September 14, 2008

David Lean @ Film Forum.

David Lean "Naturally, Film Forum's [David] Lean season includes his multiple Oscar-winning epics - The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr Zhivago and A Passage to India - films in which the impermanence of human love, life, and scheming are celebrated in wide-screen grandeur," writes Bruce Bennett in the New York Sun. "But the bulk of the two-week retrospective represents the result of a real-life effort to permanently preserve the director's early work, an effort that has been considerably more successful than fictional efforts to safeguard the bridge in Kwai, TE Lawrence's life, and Yuri Zhivago's 'paper thin' heart, as dramatized in the pictures themselves. Through a joint effort led by the British Film Institute, 10 of Lean's British-made, pre-road-show movies have been restored to a level of clarity that will likely extend their exhibition lives indefinitely."

Updated through 9/15.

"Brief Encounter and Summertime are always worth seeing again, and his three Ann Todd films deserve more attention than they have received," writes Dan Callahan at the House Next Door. "As for the rest, Lean took to looking out into vast expanses of desert, fields of flowers, windswept beaches, sets of caves and even the space beyond the sky, searching for existential answers that he was not equipped to give us and settling for overly composed pretty pictures instead."

For Cullen Gallagher, writing in the L Magazine, Summertime is "the director's underappreciated masterpiece. Katharine Hepburn plays a single woman who travels to Venice alone for a vacation, bringing along a bottle of whisky and a small movie camera. She spends the first half of the movie faking conversations with other tourists and visiting all the tourist hot spots, unable to make any sincere connection with other people or the landscape. Her alienation is unlike anything Lean had ever filmed before, and far more modern than anything to be found in Hollywood at the time - in fact, the closest relative to Hepburn's character would have to be Marie Rivière in Eric Rohmer's The Green Ray/Summer (1986), some three decades later."

"Maybe the signature shot of Lean's career is the long, long take of Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) approaching across the sands in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), an indistinct, heat-shimmery figure gradually coming into focus in the blinding desert sun." Terrence Rafferty in the New York Times: "That spectacular shot is, in a way, this filmmaker's career in miniature, progressing slowly, waveringly, from very small to very large, and demanding our attention at every stage. Lean, an Englishman to the marrow of his bones, was from the beginning an artist fascinated by both the small and the large, oscillating between his attraction to the one and his yearning for the other - between the domestic, you might say, and the imperial."

"What all these brilliant, seemingly disparate works have in common is the clarity and precision of Lean's filmmaking technique, as well as his steely resolve in using it to achieve poetic grandeur," writes David Ehrenstein for Artforum.

Earlier: Glenn Kenny in the Auteurs' Notebook and Armond White in the New York Press. Also: "David Lean, 4/20" and "David Lean @ 100."

Through September 25.

Update, 9/15: "Lawrence of Arabia is a moment-of-truth moment for a lot of kids, because it's famous, fairly popular in revival (would I have been the rep-going freak I am without it? It's a one-movie argument for the importance of big-screen viewings), and the kind of widescreen spectacle you don't need actual human experience and interaction to respond to." But at the House Next Door, Vadim Rizov offers his takes on four other films in the series.

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Posted by dwhudson at September 14, 2008 2:32 PM