Discussion:
Lawrence of Arabia and Me
(too old to reply)
Bill Anderson
2008-11-23 23:18:14 UTC
Permalink
Lawrence of Arabia is without question a movie classic, one of the
greats, a must-see, on everybody's top 25 list (top 50, anyway), etc.
etc. a brilliant masterpiece. I know this because I've been taught this.

But I don't like it. In fact, it's more than that -- I actively dislike
the movie.

I tried it out again last night in hopes I'd see things differently this
time. HDNET Movies had run it some time back in HD and I'd saved it on
my DVR. It was the Robert Harris restoration and holy cow it was
beautiful to behold on my 42" plasma screen display with 5.1 Dolby
surround sound. I may be stupid not to like the movie, but I'm not so
stupid that I don't know beauty when I behold it, and I gotta say that
this film in the restored version in high definition is a wonder to
behold. I really, REALLY want to see it in 70mm on a big screen, and if
I ever get a chance I'll torture myself one more time just to lay eyes
on those incredible vistas, those gorgeously framed shots in full Super
Panavision as they were meant to be seen.

Yeah, there are good things to say. From the moment the film begins,
when Lawrence is readying his motorcycle for the death ride, it is so
obvious that this is one of those super-duper 1960s event movies
presented in roadshow engagements. There's just something indefinable
about it -- but you know from the start that this thing has aspirations,
that it is going to be BIG.

But oh I just don't like it. I don't like HIM -- T.E. Lawrence. He is
not a noble person -- everything he does is for his pleasure (nicely
echoed by Anthony Quinn's character) -- in fact, he is the villain, a
devil in brilliant white angel's clothing who brings misery and chaos to
the people he purports to help. I don't like the Omar Sharif character,
a tribal leader who (I admit) does grow as a human being through the
movie, but who begins as an arrogant cold-blooded murderer and who,
after that act, never won my sympathy. I don't like the Anthony Quinn
character, a stupid old man. I don't like the Alec Guinness character
-- so obviously a white man in blackface that it was disgusting. I
don't like the Claude Rains character or the British army characters who
lie to Lawrence, who loose him on the Arab tribes for their own hidden
purposes. I don't even like the Lowell Thomas character -- whatever
name they gave him -- even though he was more honest than anyone else
about the hypocrisy he was witnessing and abetting.

Last night my purpose was to transfer the High-Def copy of Lawrence I
have on my DVR onto my hard drive in order to keep it for future viewing
in high definition. I started the process at 10:30 pm and figured I'd
just let the transfer run while I slept. But after watching about 30
minutes and with no requirement to get up early this morning, I decided
it was time I watched it all once again. So there I sat into the early
hours of the morning, losing interest slowly and steadily, until by the
time Lawrence was blowing up a train, mowing down non-combatants, and
encouraging "his" troops to slaughter every poor person they
encountered, I had basically lost interest. It was 1:30 am and I was
working Sudoku puzzles rather than forcing myself to watch the
distasteful events transpiring on my TV.

I even had to go back to the DVR this afternoon to ensure I'd taken in
the final scenes of the movie -- because last night I just didn't care.
When I think back on the whole thing I realize there's nobody in the
movie that I actually liked, that I identified with -- not even the two
young men who followed Lawrence into (1) death by quicksand and (2)
death by bullet to the head by the hand of none other than T.E. Lawrence
himself. (That was, come to think of it, the second semi-sympathetic
character he murdered in cold blood.)

What is there to like about this movie? The cinematography? The score?
I'll give you both, gladly. They're wonderful, they're unforgettable,
they're magnificent artistic achievements. But that main character guy,
the one with the blond hair? ... Bleh.

And for what it's worth -- my transfer didn't work. Normally I run
VideoReDo's QuickStream Fix on HD video I've captured by firewire, but
VideoReDo choked on the almost 30-gigabyte file Lawrence of Arabia
created. So right now I don't have a Lawrence of Arabia video file
worth keeping on my hard drive, and while I think I know how to work
around the problem I'm considering just leaving things as they are. I
doubt I'll ever want to see this thing again on even a very nice high
definition TV. But 70mm? Maybe someday. I'll give it that.
--
Bill Anderson

I am the Mighty Favog
David Oberman
2008-11-23 23:43:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bill Anderson
What is there to like about this movie? The cinematography? The score?
I'll give you both, gladly. They're wonderful, they're unforgettable,
they're magnificent artistic achievements.
Not everyone thought so, Bill. Stanley Kauffmann thought the Jarre
score was trashy -- redolent of the tawdry Hollywood movies of an
earlier time with Yvonne De Carlo galumphing across the desert on a
camel.







____

Très lent
Sans presser ni ralentir jusquà la fin
Sourdine durant toute la pièce

-- Ravel's tempo mark modifiers for the
most haunting of all 20th-century music
Bill Anderson
2008-11-24 00:33:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Oberman
Post by Bill Anderson
What is there to like about this movie? The cinematography? The score?
I'll give you both, gladly. They're wonderful, they're unforgettable,
they're magnificent artistic achievements.
Not everyone thought so, Bill. Stanley Kauffmann thought the Jarre
score was trashy -- redolent of the tawdry Hollywood movies of an
earlier time with Yvonne De Carlo galumphing across the desert on a
camel.
Well I like Yvonne DeCarlo and I like the music in Lawrence of Arabia.
I especially appreciated the discord in the theme when Lawrence was
prancing on top of the wrecked train with all the death and suffering
below. Even the soundtrack was beating me over the head with the idea
that this guy was severely off his rocker.
--
Bill Anderson

I am the Mighty Favog
tomcervo
2008-11-24 01:06:33 UTC
Permalink
The problems are a good deal deeper than much of what you cite. Len
Deighton seized on LoA as the exemplar of what went wrong with British
cinema in the 60's--the big epic vision replacing the small, intimate
human drama. He used "The Cruel Sea" as an exemplar of the latter, but
that works on two levels: the big Imperial drama, ultimately empty and
futile vs. the small but significant drama of civilians turned
warriors fighting for personal and national survival.

Bolt's screenplay is quite incisive--Lawrence's biographer Jeremy
Wilson cited its understanding of Lawrence's psyche long before the
private papers came out--but it's still a roadshow script, and the
thing is an hour longer than it needs to be. You also have to believe
that the desert campaign and Arab independence were matters of equal
importance. The teleplay "A Difficult Man" showed the all-wise British
Arabists sowing the seeds for Middle East with the bland confidence of
sleepwalkers.

And there's O'Toole, operatic almost from the first. Deighton noted
that the Hollywood star with the most resemblance to Lawrence was Stan
Laurel. The best casting would have been Guinness, but Lean took too
long to prepare---so long that the frustrated Guinness played Lawrence
on the stage in Terence Rattigan's "Ross", another alternative to the
roadshow script. And the stills of Albert Finney in costume suggest
another, "smaller" version.
Betaville
2008-11-24 04:09:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by tomcervo
The problems are a good deal deeper than much of what you cite. Len
Deighton seized on LoA as the exemplar of what went wrong with British
cinema in the 60's--the big epic vision replacing the small, intimate
human drama. He used "The Cruel Sea" as an exemplar of the latter, but
that works on two levels: the big Imperial drama, ultimately empty and
futile vs. the small but significant drama of civilians turned
warriors fighting for personal and national survival.
Actually, the kitchen sinkers weren't all that much fun. And, the big
Brit epics were more Hollywood--in terms of financing, promotion, and
distribution--than really British.

