there. i said it.
he has made some masterpieces: lawrence of arabia, in which we serve, brief encounter, great expectations, and bridge on the river kwai are the ones that come to mind. on the other hand, he has also made some good but boring films including the one i watched last night summertime with katherine hepburn in a role that is virtually identical to her character in the african queen; a gutsy independent, idontneedaman kinda-thing. it was watchable and at times very enjoyable but there is something ultimately unsatisfying about lean.
blithe spirit, hobson's choice, this happy breed, oliver twist are all good films and they are all very well done but they didnt really drag me in. it certainly werent the stories (noel coward and dickens are pretty worthy writers) or acting (guiness in olivier twist! laughton in hobson's!) so i reasoned it must be the direction.
i looked it up last night and he only directed 18 films and of those, ive seen about 12 of them and while only one of them was actually bad (we will get to that in a minute) the rest were merely good said in a non-chalant 'nothing to go crazy over' kinda way. aside from the 4 films i listed above, i wouldnt really recommend any of his other films nor would i tell people to steer clear.
that brings me to ryan's daughter, his biggest failure and an almost unwatchable self indulgent 3 hour plus "epic" without a center. though its nowhere near heavens gate, it tries to be grander than it is. maybe that is the legend of david lean; a director whose projects are grander than what he is capable of stylistically. of course, i subscribe pretty heavily to the cahier du cinema ideals of a director having a stamp visibly on all their films that make it their own (sorry william wyler and george cukor, your work is indistinguishable from each other)