Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

(Second viewing, On Cable TV, November 2017) I first watched Lawrence of Arabia in university, taking advantage of the selection of classic movies at the library. I recall being impressed at the scope of the movie, its cinematography and the train attack sequence. A re-watch twenty-five years later is amazing for different reasons: while the epic scope and cinematography remain astonishing (although, seriously, did this film need to be more than three hours?), I’m more interested by the complexities of the lead character as played by Peter O’Toole. T.E. Lawrence’s dramatic arc plays out in multiple dimensions, first transforming him from an underestimated drone to a full-fledged desert warrior, then a reluctant leader and then a disillusioned stranger. There are also the personal characteristics of the man: his implied homosexuality, his barely constrained thirst for war, and his masochism (“the trick … is not minding that it hurts”), all of them refreshingly portrayed by O’Toole in a performance that downplays major markers of conventional masculinity. It’s a war film with thrilling sequences, but it’s not particularly kind to the British for their treatment of their Arab allies after World War I. It’s a big, big story handled with skill by director David Lean and the technical qualities of the film are still astonishing fifty-five years later—aside from the typical Technicolor tint, the latest (2012) remaster of Lawrence of Arabia looks just as good on HD today than many contemporary features. Length aside, I still like it a lot … albeit for different reasons than twenty-five years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *