on 22 November 2009
Do not listen to the person who said this is less than great despite the claims of being image-conscious. I've seen 35mm prints that weren't as good as this Blu-Ray. It's been lovingly restored and looks absolutely fantastic in every way. The negative must have been in very good shape, despite what Mr. Image Conscious says. In fact, it's a shame Mr. Image Conscious can't be specific - point out the specific things that he thinks are less than great - that would be illuminating. As it is, if you love the film I can't imagine you wouldn't be thrilled with the Blu-Ray. There is no extant DVD version of this film that comes within a country mile of this transfer - I'd advise a trip to the optometrist for anyone who tells you otherwise.
Pointless to review this classic film for its story, performances, and direction which are all superb. What one can certainly marvel at is the sensational quality of the restored print. On Blu Ray Brief Encounter emerges with such clarity of detail such beautiful gradations of the black and white spectrum, that one simply marvels at the transformation. The soundtrack is also refurbished and this adds greatly to ones enjoyment of the performances.Anyone who loves this film and would like to see it in all its splendour would do well to make the transition to Blu Ray, which seems fast becoming the industry standard.
I loved watching this favourite again and in Blu Ray it has found a worthy home for the future.
on 30 October 2009
A simple tale of two strangers meeting in a railway station falling in love but who can never take it any further.
Some of the cinematography is beautifully done; the reflections from the train windows, the merging of the story being told in the past to the present when the narrative fades, and the symbolism of the speeding trains through the station can stand up to anything done today.
Its a well told story, with great performances by the lead actors. The self-sacrifice by each is something of an era that's gone, as we all too frequently see gratuitous sex portrayed in today's films (a reflection of the selfish society we live in).
You end up feeling for the characters, but also in a strange way relieved they did not commit adultery.
This is my favorite British film of all time. Brilliant writing, fine acting, ecconomicaly concise production and inspired direction all combine to make a landmark movie and a defining moment in social history.
Celia Johnson is terrific! She is talented and beautiful. More than girlishly pretty, she has the deep resonant beauty of a full grown woman. Her eyes are huge and so expressive, as she copes with the guilt and sordidness of an extra-marital love. She narrates to move the story along in places. Her performance draws you in and holds you. A lesser actress could not have pulled it off so well.
Trevor Howard plays her illicit love. Their screen chemistry is electric. Stanley Holloway and Joyce Carey provide a light sub-plot, which compliments the main story.
The film was released in the Spring of 1945, just as World War 2 was ending in Europe. Whether on purpose or not, the film announced a return to peacetime morality. Speak to an old person who was there, and you will find out that all sorts went on during the war when couples were separated, and there was horrific stress.
The characters fall in love, but their love remains unrequited. Love is allowed, but the heart is not allowed to rule the head. The film is set in an unspecified time of peace with no blackout, no bombsites, and with cakes and chocolate freely available. There is a 'forward to the past' kind of message.
If you've never seen it, you are in for a rare treat. If you haven't seen it for a while, then it is well worth revisiting. My review title is a line from a Noel Coward type song. I thought it fitted since he wrote the screenplay, and the main setting is a railway station.
on 10 May 2009
Classic British cinema; acted in a way that only British actors of that period can act (1945)! Superb, the children are frightful! And should be locked in their room with no supper!!! And what is that thing they are using to keep the coffee hot? This is 1945; how the other half lived!
The flash backs, the voice over, all add to the inner tension caused by the conflict of conscience. Shall I, shall I not. What if? What will be the consequences and did the husband guess all along? It is all frightfully middle class, yet they were travelling Third Class on the train, the likes of which will never be seen again. The characters are all very vivid from the lady behind the counter - "I do not know to what you are referring", the Station Master, and the irritating friend, "No sugar?".
Just classic cinema from an era now long gone and irretrievable, but never lost because we have the DVD!!!!
London in 1945 is a world of Watney's Brown Ale, Sunlight Soap and Capstan's Full Strength Cigarettes. There are usherettes in cinemas, sticky buns under glass, pigskin handbags and big-wheeled perambulators. And into the Refreshment Rooms of Milford Junction Train Station step a man and a woman catching the 5:40 to Churley and the 5:50 to Ketchworth who sip tea and say things like "rather" and "beastly" and "most awfully sorry". And into our romantic consciousness lodges David Lean's morality tale and cinematic legend..."Brief Encounter".
