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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 ***
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.
This masterpiece could likely never be produced today, and the reasons for this go far beyond regional Mideast politics. What studio would enable any director, no matter how talented (and David Lean certainly was) and in possession of any equally brilliant script, the liberty to present a story so matter-of-fact in its portrayal of Britain's accomplishments in the colonial era? Oh, the wave of Leftist angst that would ensue! Yet, in this film David Lean manages to weave an enchanting and historically accurate tale of adventure and struggle, of crisis and achievement, of triumph and tragedy that both informs and uplifts, without modern-day remorse over matters of race, creed or color. The story couldn't be more gripping, the acting more talented, the scenery more breathtaking. This is perhaps the finest war adventure story ever filmed, and will reward any number of repeat viewings.
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA C-216min ****(1962)D:David Lean. Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quale, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy. Excellent, blockbuster adventure epic, a biographical account of enigimatic adventurer T.E. Lawrence, a British military officer who played a decisive part in the Arab Revolt in the Arabian desert, in which he leads desert tribes to drive the Ottoman Turks out of Arabia in 1916 during World War I. Beautifully filmed with stunning cinematography by F.A.(Freddie) Young, Lean's inspired direction, Maurice Jaurre's majestic score and fine acting make this classic one of the most universally admired films of all time. Won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay(Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson), Cinematography, Original Score and more. Restored version runs 227 min.
I won't try to compete with the superlatives of others and am less
certain that this movie was the best flick of the 1960s. In that
decade, American "culture" enjoyed a true renaissance, and our films
were as much a reflection of it as was our music, our literature, and
our science. As many good movies were made in a single year back then
as have been made ever since, which is perhaps why Peter O'Toole didn't
win the Academy Award for Best Actor --he had too much competition
(Gregory Peck won it for "To Kill a Mockingbird"). Obviously, however,
"Lawrence of Arabia" was one of the best movies of its time and one of
the best movies ever made. To me, the real star of the movie was the
Arabian Desert (although technically, it was filmed in Morrocco and
Jordan). There was dramatic and arresting physical beauty in its sense
of limitless space and its bleak, wind-whipped desolation. The dunes
with their swirling sands, the dramatic barren mountains, and the
isolated ridges far off in the distance yet easily visible all
contributed to a dreamlike world. Perhaps even more important, and
certainly more relevant to the theme, was the spiritual element
inseparable from the vast emptiness of the broiling desert wilderness.
The gorgeous and highly effective landscape photography firmly
established the setting early in the film. Not unexpectedly, it was
Lawrence's determination to leave the desert that signaled his eventual
demise. His return "home" to England and the shallow, conventional life
it offered led to the motorcycle accident that ultimately killed him.
It seems he had ceased to follow his heart, perhaps because his
experiences in Arabia, which had inspired him to greatness, had at the
same time transformed him into someone he no longer believed in,
understood, or felt he could keep living up to. By war's end,
therefore, he seemed to have outlived his usefulness, if not so much to
his Arab friends (who apparently worshiped him), than in his own mind.
The outstanding performances by Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn (and even Alec Guiness) threatened to upstage O'Toole's Lawrence, but he held his own and made the movie his. As such, it was probably the defining role of his career. It wasn't long, however, before Omar Sharif starred in "Dr. Zhivago" and Anthony Quinn in "Zorba the Greek," no doubt these opportunities arising from their significant part in the making of "Lawrence of Arabia." After watching this movie again, I had a new sense of the Arab's plight, yet had to remind myself not to get carried away. The film was set during WWI, long before Israel became a country, and in that day, the Arabs were the oppressed people fighting for their independence from the Ottoman Empire, a civilization which at the time was well ahead of their own tribal existence and encroaching upon their seemingly cold and detached wilderness ethic. Much has changed since then.
By the way, many years ago I had the opportunity to get a good look at a beautifully restored "Bruff" motorcycle (actually spelled b,r,o,u,g,h). That was the type that Lawrence owned and on which he had his fatal accident, shown in the opening sequence of the film. It looked to be all engine, with a surprising amount of horsepower for motorcycles of that era, which is why it was the fastest racing bike of its time.
I just watched this film today on DVD. It's one of my favorites and I'm just amazed every time I watch it. God, what a beautiful film . . . Although, I have to say, I wasn't crazy about it at first. I came to appreciate it more after watching it two or three times. I know epic films aren't for everyone, but I keep returning to this one time and again. The way the film is shot and edited is breathtaking. The acting is top notch and played to the hilt. What I find most fascinating about this film is the metamorphosis of T.E. Lawrence in the process. He's a man who rises to become a legend who is then repeatedly reminded that he is just a man. How does one face this? It's an interesting journey (and worth watching 100 times!).
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