After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
Due to his knowledge of the native Bedouin tribes, British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence is sent to Arabia to find Prince Faisal and serve as a liaison between the Arabs and the British in their fight against the Turks. With the aid of native Sherif Ali, Lawrence rebels against the orders of his superior officer and strikes out on a daring camel journey across the harsh desert to attack a well-guarded Turkish port. Written by
The film's military adviser, an army officer, went mad with sunstroke, wandering out of his tent in the dark of night shooting at anything that moved across the landscape with live ammunition. He had to be carted away. See more »
When Lawrence is being escorted across the desert on his way to Faisal's camp, his Bedu guide offers to share his food with him. Lawrence is somewhat reluctant but is anxious to show that, unlike other Brits, he is at one with the desert people. He reaches into the guide's proffered dish and takes a morsel - but with his left hand, and he does it twice. The Bedu shows no reaction, but he should: among the desert Bedouin tribes, who eat by hand, the left is kept away from the food as it is the hand with which they clean themselves after defecating. It could be that the guide is observing another Bedouin custom, that of warm hospitality and unstinting generosity to strangers, and is too polite to mention the gaffe (he would probably be aware that many outsiders do not know of the taboo), but it is more likely that it is a genuine error. Peter O'Toole is left-handed, and though he goes to great lengths throughout the rest of the movie to do things right-handedly (T.E. Lawrence was right-handed), this was probably a momentary lapse that no one noticed, or thought to mention. See more »
A man has an inner drive that makes him peculiar and intense. He goes to the desert and falls in love with it and its people. Gaining powerful sponsors, he has a grand vision that he accomplishes by inspiring and directing thousands. But in a very short time, that grand work is compromised and disassembled by fat cats in offices who are concerned with different values.
True of both Lawrence and Lean. The legacy of Lawrence is still in violent disarray (I write this a short time after the Sept 11 attacks on New York). But Lean's vision was saved, and what a vision! Of this picture, it can be said that it is perfect if only because it is so visionary that it defines its own rules.
Lean's vision is also lean, with vast zones of sonic and visual silence -- several meditations on the unperceived. Though there is a story (who are you?) this is really a film of TE's 'Seven Pillars,' which creates a romantic vision of sculpted natural forces. So powerful a depiction that Islam experienced a faddish attraction in the West, a place now enjoyed by Tibetan Buddhism. That was before.
See here the original Obiwan, every intonation, movement and dress. See here Peter O'Toole's personality become completely entwined with the character, who is as fictionalized by our eye as by Lowell's. See the most expressive, anthropomorphic train wreck in history.
Watch a particularly interesting brand of acting by the 'Arabs.' Macho men are acting anyway, so an actor can play an actor when he lands such a role.
The star of the film is the clever eye of God, not the clockmaker or judge of the west but the chess player of the mirage. Its face is clearest in my mind when the Turk holds TE down for torture and smiles. Its hand in the creaking of Feisal's tent -- who would ever imagine the wind acting? (Kurosawa's 'Ran' at the beginning is the only other example I know.)
I have a few films I admire for various. mostly intellectual qualities. But in the direct matter of visual storytelling, this one tops my list.
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