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Wow, a great epic movie. L of A show's T.E Lawrence, not purely in a heroic
light, but the complex figure the man was.
Lawrence was a confident leader of men, but also arrogant & naive, the last two qualities becoming more evident as the film wears on.
The Acting in this film is brilliant, especially Peter O'Toole & Omar Sharif. A film that is a must see for all film lovers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To put the running time of 'Lawrence of Arabia' in perspective, it is
watching four 55-minute programs in a row. I watched it in three
last night, this morning, and this evening. Then I watched the opening
(after the dark screen musical intro) again, which had much more impact
seeing it the very first time. The DVD is just marvelous. The original
was shot in 70mm film format, which gives a remarkably beautiful picture,
and the transfer to DVD was done very well. Even without a good story,
photography alone can keep one interested. However it is a good story,
this misfit, under utilized as a map maker in the British military in
sent to Arabia and, much like a modern day 'Joan of Arc', motivates them
unite and defeat the Turks. Peter O'Toole creates a memorable 'Lawrence
SPOILERS follow, tread carefully. The very opening scene is years after Lawrence came home to England, he is on his motorcycle, going down a narrow country road, increasing his speed, until cresting a hill sees two bicyclists in his lane, he swerves and brakes, highsides, goes off the road, and is killed. The irony is, after surviving unbelievable conditions and savage tribes in Arabia, he died near home in a silly motorcycle accident. As the movie itself develops, we see in his first desert crossing, his compassion for human life. Near the end of the movie we see a changed Lawrence, one who says of the enemy "take no prisoners, no one lives." We don't exactly know what caused the change other than the craziness that comes with war and brutality.
A very worthwhile movie, with stars like Peter O'Toole (T.E. Lawrence), Alec Guinness (Prince Feisal ), Anthony Quinn (Auda abu Tayi), Omar Sharif (Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish ) and José Ferrer (Turk officer). However, it probably would not come across very well on a small screen TV. It is best viewed in a theater, or on a wide-screen, HDTV.
Producer Sam Spiegel and Director David Lean made movie history with The Bridge On The River Kwai reunited to film Lawrence of Arabia, in my estimation the finest film ever made.
Sam Spiegel operated his Horizon Films out of London with an great record such as On The Waterfront, The Bridge On The River Kwai, and Suddenly Last Summer. Stars in Spiegel films were such as Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Katharine Hepburn, Alec Guiness, William Holden, etc. David Lean was a great Director with such films such as Brief Encounter and The Bridge On The River Kwai.
Peter O Toole is magnificent as Lawrence, as is Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, and Omar Sharif.
Maurice Jarre deserves great credit for the memorable film score
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Anyone who hasn't lived under a rock has heard about this film and
Peter O'Toole's legendary performance. But it's only recently that I've
finally seen it. This is simply the Greatest Film ever made, a stunning
work of art. What impressed me most is how SUBTLE the film is, and how
personal/introspective despite its grandeur.
Surprisingly, it turns out that it is possible after all to have a marvelous film about homosexuality and violence (among many other themes explored here) without characters spouting ad-nauseam words like "fu*k", "fag", "shit" and others like that, which are the "hallmark" of "edgy" cinema these days. Could you have imagined? I can only say, like Sheriff Ali: "The miracle is accomplished". No dirty talk, no gore, no obscenity, yet incredibly powerful and beautiful, a masterpiece on all accounts.
Possible spoilers ahead.
I was absolutely fascinated with the hero's psychology, so much that I had to watch the movie a couple of times. Those images of breath-taking magnificence and O'Toole's mesmerizing eyes lit from inside by his disconcerting turmoil never cease to amaze me. Has Lawrence "gone native"? Does he have a Messiah complex? Is he just suicidal? It's almost as if everything he does is an attempt to affirm his (sexual) identity. But who is he? Is he masculine? Is he feminine? Is he British? Is he an Arab? Is he homosexual? Or asexual? He seems unable to find his place, not sure on how to dress and how to act, shifting from egotistic grandeur to humility and back. His narcissistic rage goes from slight irritation ("Do you think that I'm just anybody, Ali?") to the famous "No prisoners!" episode. And then, there's the subtle masochistic streak throughout the movie, complicating Lawrence's contradictions even more. Never have I seen such a wonderful and subtle depiction of yearning for pain and adventure as the "match trick" cut to the desert sunrise. He starts his journey desperately wanting to be a desert hero, but he's acting like an enthusiastic tourist in an alien world that he's not able to fully understand (watch the sequence where going to battle, Lawrence hears for the first time the strange and haunting howling of distant Arabs).
