294 The Browning Version

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Martha
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294 The Browning Version

#1 Post by Martha » Wed Mar 30, 2005 2:00 pm

The Browning Version

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/release_images/1277/294_box_348x490_w128.jpg[/img]

Michael Redgrave gives the performance of his career in Anthony Asquith's adaptation of Terence Rattigan's unforgettable play. Redgrave portrays Andrew Crocker-Harris, an embittered, middle-aged schoolmaster who begins to feel that his life has been a failure. Diminished by poor health, a crumbling marriage, and the derision of his pupils, the once brilliant scholar is compelled to reexamine his life when a young student offers an unexpected gesture of kindness. A heartbreaking story of remorse and atonement, The Browning Version is a classic of British realism and the winner of best actor and best screenplay honors at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival.

Special Features

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder
- New video interview with Mike Figgis, director of the 1994 remake
- Archival interview with Michael Redgrave from 1958
- A new essay by film critic Geoffrey Macnab
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

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Last edited by Martha on Wed Mar 30, 2005 2:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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ellipsis7
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#2 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Mar 30, 2005 2:02 pm

The third film by Asquith in the CC (after PYGMALION & THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST)... I'm underwhelmed!...

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#3 Post by Martha » Wed Mar 30, 2005 2:03 pm

I don't know a thing about it, but Earnest is wonderful, and as far as I'm concerned there's not such thing as too much Michael Redgrave-- sounds ok to me.

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Donald Trampoline
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#4 Post by Donald Trampoline » Wed Mar 30, 2005 6:15 pm

It's an absolutely excellent film. Michael Redgrave's performance is superb.

It's definitely another high-quality British film from Criterion to get excited about.

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What A Disgrace
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#5 Post by What A Disgrace » Wed Mar 30, 2005 7:49 pm

I love these little surprises. But I hate these little teases.

Since its too much to ask for loaded double disc sets of 50+ year old British films that are none too well remembered, perhaps this will be one of a pair of Asquith releases? I'd like to see Winslow Boy.

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Gordon
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#6 Post by Gordon » Wed Mar 30, 2005 8:01 pm

WOW! Great film. It is one of those films that I thought no one gave a shit about anymore and that we'd never see a DVD. Then CRITERION get their hands on it?! Amazing. I believe it is actually a Universal title. I wasn't expecting a Universal film from Criterion until later in the year.

As I say, great film; one of the best British films of the 50s. The speech at the end is simply, but quite affecting.

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#7 Post by rossbrew » Wed Mar 30, 2005 8:30 pm

I'm browned off....

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Jeff
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#8 Post by Jeff » Wed Mar 30, 2005 9:48 pm

Gordon McMurphy wrote:I believe it is actually a Universal title. I wasn't expecting a Universal film from Criterion until later in the year.
Universal may have distributed in the States in '51, but they aren't the rights holder. That would be The Rank Organisation, and in the U.S., Janus Films. Home Vision has distributed the VHS for some time.

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Last edited by Jeff on Thu Mar 31, 2005 1:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

cbernard

#9 Post by cbernard » Wed Mar 30, 2005 11:55 pm

The ghost of Joseph Losey just called and said he's thoroughly enraged and offended and hurt, hopes dogs shit on Asquith's grave and, oh by the way, why has he been relegated to HVe oblivion and so forth. Sounded drunk.

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ellipsis7
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#10 Post by ellipsis7 » Thu Mar 31, 2005 3:40 am

Interesting to see an interview with Mike Figgis re. his 1994 remake... Rattigan has experienced something of a rennaissance in the last 10 or so years - David Mamet also remaking THE WINSLOW BOY...

Is this the only June release, I wonder?

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daniel p
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#11 Post by daniel p » Thu Mar 31, 2005 4:24 am

ellipsis7 wrote:Is this the only June release, I wonder?
I know...I was about to post the same question...weird that we only have 1 announcement on its own. I do and I don't want it to be. Well my g/f doesn't want it to be anyway :evil:

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tryavna
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#12 Post by tryavna » Thu Mar 31, 2005 1:12 pm

What A Disgrace wrote:Since its too much to ask for loaded double disc sets of 50+ year old British films that are none too well remembered, perhaps this will be one of a pair of Asquith releases? I'd like to see Winslow Boy.
Hear, hear! In fact, I for one would welcome a whole month dedicated to releasing Janus-owned British films. Maybe those inevitable Powell/Pressburger films?

Anyway, I think The Browning Version is a solid choice for Criterion. It's one of the best films ever made about education and educators.

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Donald Trampoline
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#13 Post by Donald Trampoline » Thu Mar 31, 2005 1:26 pm

cbernard wrote:The ghost of Joseph Losey just called and said he's thoroughly enraged and offended and hurt, hopes dogs shit on Asquith's grave and, oh by the way, why has he been relegated to HVe oblivion and so forth. Sounded drunk.