But whatever its shortcomings, Lawrence of Arabia is a TREMENDOUS
film. And, I LOVE Dr. Zhivago. It was a movie-out-of-time--at least
critically--but following generations are still amazed by it. It's a
beautiful romantic film. TOO beautiful and TOO romantic, but
undeniably moving.
Betaville
2008-11-23 23:51:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bill Anderson
Lawrence of Arabia is without question a movie classic, one of the
greats, a must-see, on everybody's top 25 list (top 50, anyway), etc.
etc. a brilliant masterpiece.  I know this because I've been taught this.
But I don't like it.  In fact, it's more than that -- I actively dislike
the movie.
I tried it out again last night in hopes I'd see things differently this
time.  HDNET Movies had run it some time back in HD and I'd saved it on
my DVR.  It was the Robert Harris restoration and holy cow it was
beautiful to behold on my 42" plasma screen display with 5.1 Dolby
surround sound.  I may be stupid not to like the movie, but I'm not so
stupid that I don't know beauty when I behold it, and I gotta say that
this film in the restored version in high definition is a wonder to
behold.  I really, REALLY want to see it in 70mm on a big screen, and if
I ever get a chance I'll torture myself one more time just to lay eyes
on those incredible vistas, those gorgeously framed shots in full Super
Panavision as they were meant to be seen.
Yeah, there are good things to say.  From the moment the film begins,
when Lawrence is readying his motorcycle for the death ride, it is so
obvious that this is one of those super-duper 1960s event movies
presented in roadshow engagements.  There's just something indefinable
about it -- but you know from the start that this thing has aspirations,
that it is going to be BIG.
But oh I just don't like it.  I don't like HIM -- T.E. Lawrence.  He is
not a noble person -- everything he does is for his pleasure (nicely
echoed by Anthony Quinn's character) -- in fact, he is the villain, a
devil in brilliant white angel's clothing who brings misery and chaos to
the people he purports to help.  I don't like the Omar Sharif character,
a tribal leader who (I admit) does grow as a human being through the
movie, but who begins as an arrogant cold-blooded murderer and who,
after that act, never won my sympathy.  I don't like the Anthony Quinn
character, a stupid old man.  I don't like the Alec Guinness character
-- so obviously a white man in blackface that it was disgusting.  I
don't like the Claude Rains character or the British army characters who
lie to Lawrence, who loose him on the Arab tribes for their own hidden
purposes.  I don't even like the Lowell Thomas character -- whatever
name they gave him -- even though he was more honest than anyone else
about the hypocrisy he was witnessing and abetting.
Last night my purpose was to transfer the High-Def copy of Lawrence I
have on my DVR onto my hard drive in order to keep it for future viewing
in high definition.  I started the process at 10:30 pm and figured I'd
just let the transfer run while I slept.  But after watching about 30
minutes and with no requirement to get up early this morning, I decided
it was time I watched it all once again.  So there I sat into the early
hours of the morning, losing interest slowly and steadily, until by the
time Lawrence was blowing up a train, mowing down non-combatants, and
encouraging "his" troops to slaughter every poor person they
encountered, I had basically lost interest.  It was 1:30 am and I was
working Sudoku puzzles rather than forcing myself to watch the
distasteful events transpiring on my TV.
I even had to go back to the DVR this afternoon to ensure I'd taken in
the final scenes of the movie -- because last night I just didn't care.
  When I think back on the whole thing I realize there's nobody in the
movie that I actually liked, that I identified with -- not even the two
young men who followed Lawrence into (1) death by quicksand and (2)
death by bullet to the head by the hand of none other than T.E. Lawrence
himself.  (That was, come to think of it, the second semi-sympathetic
character he murdered in cold blood.)
What is there to like about this movie?  The cinematography?  The score?
  I'll give you both, gladly.  They're wonderful, they're unforgettable,
they're magnificent artistic achievements.  But that main character guy,
the one with the blond hair? ... Bleh.
And for what it's worth -- my transfer didn't work.  Normally I run
VideoReDo's QuickStream Fix on HD video I've captured by firewire, but
VideoReDo choked on the almost 30-gigabyte file Lawrence of Arabia
created.  So right now I don't have a Lawrence of Arabia video file
worth keeping on my hard drive, and while I think I know how to work
around the problem I'm considering just leaving things as they are.  I
doubt I'll ever want to see this thing again on even a very nice high
definition TV.  But 70mm?  Maybe someday. I'll give it that.
--
I'm not a big fan of this movie either. I do agree that's great and a
genuine movie classic, but it's two--or three movies--in one. On the
one hand, it tries hard to be very different--intelligent, insightful,
adult, etc--in contrast to most hollywood spectacles. But, there are
simply too many Hollywoodish elements dispersed throughout.
Another problem is it tries to be grim and realistic... yet it is too
gorgeous to look at. It's neither old cinema nor new cinema. It
cannot make up its mind.
As for Lawrence, he's presented with psychological reality--instead of
as an idealized hero--, but the imagery associated with him is still
to adoring and romantic. Personally, I like the fact that Lawrence is
a very flawed hero, but his body and soul are rubbed all over with
gold dust.
Also, I think the second half of the movie is really anti-climactic.
And, there are too many stock characters. And, Robert Bolt was too
efficient and professional in what he did. It all seems proper and
well-done but lacks vitality and a bit of craziness which a movie like
this needs.

I have the same problem with Spartacus. It tries to be different yet
isn't different enough. DeMille films, for better or worse, are
simply what they are; Hollywood Biblical spectacles. Spartacus is a
very different kind of movie but has too much of Hollywoodisms to
really come across as something new and fresh. It reaches for new
complexity but it finally comes down to bad guy/good guy formulation.
Kirk Douglas's character is too good.
Howard Brazee
2008-11-24 02:33:04 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, 23 Nov 2008 18:18:14 -0500, Bill Anderson
Post by Bill Anderson
But oh I just don't like it. I don't like HIM -- T.E. Lawrence. He is
not a noble person -- everything he does is for his pleasure (nicely
echoed by Anthony Quinn's character) -- in fact, he is the villain, a
devil in brilliant white angel's clothing who brings misery and chaos to
the people he purports to help. I don't like the Omar Sharif character,
a tribal leader who (I admit) does grow as a human being through the
movie, but who begins as an arrogant cold-blooded murderer and who,
after that act, never won my sympathy. I don't like the Anthony Quinn
character, a stupid old man. I don't like the Alec Guinness character
-- so obviously a white man in blackface that it was disgusting. I
don't like the Claude Rains character or the British army characters who
lie to Lawrence, who loose him on the Arab tribes for their own hidden
purposes. I don't even like the Lowell Thomas character -- whatever
name they gave him -- even though he was more honest than anyone else
about the hypocrisy he was witnessing and abetting.
I guess that's why many movies change the facts to make the leads more
likeable. I'd rather see complex characters full of their flaws
than fake happiness. Especially when the characters were real
people.
--
"In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found,
than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace
to the legislature, and not to the executive department."

- James Madison
Bill Anderson
2008-11-24 03:15:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Howard Brazee
On Sun, 23 Nov 2008 18:18:14 -0500, Bill Anderson
Post by Bill Anderson
But oh I just don't like it. I don't like HIM -- T.E. Lawrence. He is
not a noble person -- everything he does is for his pleasure (nicely
echoed by Anthony Quinn's character) -- in fact, he is the villain, a
devil in brilliant white angel's clothing who brings misery and chaos to
the people he purports to help. I don't like the Omar Sharif character,
a tribal leader who (I admit) does grow as a human being through the
movie, but who begins as an arrogant cold-blooded murderer and who,
after that act, never won my sympathy. I don't like the Anthony Quinn
character, a stupid old man. I don't like the Alec Guinness character
-- so obviously a white man in blackface that it was disgusting. I
don't like the Claude Rains character or the British army characters who
lie to Lawrence, who loose him on the Arab tribes for their own hidden
purposes. I don't even like the Lowell Thomas character -- whatever
name they gave him -- even though he was more honest than anyone else
about the hypocrisy he was witnessing and abetting.
I guess that's why many movies change the facts to make the leads more
likeable. I'd rather see complex characters full of their flaws
than fake happiness. Especially when the characters were real
people.
Yeah, I actually thought about that -- and then I realized that every
single character in the film is a dramatized version of a real person
(or a composite of real people), with intuited motivations, imagined
conversations, and dramatically useful actions. Lawrence of Arabia is
no more a dispassionate recitation of facts than a Michael Moore
documentary. I like the complex, flawed characters in, say, Citizen
Kane very much -- but of course that film is pure fiction, not
reminiscent of any real people at all, nosiree. Maybe, I dunno, Patton
is a better example. Great movie. I loved it, and espceially its
complex, flawed, unhappy, unlikeable, disturbing main character.
--
Bill Anderson

I am the Mighty Favog
dgates
2008-11-25 17:25:52 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, 23 Nov 2008 18:18:14 -0500, Bill Anderson
Post by Bill Anderson
Lawrence of Arabia is without question a movie classic, one of the
greats, a must-see, on everybody's top 25 list (top 50, anyway), etc.
etc. a brilliant masterpiece. I know this because I've been taught this.
But I don't like it. In fact, it's more than that -- I actively dislike
the movie.
In a way, I suspect that your "actively disliking" it is related to
what others might consider its greatness -- the fact that you have an
"active" reaction to it at all.
Post by Bill Anderson
I may be stupid not to like the movie...
Nahh. I don't believe in that... although do recall one woman who
said she didn't like "The Ring." And, when she explained why, it was
clear that she didn't understand it.

