Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on the big screen
On Thursday, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Lawrence of Arabia (1962) for the very first time, and on the big screen to boot. What an experience!
The film was presented by Sony Pictures and NCM Fathom Events. It started off early with some interviews with industry professionals regarding the remastering of the film for it's 50th anniversary and it's special Blu-Ray release. Note to self: go to these screenings early or you'll miss all the advanced goodies. Carlos and I walked in and they had already started.
They showed some behind-the-scenes footage from old newsreels. Then they showed The Lure of the Dessert, a documentary by Martin Scorcese on Lawrence of Arabia. Scorcese made some interesting observations. Lawrence of Arabia is one of the few cinematic epics from the era which is not based on a Biblical character or story yet has the same level of production as those Biblical movies did. Scorcese was intrigued by T.E. Lawrence the main character because he's a hero you can't quite figure out and the mystery of his character is what draws audiences into the movie and back to it after they ave seen it. And Scorcese never seems to remember the ending because this movie is much more about the journey than it is about a beginning and an end. He also notes that there was a restoration and re-release that happened in the 1980s.
David Lean was the director of Lawrence of Arabia and it was noted, perhaps in Scorcese's documentary, that he never finished editing the film. Which could speak to it's length and breadth.
There was also a newsreel from when King Hussein visited the set and another one about Peter O'Toole. Did you know he spent 3 months learning how to ride a camel? And that a 1917 armored car actually used by the real T.E. Lawrence was used in the film?
The final bits included some short footage of the Lawrence of Arabia premiere. I'm thinking it was L.A. but it could have been NY. I didn't realize this was Peter O'Toole's first major role. Wow! That's quite a project to take on.
My favorite of the intro pieces definitely had to have been Omar Sharif's introduction. He starts off saying "I wish I was with you right now." Oh my goodness I just wanted to give him a big hug.
There is not much I can say about Lawrence of Arabia that hasn't been said so I thought I would just share my experience as a newcomer to the film. I had seen another David Lean film, Ryan's Daughter (1970), so the cinema style employed by David Lean was familiar to me. The score, the visuals, the costumes, the settings, the story, the magnificent cast (Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer, Claude Rains, etc.), Peter O'Toole's blazing blue eyes, what a feast to behold. I was very drawn to all the open space and the continuing themes of loneliness, identity, determination and heroism. I thought it was interesting that T.E. Lawrence is kind of an androgynous character who seems to have both feminine and masculine characteristics along with his personality and character flowing between being English and his sympathy and camaraderie with the Arabs. I really love how they set up his character in the beginning of the film. His motorcycle accident, his love of maps of Arabia and his willingness to burn his fingers on matches shows a sense of adventure and willingness to explore a vast dessert landscape that would scare away many.
I'm very glad I saw this for the first time on the big screen. It made a huge difference. The time frame did not work for me that well. It started at 7pm and after all the intro stuff the film started a bit later. I was fine until the intermission then after the intermission I started to get sleepy and restless and wanted Lawrence to finish his journey already! I think my experience would have been better if the film started earlier. I'm just not a night owl.
Did you see Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on the big screen? What are your thoughts on your experience?
Here are some fun infographics: