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People who dislike this movie generally say one of the following
things. "It's boring"; "It's old"; "It's not violent enough." Well, I
have a message for those people: What movie are you watching?
While I cannot deny that LOA is old, it is only boring if you're watching it in slow-motion. A 220+ running time may frighten a lot of people, but LOA apologizes for its bottom-testing quality almost immediately by displaying in that long period of time an epic that someone could actually get involved in. It does that with its cinematography (which mere words cannot describe), its striking music score, and its staggeringly good performances from every actor.
And if you think it's not violent enough, maybe you should go back to watching Tarantino flicks. Violence abounds in this movie, and it is some of the best-handled in cinema history. It's a shame Peter O'Toole didn't win an Oscar for this movie, but its haul on awards night did suffice.
Most of you are probably expecting this review to come from a 50-year-old art-film devotee, but I'm under 20, love movies like "Rocky Horror," and have loved this one just as much or even more since I was 10 or 11 years old.
The parched vastness of the desert stretches beyond the horizon in
every direction. The glorious morning sun begins to rise from beneath
the earth, casting brilliant rays of searing light across the scorched
landscape. In the distance, barely noticeable to the human eye, a dark
speck appears. We watch, we wait. The tiny approaching figure, ever so
gradually, moves tantalisingly closer, and we lean forward to discern
it, the enormity of the Arabian desert instantly enveloping us,
consuming us. We are there. When a character gazes up at the blazing
overhead sun an immense ball of fire in the sky we feel it burning
our skin, and we, too, yearn for that life-saving swig of water.
David Lean's epic masterpiece, 'Lawrence of Arabia,' is one of those precious few films that is capable of completely absorbing the audience into its world. Just like Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi masterwork '2001: A Space Odyssey' of 1968, the plot of the film is not what we ultimately remember. When asked why it is such a great film, we can only recall the sheer majesty of the images that have been permanently seared into our minds Lawrence blows out a burning match, which becomes the rising desert sun; a stranded soldier, stumbling across the sands, gazes up in horror as the first rays of morning sunlight beam across the land; a triumphant Lawrence, dressed in flowing white robes, poses at the summit of an enemy trainwreck, the sun glimmering behind him as if he is a god. Minute after minute, for the entire four-hour running time, we are simply bombarded with unforgettable images, thanks to the Freddie Young's acclaimed Super Panavision 70 cinematography, a stirring score from Maurice Jarre and director David Lean's epic cinematic vision.
Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward "T.E." Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) died on May 19, 1935 after a horrific motorcycle accident. He was honoured with a bust in St. Paul's Cathedral for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt of 1916-18, his achievements made famous by the sensationalised newspaper writings of American journalist Lowell Thomas, who is represented in the film by the character of Jackson Bentley (Arthur Kennedy). Lawrence's funeral leaves us with several unanswered questions regarding what sort of man he really was: was he a "poet, a scholar and a mighty warrior," or, as Bentley suggests after the departure of the reporter, "the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum & Bailey?"
'Lawrence of Arabia,' very loosely based on Lawrence's personal memoirs, shows how, throughout his exploits in Arabia, he was a man trapped between two cultures, torn between his allegiances to Britain and its army, and to his newfound comrades within the Arabian desert tribes, to whom he had promised freedom. He also battles to understand his own emotional reactions towards violence in war, his uncertainty beginning with the shocking satisfaction he experiences upon executing one of his companions. Early in his exploits, Lawrence embodies the qualities present in all great historical heroes: courage and determination, self-assurance and loyalty. Nearing the end of a harrowing march across the impassable Nefud Desert, though ragged from exhaustion and desperate for hydration, Lawrence turns his camel around in search of Gasim, a fellow comrade who was unknowingly left behind after succumbing to sleep and falling off his mount. However, as Lawrence's victories become many, he finds that his humility has been replaced with arrogance, and his bravery with blood-thirsty cowardice.
The acting performances in this film are absolutely stunning all-round. Peter O'Toole ("The Lion in Winter") is undeniably brilliant as T.E. Lawrence, masterfully portraying a complex character in his debut high-profile role. It is perhaps unfortunate that he came up against Gregory Peck's equally memorable role as Atticus Finch in 'To Kill A Mockingbird' at the 1963 Oscars, otherwise he most certainly would have won Best Actor. To this day, despite a total of eight nominations, O'Toole remains without a competitive Oscar, though he did receive an Academy Honorary Award in 2003 for his collective body of work.
