Monday, March 24, 2008

Anthony Lane does his usual mellifluous corrective to David Denby's chapter-length ponderosities on canonical filmmakers, this time on David Lean, to whom I alluded rather snarkily in my Anthony Minghella obit post last week. I mean, so what -- we can use more ambitious middlebrow directors (I like Soderbergh, but no). My own favorite of his work is 1955's Summertime, starring a still in-bloom Katherine Hepburn as a spinster romanced by Rossano Brazzi in a sparkling Venice that bears no trace of Thomas Mann. Lane's right that plot and sex mattered less to Lean than shattering the carapaces of really uptight Britishes (Pauline Kael on Lawrence of Arabia: "If you went to see it under the delusion that it was going to be about T.E. Lawrence, you probably stayed to enjoy the vastness of the desert and the pleasures of the senses that a huge movie epic can provide"); but if art is in large part representation then Lean's films showed the English -- the rest of the world even -- how they wanted to see themselves. You can't say it was a generational thing either: David Bowie obviously studied Peter O'Toole's epicene moos.

2 comments:

Tal said...

Katherine Hepburn's stuffiness and cluelessness in Summertime are so palatable that she nearly induces tears when she bids farewell to the Italian lothario at the end. And the romance is believable! A nervous, graceful nellie and a slick, genial Mediterranean middle-aged man feels more realistic than it might be, if only because we're caught up in Lean's languid rhythms.

scott pgwp said...

Summertime is a great movie; it's always nice to see a character with a unique personality, rather than a collection of signifiers. Hepburn really gives her a character a kind of individualness in that movie.

My favorite Lean movie, though, is Bridge on the River Kwai. The first time I saw it, I spent the first two hours nearly bored to tears, until suddenly I found myself wound up so tight with tension it was hard to take. Brilliant movie.

Madeleine is on TCM some time this week; not one I've seen yet.