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.


OLIVER TWIST (1948)
1948, Park Circus/MGM, 116 min, UK, Dir: David Lean

A startlingly real, atmospheric evocation of childhood terrors and the evils of poverty. Innocent orphan Oliver (John Howard Davies) is shanghaied into a gang of child thieves by blackguard Bill Sykes (a particularly chilling Robert Newton). Alec Guinness’ masterful, almost unrecognizable performance as the Jewish kingpin of boy thieves, Fagin, led to unexpected problems when the film was denounced as anti-Semitic by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; in Berlin, rioters tore the theater apart where the film was shown, and its release was delayed for three years in the U.S. to let tensions ease. “OLIVER TWIST moves forward in staccato bursts, propelled by coiling tensions and by outbursts of sudden, brutish violence. … This is possibly David Lean’s wildest movie, certainly his darkest and arguably his best.” -Al McKee, Film Comment.


THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
2014, Sony Repertory, 161 min, UK, USA, Dir: David Lean

David Lean won the first of two Academy Awards for Best Director for this epic portrait of the clash of wills between a British POW, Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness, who initially turned down the role), and a tradition-bound Japanese officer (silent-film star Sessue Hayakawa) over the building of a railway bridge in the jungle during WWII. William Holden stars as the cynically realistic American POW who is forced to trek back into the hellish jungle to destroy the bridge with Jack Hawkins and his rag-tag team of commandos. Brilliantly adapted by Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson from Pierre Boulle’s novel, with an unforgettable score courtesy of Malcolm Arnold. “There has been a lot of argument about the film’s attitude toward war. I think it is a painfully eloquent statement on the general folly and waste of war.” -David Lean


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