Lawrence of Arabia (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | October 22, 2012 | 1 Comment

Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)Lawrence of Arabia tells the epic true story of T.E. Lawrence, who is serving in the British Military during World War 1. It opens with him riding on a motorcycle, crashing, and getting himself killed. At his funeral men comment on the legend and the movie goes back in time to tell his tale. At first he is seemingly expendable but he is then acclaimed as a hero and a leader, and is worshiped by the British and Arabs alike. But Lawrence’s adventures are dangerous, life threatening, and (for him) exciting. He pushes himself by doing unimaginable things such as extinguishing a match with his fingers, not drinking water while in the desert even though he is being offered some, and traveling long distances in the desert. He meets many people during the war: Sherif Ali, a fellow fighter, Auda Abu Tayi, a tribe leader, Prince Feisal, a thoughtful leader, Turkish Bey, an evil man who tortures him, General Allenby and Colonel Brighton, two English officers, Mr. Dydren, an English leader, Jackson Bentley, an English journalist and photographer, and many others. As he goes mad, how long will Lawrence last in the tiresome, treacherous, and explosive war?

Lawrence Of Arabia is simply masterful. And that’s why 50 years after it’s worldwide premiere in London on December 16th, 1962 it’s still a classic. On Thursday, October 4th this year, the movie was re-released for special one day only showings in the US. Despite this terrible scheduling (it should have shown for many months or at least a special weekend) I got the chance to see the film on the big screen. And in a way you have never seen it before. The movie was restored looking better than any of the previous restorations. In addition there was behind the scenes footage including a few words (literally) from Omar Sharif one of the stars, an introduction from Martin Scorsese in which he talks about his experiences viewing the movie, footage of the crew shooting in the dessert, technicians telling about the process of 4K, and a video of stars arriving at the premiere of the film. And lastly I had only seen the movie once before, earlier this year at home on a TV, but no matter how terrific your TV is there is absolutely nothing that rivals seeing Lawrence Of Arabia on the big screen.

Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)The movie was incredibly difficult to make. It was shot in the desert and there wasn’t always a script when it was being shot. Peter O’Toole, who plays T. E. Lawrence, nearly got killed when he fell of his camel and extra’s horses almost trampled him. He also hurt his hand and needed a bandage. During production I’m not sure if the cast and crew thought it was worth it just to make a movie. Many of the lead actors had other films they were also appearing in that were being released the same year as Lawrence and might have been wondering what would make this one so special. Peter O’Toole was the lead of a movie for the first time after acting in bit parts in a few films in the early 1960’s. But O’Toole wasn’t the original choice for the part. Antony Perkins and Montgomery Clift were briefly considered, Marlon Brando was offered the part but said he didn’t want to spend two years of his life riding a camel. Alec Guinness (who played Lawrence in a play titled Ross) was asked but then thought of to be too old, and Albert Finney, an unknown at the time, was the first choice. But after seeing O’Toole in The Day They Robbed The Bank Of England and viewing his stunning screen test, David Lean proclaimed “This is Lawrence”. In fact there were many things that made this production unusual as well. David Lean has been quoted as saying that most movement in the film is from left to right to emphasize that the story is about a journey. Lean also called Omar Sharif “Fred”, during the shooting phase because he told him “No one in the world is called Omar Sharif. Your name must be Fred.” Lean never watched dailies until editing and missed only one day of work even though many cast and crew members endured illnesses. There isn’t a single woman who speaks a line of dialogue in the entire movie. To discover more about the making of Lawrence of Arabia go to the IMDB trivia page  to learn more about one of the most fascinating productions of all time. It would be great if someone made a movie about the making of this one (documentary or otherwise).

Despite this odd, harrowing, and difficult production, I’d say it was all worth it. Especially on the big screen. Never has a film been better on the big screen. The desert visuals, sweeping train explosion, beautiful panoramic shots, and the loud, terrific, catchy score all combine to create a movie going experience unlike any other. Oh and it doesn’t hurt to throw in a bucket of popcorn, some nonpareals, a nice salty pretzel, a couple chocolate chip cookies, and a bottle of nice cold water, in case you get stuck in the desert watching the movie.

Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)David Lean is undoubtedly one of the finest directors who ever lived and this film proves it. Though I haven’t seen any of his other work, except for the 1946 Great Expectations, he is also famous for The Bridge On The River Kwai, A Passage To India, Doctor Zhivago, Brief Encounter, Oliver Twist, and more. Lean does a great job handling all the elements of Lawrence of Arabia: the action scenes, stunning visuals, and existential pondering as well as the script, acting, music, cinematography, editing, and other mandatory parts of a movie production. There is an epic train explosion and stunning visuals but the story about the heart of Lawrence is what drives the film. In the introduction by Martin Scorsese he says that David Lean was quoted as saying that he never felt he finished editing the movie but when I watched it the movie seemed complete if not rock solid, masterfully finished. Everything about the movie seems definite and planned out. That’s a good thing. However I do understand Lean’s comment. In some respects because the story is focused only on Lawrence’s time in the War. He may have deemed it incomplete because it is not a full biopic. Rather it only focuses on the most important part in Lawrence’s life and maybe that was the right choice. The screenwriters Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson might have thought the rest of this legendary man’s life was uninteresting and boring. Although based on the film that ended up being made, I doubt that any unused ideas were anything less than thrilling pieces of exemplary cinema.

The cast is incredible. The supporting actors are mostly seasoned professionals, if not at the time big stars in the US: Alec Guiness, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, and more. The cast is great and the film simply wouldn’t be the same without them. But this is a character study of one man. Lawrence. And O’Toole delivers. If you didn’t know that this was his first starring role you certainly wouldn’t be able to guess when you’re watching the movie. He dissolves into the role, embodies the character, and brings great depth. It’s a realistic and iconic performance.

The musical score captures the rousing, heroic feeling that Lawrence feels and makes you feel it too. Without the music the film simply wouldn’t be the classic that it is. Maurice Jarre, the composer, demonstrates what music can do to movies. It can enhance them. Sear them into your mind (that’s a great thing in this case). How could you forget Lawrence running across the desert with hundreds of other men about to plunder a train that has just been blown up as the theme is playing loudly and magnificently. These stunning images solidify the film as classic.

My favorite character is Lawrence. There’s really no other choice, despite the great acting and interesting complexities of the supporting characters and cast. Peter O’Toole is, as previously mentioned, amazing, but there is much to be said about the character as well. Is he good or bad? Well it’s not that simple in this kind of movie. Which is what makes it so great. Amongst the beautiful desert vistas is a study of a man’s soul.

My favorite scene is when Lawrence and one of his two young helpers return, after going back to find a lost man who turns out to be dead.  The cinematography is stunning and the theme song is once again excellently used here.

The film is rated PG by the MPAA. I would rate it PG-13 for some war violence, bloody images, brief bad language, complex situations, and a scene of intense torture. Anybody 9 and up with a long attention span and a strong love of history and movies will enjoy this film.

Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)Anchored by a whirlwind central performance and peppered with a superb supporting cast, this is a film that still holds up after half a century. David Lean ingeniously assembles all of his pieces for this one of a kind masterpiece. One of my favorite movies of all time Lawrence Of Arabia is epic, exciting, excellent, existential, and extremely entertaining. The trick is not minding that it’s long.

Stay tuned for an interview with a Political Science Professor (our grandfather) who we interviewed about this movie.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark: The IMAX Experience (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | September 18, 2012 | 2 Comments

Raiders Of The Lost SArk5 Stars

In Raiders Of The Lost Ark Indiana Jones, everyone’s favorite archeologist with a fedora and a whip, goes on adventures to bring back treasured ancient artifacts for the museum at the school where he teaches. His latest mission? To bring back the Ark of the Covenant despite the fact the fact that evil Nazis are racing him to the prize. With the help of his old love interest Marion, good friend Sallah, and long time pal Marcus Brody who works at the same school as Indy he has to try to survive snakes, a shirtless bald German, eye popping terrors, and more.

