To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of David Lean’s legendary magnum-opus Lawrence of Arabia (1962), one of the all-time most sweeping historical epic adventures ever filmed, the Cannes film festival is screening a newly restored print of the film which includes an extra 21 minutes of footage that was added to the Director’s cut back in 1989. This spectacular film can only be fully appreciated on a large screen and is often exhibited in big theaters on special occasions.
Lawrence of Arabia was the Avatar (2009) of the 1960s, so grand and exotic in its vision of a faraway tribal desert culture. It follows the adventures of a young officer in the British army stationed in Cairo during the First World War, who becomes infatuated with the proud Bedouin tribes living a nomadic life in the Arabian Desert and helps unite them to fight against the Ottoman Turks while adopting their ways.
What makes this astonishingly beautiful film so unique is the breathtaking cinematic way in which it was filmed in vast shimmering desert landscapes of Jordan and Morocco, which gives it a grand epic quality unlike any other film I’ve seen. Much of the film takes place in the visual splendor of sand swept dunes with flowing robes fluttering in the harsh conditions of swirling desert sands. The only other thing I can compare the stunning cinematography to is some of the recent BBC Life and Planet Earth series.
Based on the life of T.E. Lawrence, a real historical figure, Lawrence of Arabia is considered one of the most influential films in cinema, alongside such classics as Citizen Kane (1941), Casablanca (1942) and The Godfather (1972), inspiring many of today’s greatest filmmakers including Steven Spielberg. Winner of 7 Oscars, including best picture and cinematography, the movie opens, like other epic British productions such as The Man Who Would Be King (1975) and Gandhi (1982), with a scene that explains the legacy left behind by our hero and then goes back in time to where it all began.
Considered a bit of a strange chap with unusual skills, Lawrence is chosen to go on a mission that will take him across the scorching desert to meet with an Arab Sheik. His outspoken moral convictions, and knowledge of history mixed with his respect for the Bedouin people impresses the Arab Prince and he decides to let him carry out a bold daring military maneuver to attack a strategic Turkish outpost against the advice of his British commanders.
Not enough can be said of the incredibly heartfelt performance of a young Peter O’Toole as T. E. Lawrence in the leading role of a life time that made him an instant star at the age of thirty. He has since appeared in such epic films as The Last Emperor (1987) and Troy (2004).
Everything about this film exudes epic film-making at its finest by a director who was already revered for his unrivaled body of work which included such classics as Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and would go on to make more classics such as Doctor Zhivago (1965) and A Passage to India (1984).
This is an ideal film to watch on today’s large screen High Definition televisions to really appreciate its epic scale and I’m looking forward to its release on the Blu-ray format November 13, 2012.