A stunning supporting cast complements O'Toole's performance, and the film simply could not have been as powerful if any of the supporting roles were anything less than perfect. Alec Guiness ("The Bridge on the River Kwai") who had originally wanted the role of Lawrence, but was turned down due to his age plays Prince Feisal, the Arab leader who learns to value Lawrence's advice and assistance. Anthony Quinn ("Zorba the Greek") portrays Auda ibu Tayi, the leader of the Howeitat tribe of Bedouin Arabs, whom Lawrence convinces to invade the city of Aqaba. Omar Sharif is brilliant as Sheriff Ali, a man who inexplicably becomes Lawrence's most loyal comrade, though he fears what his good friend has become in the face of success. Other notable performances in the film come from Jack Hawkins, Claude Rains, Anthony Quayle, Arthur Kennedy and José Ferrer.
In terms of David Lean's vast artistic vision, 'Lawrence of Arabia' is one of the most ambitious cinematic undertakings of all time. This is truly one of the grandest epics ever made, demanding to be witnessed only in the cinema; put quite simply, a minute television screen just does not do this film justice. This is an life-changing experience like few others, and, for 220 glorious minutes, you can almost see yourself in the desert, sitting atop a camel, trekking across the sands alongside one of the twentieth century's most fascinating historical figures.
Although having just watched Lawrence Of Arabia again though I am
bowled over by the size of the epic, I still can't believe that for the
entire length of the film, the word oil was not mentioned. If it were
done today it sure would be.
T.E. Lawrence's story fascinates people today more than ever because he was in the center of the events that gave us the Middle East we have today. In the previous century and a half questions about that area revolved around the Ottoman Empire, the so-called sick man of Europe for that conglomerate of territory spilled into quite a bit of Europe. What's to happen if one country gets control of the place should that aging and decrepit empire falls apart. The question was postponed right up to World War I when Ottoman Turkey committed itself to the Central Powers.
It was time then for the various peoples still under Ottoman control to rise and rise they did. In Arabia a young staff officer named T.E. Lawrence gained the trust and confidence of many Arab leaders and had a lot to do with uniting them and forming an army to chase fellow Moslems, the Turks out of the area and helping the British and French win in the Eastern theater of World War I.
If going native which was the expression used by the British for one of their's who starts to identify with those he's supposed to subjugate than T.E. Lawrence went native in a big way. When his fellow countrymen did not keep pledges made to his Arabs he opted for a life of obscurity which is what he got until his death in 1935.
David Lean when he couldn't get Marlon Brando for the part, opted instead for a young Irish player named Peter O'Toole who he had seen in the Walt Disney version of Kidnapped two years earlier in a small role. It was a felicitous choice as O'Toole became the star he remains to this day as a result of Lawrence of Arabia.
It's a complex role and one you have to keep the audience interested in for over four hours. O'Toole runs the whole range of emotions here. We see him as idealistic, as arrogant, as humble, as honorable, as a stone killer, even a bit of a fathead at times. Sometimes a few of these mixed together at different points. Although David Lean got him a stellar supporting cast, if your Lawrence isn't any good, the film would flop. But Peter O'Toole was up to the challenge, he got the first of seven Oscar nominations. In this particular year he had some stiff competition with Burt Lancaster for Birdman of Alcatraz, Jack Lemmon for The Days of Wine and Roses, Marcello Mastroianni for Divorce Italian Style and the eventual winner Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mockingbird.
Omar Sharif also making his first film for a world market got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Such Lean veterans as Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, and Anthony Quayle got plum roles. Anthony Quinn and Arthur Kennedy are the Americans in this film. Kennedy plays the fictitious Jackson Bentley who is really Lowell Thomas. Presumably Lowell Thomas did not want his name used here, but Thomas got his career started in the news field by reporting on T.E. Lawrence in this backwater theater of World War I, making his name famous and launching Thomas's own career in the process.
One thing ever so gingerly hinted at was T.E. Lawrence's homosexuality. You can see it in his relationship with the two young men Daoud and Farraj played by John Dimech and Michel Roy. There is the alleged incident of gang rape when he's taken by Turkish soldiers led by their commander at Deraa, Jose Ferrer. It too is part of Lawrence's story though if Lawrence of Arabia were made today, they would be far more explicit.