The movie has a most interesting take on free will. Lawrence's vulnerability is made clear in the opening sequence, and multiple hints on fatality-destiny are made throughout the movie, with a Schopenhauer sound: man can do what he wants, be he cannot will what he wants.
The movie ends abruptly and there is no sense of conclusion, as Lawrence - used and abused, but not entirely innocent himself - is heading home. Where "home" is, he doesn't seem to know. The closing shot of Lawrence's face becoming indistinguishable behind the dusty windshield is incredibly frustrating, but closes the circle perfectly. I actually got closer to the TV screen, hoping to get a better look at him for an "explanation". A motorcycle ominously passes by, foreshadowing his sudden death... The man remains unknowable, and that is the film's maddening genius.
O'Toole and Sharif have superb chemistry together. But no matter how brooding and passionate Omar Sharif is, or how delightfully over-the-top Anthony Quinn is, it's Peter O'Toole who steals the show with his beauty and intensity. His eyes reflect the desert, the vast and mysterious landscape within, because "Lawrence of Arabia" is above all, an exquisite exploration of the mind.
If we're in the mood to do film genealogies, and I am, then Lawrence of
Arabia is probably the inventor of the modern biopic, the perennial
awards-bait genre. (You could maybe posit Citizen Kane as the
originator, but that's really a different kettle of fish.) It examines
a fairly recent historical figure at the prime of their life,
dedicating numerous scenes and most of the dialogue to hammering home
that the central character is a Very Special Person Unlike His
Short-Sighted Bosses, and in this way the film spends a good amount of
time justifying itself. This genre obviously has strengths and flaws,
and they're apparent in Lawrence: the striking personal power as well
as the kind of historical oversimplification and tourism that goes
along with it.
Lawrence of Arabia's main claims to being a great film are David Lean's gorgeous cinematography, stopping the action at several points simply to capture the desert in all its cold grandeur, and the film's final hour, in which Peter O'Toole turns his larger-than-life hero into a desperate, wild-eyed man who can no longer control the violence he's created. The biggest points against it are its indulgent four-hour running time and its unavoidable racism (having two of its major Arab characters played by white actors in brownface is really one of the lesser offences.) With this in mind, it's hard to say whether a contemporary viewer will really enjoy this film. I found it fitfully interesting but ultimately had trouble engaging with it, and felt kind of exhausted by the film. On the other hand, I've been told that it needs to be seen on a big screen for true appreciation, and not my modest laptop monitor, so I don't want to say anything definitive. Whether or not it "holds up", Lawrence of Arabia is a pioneering movie that manages, despite everything, to capture a kind of beauty, and that makes it worth slogging through for anyone genuinely interested in film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Reading the comments posted here and the opinions in the forum it is
plain to see that there are widely diverging opinions of this film
which I find interesting considering the films reputation.
Let me try to explain why I think this is so, and why so many find this film dull while others think it a masterpiece.
First, like other Lean films, the drama is almost non-existent. The reason is that drama (the bedrock of all western art) depends on characterization and the playing out of these in various situations. But the lead character in this film, Lawrence, is an enigma, and remains so throughout the film. In a sense, he is very flat. However, in that he is an enigmatic figure we must change our view of him. That is, we must see him as being without definitive attributes one way or another. He twists in the wind, his true nature forever hidden. It is not good for dramatic purposes but for Lawrence it MUST be so, otherwise there would be no reason to make this film in the first place. We can never KNOW Lawrence -- we can only observe him from a distance, and stand, as apparently so many others have, in awe and wonder.
Then we have the cast. My goodness. What an extraordinary collection of talent. The film is chock full of fabulous moments where the greatest actors speak wonderful lines. For example, some of my favorites: Guiness: "And I...I long for the vanished gardens of Cordoba..." The line was set up beautifully and filmed such as to make it climactic moment. Very beautiful. Similarly, "You must be a general; I must be a King." Consider, as well, the overall sterling performances of Shariff, Rains, and Hawkins, three enormous talents. If you are moved by these kinds of moments then the film becomes something very special. If not, then it's a bore.
