOA.

    He is still a much revered director on both sides of the Atlantic,not only for his epics,but for his early intimate films. No matter which decade you are talking about,or genre of movie,he is a master to students of films.

    Today,in my opinion,Sir Ridley Scott (for the epics) is perhaps Sir David Lean's successor.but even the great man himself would admit he is no David Lean,and for all I know,there is no one yet can place himself on the same mantle.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B

    PS After my critique of Lawrence of Arabia,I am going to launch a new thread in which you could be a Barry Norman and write a critique of your favourite film,or indeed a film you dislike.

    Marky B

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    Welcome back, Marky B!



    I had to figure a few things out myself.



    Brownlow's book is pretty interesting concerning his way of thinking and his style.



    There is also an interesting documentary on the anniversary issue of Dr. Zhivago with Sharif as the narrator that discusses Lean's style. Recommended watch.



    Lean was a lapsed Quaker, yet he retained feelings against war, which were apparent in Kwai, Lawrence and Zhivago. Concerning worldview, this is a strong undertow. I think he also focused on human contrariness (pretty much everyone in Zhivago and Leo McKern's character in Ryan's Daughter, etc.). These were all tragedies and I think that was his view of the human condition. Although, his take seemed sympathetic to his characters. If ever a director had the auteur approach, it was Lean.



    Gibbie

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    I know it wasn't one of his major, dare I use the term"blockbusters" but I loved "This Happy Breed" Although perhaps not so auteur (thanks Gibbie!) due to the influence of Noel Coward, I still think Lean's gentle film making style at this time, showed his transition to directing was going to be hugely influential. One of my Lean favourites, Regards, Decks.

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    Here Here!

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