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I first saw this film on its release, aged 13, and it forms an
important part of my transition towards adulthood. I am pleased to see
that it consistently rates 20something in the IMDb listings, even from
others (whom I envy, for I can't see it with fresh eyes) who are seeing
it for the first time. Pleasing too is that some of those are also
teenagers, for whom a forty-three year old film must itself seem part
of the past. As for the minority who are bored by intentionally slow
pacing (and for whom punctuation, paragraphing and grammar are a lost
art), I suggest they learn a little about the history of film-making
(from which it may become apparent that much of today's fast editing
techniques were invented in the 1920s: try Eisenstein's October, for
From the universally admired cinematography of Freddie Young, the long shot of Omar Sharif's floating mirage entry, the pre-CGI battles and pan-up scene changes, to O'Toole's florid but career-defining performance and the (then) novel time-shift narrative, this film set standards not matched even by Lean himself, and, as many reviewers have commented, financially and practically unlikely to be attempted today. I too have rarely seen such clarity of image outside of Imax, and in my view the script by Robert Bolt (and I now have learnt, an uncredited Michael Wilson) is the finest in cinema. Maurice Jarre's music and some of the acting style now seem a little excessive, but repeated viewing (around 35 times in my case) does not diminish the impact and quality, and the restoration and now DVD release still, after all these years, approaches the effect of that first 1962 viewing.
It is rare that repeated watching of a film (as opposed to a live performance) does this, and the reasons go beyond the photography, performances and editing. In my opinion, it is because the characterisation and storytelling encourage an appreciation of the ambiguity and inconsistency behind our motives and behaviour, and, in a wartime scenario, in the contrast between political expedience and personal morality. For a 13-year old, this opened a window into the adult world, and it explains why the story has resonance far beyond its setting. The film doesn't require an understanding of middle-east politics (though it does have some very current relevance), but it does require an ability to look, listen and understand. The fact that so many people rate it so highly says everything about its wider impact. When The Matrix and even Lord of the Rings have slipped out of the ratings (and the adolescents who inhabit these pages have grown up), I believe this film will still be in the 20s or 30s, perhaps enabling young people to once again see the world through adult eyes.
Like Ali, I fear Lawrence. I fear the power of art to change us, to challenge our preconceptions. Every time I see this film I learn a little more, discover something new. When I was 13 I didn't understand much, but this film helped me to see that I wanted more, knew more, than my peers. I can't rate it more highly than that.
It is, in a way, depressing to watch this movie today. One winds up
contrasting it with the sort of technologically slick and aesthetically
shallow spectacles, like "Titanic", that garner the sort of adulation
that a truly great movie like "Lawrence" received in its day, and one
realizes how far we have fallen.
Ignore David Lean's painterly technique, the way he fills the screen like a canvas. Ignore Freddie Young's stunning cinematography in fulfillment of Lean's vision. Ignore the fabulous score by Maurice Jarre. Ignore the stupendous cast. Ignore the topnotch script.
What we have, beyond all this, is an absolutely gripping and psychologically perplexing character study of a uniquely enigmatic individual that keeps us on the edge of our seats for the full length of the movie. "Lawrence", at over 200 minutes, goes by faster than many a movie of half its length, due to Lean's brilliant pacing and direction, and superb acting all around. To make a comparison in the world of music, this movie, like Mahler's 8th symphony, is a universe contained within itself.
Of course, it is an exercise in self-denial and philistinism to watch this movie in anything other than the wide-screen - or "letterbox" - format, due to Lean's complete use of every inch of the wide screen. To watch it otherwise is to miss half of Lean's intention.
To use a hackneyed phrase, they simply don't make 'em like this anymore.
I first saw this movie on a scratchy VHS almost twenty years ago (I was
10). Liked it (sort of-enjoyed the battle scenes and the train blowing
up), but didn't understand why my dad was so crazy about it.
