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Saturday, August 7, 2010

- 'Lawrence of Arabia' Open Thread












What did you think?

26 comments:

  1. I recalled that this was a very fine film, but not seeing it in many years I was unsure of how I might think of it today. Lawrence of Arabia did not disappoint. It was exceptionally beautiful photographically, and the enchanting, sweeping score invited you in to a far away place. What was most appealing to me was the crisp dialogue and fine acting of all the major players, and a number of minor ones. Peter O'Toole was marvelous as the enigmatic, brilliant T.E. Lawrence, a well educated misfit who embraced the Arab peoples he was among. Also very good was Omar Sharif as the prince Sherif Ali, whose mistrust of the English officer and anger at the general attitude of paternalism and English superiority was well played. This was a common occurrence between the English and their various far flung common wealth enterprises, whether it be India, Ireland or here in the American Colonies. Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal was also very good, as was Jack Hawkins as General Allenby and Claude Rains as Mr. Dryden.

    Lawrence succeeded in bringing Damascus into the control of the Arabs, but was unable to help them govern it. His dismissal and order to return to England was met with tears by Sherif Ali. It was as though he was lost to them, or lost to himself.

    It was an excellent movie, and those striking, piercing blue eyes of Peter O'Toole were unforgettable. He was amazing in this film, and my understanding is that this was his first major film role. Remarkable.

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  2. Is that what they call "guyliner"?

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  3. Yes, well, we most allow a certain degree of poetic license. Surely you will not complain that Anthony Quin's nose is not quite its natural appearance?

    Another aspect of the show I enjoyed was the contrast between the notion of civilized behavior, brought to stark relief by Prince Feisal:

    "With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is the more reliable."

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  4. Come on, Netflix! (Hopefully, today.)

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  5. "... His dismissal and order to return to England was met with tears by Sherif Ali. It was as though he was lost to them, or lost to himself."

    Or something like that.

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  6. Ilion, I don't believe you are quite in the spirit of the thing.

    I never claim to be a gifted writer. Granted it is an awkward statement, but you must see the movie. It was very well done!

    I don't entirely understand what was being said at the end of the film. Sherif Ali knew Lawrence was lost to Arabia, that he had lost his friend and was saddened by the loss. But Lawrence? What had happened to Lawrence? He was a man with no home. He did not fit into the English gentry from which he came. And as much as he felt at home in Arabia, he was not an Arab, and would never be.

    Watch the film and tell me what you thought of it.

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  7. See if you can spot the similarities with John Ford's The Searchers(1956), used to set up the cinematography for the film.

    Was T.E. Lawrence torn between two loves? Or did the Arab world/Islam fit his complex damaged/fractured psyche better? Did Mr. Kurtz (Heart of Darkness)love the Congo Free State and its people or did he think England/France would take exception to playing a demigod and building structures of human skulls?
    The horror! The horror!

    I got caught up in the spectacle of this film the first time I saw it. Yet I felt betrayed as the 1970's unfolded. Same with all those pretty words describing Islam as a religion of pure peace that came from those Englishmen that produced those famous translations of the Koran.

    In my first white collar job in the 70s, I got to hear the stories of a Brit that served in a unit that operated behind enemy lines. He was a young officer fresh out of university as officer's training. There were two officers in charge--a mission specialist that took over when they reached their target (contemporary British officer) and a WWI-era British officer who spent the time since working as a petroleum engineer in the Arab world. His job was to navigate the web of tribal leaders as they made their way to the target and to negotiate safe passage. I got to hear what he learned and I often see that all those lessons apply today. Like how words are just tools--whether spoken or written and nobody pays much attention to them. Political leaders making a big deal about getting some agreement on paper in the Arab world always brings this to mind. And the fact that this story would make a great movie [And no, I don't mean the "Rat Patrol" which he had never heard of until I told him to look for it on late-night TV. His stories went far beyond that.]

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  8. "His job was to navigate the web of tribal leaders as they made their way to the target and to negotiate safe passage"

    Did you watch it again with us Darrell? The Searchers, yes, there were a number of corollaries between Ethan and Lt. Lawrence.

    I recall reading that as deadly and dangerous as the vast Sahara desert is, of the people attempting to map it and cross it at the start of the twentieth century, by far their greatest threat to life was the risk of encountering a band of Bedouins. The movie did well to convey the utter contempt the English held for the natives, but what I also enjoyed was the clear perception of this on the part of the Arabs, and their distrust of the intentions and motives of their English and French the 'protectors', and a healthy contempt for them as well.