The first of a four film series, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a treasured classic filled with adventure, comedy, romance, and of course tons of action. Nowadays one of the best ways studios can try to ensure that they’ll make box office gold with their latest projects is to bring together multiple Hollywood heavyweights to work together. But there will never be an A list paring more prestigious than Raider’s: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Since then they’ve worked on almost every type of film imaginable but back then they were known for two films; Jaws and Star Wars, respectively. While those movies were just the beginning of their careers they were still the two highest grossing films of the time. As expected Raiders didn’t, doesn’t, and will simply never disappoint.

Raiders Of The Lost ArkOne of the main reasons the film works is Harrison Ford’s title performance. Not only does he deliver the action man requirements better than most actors, if not all, he’s also hilarious and witty. That said, the rest of the cast delivers well rounded performances. Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys Davies, Denholm Elliot, and Alfred Molina, the eventual Doc-Oc, take stereotypical characters (i.e. the sidekick, love interest, super bad guy, doomed untrustworthy companion, eetc.) and flesh them out, adding vigour, comedy, and fun.

As for the now classic Spielberg and Lucas pairing, it plays out magneficentley. Both have a knack for action set-pieces that really work and that talent is brilliantly showcased here. The classic opening, the truck chase, the scene where Indy and Marion are trapped with a bunch of snakes, and the creepy yet cool climax are all thrilling sequences.  it might not be as great as some of Spielberg’s other works but it is certainly as thrilling, quotable, and all out entertaining as anything he has ever worked on.

This movie is so good it would even be fun to watch on a tiny T.V. But seeing it on an IMAX screen is astonishing. When you go to an IMAX movie you’re not just seeing a film on the big screen you’re seeing it on the biggest screen. For anyone who has never been to IMAX head on over to the Providence Place Mall, despite the very expensive costs it’s worth it at least once. Pick a film like this one that is thoroughly entertaining and has action sequences that are massive and epic in scope. But how does this movie work with the format? The restoration of Indy isn’t perfect: the wide shots are at times seemingly blurrier than ever although maybe I just noticed that on the big screen. When polishing up an  older film for release you have to be careful, after all fans expect it to be perfect. But when doing it for this big a screen it needs to be dazzling. And, aside from the already mentioned occasional glitches, it is. When I walked into the theater I felt absolutely astonished. 6 stories high and featuring a great sound system it is undoubtedly one of my favorite moviegoing experiences in my life so far. While it’s left Providence (for now) I heard it might be expanding it’s originally one week long run so try to track it down at all costs.

But is this masterpiece flawless? Not quite. During the climax SPOILER ALERT! (though let’s face it, who hasn’t seen this movie?) all the bad guys’ faces melt. And what does Indy and Marion do? Close their eyes and wait. There could have been a little battle scene between Belloq and Indy which concludes with Belloq being thrown to the ground by Indy straight into the Ark. Then he would forget to close his eyes along with the other bad guys that perhaps Marion and Sallah could have been fighting. However the heroes would close their eyes and survive. The real ending doesn’t ruin the picture but if they just wanted to clean it up a bit that wouldn’t have hurt.

My favorite character is obviously Indiana Jones. Never has a leading man injected an action hero with so much humor and life. Harrison Ford, a wonder in the title role, is above all what makes this movie a classic.

My favorite scene is the opening because it is incredibly thrilling and gives you a lick of the meal to come. Plus you really can’t beat a glistening golden idol, a failing sand bag, speared skeletons, and one massive boulder.

The film is rated PG by the MPAA. There was no PG-13 back then because it was invented because of the second Indiana Jones film. Nowadays I would rate it PG-13 for some romance, lots of action violence, occasional glimpses of blood, and one very gory climax.

Note: If you want to hear a great disscussion about the Raiders of the Lost Ark IMAX re-release head on over to the Filmspotting website to listen.

Raiders of the Lost Ark has never been better nor bigger. Massive in scope and epic in scale, here is a film that could be called the Citizen Kane of action movies. As thrilling as it is fun, as pulse-pounding as it is laugh out loud hilarious this is (plain and simple) a classic. It’s a master collaboration between Spielberg and Lucas even though it certainly doesn’t have the heart of E.T. and maybe not the everlasting appeal of the original Star Wars (though no doubt, Raiders will never be forgotten) it’s still a great time at the movies. If you haven’t already or even if you have see it on the biggest screen: IMAX. Just when you thought Raiders couldn’t get any better it……..did.