Welcome to "Out of the Past"! This column named after the film noir classic of the same name will be about just that, classic movies. Anything from Frank Capra to Akira Kurosawa to Steven Spielberg to Charles Chaplin. My name is Andy York and I've been a classic movie fan since I was about 12(now 20), and I'm grateful to MatchFlick.com for allowing me to post my irrelevant ramblings about movies made by people that are all mostly dead. While we will never see a new Hitchcock movie hit theaters, his and many other great directors, actors and actresses work from decades ago are no less exciting today. So while sitting here listening to Pink Floyd, I give you my first column. My review of my favorite movie of all time, Lawrence of Arabia.
Lawrence of Arabia stars Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness and Josť Ferrer. People that paid attention in history class will know the movie is based on the exploits of the WW1 figure T.E. Lawrence. Released in 1962, Lawrence of Arabia won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director for David Lean and Best Cinematography. The film made it's way on to AFI'S 100 Greatest Movies List in 1998, coming in at #5. Adjusted for inflation, Lawrence sits at #68 on the all-time highest grossing movies ever. Close Encounters of the Third Kind comes in just ahead of Lawrence at #67, while The Rocky Horror Picture Show comes in below at #69. Lawrence of Arabia is obviously hailed as one of the greatest movies to ever. Many consider it to be legendary director David Lean's greatest masterpiece.
Lawrence of Arabia is not simply a war movie or a story about an entire people. The movie is about one man and his desire for a life of significance and historical proportions. As we begin the movie T.E. Lawrence works as a simple a map designer in the British army in the time of World War 1. His well known desire for a more important assignment brings the detail of being the liaison between the British forces and the Arab tribes that together are fighting a war with the Turkish army. Lawrence not merely happy with just being a go-between decides the only way to defeat the Turks is to unite all of the Arab tribes as one. Lawrence, of course, assumes the role of leader, forsaking his British life for the life of the Arabian culture. What follows is maybe the greatest character development in movie history.
I think Sydney Pollack said it best, every frame of Lawrence of Arabia is a painting. In my opinion you will never find a more visually stunning movie. When watching the film it's obvious to the viewer the amazing hard work that went to making a movie that took 2 years to film. David Lean already famous for his great work with previous films like Great Expectations and The Bridge on the River Kwai truly sets himself apart as one of the greatest directors of all time with arguably his greatest masterpiece in Lawrence. His every shot defines why movies when tackled with integrity are a definite art form. Just as amazing as Lean's direction is the performance of Peter O'Toole as the title character. O'Toole in his very first lead role gives ironically the hallmark performance of his storied career. With many great performances from him in later years(have to mention the great King Ralph!), Peter O'Toole simply does what Marlon Brando had done 11 years earlier in A Streetcar Named Desire, he gives the best performance of his career in his first big role. Omar Sharif also gave his star-making performance as Lawrence's sidekick. Omar leads an amazing supporting cast that also includes the future Obi-Wan Kenobi(a very British Alec Guinness) as an Arab leader!
The most famous scene of the movie in is no doubt the yelling of "NO PRISONERS" by Lawrence when preparing to attack the Turkish army. The scene that struck me the most is far less dramatic. While leading the Arab army to attack a Turkish fort Lawrence strolls away from the clan he's leading to walk alone in the desert. Clothed in Arabic dress as opposed to his British uniform Lawrence simply starts to dance while marveling at his new apparel. This to me represents the heart of the film. Lawrence is not simply dancing for the fun of it. He's doing so because he's both amazed at the turn in his life and mesmerized by himself. I don't know if you will find a character with more ego in any movie ever made. Lawrence throughout the movie believes he is a man of history, and in no other scene do you see him more in awe of himself. That's your story and movie. Lawrence of Arabia is one the biggest epics of all time. Truly a massive film with huge battle scenes. While if you really the watch the movie, that's just background. The true story is one man and his personality.
Lawrence of Arabia is a 3 hour epic and so I've seen several people complain of the sheer length of the movie. I suppose as it is with movies themselves, that subjective. I myself find epic movies of great length completely consuming of my attention as long as they deliver. Lawrence delivers as much as any movie I've ever seen. The length is no doubt felt, but not all movies are meant to move at a fast pace. Slow pacing can be as effective, if not more so, than a movie that goes by as fast as a Ramones song. By the end of the movie you have followed Lawrence from a solider hungry for life to a man beaten down by that very life. You can't tell that story in 90 minutes.
When I used to watch Michael Jordan play basketball at least once a game he would make a play that just had you shaking your head because he was just so damn good. In an odd way, David Lean, Peter O'Toole and the movie itself has the same effect on me. When watching Lawrence of Arabia you see not only great entertainment, but you realize this is filmmaking at it's apex in terms of an art form. Lawrence of Arabia stands along with watching one of the greatest athletes ever, standing in front of a great painting, or listening to whatever music truly touches you. In all you are seeing greatness unfold in front of you. While many people today question many of the movies consistently pushed as the pillars of film, I promise you Lawrence of Arabia is not in that league by mistake.
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Discussing classic films from City Lights to Apocalypse
Now and everything in between and beyond.
Andy is a life long movie fanatic. The first movie he saw in the theater was Back to the Future, Part 2 at the age of 3 and he has loved movies ever since.|
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