RYAN’S DAUGHTER
1970, Warner Bros., 187 min, UK, Dir: David Lean

Initially planned as a return to the small-scale storytelling of David Lean’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER days, RYAN’S DAUGHTER instead became an epic contest between the director and the Irish landscape, as he attempted to tell the tragic story of a married Irish woman (played by Sarah Miles, wife of the film’s screenwriter, Robert Bolt) and her affair with a shell-shocked British soldier (Christopher Jones). A flawed gem, the film boasts some great performances (John Mills, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and Leo McKern) and some still-underrated ones (Robert Mitchum, as a meek schoolteacher). Freddie Young’s astonishing cinematography ranks with his best work on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO.


THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN
1958, 20th Century Fox, 121 min, USA, Dir: John Huston

The endangered African elephant is the “root of Heaven” in this prescient look at an idealist (Trevor Howard) trying to save a species from extinction. Romain Gary’s nuanced script, adapted from his novel, has a field day with the varied characters who hope to use the crusading conservationist to advance their own agendas. Errol Flynn, Eddie Albert and Orson Welles are among the star-studded cast (who battled withering heat during the film’s location shoot).


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