Monday, October 1, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia sez...get off your butt

Maybe you have a pressing engagement. Maybe you think $12.50 is always too much to pay for a movie ticket. But if you claim to love movies, those are the only acceptable reasons to blow off the screenings of "Lawrence of Arabia" on Thursday at Concord Mills or Stonecrest. I wish the run lasted more than one day, because I have work during both the matinee and evening screenings and can't figure a way to skip out.

The full title now appears to be "Lawrence of Arabia 50th Anniversary Event: Digitally Restored." The key words are the last two. A New York Times article ( explains in depth why the digital cleanup of this re-release makes it imperative to watch in theaters: The Blu-Ray disc released later this year won't compare, no matter how grand your home system may be.

I saw the last re-release almost 25 years ago at SouthPark Cinemas, which had the biggest screen in Charlotte at the time. My parents never took me to the original, because I was 8 when it came out, and they knew I couldn't sit through a 227-minute movie without snoring or crying. I had seen the film many times on VHS by then, but the sight of camels marching in single file across the desert under a monstrous red sun took my breath away.

For me, "Lawrence" will always be the most spectacular meeting point between blockbuster opulence and narrative skill. Almost every technical aspect of the film won an Oscar: score, editing, cinematography, art direction, sound. The picture and director David Lean also won. Peter O'Toole should have joined them in the winners' circle for the title role, but Gregory Peck swiped the best actor Oscar for "To Kill a Mockingbird." (He was a great Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, but O'Toole was a great Lawrence.)

The film doesn't worship the man who attempted to organize and liberate Arabs from colonial domination during World War I. He's shrewd yet foolish, tough yet broken, heroic yet misguided and finally unknowable on some level: He has not a single friend in the movie except Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif), whom he regularly exasperates.

As a movie biography, this has no equal. As a work of sheer visual dazzlement, it has few peers. As an excuse to get off your couch and see a film as it was meant to be seen, it's at the top right now.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. Saw it as a kid, too, but now I'll take mine to see this better version.