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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary from 2000 by film historian Bruce Eder
  • Interview from 2012 with NoŽl Coward scholar Barry Day
  • A Profile of ďBrief Encounter,Ē a short documentary from 2000 on the making of the film
  • David Lean: A Self Portrait, a 1971 television documentary on Lean's career
  • Trailer

Brief Encounter

2016 Standalone Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: David Lean
1945 | 86 Minutes | Licensor: ITV Global Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #76
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: April 26, 2016
Review Date: April 3, 2016

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SYNOPSIS

After a chance meeting on a train platform, a married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) enter into a muted but passionate, and ultimately doomed, love affair. With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Rachmaninoff score, and pair of remarkable performances (Johnson was nominated for an Oscar for her role), this film, directed by David Lean and based on NoŽl Coward's play Still Life deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since its release.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

After releasing it previously in their David Lean/NŲel Coward set (which also featured In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed, and Blithe Spirit) Criterion reissues Leanís Brief Encounter on Blu-ray on its own, presenting the film again in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc. The high-definition 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a 4K restoration performed by the BFI.

Save for the artwork on the disc itself, as far as I can tell this is the same disc as the one found in the set in every way; this disc even tried to resume where I had left off with the disc found in the box set. So, unsurprisingly, the transfer looks exactly the same, which is of course perfectly fine. The transfer is a very sharp, highly detailed one, delivering the textures and depth one would expect. Contrast is nicely balanced and the tonal shifts in the gray levels blend naturally and cleanly, and the black levels are rich and deep, crushing not being an issue. Shadow delineation is excellent, which of course nicely serves the nighttime sequences and the more noirish shots laced in shadows.

The restoration work is still impressive, and damage is very limited, mostly to a few tiny marks and some very fine scratches. The digital transfer itself also doesnít present any noticeable problems, and film grain is rendered cleanly and naturally. It was easily the best looking presentation in that Lean/Coward set, and coming back to it again all these years later it still looks very strong.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Presented in lossless PCM 1.0 mono, the track found here doesnít sound any different compared to the edition in the box set. For its age itís a very sharp track. Damage isnít an issue, and voices sound clean and clear. The Rachmaninoff score also sounds crisp, and I donít recall it ever sounding edgy, and there is some decent fidelity and range to it. A nice track overall.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Supplements are exactly the same. I admittedly sampled them again (Iíve listened to the Eder track a number of times already over the years) and am simply copying and pasting (more or less) from my previous review.

Criterion yet again provides the same audio commentary by Bruce Eder that was first recorded for their 1995 LaserDisc and then carried over to their 2000 DVD release. 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 Coward, 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.

Next is an interview with Coward scholar, Barry Days, who also did interviews for the other films that were found in Criterionís Lean/Coward set. In that set, each interview focused on the discís respective film, so not having his other interviews isnít too big of a deal if youíre only concerned about Brief Encounter. Running 16-minutes, Day was at his most glowing with this film. He feels this is where both Coward and Lean finally got used to film and working together: Coward finally understood film structure and Lean understood he could convey so much with angles and framing. He talks about the play on which its based, Still Life, and points out some of the inside jokes found within the film, like the film-within-the-film title Flames of Passion, and goes over the casting of Johnson and Howard. Day can be a dry interview subject, based on his other interviews found in the aforementioned box set, but his segment is still loaded with great information and he does come off a bit more passionate here.

A Profile of ďBrief EncounterĒ is a 25-minute piece created in 2000 by Carlton Media, I assume for their own DVD edition. It presents interviews with various scholars and members of the cast and crew. Itís a pretty by-the-book making-of, starting with the early development process of the film, the adaptation, the casting, and then its release. Celia Johnsonís daughter, Lucy Fleming, appears to read writings by her mother recalling the making of the film. Itís a generic documentary and doesnít offer any surprises really but itís worth viewing for those interested in the filmís production.

The last big supplement is then David Lean: A Self Portrait, a 58-minute program made in 1971 featuring the director recalling his work. Only a little bit of the documentary covers this film and his other ones he made with Coward, a good chunk of the piece instead focussing on his bigger epics, most notably Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago. After talking about his early beginnings and the big breaks he got he then talks about his film career, the things he learned, how he directs a script, works with actors, and then goes into detail about location shooting and the costumes that appear in his films. He continues on about how he makes his films through the eyes of a ďcutterĒ, already planning the edits in his head while shooting, all the while expressing his absolute love for the process of editing. Despite the fact it does focus on his later epics itís a very strong overview of Leanís work.

The supplements then conclude with the filmís theatrical trailer. The restoration demonstration found on the DVD hasnít been carried over, but considering this disc has a completely different (and far more impressive) transfer it shouldnít be a surprise it wasnít carried over. The Lean/Coward box set came with a booklet featuring essays on each film in the set, as well as a general essay on the films of Lean and Coward. For this release, Criterion carries over the same essay by Kevin Brownlow that he wrote for Brief Encounter, which goes over the filmís impact, structure, and the writing.

Itís a pretty loaded edition, and a rather satisfying one overall. I found all of the material worth going through.

8/10

CLOSING

If you already own Criterionís previous Lean/Coward box set there is no point in picking this up because it is the exact same release sporting the same transfer/encode and the same supplements. But, if you held off on the set and only wanted to pick up Brief Encounter then this release is an easy recommendation, even if you already own the previous Criterion DVD. Itís a very strong release.


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