A Passage to India David Lean

It figures that a stodgy director cast out of the industry at the dawn of the funky ’70s would rise from the ashes in the middle of the conservative ’80s. But David Lean’s return to glory seems from the wrong era, a throwback not to an earlier style but a parodist’s version of an earlier style. The watered-down E.M. Forster adaptation deals with what happens when an Indian doctor (Victor Bannerjee) is accused of raping a British tourist (Judy Davis) in the twilight of the British Raj. The accusation comes after more than an hour of agonising setup — something you didn’t mind in the novel — that casts Bannerjee as a sappy knucklehead and Davis as an opaque dullard. They’re the unlikely eye of a hurricane that downplays the snobbery of Brit colonials while posing as a critique; Lean barely notices Indian society save for Alec Guinness as Professor Godbole, or a Benny Hill character, or something like that. Not only is it not at all serious about the issues raised by Forster but the filmmaking is primitive enough to make Lean seem a tedious anachronism. There’s been much outcry over the changed ending but you’ll be fast asleep long before then. Extras on the two-disc special edition begin with a commentary with producer Richard Goodwin; the track is devoted to logistical hurdles (such as the lies used to keep people from stealing fruit in a market scene) and Lean-worship of an egregious sort. The second disc details the production soup to nuts, from Forster’s novel to prep, casting, shooting and post-production. They’re pretty interesting but hold back just enough to be frustrating. The most interesting extra is the contemporary interview with Lean discussing his craft. (Sony)