Sunday, November 3, 2013

Lawrence of Arabia 1962

It's satisfying to learn that this film which left such an indelible mark on my then untutored psyche forty years ago continues to be coveted as an old fashioned masterpiece of world cinema (detractors, like Crowther, who panned it as a "camel opera" devoid of human depth, notwithstanding). In some way, it is the first and last of the films I have seen . The best of Lean has a sense of the grandeur and sweep of history. To view it now in the remastered version even on a small screen resonates the same chords. It's about a slice of history, about the desert and the stars, and about a man, whose deserts to occupy a grave in Westminster Abbey, where the British enshrine their great, are questioned, in the opening scenes. If greatness is to be measured not by accomplishment, but by the audacity of the attempt, he may qualify for consideration. In essence he inspires a motley army to attempt a seemingly impossible military task, and achieve it. He maintains such a yardstick of achievement for himself, but fails to consummate the miracle. Again, it is not clear to what extent the portrayal of the person, or the historical events,conform to the reality. The Arabs take Damascus but chaos prevails in the city since water supply, electricity, hospitals and telephone system cannot be run without British help. The dream of Arab independence fails, since the Arabs are not ready for it, and at the end of the day, Turks are displaced by Europeans as occupiers. Incidentally, the most sensitive performance, more than O'Toole or Guinness, is that of Omar Sharif. Peter O'Toole, in fact is a mixture of the pathetic and the grandiose with his trademark perpetually quivering jaw. It is likely that the persona revealed in the writings or in life was larger, more complex, and more interesting. A film that is sweeping, overdone, exhibitionist, brash, riveting and which cannot be ignored. After all, this is the film closest to Spielberg's heart which decided his choice of career.
Churchill on Lawrence
Conversation wih Spielberg


Seongyong Cho said...

This is a great film I want to watch it on the big theater screen someday - too bad I have not found any chance yet.

S. M. Rana said...

Hope you do....