In 1990, Sir David Lean became one of only three non-Americans to receive a Lifetime Achievement award from the AFI. He is the most represented director on the BFI Top 100, with seven films listed—including four in the top 20. The Academy and the Victoria Picture Palace are showing four of Lean’s greatest epics over the next four weeks, starting with Lawrence of Arabia from tomorrow.
At 222 minutes (or 19,990 ft. of 35 mm film) in its original edit, Lawrence of Arabia is the longest film to have won Best Picture. A.O. Scott says in his great “Critics’ Pick” video-review for the New York Times that the sweeping epic “reminds us that the Arab Spring of 2011 is not the first time that political upheaval in the Middle East has captured the imagination.”
Wikipedia summarises Dr. Zhivago and its reputation best when it says that the “epic drama-romance-war film loosely based on the famous novel of the same name by Boris Pasternak… has remained popular for decades, and as of 2010 is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the United States (adjusted for inflation).”
Ryan’s Daughter, which Lean made in 1970, tells the story of a married Irish woman who has an affair with a British officer during World War I despite opposition from her nationalist neighbours. It is a very loose adaptation of Madame Bovary, and won two Oscars: for John Mills’ supporting role, and for Freddie Young‘s cinematography (the film was shot in Super Panavision 70).
In 1984—after a 14-year break from filmmaking—Lean embarked on his final work, the E. M. Forster adaptation A Passage to India. Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times that he felt this was “[Lean’s] best work since The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia and perhaps his most humane and moving film since Brief Encounter.” Roger Ebert called the film “one of the greatest screen adaptations I have ever seen.” It won a Supporting Actress award for Peggy Ashcroft, and the work of the composer Maurice Jarre, Lean’s regular collaborator, was finally recognised for with a Best Original Score Oscar.
The David Lean Season starts tomorrow; each film screens for a week.
See iconiccinemas.co.nz for session times.