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David Lean

In an expensive bad movie, "production values" are often asked to substitute for drama, but in a good one -- and Lean made some fabulous ones -- the phrase sums up, however inexpressively, the way a director can transform what could be merely pictorial into something exotic, evocative, magical. Lean does it in the opening sequences of his two Dickens movies, Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), where the shadowy graveyard Pip crosses (to meet the escaped convict who inhabits his nightmares) and the storm-whipped countryside Oliver's mother traverses (en route to the poorhouse where she dies in childbirth) have the terrifying and seductive vividness of the landscapes of our most cherished childhood fairy tales. He does it in the opening of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), where a train bearing prisoners of war, rumbling through the jungle, stops dead at the point where other POWs are still laying track. And he does it, most famously, in the moment in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) when he cuts from London to the desert, where the figures of men on camels moving over the sand are like gorgeous butterflies, glimpsed from a distance, in a dizzying expanse of white-hot sky.
Excerpted from: Steve Vineberg's review of David Lean, A Biography, by Kevin Brownlow

 Great Expectations

 Bridge on the River Kwai

 Lawrence of Arabia