David Lean’s studied, plodding, overanalytic direction manages to kill most of the meaning in E.M. Forster’s haunting novel of cultural collision in colonial India, reducing Forster’s complexities of point of view to a pat tale of an uptight British virgin (Judy Davis) who freaks out in the face of some dimly perceived native “sensuality.” Still, Lean’s method affords its small pleasures, even if they aren’t those of good storytelling: he approaches every project as a strategic challenge, and his way of maneuvering characters in and out of the action has the elegance of a sophisticated battle plan. Though Lean apparently spent a good deal of time on location, the film’s most successful evocations of exotic landscape arrive through lovely, blatantly false matte paintings that recall the stylized, all-studio “India” of Michael Powell’s similarly themed (and far superior) Black Narcissus. With Peggy Ashcroft, James Fox, Alec Guinness, and Victor Banerjee (1984). 163 min.