In the inspired Olivier concept, Shakespeare's play begins as a performance in the Globe Theatre, shifting in broad cinematic terms to an epic narrative of Henry V, who had developed from a... See full summary »
An inordinately complex man who has been labeled everything from hero, to charlatan, to sadist, Thomas Edward Lawrence blazed his way to glory in the Arabian desert, then sought anonymity as a common soldier under an assumed name. The story opens with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident in Dorset at the age of 46, then flashbacks to recount his adventures: as a young intelligence officer in Cairo in 1916, he is given leave to investigate the progress of the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I. In the desert, he organizes a guerrilla army and--for two years--leads the Arabs in harassing the Turks with desert raids, train-wrecking and camel attacks. Eventually, he leads his army northward and helps a British General destroy the power of the Ottoman Empire. Written by
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When T.E. 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 (Lawrence was right-handed), this was probably a momentary lapse that no one noticed, or thought to mention. See more »
Sweeping, epic and literate version of British adventurer and soldier T E Lawrence's experiences in Arabia during the First World War. Lawrence, miraculously well played by Peter O'Toole, "went native" when sent into the desert to find Alec Guinness's Prince Feisal. Before long he was striking out himself against the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which still held sway in the region at the beginning of the last century. Lawrence's efforts to unify the various Arab factions are particularly prescient.
Lawrence became an inspirational warlord whose neutral presence amongst the Arab tribes, lead by Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn, amongst others, served to glue together shifting and uneasy alliances. As well as wrestling with himself, with his own demons, and with the cruel desert environment, the Englishman was also faced with culture clashes which pitted not only the imperialists against the indigenous populations, but also the mercenary practices of the Arab guerillas against the discipline of the British army. In the end, Lawrence himself does not know which side he is on, nor which party he belongs to. Set against a backdrop of the Arabian desert, the nomadic allies under Lawrence's direction, attack and disrupt the Turks' efforts to maintain control of the territory, whilst the elephant - the British army and its heavy guns under General Jack Hawkins - pushes ever deeper into the area: not until his job is done does Lawrence learn that the French and British governments have carved up the middle-east between them and that the battle-lines for the 21st century are already being drawn.
Scripted by the inimitable Robert Bolt and directed by David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia is one of those films without a weakness, despite drawing complaints for its near four hour length. The dialogue, cinematography, soundtrack and especially direction are superlative; likewise the supporting actors. But it is O'Toole at his charismatic best who steals the show in his starring debut; he never looked back. It may take an effort to watch this movie, but is well worth the ride and will, by the bye, provide some insight into the fractious and volatile world of Arab politics.
One of the best films ever made.
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