Monday, February 11, 2013

Movie of the Week – Great Expectations

This week’s movie: Great Expectations (1946).

Based on the classic Charles Dickens story, Pip, an orphan, suddenly is thrust into high society by an unknown benefactor. However, he becomes obsessed with Estella, a beautiful but rude and prideful girl who tells him that she can never love him, and yet Pip does not seem to waver in his feelings.

The film is directed by David Lean – the master British filmmaker who in his early career (black & white films) made Brief Encounter, Oliver Twist, and Hobson’s Choice and in his later career (sweeping epics in color) The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia (in my opinion the greatest film ever made), and Doctor Zhivago. Great Expectations is one of his best early career films.

Lean worked with composer Walter Goehr and production designer John Bryan (who won an Oscar for his work) on the film, but it is his collaboration with cinematographer Guy Green (who also won an Oscar) that is best remembered. The photography (especially when Pip meets Magwitch) in the film is incredible and highly influential. Even today, it is considered among cinema’s best. Green also shot Oliver Twist for Lean and the film’s opening is visually astounding.

The film stars Tony Wager and John Mills as Pip (young and adult respectively), and features Valerie Hobson, Jean Simmons (who is fantastic, making her film debut), Bernard Miles, Francis Sullivan (who is also great in Oliver Twist), Finlay Currie, Martita Hunt, and Alec Guinness (who would go on to star in five more Lean films).

Great Expectations won two Oscars on its five nominations (including Best Picture and Best Film, but it probably should have won in retrospect considering the other nominated films). It is a must-see for fans of David Lean and those looking to have a good working knowledge of the greatest British films.

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and DVD

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