Brian McFarlane
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From big screen to small – and elsewhere
in The never-ending Brief Encounter
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The phrase ‘brief encounter’ had been in very modest use since the 1860s, according to one source, but in the same source’s graphing of the usage it was seen to soar from the mid 1940s, reaching another high peak as late as 2010. Not just in the UK, but the US, Australia and even Hong Kong have drawn on the resonant title for TV items. Numerous minor variants of the title, such as A Brief Encounter and Brief Encounters, indicate the prolificacy of this particular phenomenon. It seems unlikely that any other film title has given rise to such seemingly endless repetition, albeit in often punning titles. Some of the episodes make comic capital from their references to Lean’s film, recalling its central narrative as well as its title.

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