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IMDb Top 250: 54
Continuing my David Lean unit, I devoted an afternoon to watching Lawrence of Arabia: one of the most iconic, legendary, and celebrated films of all time. Widely regarded as Lean's masterpiece, I was really excited: The Bridge on the River Kwai exceeded my expectations. The number one 'Epic' movie according to the AFI, I expected a roaring tribute to success, an aura of victory and grand scale, and lots of sand. I got 2 of those.
Lawrence of Arabia follows Lawrence's life during World War I, with one scene after his death. Right from the start there's something different about the film: for 4 minutes, there is no picture, only sound- the overture prepares you for the atmosphere of the desert, and for the nearly 4 hour journey ahead.
The first scene is very interesting, and anyone who knows any history won't consider it spoilers: after his crash, the viewer objectively sees Lawrence's funeral. There, reporters ask people about him, and they call him a great man- but almost none have actually met him. By showing his funeral first, a viewer doesn't fear for Lawrence's safety throughout the film: we can focus on his character and his actions.
From there, there is a hard cut to many years previous, and the adventure that is the middle eastern theatre of WWI begins. The Middle East is an interesting setting, virtually unexplored by Western film. In this film, we see enough of it to make up for the deficiency. We also learn about the belligerents of the conflict, Arabs who unite to displace the Turkish, who Lawrence describes as "silly people" who will be small until they can stop arguing between their tribes.
Lawrence had a fascinating life that makes for a great story, but it's good that we only see the WWI section of it: the film couldn't be any more sprawling without losing all cohesion.
The film takes its time, and that's something critical to a viewers enjoyment of the film. We see Lawrence trekking through the desert a lot. The length of the film is quite daunting, but it never feels slow, because of the sweeping scenery and fantastic soundtrack. The pace is like a jog: it never really quickens, even in battle, but there's always the sense that movement is happening.
Arabia jumps from scene to scene like a roller-coaster. There are sequences of talk, then walking through the desert, then a battle, followed by talking... it covers all the bases. Great scenes include Ali's entrance, Aqaba, and the massacre (a surprisingly dark scene). For such an epic film, I expected more depth to the battles. They are skimmed over, and one key fight isn't even shown at all!
If there's one thing I've learned so far from this unit, it's that David Lean can shoot a beautiful film. Lawrence of Arabia has the most stunning photography, I dare call it the perfect visual film. Be it desert in every direction, canyons, huge camps, horses charging to a city, or just the sun, this has the most massive scale in film. It's a shame, and one cannot stress this enough, that this film as of December 2011 does not exist on Blu Ray.
Equal to the visual is the audio. The music is perfect for the desert, with a sweeping band playing the overture that has middle eastern flair. The sound effects are brilliant, like the wind, explosions, or even the sound of the heat of the sun.
Lean does a very good job of directing. This film has a marginally larger scale than Bridge on the River Kwai, but loses the focus that film had. However, as your teachers once taught you, quantity does not equal quality, and in this case, grand does not instantly equate to great: I can't just love the movie because it's so big.
Finally, the acting. Unless you live under a rock, Lawrence's portrayal, and his character in general, is legendary. In his tour-de-force, Peter O'Toole (I was shocked this was his first major film) portrays the outspoken and impulsive Lawrence. His motives are complicated, he is a difficult to understand person. *******SPOILERS FOR A 50 YEAR OLD MOVIE******* Over the course of the film, he develops, at first for the better, but then he deteriorates. His ego gets the better of him, and he finds himself in a terrible situation. This situation, in which he is implicitly raped, is far too vague, even for the 60's. What makes that worse is that it is a key part of his development, and would be far easier to understand if even a small visual cue was added. In the end, he goes home dejected, a failure to himself, despite being a hero of the people. This is a central theme I picked out, which is the myth vs. man. Ironically,the whole film represents that theme. Perhaps things happened Lawrence didn't write about, and we see only the good and (perhaps) relatively bad. ***END SPOILERS***
The film has good support, but it is clearly O'Toole's show. You can learn a lot about someone through their interactions, and the point of the film is to learn about Lawrence. Hence, Sharif Ali is Lawrence's closest friend. We see their initial conflict, gaining of respect, and relationship. Through Ali, we see when Lawrence's fragile mental state is apparent.
Where Bridge on the River Kwai was about the waste of war, this is about the glory of war- until it's not. As Lawrence says, "Nothing is written", sadly ironic for the passionate young man.
