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Lawrence of Arabia

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Lawrence of Arabia
 
David Lean I 1962 I USA / UK
 
Lawrence of Arabia
 
While watching Lawrence of Arabia I didn't feel as though I was watching a film. Surely, I thought, this must be poetry. The way director David Lean handles the material, with so much delicacy and care, is as incredible as it is odd. He gives the film such a slow pace, such subtlety and power, which makes it all the more unique. The film is without a doubt an astonishing cinematic achievement, a film that, after 41 years, is still able to amaze and enthral. A timeless classic, Lawrence of Arabia proves to be one of the most epic pictures to have ever been put on celluloid. It is grand in every sense, awesome and brilliantly realised; a film for the ages that is impossible to forget.

It stars Peter O'Toole in one of the most fantastic debuts in film history as T.E. Lawrence, who, while working on the staff of British Intelligence in Cairo in 1916, earns a post on a mission sent to establish contact with Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness), leader of the Arab revolt and ally of the British against the German-sponsored Turks in WWI. Impressed by Lawrence's knowledge of their culture, the prince allows the young officer to join his staff, and Lawrence quickly earns the Arabs' respect after he executes acts of extraordinary heroism. As the Englishman's genius for guerrilla warfare becomes evident, he assumes the role of de facto leader of the Arab revolt, uniting the heretofore warring tribes into a very effective weapon. But the chaos of war also unleashes the repressed officer's powerful need for self-abasement and mortification of the flesh.

Brushing over the 3-hour and a half mark, the film may be sometimes hard to watch because of its length, but personally, I found it a pleasure to watch. It's at all times engaging and compelling, and always holds the interest of the viewer. The cinematography is one of the best and most beautiful I have ever witnessed, perfectly capturing the intense heat and dryness of the desert, it combines images of spellbinding landscapes and contains some of the most inventive transitions in film history; from a burning match to a red-bathed scene of a sunset is one of the many examples. There are many unforgettable scenes in the film such as the blowing up of the train or the conquering of Acaba.

In terms of pure grandeur, power, sweep and emotion very few films come close to Lawrence of Arabia. It is a film that proudly can rival any other because of its ambition and deserved critical praise. Because of this, or rather, as a result of this, the fact that David Lean is one of the greatest and most successful directors of all time can be confirmed. With both intelligence and experience he gives the film such scope and immense proportions that it becomes very hard to think that other directors could've accomplished such a challenging project. Even today, in the 21st century, in a time where CGI has become more important than other film factors, remaking such film would be almost impossible. David Lean's vision is wonderfully mesmerising and his love for filmmaking is ever-present and almost palpable every shot. With confidence and inspiration, he gives the film his own and particular feel, turning it into a magical experience and rapidly convincing us that this is one of the finest works of cinematic brilliance to ever illuminate the big screen.

Rarely has this film been equaled and I can easily see why. The awe-inspiring battle sequences still look amazing forty years later and the stellar performances, featuring Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Jose Ferrer and Omar Sharif are simply great and very convincing. However, it is Peter O'Toole who steals the show with one of his earliest film roles. He can be enigmatic, arrogant, mad, heroic, all these at the same time, portraying T.E. Lawrence in a semi perfect way and showing us his emotions and feelings with incredible ease. It comes as a surprise to find out that he didn't end up winning the Academy Award for which he got nominated that year. Apart from that, the beautiful score by Maurice Jarre suits the mood of the film incredibly well and is very haunting. Magnificent.

Seldom has a film been able to fascinate me as much as this one. Simply put, it's an unrepeatable gem that I will love and love forever. The sheer magnificence and bravura of it all is breathtaking and its ability to enthrall and captivate is as good as it is rare. Winner of 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Lawrence of Arabia is an engrossing film, a legendary story; one of the most unforgettable productions of all time. A miracle of a movie.

Cherish it.
 
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Reviewed by Pablo Hernandez, 2003