BRIEF ENCOUNTER [1945 / 2016] [The Criterion Collection] [Blu-ray] [USA Release]
A Story of the Most Precious Moments in a Woman’s Life! The Best Romantic Film of All Time!

After a chance meeting on a train platform, a married doctor Dr. Alec Harvey [Trevor Howard] and a suburban housewife Laura Jesson [Celia Johnson] begin a muted but passionate, and ultimately doomed, love affair. With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Sergei Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 score, and pair of remarkable performances and especially Celia Johnson was nominated for an Oscar® this film. Directed by Sir David Lean and based on Noël Coward’s play “Still Life” and deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since its release.

The Criterion Collection is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions of the highest technical quality. With supplemental features that enhance the appreciation of the art of film.

FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1946 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or: ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ film and Director Sir David Lean. 1946 19th Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Actress for Celia Johnson. Nominated: Best Director for Sir David Lean. Nominated: Best Adapted Screenplay for Anthony Havelock-Allan and Ronald Neame.

FILM FACT No.2: Excerpts from Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.2 recur throughout the film, played by Eileen Joyce. There is also a scene in the tea room where a salon orchestra plays the Spanish Dance No. 5 [Bolero] by Moritz Moszkowski. The poem that Fred Jesson [Cyril Raymond] asks Laura Jesson [Celia Johnson] to assist him with is by John Keats: "When I have fears that I may cease to be." The actual quote Fred Jesson recites is, "When I behold, upon the nights starred face, huge cloudy symbols of a high Romance." In addition to the verbal reference to John Keats, there is a visual reference to an Arabic love poem. In Stephen Lynn's apartment, hanging on the wall is prominently displayed twice. When Laura Jesson enters, there is a shot of it over the dining table. Later, when Stephen Lynn [Valentine Dyall] confronts Dr. Alec Harvey [Trevor Howard], it is seen over his left shoulder. Much of the film version was shot at Carnforth railway station in in Lancashire, England, then a junction on the London, Midland and Scottish Railway [LMS], which was a British railway company.

Cast: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Cyril Raymond, Stanley Holloway, Joyce Carey, Margaret Barton, Everley Gregg, Marjorie Mars, Wilfred Babbage, (uncredited), Alfie Bass (uncredited), Wallace Bosco (uncredited), Sydney Bromley (uncredited), Nuna Davey (uncredited), Valentine Dyall (uncredited), Irene Handl (uncredited), Dennis Harkin (uncredited), Edward Hodge (uncredited), Jack May (uncredited), Avis Scott (uncredited), George V. Sheldon (uncredited), Richard Thomas (uncredited) and Henrietta Vincent (uncredited)

Director: Sir David Lean

Producers: Sir Anthony Havelock-Allan, Noël Coward and Ronald Neame

Screenplay: Sir Anthony Havelock-Allan, Sir David Lean, Ronald Neame and Noël Coward (novel) 

Composer: Sergei Rachmaninoff

Cinematography: Robert Krasker, B.S.C., A.S.C. (Director of Photography)

Art Director: L.P. Williams, A.R.I.B.A.

Film Editor: Jack Harris

Image Resolution: 1080p (Black-and-White)

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio
English: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio

Subtitles: English

Running Time: 86 minutes

Region: Region A/1

Number of discs: 1

Studio: JANUS FILMS / GRANAFA International / Eagle-Lion Distributors Ltd / The Criterion Collection

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: The film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ [1945] sees a married doctor Dr. Alec Harvey [Trevor Howard] and a middle- class wife Laura Jesson [Celia Johnson] and mother have a chance meeting when the woman gets a cinder in her eye. Dr. Alec Harvey stops to help and the two strangers suddenly discover an unexpected attraction between them. Years of dreary, dull routine give way to a new sensual awakening for the couple as they begin to see each other frequently but they know, in the end, they must return to their spouses and resume their former lives.

‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ was the film that first established Sir David Lean as one of the world's great directors, with a sense of character and romantic fatalism that would be found in such later hits as ‘Great Expectations’ [1946], ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ [1962] and ‘Doctor Zhivago’ [1965]. It was also Sir David Lean's first film to use trains and train stations, which would become a trademark of his work, appearing in such films as ‘Summertime’ [1955], ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ [1957], ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘Doctor Zhivago.’

In England, ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ became what Sir Richard Attenborough calls “a landmark and touchstone” for the film industry. Made on a small scale and without stars, it pointed the way for filmmakers wanting to try new things by showing just how successful a seemingly non-commercial property could be. This was the fourth and final collaboration for Sir David Lean and Noël Coward. They had previously co-directed the World War II drama ‘In Which We Serve’ [1942], from Noël Coward's script. Then Sir David Lean directed and co-wrote screen versions of Noël Coward's ‘This Happy Breed’ [1944] and ‘Blithe Spirit’ [1945], and producing with Noël Coward.

