David Lean

Melanie Williams
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David Lean has been characterised as a director of highly romantic disposition whose films offer a vision of 'the romantic sensibility attempting to reach beyond the restraints and constrictions of everyday life'. This book proposes new perspectives on the work of David Lean and offers a fuller and more varied appreciation of his manifold achievements as a filmmaker. In so doing, the book makes interventions in wider academic debates around authorship, gender, genre and aesthetics in relation to the British cinema and transnational cinema of British cultural inheritance of which Lean was such a remarkable exponent. It first deals with Lean's early career, covering his entry into the film industry and flourishing formative years as an editor, honing skills, and his official entry into direction. It then examines Lean's four forays into the nineteenth century, encompassing his two Dickens adaptations as well as his two later Victorian dramas, both centred on rebellious females. Each film presents a vivid instance of the twentieth century in the process of 'inventing the Victorians'; put together, the quartet of films show how perceptions began to change during the pivotal postwar year. The book also focuses on the gender by focusing on a trio of films about women in love and three films centred on male visionaries.

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‘Financial pressures, plus the sheer proliferation of film books, mean that libraries have to be more selective now than in the past. All one can say is that this book on David Lean should be a high priority. Librarians and department heads, please note... The book constitutes an excellent guide for retracing and reassessing Lean's career from start to finish... Williams clinches her argument with a confident final chapter entitled 'Feminising the Epic'. Anyone writing or teaching about Lean from now on will need to take into account that argument, and her readings of individual films across four decades... this book is as important as Brownlow's, and forms an ideal companion to it.'
Charles Barr
July 2016

‘In this convincingly argued text, the author redresses the balance of previous books on the director... Williams' volume is an essential addition to the publishers' British Film Makers series, which has mostly been confined to cinema's lesser luminaries. Ultimately she argues convincingly and accessibly for the reconsideration of Lean.'
Elaine Lennon
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
July 2016

‘One might wonder if another book on Lean's films is really necessary. Williams proves that it is... Williams' enthusiasm for Lean's films makes her a persuasive advocate and she argues cogently and intelligently... her assessments are always acute and even when one disagrees with her judgement there's enough to give pause for thought and reconsideration. This valuable and enjoyable book serves as a useful reminder for those of us exploring the obscurer reaches of British cinema that there are major landmarks out there which we would be unwise to ignore.'
Robert Murphy
Journal of British Cinema and Television
July 2016

‘Williams sets out to refute the common view of Lean as an "essentially cold" director. On the contrary, she detects in his films a strong emotional undercurrent and, rather unexpectedly, a distinct feminine angle in much of his work... drawing worthwhile attention to several of his lesser known films.'
Philip Kemp
Sight and Sound
July 2016

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