Monday, February 20, 2012

#553. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - David Lean Film Festival

Directed By: David Lean

Starring: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn

Tag line: "A Mighty Motion Picture Of Action And Adventure!"

Trivia:  Almost all movement in the film goes from left to right. David Lean said he did this to emphasize that the film was a journey

Lawrence of Arabia is as grand a movie as I have ever seen. Perfectly directed by David Lean, it is the king of all epics, and one of the greatest motion pictures ever made.

While stationed in Cairo, officer T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is ordered by the British High Command to meet with Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness), an Arabian military leader, to discuss the Prince's growing concerns regarding the Turkish occupation of his homeland. 

Though officially restricted to the role of a liaison, Lawrence nonetheless finds himself sympathetic to the Prince's cause, and disobeys his superiors by volunteering to assist Feisal in his war against the Turks. 

To gain the trust of his new comrades, Lawrence leads a small contingency of Feisal's soldiers across the treacherous Nefud desert, in the hope of taking the port city of Aqaba, a Turkish stronghold, by surprise. The mission is a success, and to show their appreciation, the Arabs give Lawrence a command of his own. 

Aided by other chieftains, including Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) and Auda aba Tayi (Anthony Quinn), Laurence and his small rebel army achieve victory after victory on the battlefield, and it isn't long before the man known as "El Aurens" has put the entire Turkish army on the run! 

Even with the film clocking in at four hours, Lawrence of Arabia spends very little time getting to know its main character. The are no flashbacks to Lawrence's early years, and aside from an opening scene that recreates his death (the result of a motorcycle accident), the life he led following his military service is also ignored. Instead, the movie focuses on Lawrence's years in the desert, and the exploits that made him an icon in that part of the world. 

History tells us that, at some point during his service in the Middle East, T.E. Lawrence fell in love with the desert, so much so that he was compelled to fight for it. In Lawrence of Arabia, director David Lean reveals, in sometimes striking detail, exactly what it was that Lawrence saw in this desolate corner of the globe. As Lean moves his camera slowly across the barren landscape, we, too, bear witness to the majesty of the place. We marvel at the elegance of a desert sunrise, and react with nervous anticipation as men are led across the dangerous, hot sands. Lawrence the man may still be a mystery when the final credits roll, but what inspired him to become a legend is laid bare for all to see. 

When writing about the film, critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated the experience of watching Lawrence of Arabia in its original format “is on the short list of things that must be done during the lifetime of every lover of film”. Even with the limited scope of my television set, I've fallen in love with this movie. I can’t imagine how I'd react if I were to catch it on a huge 70mm screen. 

But, man...would I love to find out!


Alex Jowski said...

Great review! Great movie. Lawrence of Arabia is one of the best!

DVD Infatuation said...

Alex: Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the kind words. And I agree with you: Lawrence of Arabia is one of the finest films ever made.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I've seen it in 70mm, Dave. It truly is a miracle to behold. Alongside 2001 I believe it is the only film that MUST be seen big to be truly appreciated.

While it's not my favourite film, I feel it is the best film I have ever seen in terms of quality of filmmaking across the board.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Dave: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment!

As I said in the review, it's one of the things I really want to do at some point. I can only imagine how spectacular it will be!

Unknown said...

I am taking a short break from watching the movie to agree with you about how wonderful it is. It's just amazing. Truly it is one of the best movies ever made.

DVD Infatuation said...

Maria: Thanks for the comment!

I'm glad you're enjoying the movie, and I agree with you. It's one of the greats!