Tuesday, September 4, 2012

#603: David Lean Directs Noël Coward

(David Lean, 1942-1945)

This recent box set deserves to be heralded more than it has. Although I wasn't especially keen on In Which We Serve and This Happy Breed, the four films in this set represent a collaboration between two British icons that demonstrates many of the strengths of Anglo cinema in the middle of the 20th century. The collection ranges widely from screwball comedy to romance to war to epic drama - only the historical epic and the literary adaptation are missing (Lean would correct this later in his career).

Brief Encounter is unquestionably the crown jewel in the set. I've watched the film five or six times, and it's one of my favorite romance dramas. It's also one of a handful of films I would point to as emblematic of the potential for beauty in black and white cinema. I think it's kind of a travesty that Criterion didn't release the film as a standalone blu-ray, as I imagine there are a lot of people out there who would want to own this movie in high def who don't want to buy the whole set (e.g. me).

Still, for those amassing a more complete home video collection, this box set is a great addition. Blithe Spirit is a real pleasure that makes for light and easy viewing, while the other two films are strong examples of filmmaking worthy of multiple looks. It's also great to see a box that takes a collaboration as the framing device and delivers a broad range of compelling films within a narrow window of time.

Links to individual reviews:
Brief Encounter (no review)
In Which We Serve
This Happy Breed
Blithe Spirit

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