I have seen both the HVE Loseys and was very happy to see these films on DVD. The image quality and subtitle translations were excellent. I liked La Truite the best, but Mr. Klein was also decent. Criterion occasionally releases titles with only a trailer like these were, so just because it doesn't bear the Criterion logo shouldn't take away from these DVD releases or the films themselves.

Similarly, there is not much difference between the Barbet Schroeder Criterion and Home Vision releases of Maitresse vs. Tricheurs. They even have footage from the same interview session with Schroeder as their only significant extra. (The older Home Vision La Vallee (Barbet Schroeder) release was indeed crappy, however, but I think that was an earlier release for them.)

Now back to discussion of The Browning Version.

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#14 Post by BWilson » Thu Mar 31, 2005 1:46 pm

Did Criterion release this on LD? Is this a new commentary or a LD port? I love Bruce Eder.

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tryavna
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#15 Post by tryavna » Thu Mar 31, 2005 2:01 pm

Donald Trampoline wrote:I have seen both the HVE Loseys and was very happy to see these films on DVD. The image quality and subtitle translations were excellent. I liked La Truite the best, but Mr. Klein was also decent. Criterion occasionally releases titles with only a trailer like these were, so just because it doesn't bear the Criterion logo shouldn't take away from these DVD releases or the films themselves.
Actually, there are three HVE Loseys, including "Time Without Pity." It also has Losey's first film, the Charles Bowers animated short "Pete Roleum and His Cousins."

Along with the three Anchor Bay Loseys ("The Servant," "Accident," and "The Criminal"), Losey's best stuff is pretty well represented. All we really need now is "The Go-Between."

But as you say, back to "The Browning Version."

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#16 Post by cdnchris » Thu Mar 31, 2005 2:09 pm

BWilson wrote:Did Criterion release this on LD? Is this a new commentary or a LD port? I love Bruce Eder.
I'm pretty sure they didn't release it on laser, though I could be wrong. I don't see it listed. I was actually thinking not too long ago how I missed Eder (probably when I was trying to listen to a commentary by Cowie maybe), as I actually do enjoy his commentaries. I find them actually fun as well as informative. Nice to see him back.

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#17 Post by Lino » Wed Jun 22, 2005 3:33 am


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#18 Post by Narshty » Wed Jun 22, 2005 8:54 am


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#19 Post by Napier » Tue Jun 28, 2005 9:50 am

Just like to chime in here and say that I really loved this film!What a great surprise from Criterion!Michael Redgrave gives a tour de force performance as "The Crock".And the transfer is beautiful.I was actually watching this on a beautiful Saturday and my friend came over and started yelling at me.It's a beautiful day and your watching movies!Just as the the final speech scene was starting and he became so enthralled I started the movie over.Excellent choice Criterion,you did it again!

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#20 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Aug 03, 2005 12:47 pm

I finally caught up with this film and would like to chime in with my 2 cents worth. I really enjoyed the relationship between Crocker-Harris and Taplow. There is that excellent scene where they're talking about the mythic tale of Agamemnon and you start to see a tiny crack in the Crock's armor appear, if only for a moment, as he talks about how as a young man he began his own translation of the story but ultimately abandoned it.

And then we get the pay-off to this scene as Taplow reappears later on to perform an unselfish act of kindness by giving the Crock a copy of Agamemnon and saying how he enjoyed his teacher's translation more. It's a nice moment where Crocker-Harris' defenses are finally pierced and Taplow reaches an emotional part of the man that had long been dormant. Such a fantastic scene!

Some would say that the film has a downbeat ending, but I feel that there is a glimmer of hope as Crocker-Harris has achieved some level of self-awareness. He has finally acknowledged and started to come to terms with his inability to inspire his students and the regrets of his past as symbolized by his unfinished translation of Agamemnon.

However, there is a question that I had after it ended. What happened to the Crock over the years? We learn that in his youth he was a brilliant scholar full of idealism and passion that somehow disappeared over the years. What caused this to happen?

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Andre Jurieu
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#21 Post by Andre Jurieu » Thu Aug 04, 2005 2:06 am

Fletch F. Fletch wrote: What happened to the Crock over the years? We learn that in his youth he was a brilliant scholar full of idealism and passion that somehow disappeared over the years. What caused this to happen?
I haven't seen the film so I can't say for sure, but off the top of my head I'd say it sounds like "life".

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#22 Post by Napoleon » Thu Aug 04, 2005 5:35 am

However, there is a question that I had after it ended. What happened to the Crock over the years? We learn that in his youth he was a brilliant scholar full of idealism and passion that somehow disappeared over the years. What caused this to happen?
It was drained away from him from being stuck with the lower fifth all his career.
Although his wife is portrayed as the villain of the piece, I think that the headmasters constant casual mistreatment of Crock is the real reason why he has ended up in such a state.

