On May 4, Warner Home Video released Doctor Zhivago on Blu-ray, offering cinephiles and collectors another reference-disc-quality set to show off their home theater, and of course, eat up a few more hours in their movie-loving lives with a wealth of bonus content. The film itself looks amazing, preserving and protecting the integrity of director David Lean's expansive, epic imagery, and looks better than ever thanks to Warner's high-definition remastering process. Meanwhile, along with the film itself, Disc One features a new, two-part retrospective entitled "Doctor Zhivago: A Celebration," from which WHV has generously provided Cinematical with an exclusive clip.
In an age when special effects and even basic visual details seem to be rendered more often in a computer than on an actual set, Lean's work stands out as emblematic of a sadly bygone era. By contemporary standards, Zhivago's storytelling is decidedly antiquated because it never cuts purely to the chase, whether that means a literal action scene or just a simplified explanation of what's happening or what's at stake. The clip below, as deconstructed by famed Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer, reveals how Lean would intercut different images, virtually all of which were wordless, and yet perfectly capture both the story details and the emotional dimensions of what was happening in the sequence:
Suffice it to say that in some ways contemporary directors have been able to condense and accelerate this process in order to tell their stories more efficiently. But Lean's technique and style came to define epic filmmaking for decades, and provides a fascinating counterpoint to today's fast-paced editing and often reductive approach to capturing (much less creating) true spectacle.
The new Doctor Zhivago Blu-ray also features a commentary track by stars Omar Sharif and Rod Steiger as well as a second disc full of some previously-available extras, and a bonus CD soundtrack featuring some of the film's most famous cues. But it's truly the film itself which deserves to be seen the most, and which is the reason to hunt down the new set and see it for yourself. David Lean was unquestionably one of the greatest directors of all time, and this film both exemplifies his distinctive approach and reminds audiences of the impact his work had on moviemaking for decades to come.