Under Sir David Lean's fluid direction, Celia Johnson, who was memorable as the commander's wife in Noël Coward's fine ‘In Which We Serve,’ gives a consuming performance as the emotionally shaken that is naturally and honestly disturbing with her wistful voice and large, sad saucer-eyes. Again, Celia Johnson appearance in ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER,’ again is due largely to her part in the film that is still so moving. Celia Johnson’s agony and her rapture stay interior, and they flip-flop like nerves in this beautiful, grave black-and-white movie. Her voice is measured but the eyes are desperate. That she holds the film together is beyond doubt. And Trevor Howard, who has none of the aspects of a cut-out film star, makes a thoroughly credible partner in this excellent romantic film. Excellent also is middle-class milieu characters Joyce Carey, Cyril Raymond, Everley Gregg and Stanley Holloway. ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ has given us endless delights of the romantic genre scenario, because it is so well made, because Laura Jesson's voiceover narration is truly anguished and dreamy at the same time, and best of all is because the music is of course hits all the right notes for all of us, and especially because Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard are totally perfect together and a truly magical experience and especially of films they do not make anymore.


Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 (Written by Sergei Rachmaninoff) (uncredited) [Played by Eileen Joyce with The National Symphony Orchestra and Conducted by Muir Mathieson]

March Militaire (uncredited) (Music by Franz Schubert) [Performed by James Whitebread on Wurlitzer organ at the Metropole Cinema and mimed by the organist at the Palladium]

Bolero (from "Spanish Dances") (uncredited) (Music by Moritz Moszkowski) [Played by the small orchestra in the Kardomah Café]

LET THE GREAT BIG WORLD KEEP TURNING (uncredited) (Music by Nat Ayer) (Lyrics by Clifford Grey) [Song played by a barrel organ]

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Blu-ray Image Quality – The Criterion Collection has once again brought you the totally brilliant film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ in a stunning 1080p black-and-white presentation and ad of course shown in the standard 1.37:1 aspect ratio in the period the film was released. But most of all the film has been given a full digital restoration courtesy of the British Film Institute National Archive and funded by the David Lean Foundation, there is no question about the mastered new restoration created in the 4K resolution from “the original nitrate negative and sections of the nitrate fine-grain master,” and we get the quality we deserve of this black-and-white High Definition transfer being the best the film has ever looked and also and exceptionally brilliant video experience, especially for a film of this age, and ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ nonetheless looks exceptionally good, demonstrating just how good a 60 year-old black-and-white film can  look. The level of detail, it has to be said, is remarkable. There is scarcely a single mark, scratch or trace of damage to be seen anywhere on the print, the image is perfectly sharp with a requisite softness that prevents it from appearing overly processed, and the tones and black levels are to die for, with outstanding shadow detail visible. Most pleasing of all however is the stability of the transfer that the HD presentation affords. There’s scarcely a flicker or sign of jitter anywhere, the image flowing with wonderful smoothness. This has been a restoration by the BFI National Archive and GRANADA International and funded by The David lean Foundation. Digital restoration by Cinemage.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – The Criterion Collection presents you with an excellent audio experience in the form of 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio experience. The audio track accordingly is a straightforward mix of the original mono soundtrack. It is fine within the limitations of the source, coming across clearly with no underlying noise and only a little distortion at the louder levels. But of course when you hear the brilliant swooning lush romantic sounds of Sergei Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 score, fills the room with symphonic elegance and gives your speakers a worthwhile workout and also at times gives you a hint of a stereo ambience at times. The audio plays an extremely important role in this film, especially with the mixing of train noises, narration, and classical music. Hearing the audio track you can only think of what Sir David Lean would have done if he had been able to use modern surround technology, it would have been totally awesome.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