Lean picked up the option on Noel Coward's 1935 short play "Still Life" and quickly extended and renamed it "Brief Encounter" with the help of Anthony Havelock-Allen and Ronald Neame. It was then decided by both its backers and the British Government to locate the shoot at Carnforth Train Station in Lancashire (the Second World War was winding down at this point in history, but night-bombing was still a very real threat in London). Filming began in February 1945 and was shot at night after the stations business day had ended. UK released in November 1945 (1946 in the USA), it received three Academy Nominations - Best Actress, Screenplay and Director (a first for a British Director).
Cyril Raymond plays Laura's rather soppy husband Fred Jesson who on seeing Laura in distress offers to help her by inviting her to do the Times Crossword Puzzle with him. He is a nice man and they are a 'happily married couple' - but he is clearly unaware of the hurricane taking place in London every Thursday between his demure wife and a total stranger. Long-time Ealing Comedy regular Stanley Holloway plays Milford Station's Senior Ticket Collector Albert Godby - whose heart and fancy extends to Myrtle Bagot the haughty Refreshment Room head-lady played by Joyce Carey. Myrtle primly refutes but secretly enjoys Albert's 'saucy' advances ("I'm sure I don't know to what you are referring...") while Dolly Messiter is also brilliant as Everley Gregg - Laura's 'gossiping acquaintance' who talks 'nineteen to the dozen' in the café and on the train journey home.
But the movie belongs to its two leads - Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Neither were classic Hollywood hunks - and in some respects it was their very ordinariness that gave their performances such power - even danger. Celia Johnson plays Laura Jesson - suburban housewife to Fred and mother to their plumy-mouthed children - Bobby and Margaret. Every Thursday she wanders into London on the steam train from her suburban home in Ketchworth for a day out. Trevor Howard plays Dr. Alec Harvey who commutes from a practice in Churley to a London hospital that specializes in preventative medicine (he will leave England shortly for South Africa). He is married to Madeleine (whom we never see) and also has two children. The Doctor and the Housewife meet one Thursday by chance in the train station's tearooms and after only a few weeks - fall passionately in love. But they are already married. And these are honourable people who don't want to be dishonourable. So they're faced with a predicament their respective decencies know will cause real heartache if they go ahead with their flight of fantasy (run off with each other to exotic places - as she dreams on the train). They must make an agonizing decision and ultimately sacrifice their 'true' love...
The other big star of the film is Noel Coward's screenplay. Coward was of course 'gay' in a Britain that barely tolerated a napkin out of place - and with this in mind, you can't help but feel that the thread of unrequited love runs throughout the entire piece. It is Oscar Wilde's famous phrase moulded into a film - Laura and Alec's illicit passion is "the love that dares not speak its name".
Which brings us to this 2009 BLU RAY reissue. The black and white stock has been fully restored by The British Film Institute (BFI) in conjunction with ITV Studios/The David Lean Foundation and CINEIMAGE - and their combined work here is exceptional. Even as the open credits show a speeding steam train race through a station while Rachmaniov's Piano Concert No. 2 plays - the difference is shocking. Forget all the old line-riddled scratch-filled versions you've seen down through the decades, this wonderfully clean restoration is the best the film has ever looked. The original 4:3 letterbox aspect is used as default (centred on your screen) - and even if you opt for Wide or Full Screen mode, it doesn't stretch the image to any real detriment. Here are some examples of how good it looks...
* The close up on Dolly's lips on the train - you can now see her make-up and lipstick
* Laura at home sewing in a chair - her perfectly pressed blouse and big buttons - her gold bracelet - all incredibly clear
* The mirror scene in Laura's bedroom when she first lies to her husband - the clear reflection in the glass - the music and script - all gives it a new 'world-closing-in-on-you' feel
* Laura and Alec go out for a clandestine drive in the country and stop at a bridge over a stream - you can see the glinting of the water on their coats - beautifully clear
* As Laura runs away from the flat owned by Stephen (Alec's Doctor colleague) where she might have given in to her emotions for Alec - she runs in the rain down a city street at night - the picture quality is beautiful (so noir)
* In a telephone kiosk in a tobacconist shop telephoning her husband to say that she's going to be late - beautiful shadows and light
* Sitting down on the bench beside the War Memorial - cold and ashamed - as a lone London Bobby approaches her and asks how she is
The red and gold outer card-wrap has embossed script on it - the scene in the Regent Park's boathouse when he is drying his clothes and he so eloquently confesses his love for her - "I love your wide eyes...and the way you laugh at my jokes..." There isn't a booklet which is a bit of a visual let down, but there are extras worth noting - "A Profile Of Brief Encounter" which features an interview with the young waitress in the tea room - actress Beryl Walters and a history of the shoot (the teahouse was a stage built beside the Carnforth Train Station). There's also the Theatrical Trailer, a Stills Gallery and a piece on the restoration process. Subtitles are only in English and English for the Hard Of Hearing.
Another point worth mentioning is that Celia Johnson's character is given the ingenious device of a 'voiceover' - blocking out the jabbering busybody or the intrusive world in general. It allowed Johnson to say heavy things off screen but more importantly it gave us Laura's 'true' thoughts - and ultimately a way to empathize with her yo-yo feelings of elation and recrimination. The dialogue too was also so subtly full of suggestion - "I hardly know him at all really..." (querying her affections) - "You could never be dull..." (his growing passion for her) - her joy after they've shared their first kiss "And I'd said I loved him. And it was true..."
It's an innocent world really, so it was probably genuinely shocking to the audience of the day when Laura disembarks towards the end of the film from the train home only to run to Alec who is waiting in his friend's flat (a doctor called Stephen played so coldly by Valentine Dyall). Are they going to consummate their love - regardless of the cost? Will they be so cruel to their partners and especially to their children? What does 'one' do? Well buying this classic on Blu Ray at a penny less than nine pounds is a good start...
In the decades that have since passed, David Lean's 'frightfully' downbeat British romance has been parodied relentlessly and beloved with a passion in equal measure. And yet it still holds a powerful resonance even today and is likely to make 'one' reach for a handkerchief - and not because there's some grit in your eye...
"Brief Encounter" on BLU RAY is a triumph and both The British Film Institute and CINEIMAGE are to be congratulated on this reissue and its wonderfully restored print. In Celia's words "I want to remember every minute...always...always...to the end of my days..."
Well now we can.
PS: for other superb restorations on BLU RAY, see also my reviews for "The Italian Job", "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning", "The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner", "North By Northwest", "Cool Hand Luke", "The Dambusters", "The Prisoner - The Complete (UK TV) Series In High Definition", "Braveheart", "Snatch", "The Ladykillers", "The African Queen", "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", "Back To The Future Trilogy" and "Kelly's Heroes".
The basic story is of a brief encounter between two people (Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson) at a train station. Both are married to other people and are committed to different lives. They fall in love; but it is a hopeless situation.
How will they resolve this?
Will they resolve this?
What would you do in the situation?
This film reminds me of a line I heard in another movie, he, "We will never have happiness." She, "Then we must be happy without it."
David Lean did an exceptional job of directing this film whom later directed Hopscotch.
The use of Rachmaninoff's Concerto no. 2 in C minor, helps set the mood and added continuity to the film. Hear it again in the film [The Seven Year Itch (1955)].
on 15 October 2009
This tear-jerker from the 1940s is a beautifully crafted, highly polished piece of film making.
Middle-class housewife from the leafy suburbs, Celia Johnson, strikes up a friendship with a local doctor, Trevor Howard, following a minor incident with a piece of grit in her eye at a dismal, smoky railway station. A clandestine love affair develops that is brought to an emotional end by the doctor accepting a job abroad. All this to the music of Rachmaninov! Do have a hankie ready!
The strength of this movie lies not only with the two leads but also with the highly charged atmosphere of the film. Post-war Britain, gloomy railway stations, shrieking steam trains and slamming doors. There is no sunlight in this film! It could only be shot in black and white, it would not have worked
in colour - it is very `noir' indeed!
This early David Lean film is a masterly piece of cinema. It should, and probably is on the shelf of every film buff. All attempted remakes have been unqualified disasters.
on 15 June 2005
It is easy to see why this film is one of the most known romance films ever made, first of all the tear inducing performances of the British ensemble, second the almost essential black and white noir wartime lighting, and thirdly the music that is now synonymous with the film and romance. For those of you who do not wish to read on the film is a simple tale of a woman torn between loyalty to her husband and an exciting affair. The film uses the great performances to personalise us with the main character and have to make the same decisions she does, while using a looped narrative to bring the story to a conclusion as we interpret the feelings of the woman in the first scene.
David Lean worked with Noel Coward to produce this cinematic masterpiece from the stage to live forever in the great history of British film. The direction is constant and reliable with effective close ups and steady paced editing throughout. The effect of this is that we recognise the feelings of the characters and always feel somehow depressed throughout the film to personalise us with the main character, there is little heart pumping adrenaline in the film. The down beat mood is backed up by the thriller film signifiers of rainy streets, undesirable locations and dark noir lighting. One of the first shots in the film contains chiaroscuro lighting as the camera looks down the station at the incoming train, this shot is masterfully placed at this point as if to say that the outside world is so different to the world within the train station, the world that the main character would love to escape but knows she cannot. Most of the film is shot in the small cafe in the station where the main character played by Celia Johnson first falls in love with Trevor Howard. Celia Johnson steals the show as the main character with her heartwrenchinly sad interpretation of a woman torn between loyalty to her family and an exciting affair associated with the outside world. We are in her shoes as the main character by the constant account from her viewpoint, not a single scene in the film isn't from her perspective or narrated with her voice and in this way we have to make her decisions and feel just as sad as she does. The film does not use a linear narrative as about 10 mins into the film we see the flashback of the events of the past few weeks barely interrupted and continuing to near the end of the film. The film makes a complete loop and we end up back where we started, in the cafe, finally understanding the feelings of the main character, the narrative enigma set out in the first scene. The music in the film is entirely one piece, Rachmaninov's 2nd piano concerto, a piece which I can never listen to without thinking of the film. In fact the sound is positioned so perfectly in the film to suit the moods that particular sections in the piece remind me of exact points in the film, I found this even after seeing the film only once. The music is one of the most perfect examples of a single soundtrack in a film.
I find that one needs to see the film three times in a reasonable period to fully appreciate the use of the camera and the moral struggle of a woman in so much pain but the brilliance of this simple love story will repay a lifetime of viewings as it lives on as one of the best examples of British romance in cinema.
on 23 February 2001
If you're thinking that Brief Encounter is a tired British austerity movie then think again...... David Lean directs this film with brightness and verve to highlight the heartbreak of infidelity. This is no stuffy lecture on morals from people with plummy accents. Instead it's a fresh and alluring revelation of the greyness and boredom which can impell two people together, against the overiding rules of convention. The cinematography, lighting and recording is superb, especially considering the movie was made in 1945. It is also relaxing to watch a film in black and white and gives the piece class and the grvitas it deserves. Trevor Howard is cast as the Doctor who meets Celia Johnson by chance at a railway station. They accidentally meet again and as their friendship grows there is only one problem; Laura is married, and to someone who gets off on doing the Times crossword of an evening! The rest of the film is an examination of the ethics of carrying on an illicit affair.....but instead of criticising the desire for such a situation David Lean and Noel Coward's script tacitly acknowledge the humaness of that yearning.... So instead of sermonising we're treated to a naturalistic expose of how the affair develops. Brief Encounter isn't snobbish, prudish or patronising, instead it openly cocks a snoot at stuffy officialdom and small minded opprobrium. Years ahead of it's time, it's atmosphere and slice of life character easily pre-date the kitchen sink dramas and bedsit boozeathons of the angry young men era. Brief Encounter is real life as it's lived, full of temptation, fantasy and self-deceit and some kind of attempt by the participants to get it at least partly right.