The next time was on laserdisc (remember those?) almost 10 years ago and I was hooked. I finally got it - the conflict, the performances, the music, the dialogue - all mesmerising.
But it was only in 2002, when I saw the 40th-anniversary reissue on 70mm that I was completely blown away seeing the scale, the enormity of Lean's accomplishment. There were scenes that gave me goosepimples (the opening credits, the cut from the matchstick to the desert sunrise, "nothing is written" - others too numerous to mention).
The point of this rather rambling review is this - a movie that can evoke such passion in its admirers stands by itself, beyond reviews or criticism. If you haven't seen it yet I envy you, because you get to experience it for the first time.
I first watched "Lawrence of Arabia" when I was about 11 years old.
Being a big fan of Steven Spielberg at that time, I was sort of awed by
the fact that this was his personal favorite (check the "conversation
with Steven Spielberg" featurette in the special features disk and
you'll really see Spielberg's affection for that film)
Over the years, Lawrence remained among my DVD collection, and I can't say I actually watched it since that first time, when, by the way, I didn't really like it. But "time does things to movies", and when I watched it again last year, I found my eyes to be weeping at the end. It instantly became one of my favorite movies.
Since then I learned a lot about the history of cinema, and I also learned a great deal about the movies of Sir David Lean. I found my self watching films like "Brief Encounter", "The Bridge on the River Kwai", "Doctor Zhivago", "Ryan's Daughter", and the underrated, "A passage to India". Lean became one of my favorite directors, and, just a few months ago, I decided to watch Lawrence with some friends. Although I had seen it a couple of times before, this time it was a different experience altogether: from the starting credits, to the blowing of the match, the crossing of the Nefud dessert, finding Gassim and bringing him back to the camp, the invasion of Aqaba, his torture and rape (?), Lawrence's laugh after the slap by the "outrageaous" guy, his being left alone, to the final gaze to the motorcycle. I sensed something when I watched that film, which leaves my with the undoubted feeling that "Lawrence of Arabia" is the greatest film ever made. For me, this is it. Ever since '62, it's been a downfall. No other film has managed to reach Lawrence in its poetic greatness. Few do come very close (Vertigo for instance).
If we are to classify the two complete different cinematic styles, it would be those of Hitchcock and Ford. Hitch was a very "confined" director. He captured his movies from the point of view of one character. His movies took place, most of the time, in closed spaces. In a sense, Hitchcock's films were a journey in people's emotions and a study in people's characters. On the other hand, Ford was an open director. He wasn't confined to one character, or one location, his films where actual journeys. His basis was mostly on theme, and his main ability was to amaze with his imagery. Thus, these are the two different shooting styles....Well, Lean combines both.
Which is basically why his best film, Lawrence, is the best film of all times. But not only in terms of style. Also, in terms of content. The intelligent script written by Robert Bolt, the powerhouse performances by O'Toole and Shariff (a shame they didn't get the statuette), but also, the ultimately heroic yet tragic figure of T.E. Lawrence, contribute in making this the most visually and emotionally sweeping film of the last 111 years.
Such a shame that Lean retired for 14 years after "Ryan's Daughter", there's no way to know where he would have gotten.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am totally amazed by some of the negative responses to this film. Yes
it is a long film; a very long film. Perhaps this is a symptom of the
short attention spans of people today. But you know what? I wish it was
3 or 4 times longer. Every time this film finishes I compare it to the
badly acted special effects laden rubbish that passes for 'epic' cinema
these days and wish that T.E Lawrence had his motorcycle accident at 93
(rather than 47 as he did in 1935) so I could have had more of Peter O'
Toole's electrifying performance.
The cinematography is acknowledged as being some of the the best in any film ever. When Mr Lean wanted to capture a sun rise, he stood in the dark (in a REAL desert) and waited for the sun to REALLY rise (No computerized nonsense in this film). As for the reviewer who thought Lawrence looked like a homosexual because he had a 'effeminate' walk, well ... I can only hope that one day he joins the 21st century; hero's aren't all musclebound apes, leaders aren't all fluffy paragons of virtue, and so what if he did turn out to be homosexual?
If you and you dad like watching a man being whipped before being violated there is, I believe, a wealth of material available to cater for your taste at your local pornography shop.
In my opinion its one of the best films ever made and certainly the best film I've seen based on real events.
Forget the length feel the quality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The definitive epic of the cinema's history. "Lawrence of Arabia" is hands-down the finest production of the 1960s and makes a strong case as the best movie ever made. The titled character (Oscar-nominee Peter O'Toole in his career-defining role) dies in a freak motorcycle accident in the early-1930s in his homeland of England. In spite of being honored by the nation, many knew nothing of him. Some loved him, others despised him, but no one seemed to know the man at all. Flashbacks immediately start as we meet the character during World War I. He is a lieutenant assigned to mundane duties, but suddenly he is thrust into a greater role in North Africa. He is to assist a Saudi Arabian prince (Alec Guinness). The goal is to fight off the dreaded Turkish regime that poses a threat to the Arabs. If the Turks take over this land in Africa, what will it mean for the English? This concern leads to those in charge (most notably Claude Rains) wanting the titled character to help the Arabs to win their freedom back from the Turks. With the help of allies Omar Sharif (Oscar-nominated) and Anthony Quinn, among a whole host of others, O'Toole starts to assist the Arabs in their all-or-nothing task. An ambitious American journalist (Arthur Kennedy) wants to tell O'Toole's story in the hopes of getting the U.S. interested in the war (basically trying to get his nation involved in World War I by presenting them with a larger-than-life hero). During the venture O'Toole becomes a bit war-crazed and looks at himself as a sort of Christ-like figure who thinks of himself as immortal. O'Toole proves to be someone who is very at home in combat and when the combat is over, will he be able to function properly? Franklin J. Schaffner's "Patton" benefited greatly from David Lean's (Oscar-winning for directing) masterpiece. This Best Picture Oscar winner from 1962 just grows in importance as the years pass by. "Lawrence of Arabia" is a thinking person's film that is much, much deeper than it appears on the surface (and it appears deep on the surface to start with). The film deals with a slice of history that really did not seem that important back during World War I, but the situations in the Middle East now are greatly due to T.E. Lawrence's acts nearly a century ago. Did leading the Arabs to freedom make the world a safer place? This is the main question that Lean's film raises. Guinness' character is someone who changes almost immediately near the end of the production and it is a somewhat frightening foreshadower of things to come. A monumental milestone in film-making that stands so tall against all the other great productions of all eras. 5 stars out of 5.
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
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" is one of the few films that
legitimately deserves to be called great
It appears on virtually all
"ten best" lists and reveals deeper layers of meaning with repeated
Lean, a man devoted to the art, gives "Lawrence of Arabia" its spectacular values... He unifies the sand and the sun to flame out the silver screen... Maurice Jarre's terrific music escorts the appearance and disappearance of the sun below the horizon in the sleepy desert...
"Lawrence of Arabia" is a prodigious labor, a masterful mixture of fact and artistry, a masterpiece of intimate moment and spectacular largesse, a film that literally excites the senses... In a visual sense, Lean combines a sure sense of place with an approach to the action that he borrows from an unlikely sourceJohn Ford Lean turns his vast desert canvas into another Monument Valley, and when his Bedouins ride across it, they are not far removed from Ford's cavalry In many of the early scenes, the stately gait of the camel's walk gives the film a slower pace, and this is precisely what Lean is trying to achieve Lean even manages to surpass Ford with his understanding of the relationship between his characters and the landscape; how the desert changes those who go into it
The film is the story of a solitary adventurer who always knew he was different, but in Arabia he discovers that his proportions are heroic... Perhaps this is the secret of Lawrence of the legends that at the bottom of all the violent action is a protagonist about whom one cares... A puzzling personality whom one glimpses but never fully understands... Throuhout the picture one has a sense of a man discovering his own unique dimensions...
