Friday, September 26, 2008

Noels Coward's "Brief Encounter"

Experience Sergei Rachmaninoff, David Lean, Celia Johnson & Trevor Howard all together on one stage in Noel Coward's 1945 hit Brief Encounter.

An express pulls into the station. From our angle at the level of the platform the train slashes the shot diagonally in two. Strains of Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto rise as the opening score.

Celia Johnson's face conveys incredible emotion, her eyes alone speaking more than words ever could. Trevor Howard is, as ever, the essential English Gentleman.

Both married, each struggles with the decision as to whether to consummate the affair. As he does the crossword Johnson's character Laura offhandedly mentions the truth to her husband that she has been seeing a strange man. He responds "Good for you."

This well written story, from a Noel Coward play, sceenwritten and produced by him and shot by the director of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago manages to maintain 85 minutes of taut suspense where all the action is set in drawing rooms, railway café stations, and in internal dialogs. And for a black-and-white film set mostly in small London locals, the film is gorgeous.

From TCM: "To many, Brief Encounter may seem like a relic of more proper times--or, specifically, more properly British times--when the pressures of marital decorum and fidelity were perhaps more keenly felt. In truth, David Lean's fourth film remains a timeless study of true love (or, rather, the promise of it), and the aching desire for intimate connection that is often subdued by the obligations of marriage. And so it is that ordinary Londoners Alec (Trevor Howard), a married doctor, and contented housewife Laura (Celia Johnson) meet by chance one day in a train station, when he volunteers to remove a fleck of ash from her eye (a romantic gesture that, perhaps, inspired Robert Towne's "flaw in the iris" scene in Chinatown)."

Here is the trailer:

I recommend this film without qualification.

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