Thursday, July 17, 2014

Blind Spot Series 2014: Brief Encounter


I wasn't planning on watching this film this early in the month, but it just happened.  I couldn't resist.  As soon as I finished my entry for last month, I wound up starting this movie and about two minutes in turned it off and told myself to be strong.  I was strong, for a spell.

I'm just going to jump right into this one.  This was just an astonishing film, and one that I feel a very strong urge to watch again, tonight.

For reference, here are my previous Blind Spot entries:




It’s funny to me how having absolutely no foreknowledge of a particular film can shape the way you actually are able to take it all in.  I’m not going to lie; when I decided to sit down and watch ‘Brief Encounter’, I had no idea what it was about, but judging from the poster and the stills I saw I had this preconceived notion that it was a film noir that had to do with murder and deceit.  When the screen burst to life with that gorgeous shot of the train and the rich black and white cinematography engulfed me (that steam!) I had a feeling that my notions were correct.

They were not.

In fact, ‘Brief Encounter’, while dealing with a level of deceit, is nothing like I had expected.  But, while I say this I also can’t help but feel like this is what would have happened had Alfred Hitchcock decided to switch up his career trajectory and direct romance movies.  Think ‘An Affair to Remember’, with an edge.  While ‘Brief Encounter’ has this air of romance, that romance is besieged by this darkness, this unwavering brute honesty that consumes every frame.

Is there such a genre as black-romance?  Would ‘Jane Eyre’ count?


As I noted, ‘Brief Encounter’ opens with a glorious look at a train station, complete with billowing steam and the roaring pass of the train.  We are then introduced to two people, both married to different people.  Laura and Alec look worried as they dodge questions and stares and possibly each other until they disappear.  When Laura returns, her weary eyes tell a tale that I was not expecting, but when her touching narration started to fill in the gaps, it all became clear.

Unveiling the actual storyline or at least the progression of it feels a tad pointless.  The best way that I can describe this is to say that it is, as noted, ‘An Affair to Remember’ with a twist.  Think of it like 2002’s ‘Unfaithful’, but, you know, a good movie.  In fact, the whole time I was watching Celia Johnson’s stunning performance I was reminded of Diane Lane and how I really wish that Lane had been given a better film for her one and only Oscar nod.  The performances are very similar, and Johnson, much like Lane, finds a way to add layers of sympathy to her character without ever making light of the actual weight involved in the prose.  Infidelity is never treated like a carefree act, but is regarded with a serious note of heartbreak and the way that Johnson builds such a fully developed character is astonishing.


The beautiful thing that David Lean (a director better known for his grander efforts, but honestly this is the best film I’ve seen from him) does here is the way he actually builds the relationship between Laura and Alec with such clarity.  It all swells so beautifully to the point where it feels like an honest and believable ‘love at first sight’, which is so important to the establishment of the realistic tone created.  The elongated conversations felt very much like the ‘Before…’ trilogy created by Richard Linklater, with nearly forty minutes of words floating effortlessly between characters.

This is a stunning film; simply stunning.

12 comments:

  1. Great post! This is one of my absolute favourite films, I've watched it so many times and it's just as fantastic with every rewatch. I like the comparison you make between this and the Before films too, they're definitely some of the best film relationships.

    My best friend's local train station back home is actually the one that they filmed at and it's all been preserved so that it looks just like in the film. I went to visit and it was so surreal being there after watching this so much.

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    1. I feel like I need to go there now! Thanks for the info. This really was a beautiful film. I'm glad you liked the post! Thanks for stopping by and for the comment :-D

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  2. I saw this a few years ago as I think it's one of Lean's finest films and a real surprise for me as it made want to check out more of Lean's work in the future.

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    1. So different from what he's best known for, which was a real surprise (and a nice one at that)!

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  3. You're always so good about the Blind Spot stuff Drew, I haven't even seen my July movie yet. Btw, I haven't even heard of this but hey, if it's anything like Jane Eyre hey I just might enjoy this. I didn't even know Noël Coward also does film screenplays, very interesting!

    ruth

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    1. It's a very different story than Jane Eyre, but very similar tone.

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  4. Yay! Loved seeing some of your thoughts on Twitter. So glad you loved this one. Have you see Powell/Pressburger's 'I Know Where I'm Going!' (also from 1945)? It's another great romance set in Scotland and starring Roger Livesey and Wendy Hiller. They'd make an interesting double feature.

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    1. I'll have to check that out! Never heard of it, but I like Hiller so I'm in!

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  5. One of my favourites, glad you liked it! Such a gorgeous and heartbreaking film, that ultimately rings true -- like you said, there's a shattering honesty to it, and that's what makes it stand out.

    If there were an official "dark romance" genre, Jane Eyre would definitely be in it. There's the same sense of danger/doom pending over Jane and Rochester's affair. It's the best.

    I like the comparison to An Affair to Remember (another one I really like), I never thought of it.

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    1. Glad you liked my comparisons! This really was an unexpected gem for me, mostly because I really didn't know what to expect.

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  6. I'm late commenting on this but it's a great movie, like you when I finally watched it I was delighted to find it so much more than I had anticipated.

    All I knew about it prior to watching was the scene in A Touch of Class where Glenda Jackson and George Segal were bawling their eyes out over it. He has to leave and tries to say goodbye but she was so into it all she did was wave her hand, clutching a tissue, without her eyes ever leaving the screen. It fit the movie's tone but I thought Oh Brother! that movie must be a soggy mess.

    How wrong I was. It's sentimental without being sticky, romantic without being gooey and tender without being soft. I watched it again within a week of my first viewing. It never made me cry, but then I'm not a crier at movies however for those who are I can see easily how that could happen.

    Lean is responsible for a lot of that but without Trevor Howard and especially Celia Johnson's performances it wouldn't be half of what it is. Robert Krasker's cinematography is a huge part of it too, it reminded me of the way Letter from an Unknown Woman looked.

    I think there is a definite dark romance genre, this, Jane Eyre would be part of it as would Wuthering Heights. Really anything with the name Bronte attached would qualify.

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    1. So glad you took the time to comment here. I'm in complete agreement with you. I haven't seen Touch of Class yet (although I'll be watching it soon for Twice a Best Actress) but I'm looking forward to it, for sure.

      Johnson is just magnificent here.

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