They would also be more explicit about oil instead of these unnamed 'British interests' that Lawrence is supposed to be really concerned with. You do get the idea that all they're interested in is the right of transit in the Suez Canal and the right to say who has the right of transit.
Still Lawrence of Arabia is one sweeping epic both capturing the grandeur of the Arabian desert with the complexity of the issues and the man surrounding the desert campaign in World War I.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is difficult to watch this movie today without thinking about the current situation in Iraq. Europeans--and now Americans--have been intervening in the Middle East, with disastrous results, since the Trojan War; "Lawrence of Arabia" tells the story of a man who played a key role in a critical period that led to much of the current turmoil in the region. In order to defeat the Turks, who were allied to the Germans, Great Britain unleashed the genie of Arab nationalism, and no one has been able to bottle it since. By promising what was then Palestine to both Jews and Arabs Britain unwittingly planted the seeds of the interminable Arab-Israeli conflict--but that's outside the scope of this review. Peter O'Toole plays T.E. Lawrence as a bipolar, sexually ambiguous nerd with a messiah complex (interestingly there are no women in the movie). In leading the Arabs to victory over the Turks Lawrence sees himself as their liberator when in fact he's the tool of western imperialism. The latter part of the movie, which depicts Lawrence's bumbling attempts to introduce western-style democracy to the Arabs, bears striking resemblance to George W. Bush's equally naive meddling in Iraq. As spectacle, the movie has never been surpassed and scarcely equalled; among big-budget epics of similar scope only "Ben Hur," "The Ten Commandments," and possibly "Apocalypse Now" come close; the only movie with similar grandeur is "2001: A Space Odyssey," and of course that's a different kind of epic. Sir David Lean won a well-deserved Best Director Oscar for this film. The movie made stars out of O'Toole and Omar Sharif, but there are Oscar-worthy performances from Sir Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Arthur Kennedy and Claude Rains; Jose Ferrer is uncommonly creepy as a sadistic Turkish officer, in a scene with uncomfortable homoerotic overtones. Maurice Jarre's score is outstanding; this is the kind of film wide-screen was made for.
To understand the Middle East as it presently exists, one must
understand World War I and its consequences for those who live in the
region. In making such a study, one inevitably and repeatedly
encounters the name T.E. Lawrence, then and now one of the most
controversial military figures of the 20th Century, a remarkably
complex man who combined an unassuming manner with an astonishing flair
Lawrence authored an account of his Arabian adventures following the war. Titled THE SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM, it has the very unusual distinction of being extremely famous before it was widely available: originally printed in a limited edition of 120 copies, it was widely praised, but it was not given a further printing until after Lawrence's death--at which point both those who served with Lawrence and historians alike noted that the work was much less accurate, much less factual than its first readers supposed. Still, between the press coverage and the man's own gift for self-mythology, it was enough. T.E. Lawrence was enshrined in memory as Lawrence of Arabia, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s David Lean set out to make a film about him, using THE SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM as primary source.
A great deal has been made of the film's factual inaccuracies; a great deal more has been made of the film's failure to explicitly portray Lawrence's covertly sadomasochistic personality and homo-erotic edge. But LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is not a film of mere fact; we must turn to documentary for that. It is the myth, a vision of Lawrence as he himself wished to be seen, and the covert indications of his hidden nature adds greater depth to both his character and the film as a whole: as the story progresses we become acutely aware that there is much more that we do not know, a fact that lends a tremendous sense of mystery to the film. Factual, no; explicit, no. But in its entirety, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA achieves an artistic truth that transcends any mere notation of fact pure and simple.
It is, in my opinion, the single finest film of epic scope to ever reach the screen. The episodic story, scripted by Robert Bolt (author of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS), casts a remarkably wide net, not only following Lawrence's adventures but placing them within a finely drawn context of diplomacy as well. The cast is superb. Led by Peter O'Toole in the title role, virtually every actor involved not only brings the various historical figures to vivid life, but transmutes them into archetypes as well. David Lean's direction is flawless, as is the astonishingly beautiful cinematography, artful yet unobtrusive editing, and truly memorable score.