People (well, dickish people) who love the movie, however, may try to
make you *feel* stupid with comments like "What's the matter? Not
enough car chases for you?"
Post by Bill Anderson
but I'm not so stupid that I don't know beauty when I behold it,
and I gotta say that this film in the restored version in high
definition is a wonder to behold...
But oh I just don't like it. I don't like HIM -- T.E. Lawrence.
A friend of mine had the same complaint about "The Doors." "The guy
locked his wife in a closet and tried to burn the house down!"

I think it's a reasonable complaint.
Post by Bill Anderson
He is not a noble person -- everything he does is for his pleasure...
In defense of the movie, the reason you have noticed that is because
that's what the movie is trying to convey. It may not be pleasant to
watch, but at least it conveys its point.

My girlfriend and I watched the movie recently and, frankly, I see
where you're coming from. We were in such a good mood up to the
intermission, and the movie's second half is quite a downer.

But deliberately so. In fact, that seems to be the kind of movie that
wins Best Picture.
Post by Bill Anderson
I don't like the Omar Sharif character...
I don't like the Anthony Quinn character...
These all seem like reasonable, heartfelt complaints.

I think that's the trade-off in judging a movie -- especially in a
"public" forum like this. Do you just admit that you didn't like it
-- that, frankly, you didn't enjoy watching it? Do you try to force
yourself to change your perception and see it differently -- in part,
because of "peer pressure?"

For me, I just try to say that there's no "right" or "wrong." "Million
Dollar Baby" made me mad and I didn't like it. Meanwhile, someone
else loved it -- in fact, for exactly the reasons I didn't.

I don't think either of us is "right" in our opinion.
Post by Bill Anderson
What is there to like about this movie? The cinematography? The score?
I'll give you both, gladly. They're wonderful, they're unforgettable,
they're magnificent artistic achievements. But that main character guy,
the one with the blond hair? ... Bleh.
And yet, to now come to the defense of the Academy Awards... I think
it is precisely because the guy is not likable that it won Best
Picture. In their view, it would be much easier to make a film that
looks and sounds like this one, but where the guy is 100% hero, than
it is to combine the two into one movie.

Again, there's no "right" or "wrong." Well, actually, it might be
more safe to say "You're right. You didn't like it. The guy's not
very heroic, and you didn't want to watch him for 4 hours. Nothing
wrong with that!"
Bill Anderson
2008-11-25 22:50:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by dgates
Again, there's no "right" or "wrong." Well, actually, it might be
more safe to say "You're right. You didn't like it. The guy's not
very heroic, and you didn't want to watch him for 4 hours. Nothing
wrong with that!"
Yes, I know. Thanks for confirming.
--
Bill Anderson

I am the Mighty Favog
Howard Brazee
2008-11-26 00:55:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by dgates
And yet, to now come to the defense of the Academy Awards... I think
it is precisely because the guy is not likable that it won Best
Picture. In their view, it would be much easier to make a film that
looks and sounds like this one, but where the guy is 100% hero, than
it is to combine the two into one movie.
I've read one biography besides _Seven Pillars of Wisdom_. Those
books show Lawrence to be more messed up than the movie did.
Fascinating man though, and fascinating movie.
--
"In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found,
than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace
to the legislature, and not to the executive department."

- James Madison
unglued
2008-11-27 19:11:35 UTC
Permalink
And yet, to now come to the defense of the Academy Awards...  I think
it is precisely because the guy is not likable that it won Best
Picture.  In their view, it would be much easier to make a film that
looks and sounds like this one, but where the guy is 100% hero, than
it is to combine the two into one movie.
I've read one biography besides _Seven Pillars of Wisdom_.   Those
books show Lawrence to be more messed up than the movie did.
Fascinating man though, and fascinating movie.
I think Seven Pillars of Wisdom made Lawrence such an icon (in Britain
at least) that it's hard to grasp where the film is coming from if you
haven't read it. Having said that I have issues with the casting, I
couldn't stand O'Toole in that role and I never could abide Sharif in
any role. Guiness with boot polish on his face is painfully
embarrassing. The one and only reason for seeing the film is the
photography.
--
"In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found,
than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace
to the legislature, and not to the executive department."
- James Madison
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