(On TV, October 2018) I wasn’t expecting much from mid-1960s comedy How to Steal a Million except that it starred Audrey Hepburn, but I quickly grew charmed by the result. Hepburn plays the daughter of an art counterfeiter, trying her best to avoid her father’s handiwork from being discovered by appraisal experts. To this end, she befriends a burglar and quickly finds herself planning a museum heist. The plot is good enough to allow Hepburn to play her ingenue best (in her mid-thirties!), bouncing off Peter O’Toole’s charm and the fatherly attention of Hugh Griffith. Hepburn being her usual lovable self, the film unfolds at a pleasantly breezy pace, once again reuniting her with Paris and haute couture. It’s not necessarily one of Hepburn’s best movies, but she delivers here a quintessential performance: Funny, charming, intensely likable and more than cute. As a result, How to Steal a Million is the kind of film that isn’t necessarily listed as an essential 1960s film but packs a lot of entertainment. It’s perhaps best approached as a happy discovery.
(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.