A Passage to India ★★½

This Forster adaptation is honestly one of David Lean's better films, in part because of the subtleties of the novel guiding him along, and perhaps more so because it's the only film he made after 1960 in which he really gives actors any room to perform, limiting the attractive landscapes that usually suffocate his films mostly to establishing shots, time lapses and mildly surreal interludes. Forster's political content is only given token appreciation here, and one nod to Black Narcissus is not at all generous to the movie at hand, but this feels mostly like a highly competent if wonkily edited (by Lean himself) BBC film with a few very elaborate shots. It's too long and a bit too staid but it gets something across, which is so much more than you could say for Ryan's Daughter. Peggy Ashcroft received an Oscar but -- for the first of too many times -- Judy Davis deserved it.

Alec Guinness lived the last two decades of his life comfortably thanks to Star Wars, but to the end of his days he resented that such a juvenile film -- and such a relatively phoned-in performance -- overshadowed the rest of his work. Having not liked Star Wars as much as I was supposed to as a kid, and not at all now, I can't disagree with his conclusions about it, but where I differ with him is in any perception that the brownface clown act Lean puts him through here (or in Lawrence or Arabia, frankly) is any less humiliating.

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