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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by Bruce Eder
  • Restoration demonstration
  • Original theatrical trailer

Brief Encounter

2000 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: David Lean
Starring: Trevor Howard, Celia Johnson, Stanley Holloway, Joyce Carey, Cyril Raymond, Everly Gregg, Marjorie Mars, Margaret Barton
1945 | 86 Minutes | Licensor: Rank/Carlton

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #76
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 27, 2000
Review Date: April 6, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

From NoŽl Coward's play Still Life, legendary filmmaker David Lean deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance in the dour, gray Britain of 1945. From a chance meeting on a train platform, a middle-aged married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) enter into a quietly passionate, ultimately doomed love affair, set to a swirling Rachmaninoff score. Criterion is proud to present Lean's award-winning masterpiece a beautifully restored digital transfer.

Forum members rate this film 9/10

 

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PICTURE

Released in 2000 Criterionís original DVD edition for David Leanís Brief Encounter presents the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on a single-layer disc. Because of the aspect ratio the image has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Criterion would revisit the film again and release new DVD and Blu-ray editions for the film in 2012 using new restorations performed by the BFI. What we get here doesnít come close to looking as good as the Blu-ray of course (I havenít seen the new DVD) but Criterion still put in a valiant effort at the time and what we do get actually still holds up all of these years later. Thankfully Criterion didnít simply port their laserdiscís transfer over (they were finally getting out of this practice by this time) and started over, finding a 35mm fine-grain master, taken from the negative, and working from there.

What we get still shows signs of age but (as the restoration demonstration shows) it could have been much worse. Thereís still plenty of scratches, dirt and debris to be seen, along with some pulsating and stains, but these instances arenít overly distracting and donít mar the image in any way. The image is generally sharp with some excellent details at time but the materials limit it in some areas and the image can suddenly look a little worn, presenting a murky, fuzzy picture.

Contrast looks okay but black levels can be a little weak, looking more of a dark gray than black. But other than some mild strobing effects on occasion the transfer holds up pretty well, presenting minimal noise and managing to keep clean, well-defined edges when the print allows.

With no intention of belittling Criterionís efforts here, BFIís restoration and transfer (used for the Criterion reissue) looks far better. Still, this DVD transfer holds up I feel, limited primarily by the source, so those who simply want to own the film without having to buy the box set that the new edition is only available in, Criterionís David Lean Directs NŲel Coward set, I still find the transfer here a decent one.

6/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterionís Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track is decent but still shows its age. Itís weak, incredibly flat, and edgy to boot. Thereís a slight bit of noise in the background but it doesnít hurt the presentation all that much. In general itís fine but open to improvement.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion didnít add much to this release, simply only porting over anaudio commentary by Bruce Eder from their original laserdisc edition. I realize Ederís commentaries arenít loved by all but Iíve always found them entertaining and informative tracks. He has a format that he sticks to on all of his tracks and itís no different here. Eder likes to talk about shots and the look of the film, along with the narrative structure when appropriate (as it is here with the filmís flashback setup) but he seems to enjoy talking more about a filmís production history and the careers of its cast and crew. He covers the film and its development, the working relationship between Lean and playwright NŲel Coward (who both worked on a number of films together,) background information on its actors, the play on which the film is based, the filmís score, and so much more. It does sound as though he has prepared notes but his track never comes off bland or dry and he adds a great amount of energy which keeps the track from becoming a chore. If you like Ederís tracks itís worth a listen but if youíre not thereís nothing here that will change your mind.

Criterion then includes the filmís theatrical trailer and then a 2-minute restoration demonstration showing the work Criterion did to remove the heavy damage that was still present in the print used. An insert then includes a short essay on the film, the play Still Life, on which the film is based, and even a mention as to how Billy Wilder based his film The Apartment on a character that appears in this film.

There isnít much, and the price of this release (Criterionís higher $39.95 price point) isnít justified, but I at least enjoyed the commentary by Eder.

4/10

CLOSING

The DVDís presentation of the film is decent and I think it still holds up fairly well all of these years later, but there is better out there with Criterionís new Blu-ray edition, available in their David Lean Directs NŲel Coward box set, clearly blows this edition away with its superb high-definition presentation and a wealth of supplements.


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