Wednesday, October 25, 2006

London Film Festival: Great Expectations Restoration (1946)

Great ExpectationsLast night I went to the BFI screening of their new restoration of David Lean's Great Expectations from 1946, and I must say it turned out to be a treat.

The NFT policy of 'no food or drinks' really does help make the cinema experience an enjoyable one. Only two cinema trips in the last few years have been free of noise, interruptions and mobile phones going off - and both of them were the only two viewings I've had at the NFT. I suspect the lack of any children present on both occasions had something to do with it.

Anyway, the screening was preceded by a short intro from the director of the BFI and an account of the restoration from one of the chief restorers. I don't think I've seen the film in its entirety before (I have vague memories of the opening convict scenes from a childhood viewing on TV, but nothing more) and haven't read the book, so it was easy to be taken along by the story, and although I could see the misdirection with regard to who Pip's benefactor might be coming a mile away, there were plenty of other twists I didn't see coming. I loved the minor characters and the comedy, which still holds up today, and found the film quite enchanting and a bit of a revelation. I am starting to realise just how many true gems that were made before I was born I seem to have managed to miss out on over the years.

That being said, I'm not totally convinced John Mills was right for the part - too old by far given that we were expected to believe he'd grown from about 12 to 35 with just six years passing! But his acting, like that of all the cast, was excellent, and the film stood up incredibly well in comparison with today's efforts. The cinematography was particularly striking and made me realise how many of today's films just don't pay the attention to detail that Mr Lean and his crew did back in 1946. As for the restoration... well there were a lot of speckles (I don't understand why these aren't individually sorted out with the help of computer software tools!) but otherwise the print was fine, with plenty of detail and contrast, and the sound particularly impressed, with no hiss or crackle and dialogue that was clear at all times. No doubt this will be released on DVD along with the other Lean films the BFI are working on in time for an anniversary release in 2008.

There was supposed to be a reception after the screening, but no details were given out and most people just ambled out and found their way home. As did I. An enjoyable evening though and I suspect I'm going to be going to the NFT more frequently than I have done in the past, even when the London Film Festival is over.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Ian

I wonder if anyone can help me. I am looking for some film bloggers to take part in a Guardian / BAFTA film forum on Monday March 5th. Can any interested parties contact me at

Many thanks