Monday, October 8, 2012

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:



15 comments:

  1. I've sadly never seen a David lean film on the Big Screen, but I can definitely imagine how amazing it would be to see Lawrence of Arabia on the Big Screen. Dr. Zhivago is probably my favorite David Lean film, so that's the one I think I would watch on the Big Screen if I could - though, admittedly, he's one of the few directors where I love all the films…

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Sebina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dr. Zhivago would be amazing to see on the big screen! Or even just a really big TV. ha. It's a gorgeous film. Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  2. Since last Thursday, I've spent more than a little time trying to digest my feelings at seeing the restored "Lawrence of Arabia" on a theater screen in all its cinematic glory. I must confess, I'm still overwhelmed. I was a bit too young to have seen it when it was first released, so being able to view a screening in a theater as it was meant to be seen was truly special. I hope Fathom and its partners will continue to stage these events for the great films of the past.

    One of the most predominant thoughts I've mulled over since I watched it has to do with the pacing of the film. While I would never call it slow, David Lean takes his time unfolding the story and I found that made the film even more compelling to watch. During Nefud Desert crossing, the pacing built so much suspense, I found myself squirming in my seat. As you mentioned, from Scorcese's comments about this film, "this movie is much more about the journey than it is about a beginning and an end. . ."

    I've often thought that one thing setting a great master of the past apart from the other artists of his day was his ability to overcome the problems inherent in the art form in which he was working. The means used to overcome the problem and the unique way in which the problem is resolved adds to the value of the art for whomever can appreciate it. I happily add David Lean's name to a roster that includes Michelangelo and Mozart. His choices for this film just seem perfect to me.

    I'm grateful for having had the opportunity to see this grand movie, restored and projected on the giant screen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can understand your feeling of being overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed myself and it took me a while to gather my thoughts to even write about it! And even then I didn't have much to say.

      You make a really good point. It's not slow and doesn't drag but David Lean does take his time and it seems worth it. Maybe because we are so entranced with the visuals.

      Thanks so much for your very thoughtful comment and observation!

      Delete
  3. I was really hoping to be able to get out to see this. I love the old classics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zack - Perhaps they'll show this one or another of your favorite classics on the big screen!

      Delete
  4. I didn't get a chance to see this new theatrical release but when I was living in Maryland/DC there was a theater that showed a 70mm print of Lawrence of Arabia on their 40 ft screen every year. I got to see it once and it is beautiful. It really is one of those movies that demands to seen on a big screen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you got to see it on the big screen previously. It's definitely an event to see it that way. I'm glad I saved my first viewing for a cinema one.

      Delete
    2. The big screen viewing was also my first viewing and at this point it is my only viewing. After seeing on that massive screen, watching it on my TV just doesn't compare.

      Delete
  5. First I want to thank Raquelle for the opportunity to see this great film again. I did see Lawrence of Arabia on its initial run and thrilled to the epic journey. I have since seen the film several times both on the big screen and on DVD (it was one of the first DVDs I purchased.) One of my more memorable moving going experiences was the weekend I saw both Lawrence and Dr. Zhivago on a large screen. From hot to cold, a weekend of everything.

    The one issue I had with Lawrence the first few times I saw it was the ending. It always seemed to falter in the last act after all the highs of the beginning. Part of me felt the film would have been great if it had just stopped after attack on Aqaba. What a thrilling moment. But now, being older I guess and seeing what has happened to the Middle East over the last century, I realize the ending is indeed what the film is about. It's a true tragedy, the story of one man's vision that is destroyed by both his own arrogance and ambition and by outside forces he has no control over. It is one of the great stories and a great epic film.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bill,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. Wow you say Lawrence and Zhivago in one weekend? That's quite an undertaking. I think I would be emotionally drained!

      I felt like the whole last part after the intermission wasn't as good as the first part. It was partly my exhaustion and partly that it wasn't as exciting as the beginning part (I say part because it wasn't quite in them middle).

      Delete
  6. It musr ahve been an amazing experience! I watched Lawrence for the first time this year, on January 1st, but unfortunately not in the big screen.
    I usually want to hug Omar all the time, this would be just another impulse to do that.
    Scorsese is a huge cinephile. He sure knew how to do a Lawrence of Arabia documentary. At least his A Letter to Elia was great!
    Kisses!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A Letter to Elia is wonderful and I really enjoyed Scorcese's tribute to Lawrence of Arabia. I love that Scorcese has become a champion for classic film.

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great article! I went to see Lawrence of Arabia when they screened the directors cut in the late 80s. It was at a theater that had one of the biggest screens in the state and it blew me away! It was the first “classic” film that I saw on the big screen and it was just a transformative experience for this budding film buff. Prior to that, the last time I had seen LoA was on a 13” black and white television! Just a terrific film.

    ReplyDelete

Leave me a comment!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails