76, 603-606 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

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kinjitsu
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76, 603-606 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#1 Post by kinjitsu » Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:35 pm

David Lean Directs Noël Coward

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In the 1940s, the wit of playwright Noël Coward and the craft of filmmaker David Lean melded harmoniously in one of cinema’s greatest writer-director collaborations. With the wartime military drama sensation In Which We Serve, Coward and Lean (along with producing partners Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan) embarked on a series of literate, socially engaged, and enormously entertaining pictures that ranged from domestic epic (This Happy Breed) to whimsical comedy (Blithe Spirit) to poignant romance (Brief Encounter). These films created a lasting testament to Coward’s artistic legacy and introduced Lean’s visionary talents to the world.

Disc Features

• New high-definition digital transfers of the BFI National Archive’s 2008 restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray editions
• Audio commentary on Brief Encounter by film historian Bruce Eder
• New interviews with Noël Coward scholar Barry Day on all of the films
• Interview with cinematographer-screenwriter-producer Ronald Neame from 2010
• Short documentaries from 2000 on the making of In Which We Serve and Brief Encounter
David Lean: A Self Portrait, a 1971 television documentary on Lean’s career
• Episode of the British television series The Southbank Show from 1992 on the life and career of Coward
• Audio recording of a 1969 conversation between Richard Attenborough and Coward at London’s National Film Theatre
• Trailers
• PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Ian Christie, Terrence Rafferty, Farran Nehne, Geoffrey O’Brien, and Kevin Brownlow

Collector’s set includes

Brief Encounter

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After a chance meeting on a train platform, a married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) enter into a muted but passionate, ultimately doomed, love affair. With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Rachmaninoff score, and pair of remarkable performances (Johnson was nominated for an Oscar for her role), David Lean’s film of Noël Coward’s play Still Life deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since its release.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• New high-definition digital transfer of the BFI National Archive's 2008 restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary from 2000 by film historian Bruce Eder
• Interview from 2012 with Noël Coward scholar Barry Day
A Profile of "Brief Encounter," a short documentary from 2000 on the making of the film
David Lean: A Self Portrait, a 1971 television documentary on Lean’s career
• Trailer

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In Which We Serve

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In the midst of World War II, the renowned playwright Noël Coward engaged a young film editor named David Lean to help him realize his vision for an action drama about a group of Royal Navy sailors (roles that would be filled by Coward himself, Bernard Miles, and John Mills, among others) fighting the Germans in the Mediterranean. Coward and Lean ended up codirecting the large-scale project—an impressive undertaking, especially considering that neither of them had directed for the big screen before (this would be Coward’s only such credit). Cutting between a major naval battle and flashbacks to the men’s lives before they left home, In Which We Serve (an Oscar nominee for best picture) was a major breakthrough for both filmmakers and a sensitive and stirring piece of propaganda.

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This Happy Breed

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David Lean brings to vivid emotional life Noël Coward’s epic chronicle of a working-class family in the London suburbs over the course of two decades. Robert Newton and Celia Johnson are surpassingly affecting as Frank and Ethel Gibbons, a couple with three children whose modest household is touched by joy and tragedy from the tail end of the First World War to the beginning of the Second. With its mix of politics and melodrama, This Happy Breed is a quintessential British domestic drama, featuring subtly expressive Technicolor cinematography by Ronald Neame and a remarkable supporting cast including John Mills, Stanley Holloway, and Kay Walsh.

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Blithe Spirit

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Blithe Spirit, David Lean’s delightful film version of Noël Coward’s theater sensation (onstage, it broke London box-office records before hitting Broadway), stars Rex Harrison as a novelist who cheekily invites a medium (Margaret Rutherford) to his house to conduct a séance, hoping the experience will inspire a book he’s working on. Things go decidedly not as planned when she summons the spirit of his dead first wife (Kay Hammond), a severe inconvenience for his current one (Constance Cummings). Employing Oscar-winning special effects to spruce up Coward’s theatrical farce, Blithe Spirit is a sprightly supernatural comedy with winning performances.

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manicsounds
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#2 Post by manicsounds » Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:01 am

Awesome. Knew about "Blithe Spirit" coming, but an entire Daivd Lean/Noel Coward boxset? Even better. Sadly that means it will be some time to expect a Criterion upgrade for "Summertime", or "Oliver Twist" for that matter. So far, David Lean seems to be one of the best treated of the classic cinema directors on hi-def.

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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#3 Post by MichaelB » Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:59 am

manicsounds wrote:So far, David Lean seems to be one of the best treated of the classic cinema directors on hi-def.
Handily, much of his output was comprehensively restored for his centenary in 2008, so Criterion wouldn't have had to do much work - HD masters were already available.

For similar reasons, Humphrey Jennings' (b. 1907) back catalogue is also in rude HD health.

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MoonlitKnight
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#4 Post by MoonlitKnight » Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:40 am

manicsounds wrote:Sadly that means it will be some time to expect a Criterion upgrade for "Summertime", or "Oliver Twist" for that matter. So far, David Lean seems to be one of the best treated of the classic cinema directors on hi-def.
Indeed -- it may also mean it'll be a while until we see the release of the other 2 films from that projected MGM set: "The Passionate Friends" and "Madeleine." :?

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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#5 Post by yeahimajerk » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:49 pm

Just a heads up: I found Blithe Spirit on Netflix streaming, if anyone wants to check it out.

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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#6 Post by ccfixx » Mon Mar 05, 2012 7:43 pm


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mfunk9786
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#7 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:11 pm

Wow! The July B&N sale seems so far away.

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knives
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#8 Post by knives » Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:22 pm

You were waiting to make that joke for how long? [-X Looks mighty pretty though I'm not picking it up.

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kinjitsu
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#9 Post by kinjitsu » Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:03 pm

DVDBeaver on Blithe Spirit

jojo
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#10 Post by jojo » Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:19 pm

I MUST GET THIS.

Manicsounds is right, David Lean seems to be well treated on BD. I'm glad I've been procrastinating so long on getting Brief Encounter on DVD, despite it being one of my all-time favourite romances. I can't wait to see This Happy Breed.

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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#11 Post by rwaits » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:30 pm

Wow. Gary seems ho hum on blithe spirit but those grabs are incredible.

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manicsounds
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#12 Post by manicsounds » Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:23 am

In Which We Serve, dvdbeaver review

and where it says "245 minute" making of, should be "24 minutes"

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#13 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sun Jul 15, 2012 12:52 pm

Watched Blithe Spirit last night, and it left sort of a bad taste in my mouth- the whole thing seemed sort of unpleasantly misogynistic, with both wives' whole existence revolving around nagging and irritating the Rex Harrison character. From the extras, it sounded as though in the stage version of the play the Harrison character was more of a slumping, middle aged dullard- which might have made the thing feel more balanced, and more of an all around farce- but casting the delightful Harrison makes the whole thing feel like a tract about how horrible wives are.

There are some nice moments- the repartee is obviously witty, the whole seance sequence is fun, and the oddly Stephen Fry looking medium in general is a nice break from the bad domestic drama- and it's not painful to watch or anything, but it looks like a bad Lockhorns strip compared to the delicate handling of Brief Encounter, much less Lean's Dickens adaptations.

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Matt
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#14 Post by Matt » Mon Jul 16, 2012 8:05 pm

As feature-packed as this set is, the best one is almost certainly the Barry Day interview (spread across the four discs). So erudite and drily witty, he surely knows more about Coward than Coward did himself. Like all the best biographers, he is completely unsentimental about his subject. And he sports a hairstyle only an Englishman could get away with.

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Black Hat
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#15 Post by Black Hat » Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:53 pm

Just picked this up today at Barnes & Noble. Don't know where to start it's absolutely packed with extras, can't wait.

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mfunk9786
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#16 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Jul 30, 2012 12:47 am

Good to know!

