A few words about... Ryan's Daughter

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Robert Harris, Feb 1, 2006.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I first had the pleasure of seeing Ryan's Daughter in its road show presentation at the Ziegfeld in New York. On that huge screen, and projected in 70mm in a print derived from the camera original, every bit of information comes across sharp and clean.

    One look at the images of Sarah Miles atop the cliffs during the opening sequence in extreme long shots, will give you some idea of what one is missing on home video.

    I've been waiting 35 years for Ryan's Daughter to be released on DVD -- or any high quality video mechanism.

    And short of seeing the film in its proper 70mm format on a huge screen, Warner's normal definition release to DVD, and what will hopefully be one of their initial high definition releases, is the best that we will find.

    In this case, the release is a cause for celebration.

    The studio has done a magnificent job of bringing the film to DVD, as it is both visually and sonically stunning. A great deal of time and effort has obviously gone into this transfer.

    To my mind, Ryan's Daughter is one of the greatest films ever created. Unfortunately, it was released during a period where other films made it look a bit old-fashioned.

    Today, it is those up to the minute creations which look ancient, where Ryan's Daughter has beautifully stood the test of time.

    David Lean once mentioned that the biggest error he felt that he made on Ryan was not to have given Trevor Howard, in his role as the priest, a single line of dialogue which would have explained things more clearly.

    Most audiences never understood the fact, although it seems quite obvious, that the scene in the forest between Ms. Miles and Mr. Jones never really occurred as we see it.

    What we see is actually more in Rosy's mind than reality -- a totally idealized version of events clouded by her love for the British officer played by Jones.

    David felt that the point could have been easily handled with a simple bit of dialogue spoken by the priest to Rosy: "Rosy... You're looking at the world through rose colored glasses."

    The DVD release is inclusive of both a commentary track as well as a documentary. While some scenes from the film serve the purpose of underlining the discussion, some are used more as pictorial fill than for any other reason, and with the very same interview dialogue track used, once again, for much of the commentary track.

    Any documentary supported by footage directed by David Lean and photographed by Freddie Young is going to look great. But the result here is that either documentary or commentary turns out to be unnecessary, while at the same time making the commentary track, which might have otherwise given additional space to the image, rather redundant to the entire project.

    The proper people have been interviewed, and each has interesting points to add, but I have no doubt that someone with more of a love of the cinema as opposed to being in the business of grinding out DVD documentaries, could have done it better and made it more interesting.

    I give the presentation of the film an A+ in all departments, and will wait patiently for the high definition release. The normal definition version is an essential purchase until that time comes, and will stand as one of the most beautiful high def transfers down-rezzed to date.

    I've noted before that with all of the talented documentarians out there, and available to projects such as this, that we seem to get the same old quick and dirty extras from this particular production group. I'm actually surprised to see it coming from Warner. Imagine what a Photoplay documentary would have been like. For those unaware, Kevin Brownlow wrote the authorized biography of David Lean. A documentary from Photoplay could have offered information and insights which can only be touched upon here, and have done so in a aura of class and elegance of which this documentary is rather devoid.

    Ryan's Daughter is yet another example of a vault title which could easily go back into limited theatrical release with a few 70mm prints, allowing modern audiences to see what real filmmaking is all about.

    RAH
     
  2. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    Robert, interesting reading.
    Two things - what of the stories that disc two looks less good than disc one?

    Also - who made the documentary that you don't seem to like?
     
  3. Stephen PI

    Stephen PI Supporting Actor

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    Nice review Robert. I feel that the film stands quite well enough without the line of dialog. No doubt this statement came from Lean as a result of the severe criticism he got from Pauline Kael at the time of the film's US release. He should have no regrets.
    I saw the film again in 70mm about three years ago and it was still as wonderful as it was back in 1970.

    For those interested, I worked on the film in post production for a few months and wrote about it on the 'Britmovie' forum.
    Here is the link:
    http://www.britmovie.co.uk/forum/ind...showtopic=2318
     
  4. Craig S

    Craig S Producer

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    This is the one Lean epic that I have not yet seen. I am REALLY looking forward to this disc.
     
  5. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I've heard that this Lean guy has made some good movies. I'll have to check this out. [​IMG]

    Seriously, if Pauline Kael slammed this movie, it can't be that bad.
     
  6. Bill Huelbig

    Bill Huelbig Second Unit

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    Stephen PI: I just read your recollections of David Lean and the "Ryan's Daughter" crew and I want to thank you for sharing them. It was a real privilege to read a firsthand account of the making of one of my all-time favorite movies.

    Can't wait till Tuesday!
     
  7. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    This is one David Lean movie I haven't seen, but look forward to it...
     
  8. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    To those who queried about the quality of disc two v. disc one...

    there is not only no problem.

    Both contain magnificent transfers. I was able to view them earlier on my office monitor, a Sony 30" XBR high definition unit, and they looked fine.

    The acid test was running them this evening on a new projector, which is not yet totally tuned, and on a 100+" screen.

    Again, a beatiful rendering of a great, great film.

    Ryan's Daughter is my first "must buy" of 2006.

    RAH
     
  9. Stephen PI

    Stephen PI Supporting Actor

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    Bill, thankyou for going to the trouble to tell me how much you enjoyed it.
     
  10. Dharmesh C

    Dharmesh C Supporting Actor

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    Which cinema was this at? Haven't seen Ryan in a while but I felt it was Lean's weakest film because the story is not quite cinematic and progressive.
     
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    To Jonathan-S...

    DL was certainly not looked upon as an "absurd has-been" during that era, or any era.