High-definition digital transfer of the BFI National Archive’s 2008 restoration

Special Feature Audio Commentary Film Historian Bruce Eder [1995] [1080p] [1.37:1] [86:37] This audio commentary was recorded by The Criterion Collection and features film historian Bruce Elder, and when we hear him speak, he comments that he want to welcome us to this special edition of ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER,’ and for just over 86 minutes Bruce Elder is going to take a look at the special place that the film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ occupies in Sir David Lean’s career and the various factors, including the play “Still Life” that the film was based on, and also talks about the cast and the music, and well as its production history that went into the film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ and its massive box office success, but right now Bruce Elder recommends us the viewer to listen close to the soundtrack. Bruce Eder thinks ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ is a totally romantic film and a modest proportioned one at that, and the storyline can be summarised in two sentences without leaving the major plot outline, an audiences, especially women over 50 years of age have reacted more strongly to the film that any other Sir Dave Lean earlier films, and women born 30 years after the release of the film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER,’ seem to melt over its contents, and viewers of both genders have uncommonly strong reactions to the film, but Sir David lean transformed the stage production into a truly cinematic experience, and doing things that could only be done in a film, and in the process he completely removed from its theatrical origins and in doing do expanded his cinematic vocal aspect of the film was his most sophisticated levelling up to his previous films. Bruce Eder hits all the highlights, discussing how Noël Coward's one-act play was opened up for the screen presentation, addressing the vital role the dramatic music played in the film, and evaluating the status of ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ as the “ultimate women's picture,” but his remarks often strays from the film far too often, especially when he delves into Sir David Lean's long career. Some people feel Bruce Eder’s audio commentary is not loved by all. But Bruce Eder has a format that he sticks to on all of his tracks and it’s no different here. Bruce Eder likes to talk about shots and the look of the film, along with the narrative structure where appropriate, as it is here with the film’s flashback setup, but Bruce Eder seems to enjoy talking more about a film’s production history and the careers of its cast and crew. Bruce Eder covers the film and its development, the working relationship between Sir David Lean and Nöel Coward, background information on its actors, the play on which the film is based, the film’s score, and so much more. It does sound as though he has prepared notes but his audio track never comes off bland or dry and he adds a great amount of energy which keeps the track from becoming a chore. If you like Bruce Eder’s tracks it’s worth a listen but if you’re not there’s nothing here that will change your mind. Finally, this Bruce Eder audio commentary is informative but rather stilted and kind of feels like a long boring essay being read during the corresponding scenes that Bruce Eder elaborates on, so it is up to you whether you up to feel like listening to this long drawn out boring audio commentary throughout this marvellous award winning ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ film. Bruce Elder does a sort of biography from Noël Coward, Sir David Lean to Sergei Rachmaninoff are included. As we come to the end of this Bruce Eder audio commentary, we hear the words spoken by Bruce Eder, when he says, “This is Bruce Eder and I would like to thank you in joining me on this walk through the film winning ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER.’

Special Feature: Interview with Noël Coward scholar Barry Day [2011] [1080p] [1.78:1] [1.37:1] [16:21] With this short featurette, we get to view the following special interview, that was recorded by The Criterion Collection in October 2011 with Noël Coward expert Barry Day, who is the author of “Coward on Film: The Cinema of Noël Coward,” and Barry Day analyses the film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER,’ and his musings outshine those presented in the Brue Elder audio commentary. Barry Day informs us that the film is based on the play “Still Life” that was a short play in five scenes by Noël Coward, that was performed at the National Theatre in London in the UK in 1936 and actually starred Noël Coward wearing a moustache which Barry Day totally felt that it totally did not suit his look. Barry Day looks at the film's timeless nature, touches upon casting and the minimal involvement of Noël Coward during production, and examines the craft of actress Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.  Barry Day also lets us in on an inside joke that Noël Coward inserted into the screenplay. We get a plethora of clips from the film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER,’ but also lots of still images from the film.

Special Feature: A Profile of ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ [2000] [1080p] [1.37:1] [24:32] With this featurette, we get to view a short documentary on the making of the film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER,’ that was produced in London in 2000 for Carlton International Media, and features interviews with screenwriter-producer Ronald Neame, actress Margaret Barton, and actress Celia Johnson’s daughter Kate Fleming, among others. This is a totally brilliant documentary on the making of the film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER,’ and here we find the contributors talking about how the film came to be made and the magic that was created and also with their contribution and thoughts on their acting performance in the film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER.’ The feature also provides a fine overview of production and the personalities of Noël Coward and Sir David Lean. We also learn about the actual location shooting of ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ during the Second World War and the film's disastrous first preview in the British hinterlands and its critics. It explores exactly why the film itself is so popular, and why it still has the same emotional content today as it ever did. It's a very interesting watch, and gives you a much deeper understanding of the film and the Noël Coward play on which it was based. Definitely worth seeing if you're a massive fan of the film. Finally, they want to give thanks to the Friends of Carnforth Station which a railway station on the Bentham and Furness Lines, 6 miles north of Lancaster, England. Narrated by David Bond. Contributors include: Sheridan Morley [Author/Biographer of Nöel Coward], Margaret Barton [Beryl Walters: ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’], Sir Anthony Havelock-Allan [Producer], Ronald Neame [Screenwriter/Producer], Lucy Fleming [Actress/Celia Johnson's daughter] and John Sessions [Actor].

