17 March 2008

14. lawrence of arabia

like hitchcock and scorsese movies, the exciting thing about this movie isn't the
writing, it is the directing. movies are a director's medium, and few filmmakers
understood that better than david lean. his attention to detail is everywhere, and his stamina and dedication to a subject, and the filmic interpretation of a subject, is evident in this film.

that's abstract, i know, so let's see what we mean. what we mean is that lean chose to make a film about a british war hero out in the desert. so, you have to show why the man was a hero, and how he led others into battle and made them accept him as one of their own. he also had to show the utter brutality of the desert, and how it swallows men whole (sometimes literally).

he did this in several ways. one is that he chose a relative unknown, peter o'toole, to play the lead. this was a smart choice because lawrence was a mysterious man, even to those who knew him. he was eccentric, eerily driven in battle (and choice of location to battle), and probably gay. by casting an unknown in the role, lean kept the audience off-balance about the line between the character and the actor.

lean was also exceptionally bold in his insistence on shooting in the real deserts of north africa and the middle east. in this way he was able to capture the real desert winds that exist there, and to gather the myriad extras required for such large battle scenes. this is no small matter and no small feat -- the logistics of such a production drive me crazy just imagining them.

and on top of that, there must have been sand in everything -- sand in the cameras, sand in the lens, sand in the makeup, sand in the catering. but in filming in the real deserts of those parts of the world, lean was able to capture the hallucinatory effects the oppressive heat and wind and dust and sun would have had on a british man. and made us wonder why he loved it so.

again, the strengths here are in the directing, not the writing. the writing is fine -- it is spare, with no wedged-in love story, no comic relief, no subplots for no reason. but we don't watch an epic film -- a film that runs for nearly 4 hours -- because of the writing.


Blogger ayatollah assahola said...

one of my all time favorites.

some trivia: There are rumors that Lawrence was gay. And some speculate that the torture scene which appears in the book and movie were actually fantasies of his.

top-notch flick though. Omar Shareef kicks balls. Do you eat with your shit hand?

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great work.

2:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

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12:26 AM  

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