Brief Encounter

In DVD/Blu-ray by Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Film legends Sophia Loren and Richard Burton star in this moody adaptation of Noel Coward’s emotional rollercoaster about a chance meeting that blossoms into an intense—and forbidden—affair. 

The 1945 David Lean movie has, of course, been widely cited as one of the greatest films of all time—in part thanks to the performances of Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, who play the whole thing out with a heavy helping of soul-crushing misery.

The 1970s paring of Loren and Burton, should at least have added some fire to the tale. Yet, sadly it never really works because Coward’s play hinges on the oppressive nature of society, which Lean showed as both literally and metaphorically suffocating the would-be lovers. 

The idea that Loren and Burton would ever give a damn what society thinks, is a major part of the problem. Here we have a couple of famously volatile, beautiful celebrities, in the liberated 1970s, acting like a pair of buttoned-down, middle-age war-time Brits—and it doesn’t quite wash. That’s not to say that this isn’t a good film. It’s simply that Lean set the bar so high, any comparisons are sure to be unflattering.

Directed by BAFTA-winning Alan Bridges and scripted by John Bowen (both of whom had worked to great acclaim on TV’s Play For Today), Network’s new release features a brand-new remaster of the original theatrical widescreen and the as-filmed full-frame aspect ratio. The widescreen version comes from a new transfer and the fullscreen from an upscale of the existing Standard Definition master. The pictures still display some faults, including colour fluctuations, dirt, scratches, film movement, light drops, and missing frames but the overall result is pleasing. Burton and Loren fans will undoubtedly be pleased to finally have this remastered edition to add to their collections.