It is true that LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is best seen on the big screen, where its visual power may be seen a full power; even so, it fares remarkably well on the small screen, much more so than epics that rely on visual power to the exclusion of all else. There have been several releases to the home market, including a double cassette VHS and a two disk DVD with a host of extras; the single DVD release, a "no frills" release without significant extras, also offers a near-pristine picture and excellent sound. If you are interested in purchasing the film, make certain that you are not buying a pan-and-scan version, for these very significantly undercut the beauty of the film.
Alternatively languid and violent, beautiful and disquieting, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is a remarkably fine film that deserves every praise heaped upon it since its 1962 release. I cannot recommend it too highly.
Gary Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
David Lean's famously epic rumination of the titular character is a
relentlessly long desert saga, but it has a destination: illustrate the
hypocrisy of war and the madness of pre-world war I colonialism. It is
also one of the best films I have ever seen, with a lead actor's
performance that is simply ten times better than anyone else's in film
history. Although the success of Lawrence rests squarely on the
shoulders of the eccentric Peter O'Toole as the flamboyant British
officer, the manageable script by Robert Bolt, the sweeping
cinematography of the desert-laden plains by Freddie Young and the
swarmingly epic score by Maruice Jarre all firmly elevate the film to
Based on T.E. Lawrence's rambling, puzzling memoirs in "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom," David Lean translates the man's epic journeys in Saudi Arabia to something equally mystical in the film. Lawrence of Arabia tells the story of English officer (O'Toole) who helps the divided Arab tribes to unite against the Ottoman Empire in the Great War. With his hit-and-run, guerilla-warfare tactics, military triumphs unfold in the desert-swept, dramatic landscape that no one thought possible. Through a series of audacious victories, Lawrence earns the trust, respect, and loyalty of the Arab peoples and becomes something of a hero to the world, even though it nearly drove him mad in the process, torn and conflicted between he loyalty of England and that of the "quaint, barbaric" Arabs. Why he wanted any of this the movie leaves up in the air.
Much like the story, Peter O'Toole lets his character Lawrence unfold in mystical ways, heightening the enigma that is the officer-turned-major. He is emotionally transparent in his performance when it calls for it, such as at the height of battle or broken-down in a Turkish prison camp, but there is a perpetual impenetrable air about him that is so endlessly refreshing and interesting to behold. "I'm different," he proclaims to the stiffy bureaucratic military in Cairo and shows us a man who sings, jests, philosophizes and befriends unlikely subjects in the vast desert. When given new white billowing robes by his friend Sheriff (Omar Sharif), he twirls and admires his appearance. In this way, Lawrence is both suggestive and flamboyant, fit with a plummy English accent, hinting at homosexuality, and indeed his presence is almost incongruous to the barren, plain setting. Suffice to say that O'Toole shamelessly swallows every scene he is in and aptly captures the many ever-shifting shades of Lawrence.
The desert-strewn pictorial style is a definite strong suit for 'Lawrence of Arabia' as it provides juxtaposition (O'Toole's piercing blue eyes against the sandy infinity), visual stimuli and living illustrations of the vast harshness of a far-stretched Arabic desert. The first sight of Omar Sharif, initially a mere dot on the horizon, is perhaps the most striking sequence in this epic travelogue but in all fairness these visual gems are delivered by the bucketload by cinematographer Freddie Young. There is no fancy-schmancy CGI or effects; if you want to shoot a desert sunrise you get up early and wait until it emerges. The result is unbelievably raw and sliced down to the bare essentialsdesert, desert, desert. Even the dialogue is comparatively sparse, and epic battles are only interjected when it calls for it. Its biggest accolade, as far as I am concerned, is the absence of extra-template romances or personal intrigue. That is something you do not see in films today, and I am endlessly thankful that there are no gratuitous swooning women in it.
In spite of the absence of epic romances, Lawrence of Arabia is romantically poetic enough on its own. David Leans opens with 5 minutes of all score, and no visual images. Now, I have heard a lot of good scores in my days, but Maruice Jarre's hauntingly recognizable desert tunes are simply incredible. This musical component speaks volumes on the epic scale and is brilliantly scored to scenes such as the iconic 'match melting into a desert sunrise' sequence. Some would perhaps argue that the film is mostly cinematography, music and acting, but I say it touches on some highly then-salient issues, giving a curt nod to the Lawrence enigma but truly breathing life into his character and intertwining some imperial politics in the process. When Lawrence returns sweaty and dressed in rags from gruesome desert fighting and having lost men in the swallowing heat, the posh officers in the Cairo headquarters inform him on the news: "We've built a squash court." "Jolly good." Brilliant, and satirical.
