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
When the film was finally put together and shown to T.E. Lawrence's brother Professor A.W. Lawrence, he was horrified at what he considered liberties taken with history. He called it "an unholy marriage between a Western and a psychological horror," and refused to let them use the title Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He ended up donating most of the money he'd been paid for the rights to charity. See more »
When Allenby and Lawrence visit the officers' bar in Cairo, immediately after Allenby says "Shall we go outside?", a bright yellow American school bus is briefly visible driving by the distant window in the right-middle portion of the frame. 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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