Special Feature: David Lean: A Self Portrait [1971] [480i] [1.37:1] [58:24] With this featurette, we get to view a really wonderful 1971 television documentary, that was directed by Thomas Craven, where we get an intimate look at the career of Sir David Lean in this brilliant documentary and features an extensive interview with the director Sir David Lean who discusses his work and his approach to filmmaking on Sir David Lean’s career and also a personal profile that includes a wealth of film clips, all of which are in such a terrible condition and we also get behind-the-scenes footage from some of his most notable productions. Sir David Lean takes a look at his films such as ‘In Which We Serve’ [1942], ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ [1945], ‘Great Expectations’ [1946], ‘Oliver Twist’ [1948], ‘Breaking the Sound Barrier’ [1952], ‘Summertime’ [1955], ‘The Bridge On The River Kwai’ [1957], ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ [1962], ‘Doctor Zhivago’ [1965] and ‘Ryan's Daughter’ [1970]. But there was one very particular comment in this documentary by Sir David Lean that made me very angry, but not against Sir David Lean himself, but his concern about a serious comment regarding the film ‘Oliver Twist,’ and says that when the film ‘Oliver Twist’ in England it did a very good Box Office success, but when the film was released in America there was a terrible nasty negative reaction towards the film, and relates to the character Fagin, because the stupid ignorant American public and critics at large thought the film was anti-Jewish, and Sir David Lean said he had no such thoughts in his mind when directing the film and unfortunately over a period of two to three years in America they finally drastically cut the film ‘Oliver Twist’ in a totally philistine way, and totally cut out all of the British humorous parts in the film that related to the Fagin character, and in the personal opinion of Sir David Lean that the cut down version of ‘Oliver Twist’ is 100% anti-Semitic and I totally agree 100% with Sir David Lean’s comment. Sir David Lean then shifts his focus to the creative process, sharing thoughts about the sanctity of the script, his aversion to screen tests, attraction to shooting in exotic locales, and attitude toward crowd and battle scenes. You also experience an extensive interview with Sir David Lean himself, along with extracts from most of his films. Sir David Lean also shares his thoughts about editing, scoring, and sex on film, while screenwriter Robert Bolt and producers Sam Spiegel and Sir Anthony Havelock-Allan [Producer] provide outside perspective and who salutes Sir David Lean’s genius. Sir David Lean talks in a sort of matter-of-fact, but despite this it is always a treat to hear from renowned craftsmen of his calibre talk about his own work and artistic philosophies, and from that standpoint, this piece is a great success and on top of all that, this intimate portrait of Sir David Lean is a totally brilliant and well thoughtful special featurette and definitely gets a five star rating from me. This was a Thomas Craven Film Corporation Production. Contributors include: Sir Anthony Havelock-Allan [Producer], Robert Bolt [Screenwriter], Sam Spiegel [Producer] and Freddie Young [Director of Photography].

Theatrical Trailer [1945] [1080p] [1.37:1] [3:03] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER,’ where they inform us that this is Another Success in a Series of Screen Triumphs! Nöel Coward’s ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ that is directed by David Lean. It also informs us that it all began with A Chance Meeting Between Two Happily Married Strangers. Also Two People Who Met By Accident and fell IN LOVE and is A Moving Love Story and Delightful Comedy . . . Nöel Coward’s ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ Follows Their problems With Emotion and Understanding in ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ in A Nöel Coward Cineguild Production and An Eagle-Lion Release. All in all, it sums up the content of the film so very well and is a brilliant presentation that is always to be expected with a film of this calibre and top quality.

PLUS: Beautiful Printed Black-and-White Reversible Blu-ray sleeve featuring a brand new original artwork. Sadly we are not informed who was the brilliant designer.

BONUS: Here we have a brilliant in-depth essay by Film Historian Kevin Brownlow entitled RISKIEST THING I EVER DID: NOTES ON BRIEF ENCOUNTER. Kevin Brownlow is a British Film Historian, television documentary-maker, filmmaker, author, and film editor. Kevin Brownlow is best known for his work documenting the history of the silent film era.

Finally, ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ is the ultimate classic British film for sure, it is also a really well made film and holds up incredibly well and at 86 minutes it is one of the better paced romantic films I have seen in a very long time. But you would be forgiven for thinking that the attitudes, manners and morals expressed in ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTER’ just might be a little dated and no longer have anything relevant to say to a younger modern audience. The film has the benefit of three beautiful performances. Celia Johnson's as the wife, Trevor Howard's as the lover and Cyril Raymond's as the husband. The sweetness, the sobriety, and the fresh delicacy of these performers prevent the film from ever becoming sordid. To my mind, Celia Johnson's face, her walk, and her eyes, can tell a story, or impart a mood, or reveal a confidence without the help of any narrative. Excellent too, as characters in a middle-class milieu are Joyce Carey, Cyril Raymond, Everley Gregg and Stanley Holloway. If this is a film you have been searching for in a very long time, especially with this Region A/1 version, then The Criterion Collection will totally impress you with all the excellent special features that will help you to enhance the film and especially including a fascinating documentary on Sir David Lean. Very Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso 
United Kingdom

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