Monday, July 21, 2008

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (David Lean, 1946, UK) Adapted from the Dickens classic, this early David Lean film is a masterpiece that exceeded my great expectations. The beautiful black and white cinematography is astounding: I wouldn’t be surprised if Guy Green studied Greg Tolland’s experimental techniques in CITIZEN KANE. It is absolutely grimly beautiful: from the fog shrouded moors to the filthy London streets and the silhouettes haunting the sky like specters of war, the deep focus background is so starkly detailed it makes the film come alive. The grand score overlaps the dialogue and underlines the drama without being invasive. The stellar cast draws upon their stage experience and delivers each line of dialogue with profound perfection. But this is not form over substance! Lean is able to deliver a lean well-structured drama cinematically distilled from Dickens’s dense descriptive and psychological prose. Though Lean is forced to cut characters and narrative corners, he builds a solid foundation that supports the whole film. David Lean (or studio?) decided to happily conclude the film with Pip tearing down the battered curtains and revealing Estella’s epiphany. This is starkly contrasted by the lonely and sad ending(s) from the novel. Though it rings false, it’s not enough to bedraggle this otherwise perfect film. (A+)

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