I don't think a film like this will ever be made again. Not at this scale, not at this length. Unlike many biographical films, LoA leaves in the true ending, with his rise and fall. Despite the unhappy end, Lawrence of Arabia is a spectacle of cinematic achievement. 9.1/10
David Lean's 1962 blockbuster filmed on a grand scale still remains one of the most influential blockbusters of all time with battle scenes that still look amazing today. It tops even The Bridge on the River Kwai in terms of epic storytelling. Peter O'Toole hits the character of Lawrence right on the nose and Guinness also gets a great role that allows him to expand with his acting technique. Yet the budget and the sheer effort that went into this filmmaking is what really makes this one so interesting to watch for over 3 hours. Few blockbusters have such an emphasis on psychological idiosyncrasies than Lean's film. That is why Lean is more advanced in storytelling against DeMille or Stevens.
Back in 62, my brother came home after watching "Lawrence of Arabia" and proclaimed to me that it was the best picture he had ever seen and will likely ever see. After hearing this, I had to see it! After watching it, I now find myself saying the very same thing to anyone who will listen. Every element that I use to judge a movie was met and surpassed leaving me astonished that I couldn't find a single flaw in the movie. Yes, it's a bit long but if you get caught up with it like my brother and I did, that doesn't bother you in the least. Every character was perfectly cast and delivered brilliantly. T.E. Lawrence was unknown to me prior to seeing this movie and it was great to get a glimpse of this character out of that era who was so different than his counterparts. If any other British Serving Officer had been given that assignment, history in that region would have turned out quite different. David Lean, so I understand, prepared himself for this project for several years because he wanted to get it right and oh my what a great job he did. To truly appreciate just how great this movie is, you have to view it many times and hone in on the dialogue and delivery.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is based on the life of T.E. Lawrence.It shows us his Arabian adventure on a camel in the desert.It goes through his battles.Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is David Lean's long classic.It won seven Oscars, including Best Director and Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre).Peter O'Toole is amazing as Lawrence.He would have earned an Oscar from his performance, but he only got a nomination.It's a real shame that to this day the man has not won one single Oscar, only an Academy Honorary Award in 2003.And he has been nominated eight times! The rest of the cast is superb as well.Alec Guinness plays Prince Feisal.Anthony Quinn portrays Auda Abu Tayi.Omar Sharif portrays Sheriff Ali.José Ferrer is Turkish Bey.Claude Reins gives the portrayal of Mr. Dryden.Arthur Kennedy plays Jackson Bentley.I.S. Johar plays Gasim.Farraj and Daud are played by Michel Ray and John Dimech.There are many memorable scenes in the movie, one being where Lawrence executes Gasim.And Daud getting killed to a quicksand.Or Lawrence's torture scene.Lawrence of Arabia is a classic not to be missed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How does one make a film about a figure that just as many felt was a
hero, as felt was a villain. That was the question posed to one of the
greatest directors in American cinematic history, David Lean.
Strangely, the film starts off with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident. We then see his funeral, complete pageantry befitting a man of Lawrence's accomplishments. And as one man tells a reporter that Lawrence was a great man, he takes no time to degrade Lawrence as the reporter walks away. This prompts an man eavesdropping to defend Lawrence, even though he only knew him through press clippings. And here is where the story begins.
We find Lawrence at his beginnings, a rather average British solider given a rather average task. He spends most of his days sitting behind a desk, until he gets an assignment. One that calls for him to seek out Prince Fiesel, played by Alec Guiness in perhaps his greatest performance. Torn between two countries, Lawrence is caught between what he feels is loyalty to help a struggling people, and the orders from the military in his native land.
Lawrence is a complex man who can be calm, and charismatically charming one moment, has shown in his concern for two orphans he takes under his wing, to a brutal man with the ability to kill without remorse.
The film makes no apologies for Lawrence, painting a brutally honest picture on the man, and leaving the question to the audience. Was Lawrence a good man, or an evil one with dreams of being a God? Yes the film is 3 hours long, but take heart, there is actually a intermission in the film. However, this film is paced well, the story is interesting, Peter O'Toole, Omar Shariff, and Alec Guiness are all amazing performers who each give the best performance. In a small role as a ruthless dictator, Jose Ferrer, and Claude Rains, know for his role as Captain Louis Renault, plays the role of Mr. Dryden. An epic movie made from a Hollywood that has sadly faded away. This is one of the movies they are talking about when they say "they don't make them like they used to."
David Lean's stunning 1962 portrait of the fabled World War One adventurer is sometimes hard to pin down, and perhaps for good reason. Filming Robert Bolt's thoughtful script against the spectacular wide-screen panoramas of ace cinematographer Freddie Young, with Maurice Jarre's justifiably famous music score for support, makes it all too easy to overlook some of the finer nuances of such a complex character. Lawrence went into the desert not only to enlist Arab aid against the Turks, but also (in modern jargon) in a quest of self-discovery. In the end he found more than he bargained for, after being transfigured by the unforgiving landscape into something more than just an ordinary man, but something less than the near-deity all but worshipped by his Arab hosts. The length of the film (overture included) is intimidating, but seeing it again on the big screen shames the petty ambitions of today's ersatz blockbusters, proving in truly epic proportions that intelligent entertainment is not an oxymoron.
"Lawrence of Arabia" had been on my must-watch movies list for a long
time. There was so much I had heard and read about it. A lot had been
written about this epic saga of T.E. Lawrence as being one of the
greatest and most influential films of all time, revered by many great
directors including Martin Scorsese.
I finally got a chance to see it recently, and considering all the good things I had heard about it, I must admit that my expectations were quite high.
"Lawrence of Arabia" tells the story of Lt. Colonel T.E. Lawrence, focussing on his war experiences in Arabia during World War I. A topic of such vast proportions needed an equally ambitious project to pull it off, and indeed, the filmmakers have put in a lot of efforts in painting this huge canvas and achieving what they'd set out to. Peter O'Toole plays the eponymous T.E. Lawrence. The film starts out with the accidental death of T.E. Lawrence in the present. The film then flashes back to narrate the story of how Lawrence was sent on a mission to evaluate the situation in Arabia, pertaining to Prince Faisal and his revolt against the Ottoman Turks.
Rest of the film then shows Lawrence's own involvement in leading the Arabs in the battle against Turks. So needless to say, you are presented with extravagant battle scenes, and long, never-ending desert treks, Lawrence's new-found friendships, his emotional ups and downs and some difficult choices that he is presented with. The director heavily indulges in showing off the beautifully shot desert landscapes (with the excellent Super Panavision 70 cinematography by Freddie Young).
"Lawrence of Arabia" lived up to my expectations during most of its long running time. In fact a lot more during the first two hours of the film. But something happened in the final act. Somehow the whole film seemed to go a bit awry and disoriented for some reasons which I am finding difficult to put in words. Suffice to say that it wasn't the overwhelming experience I thought it would be. For one, I think the film could have easily been cut short. A lot of time has been spent on desert treks and their long journeys through it. Yes, these scenes do require detail to show the hardships these men must've faced while crossing those perilous desert lands. But I somehow feel the director went too far in his attempt. So much so that the events taking place in the final 30-45 minutes seem too abrupt and disconnected.
There have been films as long as this and longer, but they have enough substance to fill those long hours. There are sufficient examples ('The Godfather Part II', 'Schindler's List', 'Seven Samurai' to name a few). "Lawrence of Arabia" has enough substance, yes, but a running time of 216 minutes, was simply not necessary.
That aside, the film, of course has plenty of plusses: As mentioned earlier, Freddie Young's cinematography is superb, so is Maurice Jarre's inspirational score. David Lean does a great job in directing this script by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, but falls a little short of expectations in terms of distribution of the content. Nonetheless, this was in itself a magnificent, ambitious project and a difficult one at that, so it is not fair to nitpick too much.
The cast: Peter O'Toole's performance is widely talked about. For me, frankly it was somewhat inconsistent. Not to take away any merits from the Legendary actor's acting talent. He was, in fact, great in some scenes. But I was slightly put off by the sometimes nervous, sometimes excessively confident behaviour. Then there were some scenes in which he went way over the top in displaying his emotions. Maybe it was the director who wanted O'Toole to act like that and O'Toole gave the director what he wanted.
The supporting cast is great, especially Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn and Alec Guiness. I had seen Anthony Quinn in Fellini's "La Strada" earlier and it was great to see him display such versatility.
All said, "Lawrence of Arabia" is a great film, but falls a tad short of being a masterpiece in my book.
However, it definitely deserves to be watched at least once by any serious lover of cinema.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The celebrated scholar and mapmaker T.E. Lawrence's (Peter O'Toole)
adventures and life with the Arabs, and the inspiration help he offered
them in resisting the Turks, told in flashbacks after his accidental
death in the 1930s.
Lawrence Of Arabia is a sprawling epic that does full justice to its contradictory, remarkably complex hero. It's a triumph of large-scale film-making that demonstrates brain as well as budget. O'Toole is mesmerising in the title role, though the relative newcomer Omar Sharif also rose to the occasion magnificently; it's a sign of this film's power that Sharif's first entrance on screen - a long, long fixed shot as he approaches across the hot, shimmering sands, not only holds the audience's attention but is actively spell-binding. Director David Lean would never again scale such heights. The dramatic score by Maurice Jarre and the Super Panavision 70 cinematography by Freddie Young are also highly acclaimed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Greatest biopic ever"..."Genius in 70mm"..."A Miracle of a Movie"...