Lawrence's mission, largely his own creation, is to unite the feuding Bedouin tribes under the leadership of Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness), and to keep the British politicians, as personified by Mr. Dryden (Claude Rains), from putting the Arabs under their colonial thumb after World War I is over It is accomplished through a semi-episodic series of battles and raids where Lawrence is sometimes accompanied by Ali (Omar Sharif) and Sheik Auda (Anthony Quinn), and equally difficult bureaucratic struggles he faces with Gen. Allenby (Jack Hawkins).
All the conventional elements of the genre are at peaks of excellence here: The stretch desert with its white golden sands; peril, anywhere and everywhere; dangerfor Lawrence of Arabia is a film about guerrilla warfare; prowessLawrence crosses Sinai on foot; physical tortureLawrence in the hands of the Turkish bey; impossible mission Lawrence takes the seaport of Jordan from behind; ruthlessnessLawrence shouting 'take no prisoners' leading his men to put to death a Turkish column...
Every component is here, everything one needs for a great adventure film, many spectacular sequences, each of them so perfect: Lean cuts to the sun again and again, turning it into a character; the scene in Feisal's tent when Lawrence first talks with the king; Lawrence striding on top of a captured train, parading before rows of cheering Arabs; the scene between Lawrence and Ferrer illuminating Lawrence's strange perversity, a mixture of masochism and repressed homosexuality; the scene when a Beduin prince appears on his camel, an exceedingly long take in which a strange figure is first resolved out of waves of heat and then, as he approaches, becomes a frightening threat to Lawrence's escort at the desert well...
The photography, the script and the acting are so superb that "Lawrence of Arabia" becomes a lavish epic winner of 7 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Directing, Color, Cinematography, Sound, Muscial Score and Film Editing...
The fact that 744 people on the Internet Movie Database gave Lawrence of Arabia a "1" one the the 1-10 scale is outright obscene. Not only is Lawrence of Arabia one of the best cinematic achievements of all time, and historically intriguing to boot, it's a just plain great film with a little bit of something for everyone, including a rich historical plot, vibrant characters, great setting, and plenty of fabulously choreographed battle scenes. The film is also topical for today's society, for example: "Why is terrorism so popular in the middle east today? Well, it might just have something to do with the fact T.E. Lawrence encouraged the Arab tribes to deal with their Ottoman occupiers using bombs and machine guns." How anyone with eyes and ears could dislike this movie that much is beyond my comprehension.
When it come to making epics, David Lean is the master and what better
than this masterpiece. "Lawrence Of Arabia" was first shown in 1962 and
after almost 40 years later, it is still beautiful. The story of T. E.
Lawrence is wonderfully brought to us by David Lean, director of another
masterpiece called "The Bridge On The River Kwai".
David Lean has shown us a man's long, yet never boring (at least for me) journey into the deserts of Arabia. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is an ordinary man that becomes a hero (at least in my eyes) during his extensive tenure in Arabia. He becomes a traveler, a great man, and a leader to the people that he has associated with. Only director David Lean could have given us a movie experience like this.
An assortment of phenomenal actors are collected for this movie and what a cast! Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guiness and so much more portray their characters with intensity and believability. Never have I been so impressed. As Lawrence, Peter O'Toole plays the role of which his name is most associated with and is surprising for me that he made the role his own because before I got a chance to see this movie I imagined a man opposite from someone like Peter O'Toole. Omar Sharif as Ali is one of the most charismatic characters in film history. I will not say anymore about the cast because I'm allowed only 1,000 words to use in my comment.
Will all do respect to classics such as "Gone With The Wind" and even "Bridge on the River Kwai"this is without a doubt the most exciting epic of all time. I highly recommend it!
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