    He was extremely sensitive, and seeemd to withdraw after the Algonquin debacle which he blamed on Pauline Kael. She overstepped her bounds as the "star" reviewer she perceived herself to be.

    Interestingly, in one of the Ryan's documentaries, Richard Schickel notes that DL blamed him for Algonquin, I never heard his name mentioned except as someone who was there. I was always told that the instigator, who turned rude and abusive, was Kael.

    DL did put together a production, financed by DeLauentiis during that period.

    Financing was pulled after DL has put his own funds toward the design and construction of a ship, inclusive of built-in camera positions.

    His script with Robert Bolt was a brilliantly written version of Mutiny on the Bounty entitled Mr. Bligh. It was filled with Lean moments that one can easily visualize and hear from the written page. The screenplay is alive.

    It was eventually produced as The Bounty.

    The idea that DL slithered away with his tail between his legs and went unheard of of a time is urban legend. While after Algonquin, he certainly questioned his future potential, he was not shut down but for a short period, during which he traveled extensively. He was always bankable, but like Stanley Kubrick c. 1990, hadn't found anything he wanted to create.

    Re: prints being junked, that would seem accurate, but not for any other reason than the fact that by 1982, they would have been going quite pink, as 12 year old Eastman color was want to do.

    RAH
     
  12. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    To see a film by David Lean projected on the big screen is an authentic cinematic experience, the visual equivilant to reading great literature.



    I read a script by Lean and Bolt that's indeed a beauty. It has an emotional continuity with Ryan's Daughter and a reading feels like the logical next step in the evolution of David Lean.

    But don't look for a hint of what Lean intended in The Bounty because it isn't there. Less than half the original script is actually used, or maybe's it re-written, condensed, shortened, whatever. The point is that Lean's eloquence is beaten out of The Bounty. And I do mean BEATEN. I suppose The Bounty has its virtues, but it seems willfully obtuse, almost a contradiction of the romance of the sea David Lean saw in his mind's eye.

    One of the great, great tragedies in cinema.
     
  13. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    You're referring here to the odd era during which a number of "jounalists" who had no real talent of their own, took it upon themselves to call themselves "critics," which enabled them to judge the work of others.

    This was the "critic as star" era. Whether because of jealousy or via their own hubris, these folks found it necessary to pick apart the work of some of the most artistic and viable filmmakers of their time.

    The other side of this, of course, were situations where these "critics" caused their own demise by losing all credibility. Think Bosley Crowther and Bonnie and Clyde. That was the beginning of the end for them. They had short-lived power. I grew up on Andrew Sarris' writing, and while I always had a copy of The American Cinema at hand, never took it as gospel. I don't place him in this group.

    If a phrase could neatly bring that era into focus it would be...

    "Those who can do...

    those who can't, become critics."

    RAH
     
  14. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Why? Only Ryan's Daughter and maybe Doctor Zhivago were slated by critics and film buffs at that time, the others like Lawrence, River Kwai, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist were all very highly respected. Cecil B.De Mille I can believe, but Lean? Surely not.
     
  15. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    Excuse me for interjecting at this juncture, but ...

    Rubbish!
    Nonsense!
    You've got it backwards.

    I don't care what a few critics wrote in a few books. The writings you cite are intellectual masturbation. Sophistry for the sake of sophistry. Critics who write for other critics so they can impress each other and keep their academic jobs. They were writing in alienation of the rest of the world. They don't represent the movie-goer's experience.

    I remember reading some hostile reviews in 1970 which seemed to me more about the troubled times we were living in than about Ryan's Daughter itself, but this hostility was not reflected in the auditoriums. The public bought tickets and filled seats. I saw the roadshow projection in my hometown of New York several times and I've never forgotten it. One could feel the audience's involvement. Everyone knew they were seeing something special. In fact, limited re-releases of Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia during this time reminded audiences of what a memorable experience a David Lean film could be, so there's no evidence to support your contention that Lean was not admired.

    During his long absence from the screen David Lean was in fact much admired by people who go to movies, if not sorely missed. Bear in mind that the intelligence of his films appealed to an intelligent audience who remained fans throughout his career. His fans would have turned out for any new film he delivered had there been one, and we all welcomed him back with A Passage to India.
     
  16. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I would think that much of this may fall under the "out of sight, out of mind" theory.
     
  17. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Not even worth replying to.






    Crawdaddy
     
  18. Dharmesh C

    Dharmesh C Supporting Actor

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    Gosh, sorry I couldn't attend, I was only five years old then [​IMG]
     
  19. Bill Huelbig

    Bill Huelbig Second Unit

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    I recall some critic saying about David Lean, "When a director dies, he becomes a photographer." I think this was referring to either "Doctor Zhivago" or "Ryan's Daughter". Wow - talk about missing the boat.
     
  20. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    Look, a "critical reputation" is an ephemeral thing that only exists in the minds of a handful of intellectuals who have nothing better to do than to bend and stretch each other's grey matter. A CRITICAL REPUTATION IS FOR CRITICS (you may quote me on that). They have absolutely nothing to do with going to movies or experiencing movies.

    Ryan's Daughter did not injure Lean's reputation with audiences. If anything, the film re-inforced his reputation with audiences.

    David Lean was an established director with an impeccable international reputation and a dedicated following throughout his career. He was so admired that he could sell tickets on both sides of the pond after a fifteen-year hiatus of perceived inactivity. There's no difference in his audience reception on either side of the pond.

    Since when did the UK film industry ever perceive a public demand for anything? Audiences always turned out for a David Lean film when they were offered one.
     

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