Friday, 9 February 2018

Capital Celluloid 2018 - Day 48: Sat Feb 17

Brief Encounter (Lean, 1945): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.30pm

This 35mm presentation is part of the Prince Charles Cinema's Classic Films Season. You can find the full details here.

There are certain films that can survive critical brickbats. This is assuredly one of them. Some would have you believe this is a sterile, emotionless movie; others that the premise is ridiculous, that Laura (Celia Johnson) should have left Fred (Cyril Raymond) for Alec (Trevor Howard) and had done with it. The movie, which was not that successful in its day, survives and indeed thrives because so many have surrendered to it and find the despair at the heart of the tale overwhelming. Richard Dyer, in his BFI Film Classics monograph on Brief Encounter, sums the feelings of those who love this film thus: "If you don't feel the melodramatic pull of the film, then everything fits just a little too neatly and rigidly, the life has been squeezed out of the film by the meticulousness with which it has been put together. But I do feel it."

Brief Encounter is number 12 in Time Out's poll of Best British Films.

Time Out review:
In this enlightened age of quickie divorces and Ashley Madison, it would be all too easy to sniff at ‘Brief Encounter’, director David Lean and author Noël Coward’s prim, oh-so-English tale of romance, respectability and repression. But those willing to give themselves over to the film’s mounting mood of swooning, tight-lipped desperation will be rewarded with one of the most vivid, impassioned and painfully believable love stories ever committed to celluloid.

She is Laura (Celia Johnson): the good little housewife to a drab, inattentive middle-class worker bee, trudging through a repetitive, stultifying existence somewhere in suburbia. He is Alec (Trevor Howard): a doctor whose equally loveless union has driven him to find solace in work. Their chance meeting in a station café develops first into a casual friendship, then gradually, guiltily into something neither of them can fully understand or admit. Drenched in Lancashire drizzle and overshadowed both by the receding clamour of war and the spectre of impending social change – it was released in 1945 – ‘Brief Encounter’ is so much more than just a tale of two lovers. It’s also an affectionate but firm nudge-in-the ribs for the British bourgeoisie: are we really going to let our lives run on rails, never grabbing happiness where we find it? Have we learned nothing in these cruel years? As it turned out, Lean and Coward were on to something: just a few decades later, the selfless, stifled attitudes of ‘Brief Encounter’ would, for better or worse, be a distant memory.

Tom Huddleston

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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