[Start with Brief Encounter]

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Matt
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#17 Post by Matt » Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:21 am

I'd suggest going in chronological order (In Which We Serve -- This Happy Breed -- Blithe Spirit -- Brief Encounter) so that you can see his development as a director. Starting with Brief Encounter is like eating dessert first.

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mfunk9786
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#18 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Jul 30, 2012 12:14 pm

I'm a fat guy, so

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Gregory
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#19 Post by Gregory » Mon Jul 30, 2012 2:03 pm

The meal metaphor works to some degree for all too many box sets I've bought. I've had the 10-disc R2 Lean set in my kevyip for years because I keep avoiding the Madeleine and Sound Barrier discs like a kid picking at some overcooked broccoli with a fork and spreading it around on the plate.

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Black Hat
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#20 Post by Black Hat » Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:33 pm

Ya, was going to go chronological. Very curious to see how a filmmaker of his genius began his journey. Was also surprised to see the relative minimal discussion here about these films.

jojo
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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#21 Post by jojo » Tue Jul 31, 2012 9:10 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Watched Blithe Spirit last night, and it left sort of a bad taste in my mouth- the whole thing seemed sort of unpleasantly misogynistic, with both wives' whole existence revolving around nagging and irritating the Rex Harrison character. From the extras, it sounded as though in the stage version of the play the Harrison character was more of a slumping, middle aged dullard- which might have made the thing feel more balanced, and more of an all around farce- but casting the delightful Harrison makes the whole thing feel like a tract about how horrible wives are.
.
I agree that Blithe Spirit leaves a somewhat mixed aftertaste, although I'm not entirely sure if it's all on the misogynistic nature of the enterprise. I actually felt that Harrison came off somewhat smug and unlikeable in this one, and not as charming as he usually is. It's hard to put my finger on what exactly went wrong here. Most of the people in the extras seem to indicate that Lean had a hard time doing comedy, and I could see that being a reason. I can't judge the stage version of course, but one might wonder if some fault could originate from the original Coward play as well. Perhaps it all played a lot better to audiences of a different era.

This Happy Breed is the big surprise in this set though. Okay, *I* had high expectations going into it and I was not disappointed, but I don't think people buying this set were specifically getting it for this film. That scene between Queenie and Ethel--those who've seen it will know what I'm talking about--is as affecting as anything I've ever seen from Lean and Coward.

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zedz
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Re: 76, 603-606 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#22 Post by zedz » Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:13 pm

A very nice set, considering I'm not a great fan of any of the films. A strong and sensible collection of extras (I have to second Matt on the value of Barry Day), and very nice transfers. The limpid, breathing Technicolor of This Happy Breed has to be on the short list of the year's most beautiful transfers. Somehow, the inherent beauty of the process shines through even more strongly in a film that generally shuns garish spectacle.

Oh, and wasn't that Celia Johnson a hell of an actor? I can't think of many who could do more with the little screen time she gets in In Which We Serve.

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Re: 603 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#23 Post by MichaelB » Thu Sep 20, 2012 4:35 am

jojo wrote:I actually felt that Harrison came off somewhat smug and unlikeable in this one, and not as charming as he usually is.
Have you seen The Rake's Progress, which Harrison made the same year (presumably immediately before/after)? I haven't seen it myself in about a decade, but wrote about it here.

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Re: 76, 603-606 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#24 Post by Wes Moynihan » Thu Sep 20, 2012 5:58 am

I love that quote from Noël Coward, describing filming in the water tank on the set of In Which We Serve - "there was dysentery in every ripple"... :lol:

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Re: 76, 603-606 David Lean Directs Noël Coward

#25 Post by MichaelB » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:00 am

zedz wrote:Oh, and wasn't that Celia Johnson a hell of an actor? I can't think of many who could do more with the little screen time she gets in In Which We Serve.
I remember watching the pretty dreadful 1978 BBC production of Romeo and Juliet and thinking "there are only two decent actors in this: it's obviously Alan Rickman as Tybalt, but who's the woman playing the Nurse? Her face looks oddly familiar, but I can't put my finger on it."

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