Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Next up: ‘Lawrence of Arabia’

Magic Lantern to follow ‘MASH’ with 1960s epic film


Peter O’Toole, left, and Anthony Quinn star in the epic drama “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Courtesy photo

    The Magic Lantern Film Society will present the classic award-winning film “Lawrence of Arabia” on Wednesday, April 2, and Thursday, April 3, at 7 p.m., at the Ketchum theater complex.
    In 1962, “Lawrence of Arabia” won the Academy Award for Best Picture, directed by David Lean. The British epic adventure drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence stars Peter O’Toole in the title role and is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won seven in total, including Best Director and Best Picture.
    At the time, O’Toole was a virtual unknown. Albert Finney, Marlon Brando, Anthony Perkins and Montgomery Clift were all considered for the part, before O’Toole was cast.  The cast also includes Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Sir Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quale and Claude Raines.  
    Famous film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “What a bold, mad act of genius it was, to make ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ or even think that it could be made. In the words years later of one of its stars, Omar Sharif, ‘If you are the man with the money and somebody comes to you and says he wants to make a film that’s four hours long, with no stars, and no women, and no love story, and not much action either, and he wants to spend a huge amount of money to go film it in the desert—what would you say?’”

To see it in a movie
theater is to appreciate the subtlety of
Freddie Young’s desert cinematography.”
Roger Ebert
Film critic

    Ebert said that “Lawrence of Arabia” is not a simple biography or an adventure movie—although it contains both elements—but a movie that uses the desert as a stage for the flamboyance of a driven, quirky man. Although it is true that Lawrence was instrumental in enlisting the desert tribes on the British side in the 1914-17 campaign against the Turks, the movie suggests that he acted less out of patriotism than out of a need to reject conventional British society, choosing to identify with the wildness and theatricality of the Arabs.
    “Lawrence of Arabia” is not dense with plot details. It is a spare movie in clean, uncluttered lines, and there is never a moment when the audience is in doubt about the logistical details of the various campaigns. Lawrence is able to unite various desert factions, the movie argues, because: (1) He is so obviously an outsider that he cannot even understand, let alone take sides with, the various ancient rivalries; and (2) because he is able to show the Arabs that it is in their own self-interest to join the war against the Turks. Along the way, he makes allies of such desert leaders as Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif), Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) and Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn), both by winning their respect and by appealing to their logic.
    “To see it in a movie theater is to appreciate the subtlety of Freddie Young’s desert cinematography—achieved despite blinding heat, and the blowing sand, which worked its way into every camera,” Ebert said.

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