All these statements were said somewhere about Lawrence of Arabia. And its understandable. It was some kind of madness to make a movie like this. You know, working in the middle of desert for some long time, those extraordinary ways of photography,(Freddie Young kept constant diaphragm for all shots of the movie, Go Figure!) and working with that huge amount of actors...It was real madness.
But it all works in a weird way. Lawrence of Arabia is more than a glorious, expensive, old biopic movie. Its just the ultimate movie about desert. I can feel the rays of the burning sun of Arabia desert every time i watch the movie, even if I'm watching it on a small 17inch monitor. Okay, lets say it doesn't have the greatest script ever, but the script also works because it doesn't try to solve the mystery about Lawrence. At the end of the movie we still don't know much about Lawrence. Compare it with another biopics that try to tell everything about the character they are depicting. Lawrence keeps the mystery and looks fresh every time you see it, just like Citizen Kane.
Lawrence of Arabia is one of those movies that define what great acting is. Some legendary actors play some legendary characters. Peter O'Toole shines all through the movie and shines eternally for the rest of cinema. If this was his one and only movie he still would be one of the greatest screen actors ever. Still, Alec Guinness may be the best of the best here. The way he shows the founder of Saudi kingdom is just unforgettable, funny and awesome all at the same time. Omar Sharif is excellent too as the macho Arabian who falls for Lawrence(yes. Lawrence of Arabia is full of gay themes)and Anthony Quinn arguably plays the ultimate wild, uncivilized man.
Lawrence of Arabia is the perfect movie experience. Its overlong(for some people, you know), there is almost no woman in the movie(radical feminists may also hate the movie for that, believe me i have seen it!)and the ordinary man looking to learn something about history may not like it because it keeps many questions unanswered. Then again, Lawrence is not the ordinary movie for every man, though its utterly enjoyable and utterly watchable, its one of those very special works of art in the history of cinema that may not be very well understood but will always be praised.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's hard for the small screen to do justice to such a sweeping
cinematographic epic, but there is much more to this film than its
visual majesty. The film has one of the most beautiful and recognized
scores in the history of cinema, a fascinating subject in the person of
T.E. Lawrence himself, one of the most literate screenplays ever
written, and a wonderful supporting cast nearing perfection. It is a
shame that unless you take the time to buy the DVD and invest the
almost four hours it takes to watch it, you are likely to miss out on
one of the best films ever made. It is precisely because of its length
that it is seldom seen on TV anymore. The backdrop of the film is that
the British, in the midst of fighting World War I, are aiding the Arab
struggle for independence from the Turks since anything that ties up
the Turks accomplishes the British goal of destroying the Ottoman
Empire and thus aids in the war effort. T. E. Lawrence is first
enlisted to help advise the Arabs in their military goals, but goes on
to lead them in a series of stunning military victories that goes way
beyond what the British expected of the Arabs, and quite frankly, way
beyond what the British wanted. You see, the British had designs on
claiming Arabia for themselves after the war ends, years before it was
discovered that Arabia was sitting on the world's richest oil supply.
However, this is really an oversimplification of a very complex film. This movie is so multi-faceted that you could tackle reviewing it from several angles. To me one of the most fascinating aspects of the film is the complex relationship and contrast between Sheriff Ali (Omar Sharif), fellow tribesman and counsel to Prince Feisal, and T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole). When the two first meet Ali shoots down Lawrence's Arab companion who is taking him to first meet Feisel because the man is drinking from Ali's well and does not have permission to do so. An outraged Lawrence chastises Ali citing that Arabia will never be great as long as they war amongst themselves and that he is "barborous and cruel". Towards the end of the film, though, there is a reversal of roles as Ali tries to stop a massacre that Lawrence is not only allowing his troops to participate in, but seems to be genuinely enjoying. Ali is a man who has a good bead on who he is and what he believes. Not having this quality is Lawrence's greatest shortcoming. Lawrence either believes he is much less than he is or much more, depending on his latest exploits and who has talked to him last. Ali clearly sees this problem, and by the end of the film Ali is Lawrence's fast friend - in fact his only true friend. You see, Lawrence is being used by both the Arabs and the British. This becomes immensely clear when at the end of the film Prince Feisel, who has always seemed to be genuine towards Lawrence, says during negotiations with the British "Lawrence is a double-edged sword - We are equally glad to be rid of him, are we not?". By the way, the role of Ali has to be Sharif's finest hour as an actor. I always thought Dr. Zhivago was that finest role, and it is still a great performance, but this one is even better.
There are so many other themes going on in this film - the thin line between madness and heroism, the worth of a single human life versus the welfare of an entire army or a nation, the sometimes less than honorable motives behind those fighting for the honorable goal independence, the contrast between western and Arab values - that you could go on forever. That is why I strongly recommend this film. You'll probably come away with something a little different on each viewing.
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