Saturday, October 23, 2010

1962: Lawrence of Arabia

Using mainly will-power, a British officer manages to achieve feats which no one else is willing to try, uniting Arabian tribes to overthrow the Turkish Empire.  For a time, the Arabs all love him and manage to put aside their differences to support him.  But despite his success, he leaves Arabia disillusioned and friendless.

This movie tends to rank very high on lists of the best films ever made.  The cinematography is quite remarkable, and the extreme long shots of the vast desert are at once picturesque and daunting.  Peter O'Toole is fabulous as the title character.  A lot of the important Arabs are played by Caucasian actors, which is quite annoying, but for the most part they do a good job pretending to be Arabian.  The story is engaging, interesting, and inspiring, at least for the first half.  After the intermission, I think the film loses some of its steam.  Lawrence is always a little strange, but in the second half of the film he becomes mind-bogglingly inconsistent.  One minute he's determined to take Damascus; the next he would rather slaughter a bunch of Turks.  He wants to go home, then he wants to go back to the Arabs, then he wants to do something else.  I feel like this must be one of those films that has to be watched a few times before everything makes sense, but frankly I don't think I'll be able to re-watch this any time soon.  I don't mean to imply that it's not a great film; it is.  But it's also very long, very disturbing, and very uncomfortable to watch, not to mention somewhat confusing, though I think I might have understood it better if I was more knowledgeable about the situation in the Middle East during World War I.  All in all, I perfectly comprehend why this film receives praise, but I think it might be overrated just a little bit.  But maybe I'll watch it again in a few years and find that my opinion has changed.

Coming up: Tom Jones

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