I could give more rambling, semi-coherent and fawning praise for 'Lawrence of Arabia', but I think I will stop here. It is certainly an experience, visually, sensory and musically and the fearsomely intense radiance of Peter O'Toole gets it far alone.
10 out of 10 (I don't just throw this grade out)
OK, so everyone knows that T.E. Lawrence was a most impressive guy who
was sent to colonize the Middle East and in the process began to
identify with the people there. In the title role here, Peter O'Toole
certainly does a really good job. The question is how accurate the
movie is. Specifically, I mean the scene where Lawrence attacks the
train and the Arabs cheer him on; I get the feeling that it didn't
really happen like that, given that Lawrence was sent as a colonizer.
And one has to wonder why Lawrence is always wearing white while
everyone else wears black.
Oh well. Other than all that, it's a pretty impressive film. One weird thing is that it has pretty much an all-male cast (actually, that's not surprising given that it's dealing with war). O'Toole, along with Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jose Ferrer, Claude Rains, and the rest all do a great job. I don't think that anyone can argue with "Lawrence of Arabia"'s status as an epic.
David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia may be well over 50 years old now, but
it stands the test of time like all truly great works.
The movie details T.E. Lawrence's experiences as a British liaison who inspires the Arab revolt against Turkish rule during World War 1 (1916-1918).
At 3 hours and 47 minutes this is a LONG movie but somehow strangely hypnotic. The awesome music plays a huge part in this effect.
If you're weary of the moronic approach of too many modern films (too much CGI and roll-your-eyes action, etc.) Lawrence of Arabia is the perfect antidote.
It's mainly the story of a European man who sheds his stuffy "civilized" upbringing to revel in a new-found freedom in the desert wilderness as he integrates with the Arabs and basks in their glowing acceptance. He accomplishes this by, first, disregarding his superior's orders and honestly relating to the Arabs and, second, by proving himself unbiased to any specific tribe and willing to risk everything in helping them to defeat the Turks.
Those spoiled by modern blockbusters won't likely appreciate "Lawrence of Arabia" but those who have an eye for artistic cinema will revel in it.
This is not the greatest movie ever made. Don't get me wrong, this is
still the father of all epics and it won't get any grander than this,
but I felt like something was missing. Maybe it's the length or excess
of plot material, but Lawrence of Arabia misses being perfect, but not
by too much. At nearly four hours in length, the film is beautifully
shot and loved the perfect, CGI-less desert sun. It's well-acted with
stand-out performances by everyone involved and David Lean expertly
directs an epic a lesser man could not get right.
Lean's film is a biographical look at the adventurous T.E Lawrence who is known for his famous exploits in the Arab world. During World War One, British officer Lawrence is sent to the Arab world to unite the warring tribes against the Turkish empire.
This film features perhaps the greatest acting achievements in film history. Peter O'Toole is just magnificent as Lawrence and this is the role that sent him down the road of stardom. Omar Sharif, no stranger to David Lean, is nearly as good as Lawrence's Arab buddy. Alec Guinness also delivers a strong performance as Prince Feisal.
Overall, this is certainly the father of all epics. It has everything you want to see, especially in these older movies. A sweeping cinematography, a beautiful score, masterful acting, superb directing and great editing. However, this is not the greatest film in the world. It's overlong and sometimes a bit stuffy. But it's close and that I can definitely see. A film that shall not be forgotten for the ages. I rate this film 8.5/10
T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) has a minor function in Cairo during WWI.
Nobody really cares about the Bedouin uprising against the Turks except
for Lawrence and the Arab Bureau. He's sent for 3 months since he would
be of no great lost. He learns the ways of the desert, and memorably
encounters Sheriff Ali (Omar Sharif) at a well. He finds Prince Feisal
(Alec Guinness) harassed by superior weapons, and the British unwilling
to take Aqaba from the sea. So Lawrence proposes to take Aqaba from the
desert and Feisal gives him 50 men.
Director David Lean's vision is absolutely beautiful. The desert is beyond gorgeous. Peter O'Toole is brilliant. There is nothing inferior. It is all first rate. The bigger the screen, the better the movie looks. This is simply one of the best of all times.
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