History has been kind to the film that has often been referred to as director David Lean’s one failure, and this new special edition of “Ryan’s Daughter” shows clearly that the movie is of a piece with his more acclaimed work. When the picture was first released in 1970, it was derided for treating an intimate love story in an epic way, but in retrospect, it holds up wonderfully well, and may simply have been the victim of the vagaries of critics during a tumultuous period.
This new release showcases Freddie Young’s glorious (and Oscar-winning) cinematography with a pristine print, and the superb performances of all of the leads speak for themselves. The three-part 35th-anniversary making-of docu is full of intriguing detail — from the gossip that Mitchum and Lean didn’t care for each other to the trivia that South Africa stood in for Ireland for some scenes because the Irish weather was so mercurial.
Screenwriter Robert Bolt memorably reminisces about his collaboration with Lean on this original story. “We argued over every line of dialogue, almost every shot. That’s the degree of closeness in the work.”
One vintage doc is interesting because it was shot during the making of the film, but the short promo piece included is really just an overlong trailer. The commentary track is fine, but it repeats large sections of the interviews from the anniversary doc, which is OK if you don’t watch both.