Lawrence of Arabia, the way it was meant to be seen
My return to posting has been motivated by none other than my re-watching of Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen at Bytowne! When I was first getting into classic cinema I always lamented about not getting the opportunity to watch three films on the big screen: Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Lawrence of Arabia.
The funny thing was that at the time I wasn't even a big fan of the film and yet still recognized that this was the type of film that could only be experienced in a darkened cinema. I first watched the film around 1999, the beginnings of my cinephilia, and at the time I found it boring and tedious. A few years later and the DVD-era had arrived and it was only a matter of time before a newly-restored fully uncut 222-minute version of the film was released on DVD. I decided to use this occasion to give the film another whirl. This time around, things began to crystallize, I started to realize that this wasn't simply a beautifully shot film with some boring obligatory biography/plot chunks spliced in, but an incredibly intimate character portrait, the complexity of which was beyond my comprehension during my first viewing. I happily purchased the DVD and devoured some of my favourite scenes over and over the only way I could, on my 27-inch television.
And then, last week when I realized that it would be playing again at Bytowne (for 3 days only!) I made sure that I was going to be there. And you wouldn't believe how disappointed I was when I thought that I was going to have miss it for one of my best friend's bachelorette party! I have to admit that some excuses briefly went through my head. Thankfully, I got the date's mixed up and I didn't have to make that decision in the end.
And so, as for this third and latest viewing: wow! I suppose its effect is evident enough in that it got me posting again after almost two years! Far and away my most satisfying viewing, visually and mentally. As for 4 hours being a long time? It wasn't long enough for me!
Even as I write this post days later, I'm still trying to figure out how Lean managed to make a film that was both supremely epic in its grandeur and scope and yet so psychologically complex. Before watching it I would have honestly thought that to mix such - seemingly - opposing elements in a single film wouldn't work well and to do either one well would be downright impossible. And yet, Lawrence performs both beyond just about any other film in history that has concentrated on just one. No wonder it had to be four hours long!
Epic, in every conceivable way.