The headmaster has basically used and abused Crock.

Andrei, cancel everything and get this film watched forthwith!

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Steven H
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#23 Post by Steven H » Mon Nov 21, 2005 10:05 pm

I really enjoyed this, and connected strongly with it. I think this film is deeply sad and honest, similar to Brief Encounter, watching human drama brush against restrictive social norms. Redgrave's subtle charisma really carries it though, and the scene in which the boy gives him the book, and he breaks down, is as shocking, while still being somewhat expected, as anything I can think of in any storytelling format. I have not seen The Importance of Being Earnest (saw a version of the play that turned me off), but will definitely give it a go.

What are some other Redgrave performances to search out?

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tryavna
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#24 Post by tryavna » Tue Nov 22, 2005 12:06 am

Steven H wrote:I have not seen The Importance of Being Earnest (saw a version of the play that turned me off), but will definitely give it a go.

What are some other Redgrave performances to search out?
Well, you can't do better than start with his performance in Earnest. The whole cast is great, and it really is a delightful comedy. Even if you didn't like the stage version you saw, you may like this one. Asquith keeps it very traditional and frothy.

For another good comic performance by Redgrave, be sure to check out The Lady Vanishes, which is my favorite of Hitchcock's British films.

You've also got to check out his performance as the demented ventriloquist in the Ealing horror anthology Dead of Night, which Anchor Bay has released. All those Twilight Zone rip-offs still haven't dulled its edge.

Anchor Bay has also released The Dam Busters in their "British War Collection." That's probably Redgrave's most famous performance -- at least, it's probably his most beloved film in Britain.

But for my money, Redgrave gave his most moving performance in the too-little-seen Ealing POW drama The Captive Heart, in which he portrays a Czech underground leader who impersonates a British officer to escape the Gestapo. I really wish somebody would release this one on either side of the Atlantic.

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Gordon
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#25 Post by Gordon » Sun Apr 09, 2006 11:56 am

I acquired this disc this week. I had seen the film before on television, starting twenty minutes in, but experiencing this drama, from the beginning, allowing the full emotional build up to Crock's revelatory and moving moment - where his stoicism dissolves - to be fully delivered had a devastating effect on me.

When the Crock first speaks of the greatness of Agamemnon to Taplow, the transmission of the regret at not only not completing his verse translation, but that he has lost the manuscript ("and so many other things") is beautifully delivered by Redgrave. However, as with all men, there is opportunity for redemption. When Fate delivers the manuscript back to Crock, a strange power gripped me; it was the equivalent of Kane reclaiming Rosebud. But Crock has lost faith; he has been 'ground down' as us Brits say, through proxy by the school system and by his cruel, selfish and childless wife. Clearly a great scholar, Crocker-Harris was ultimately used as a cog, trapped in the lower-fifth, alluded to as being like Heinrich Himmler, locked in a loveless marriage, suffering heart problems and facing a financially insecure future.

The weight of Life is on Crock's shoulders, sapping his will. He could never suspect the sliver of light - of affection - that Taplow would bring when he presents him with an inscribed second-hand copy of Robert Browning's verse translation of Agamemnon. But it is smothered in shadows by his wife's cruel, spiteful and misguided 'hard truth'.

I read the ending thusly: In his farewell speech, Crock fearlessly faces facts about his apparent failures; he also does so with great dignity and self-deprecation and seemingly wins belated respect from the students. Taplow's appraisal of his in-progress verse translation might just have ignited Crock's determination to exert his will to power on Life again, after years of partly self-imposed psychological slavery. Pure speculation of course, but that's how it plays to me.

Regarding Figgis' otherwise decent 1994 version seems to have made a cardinal mistake: He inconceivably chose to shoot the film in Panavision, which is quite inappropriate for such a story. He also chose the brilliant French cinematographer Jean-François Robin (Betty Blue; Patrice Leconte's Les Bronzés font du ski) and his lighting is golden and glowing, which is a drastic contrast to Desmond Dickenson's (Olivier's Hamlet; The Importance of Being Earnest) often low contrast lighting (the balcony scene during the fireworks is classic Dickenson) and the great Carmen Dillon's (Olivier's Hamlet and Richard III; The Importance of Being Earnest; Losey's, The Go-Between and penultimately, The Omen in 1976) austere set design. Albert, as always, is excellent, but his Crock is nowhere near as poignant as Redgrave's subtle, exquisitely developed performance, which is not only his best, but one of Cinema's very best. The final image of the respectfully defiant Crock walking off, manuscript under arm, God looking on graciously is "most gratifying" to me. Good old Crock! Good old Crock!

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