One more point: some may be bored by the visual. Not me. I think Lean's photography and choices are astounding, and they are essential in creating the flavor of the exotic, of distance and remoteness...mirroring the title character. Brilliant.
Well, that's enough for now.
PS - 5/10/09 - I neglected to mention Anthony Quinn, who has a difficult role as Auda, but whose masculine command and bravado, without cartoonishness is more than adequate. In fact, it's brilliant. JC
From the ill-fated beginning, through the singly unique cinematography that even now, forty seven years after its production, would still send film makers into fits for its technical demands, the superb acting and exquisite story line, this movie still holds my rapt attention. Having read enough on T.E. Lawrence's life and his own works, this movie still provides the viewer with an in-depth look into the complex life of a man that literally changed world society. How would the Middle East be now if this man hadn't fulfilled his destiny? I dare anyone of Hollywood's greatest to make a movie like this without cg graphics now. And Peter O'Toole? Still my hero after all these years.
This movie had the same effect on me as it did on George Lucas. I couldn't stop watching it. How David Lean developed the characters in the story is part of what makes the movie great. The scenes are seamless. A documentary about David Lean's life portrayed him as a perfectionist. I am glad of that. This great movie could not have been made by any other type of person. Peter O'Tool playing the lead role was probably a double edged sword,it was his first and greatest role. Where does anyone go from the top? The "chemistry" between actor Alec Guiness and Sir David Lean was just as powerful as it was between Humphrey Bogart and John Huston. Everything in this movie works. Lawrence of Arabia received seven Academy Awards. It deserved more.
I think Lawrence of Arabia can be not summed up, but described in one
scene. A British officer, T.E. Lawrence is in Cairo, and has just been
re-assigned to the Arab Biro. As he lights his friend's cigarette, he
then takes the match, holding it up in front of his face, watches as it
slowly burns. He then softly blows the flame out, as we cut to a dark
orange horizon on a desert plain. We are first stunned by the vastness
of the deep horizon. As we watch, the faintest hint of yellow sun is
seen coming over what seems the edge of the world. As the masterful
score quietly begins to play, the sun slowly works it's way into the
world's view. As the music reaches a climax, we cut to what seems the
most beautiful shot of desert land space that we could possibly
imagine. Through the massive dunes and thunderous mountains, we see two
riders appear in a valley of sand. And so thus begins the greatest epic
of all time.
After watching Lawrence of Arabia, it becomes impossible to call any other film epic. Even the modern classics such as the Lord of the Rings are no where near the shear size and scope of David Lean's masterpiece. If only every movies were this well made. The 5 month shoot that was planned spanned into a 2 year marathon of film making brilliance. In current Hollywood, if we are to be shown a massive epic army, we are given 2000 CGI soldiers on a totally made up landscape. This is not the way David Lean saw the way films are made. In Lawrence of Arabia, we a blessed with armies and extras upon the thousands, each one with a costume, makeup, most of the time horses or camels and most importantly, a character to embody.
There are few words to describe Peter O'Toole as Lawrence and one of them may be "best performance ever?". Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn and the legendary Alec Guinness, all give spell binding performances in this already massive master work. David Lean's vision is beyond epic. There is no word to describe it. There are very few films that truly stunning cinematography, with this being the very best. No film has as beautiful and stunning visuals as Lawrence. Lean's capture of the heat and vastness of the desert is simply unbelievable.
This film is beyond amazing and truly something that is beyond a miracle. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 1962 and winner of 7, this is one classic that will never die. Lawrence will always be a legend.
"Nothing is Written"
i finally got to see it yesterday after many half starts and chances. i was just mesmerized by the epic proportions of this war movie which might have gone wrong in so many ways. but what comes out, is a beautiful piece of story well told. the beautiful shots of the great deserts, the heart churning melody that rises with every wind on the dunes, the battle scenes of epic proportions, the depiction of an Arab world and their culture ... what touched me more is the way the different phases of the central character is captured and managed. the inner conflicts and the human emotions. from a simple good for nothing soldier to the messiah like figure in the Arab kingdom to mere puppet in the hands of the politicians... this movie for me has different layers which one can appreciate. the purpose of our lives and its futility is so very well demonstrated through the rise and fall of our hero.
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