Kieran Frost reviews three movies starring Lord Alec Guiness: The Bridge On The River Kwai, Kind Hearts And Coronets, and Lawrence of Arabia.
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
: David Lean [OSCAR]
: Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson [based on the novel] [OSCAR]
: Alec Guinness [OSCAR]
, William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa
: a group of British soldiers are held as POW's at a Japanese prison camp in Burma, lead by the unflinching Col. Nicholson (Guinness). When the camp's leader, Col. Saito (Hayakawa) wants to use the POW's to build a bridge over the river Kwai; he comes up against resistance from Col. Nicholson. Elsewhere, a former American prisoner of the camp Shears (Holden) has been picked up by the British army; after his escape from Burma. Shears is brought into a meeting with Major Warden (Hawkins); who wants Shears to lead an elite four man expedition back to Burma; to blow up the bridge being built over the river Kwai.
~ Best Performance
: Sir Alec Guinness
: Winner of the 1958 Oscar for Best Picture (along with Best Director, and Best Actor for Guinness); this is truly a brilliant film, from start to finish. Vastly different from Lean's later masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
; the film tackles the idea of obsession, and blind-sighted determination while ignoring the cost of pursuing a goal. And while it lacks the instant visual flare of Lawrence of Arabia
; Lean still manages to capture beauty on film (generally involving the bridge). Alec Guinness steals the film, obviously; but the rest of the cast are also excellent (minus a badly delivered final line of "Madness! Madness!" by Major Clipton). I've never seen the films before; and within ten minutes suddenly realized that Chicken Run (2000)
was based on this; which made me very happy indeed . My only "criticism" would be with the film's music (which amazingly WON Best Score for Malcolm Arnold); which I felt didn't convey either the epic nature of the film's story; or the Japanese setting in tropical Burma. I'm not surprised Lean shifted to using Maurice Jarre for his later films!
A truly British, truly wonderful film; with epic concepts and a flawless performance from Alec Guinness. A treat, a real treat!
: 5 out of 5
N.B. added to my “Top 100” films
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS
: Robert Hamer
: Robert Hamer [based on the novel]
: Dennis Price, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood
: after his mother is cast out of the noble D'Ascoyne clan (because she married for love and not with her father's consent), the young Louis (Dennis Price) grows up a poor, but happy boy, living with his mother and father in a small house in London. It isn't until he is orphaned, and his ancestors refuse his mother the right to be buried in the D'Ascoyne tomb, does his mind turn to murder. Young Louis not only plans revenge on his eight wicked relatives, but by eliminating them, he can claim the noble Dukedom of the D'Ascoyne for himself. Only two things can stop him: his childhood sweetheart Edith (Valerie Hobson), who is neither innocent nor gentle; and the soon to be widow of Young Henry (Alec Guinness), the alluring and noble Sibella (Joan Greenwood).
~ Best Performance: Sir Alec Guinness
: it's really not 'that' great or 'that' funny. I did very much enjoy watching the film, don't get me wrong; but how this is so often sighted as a masterpiece is beyond me? Firstly, Alec Guinness plays the entire D'Ascoyne clan including the Duke, the Parson, the Banker, the General, Young D'Ascoyne, Young Henry and Lady Agatha. Now this is enjoyable; BUT many of the characters have so little screen time than cannot be anything more than caricatures. And while it is an enjoyable performance by such a great actor, I cannot help but ask myself why the clan needed to be played by one actor at all? I find his switching 'persons' much more captivating and funny when he does it in Murder By Death (1976)
. Secondly, and it's hardly the film's fault really, but the unfortunate use of the nursery rhyme 'Eeny, meeny, miny, moe' at the end (where the 'n' word is used four, maybe five times) totally throws you out of the moment. And as I said, it's not really that funny a film in the first place. Which, even for a black comedy is a strong negative. It uses Noel Coward-esq cleverness in much of the pleasant narration; but lacks that vicious bite that elevates most of Coward's plays into a truly hysterical evening. The acting was strong all round; the final confrontation between Louis and Edith in jail was particularly stellar. And the director knows when it's time to pick up the pace and kill off a few of the relatives in a mini-montage (since by that point we got the concept, and nothing 'new' could be added). Still, for my money, I would hands down choose the Ladykillers (1950)
(also by Ealing Studios) over this; which for all it's faults, is still a very enjoyable film to watch.
A interesting concept, with a strong cast; missing 'greatness' due to the fact by the end you don't really care which way the story goes (which is why, I assume; the ending is left ambiguous).
: 3 out of 5
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
: David Lean [OSCAR]
: Robert Bolt [based on the writings by T.E. Lawrence]
: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif
: young T.E. Lawrence, a flamboyant and erratic soldier in the British Army serving in Cairo during WWI; is sent on a special mission by a French diplomat to find the Prince Feisel (Alec Guinness) of Arabia; and evaluate the army's situation there. On his journey, Lawrence's investigation of the Arab's revolt against the Turks not only brings him into contact with the proud and powerful tribal leader Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn); but ignites a fire within himself; making him both martyr and monster in one swift blow. Allied with Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif); Lawrence leads the Arabs to unity; and intends to wipe the Turks from the land, by any and all means necessary.
: At first I didn't really love the film, even though I could not fault how it was made. But now I've had time to digest, I do truly love this film. The performances were first rate from everyone (but Peter O'Toole in his Oscar nominated performance is utterly magnificent as the conflicted and eccentric T.E. Lawrence); insuring there was not a moment when the acting missed a beat or failed to impress. The directing (Oscar winning Directing by David Lean) is both visually beautiful and gutsy; showing the less dramatic, less glamorous moments of T.E. Lawrence's achievements in Arabia. One's which were both vital and informative to the tapestry of this man's drive. The music by Maurice Farre is simply gorgeous (Oscar Winning Best Score), and I fully support David Lean's choice for the blank screen at the beginning, intermission and end, to allow the view to just experience Jarre's majestic score. The story is epic in every possible way; and even a run time of nearly 4 hours doesn't hurt this masterpiece. Add to that the knowledge that every battle, every sweeping camera shot is filled with actual extras, rather than modern CGI 'people'; you cannot help but applaud the bravery and vision of this achievement. I applaud this film for what it is: a absolutely masterpiece of cinematic achievement. That said, the Lord of the Rings (2001 - 2003)
is still better
Flawless. Epic. Breathtaking. I cannot rave enough about the quality, or detail that went into this film. Bravo Peter O'Toole. Bravo David Lean. And bravo everyone else in-between!!!
: 5 out of 5
N.B. added to my “Top 100” films