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A Legacy of Grandeur: David Lean Retrospective

Posted by Alex Switzky

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September 30, 2012
1:00 am

Die-hard old school movie buffs will tell you there’s nothing comparable to seeing a film in the cinema. Perhaps it’s the shared energy of the crowd, the popcorn, that feeling of going to a specially prepared room for the specific goal of taking in a story.

However, we have home cinemas now. Rooms in our houses where we can pack our friends in and watch whatever we want together. Films are accessible on iPads or computers or your phone. But there’s films that won’t quite work in anywhere but the movie house.

That is why The Astor’s upcoming retrospective on the films of David Lean is such a big deal: his work isn’t just better on the silver-screen, it’s damn near the only way to really see it.

Lean is recognised as the master of the epic: the spectacle of the Lord of the Rings trilogy or Avatar may match the spectacle of Lean’s films, but they do so with CGI. Lean used real locations, real people, real production design. And it shows (Star Wars Ep IV vs The Phantom Menace anyone?)

The level of detail that Lean captured on film is simply untranslatable to any other medium, even HD transfers losing something in the process. The Astor is offering you the opportunity to take in these masterpieces the way they were meant to be seen starting from September 1.

First on the schedule, a Noel Coward double feature of Brief Encounter and Blithe Spirit. While Lean’s reputation is for the grandiose, he was also adept at working with actors. These two dramas from earlier in Lean’s career aptly demonstrate that Lean’s storytelling skills fit just as well to the small as to the epic.

The next weekend, September 8, offers a double-shot of Dickens with Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. Lean’s interpretations of the two classic novels are widely considered to be among the best adaptations, focusing on the humanity and societal concerns that coloured Dickens’ novels and are so often ignored during the translation to other mediums.

September 15 is time for Doctor Zhivago, a wonderful example of Lean’s aptitude towards the epic as well as further proof of his skill at literary adaptation. The epic love story spans decades of turmoil in pre and post-Revolutionary Russia and is also way, waaay better than the recent musical.

The Bridge On The River Kwai, showing on September 22, combines Lean’s skills at the dramatic with his flair for the spectacular, featuring a career-high performance from Alec Guinness as POW-cum-foreman during World War Two and also some stuff blowing up real good.

The coup-de-grace of the retrospective is Lean’s masterpiece: Lawrence of Arabia. The film is regarded as one of the greatest of all time, and The Astor is providing an opportunity to see an all new digital restoration at 4K, about four times clearer than the best Blu-ray can offer. Lawrence of Arabia is the ultimate argument for seeing films in the cinema and this is an all-too-rare opportunity for any movie lover, running for two weeks from September 23.

If you have any sort of fondness for quality cinema and spectacle, don’t miss out on this event.

The David Lean Retrospective is running throughout September at The Astor.
For more info and tickets visit astortheatre.net.


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