    Of course, all this played a lot better in 1962, when the moors, the barbary pirates, and the brutal Ottoman Empire were a distant memory. Then the Arabs were largely seen as a quaint and exotic people, and their notions for self-rule struck a chord with the our own heritage of self-determination. It is only years later that it is clear how suicidal and crazy it was for President Carter to support the Ayatollah Khomeini in his overthrow of the far more reasonable Shah of Iran.

    The political reality of the Islamists make the sympathies of the film suspect, but it still is a great film.

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  9. "I never claim to be a gifted writer."

    I wasn't talking about your writing.

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  10. "I am a bit confused about the ending. Perhaps you are as well, or are saying something else entirely. Not really sure about that."

    I thought you understood that:
    1) unless it's free, and freely available, I can't watch it
    2) I'm not that interested in watching and then discussing films, in any event

    I expect I saw LoA on television at some point in my childhood. I don't remember. But my comment wasn't so much about what I'd seen in the ending scene (which if I ever saw it, is long forgotten) ... rather, it was a snarky reference to the common understanding that Lawrence was ... hmmmm, an "Arab lover," if you know what I mean.

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  11. ... or, at the least, that whether of not he "loved him some Arabs," one of more Arabs "loved them some Lawrence."

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  12. I'm with Ilion, Nicholas, with regards to free and open access to source materials.

    And the other reference, too. Lawrence was a weapon thrown into the fray by the Brits to help defeat an Axis-member--the Ottoman Empire--in WWI. He was withdrawn later to prevent collateral damage.

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  13. "I thought you understood that:
    1) unless it's free, and freely available, I can't watch it
    2) I'm not that interested in watching and then discussing films, in any event."


    Mutinous dogs.

    : )

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  14. Say, rather, that I'm not "artsy-fartsy" :-0


    WV: tualart 8-O

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  15. I had two perfectly good comments on this thread that just disappeared into the ether.

    Drat!

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  16. Anyway, if anyone has recently seen this movie, what did you think about it (the story, the acting, the musical score, the cinematography, what have you)?

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  17. What does that have to do with anything, Nicholas?

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  18. There is a really interesting Wikipedia article about Lawrence, and a link to another about the film. Lots of very cool stuff.

    Having just finished watching, I'm feeling somewhat inundated,so it's hard to talk about any particular part of the movie. Music, wonderful. Cinematography, phenomenal. Performances, awesome. The story -- even if adjusted a bit here and there -- is so ... I can't think of a good word, so I'll just go with "mighty." And completely transporting.

    Fascinating story of Lawrence, as a leader, in effect unifying the various tribes, and pushing them to do their "miracles" -- which only someone from outside the tribes could do, and only someone as irrationally visionary would try.

    But what's got me so caught up is the story of Lawrence, the man, completely mad some of the time, only half mad the rest of the time. Awful enough what he saw men could do to one another, but living with the knowledge of what he himself could do, and had done -- what a horror.

    But he still held it together (for the most part) long enough to accomplish what he set out to do. How devastating then to learn that the politicians were making such a liar out of him.

    What a huge, amazing, awe-inspiring movie.

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  19. "I had two perfectly good comments on this thread that just disappeared into the ether."

    That has also happened recently in a really long comment thread at Cornelius Hunter's "Darwin's God" blog ... and so, of course, one of the more vocally irrational Darwinists is just sure he's being singled out for silencing.


    WV: guled -- which seems sort of fitting

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  20. I don't know if T.E. Lawrence played for a different team. Certainly those among us that promote the gay life never get enough of claiming one person or another was gay. I hear they have figured out the same piece of interesting back story on Abe Lincoln. Yup - gay, according to the alliance of gay, lesbian, bi, queer and transgendered among us. Whatever. It is a question peripheral to the story, an idea not brought forth in the film and of which I have no interest.

    This is clear: He is not portrayed as a gay man in the movie. Nor is Sharif Ali portrayed as a gay man. So the story is saying something else in Sharif Ali's parting from Lawrence. The rude refusal Lawrence gave to the bey of the Syrian garrison was not just out of principle. He understood the bey's intentions and he was outraged. The result was he was beaten and abused by the garrison guards. As to Sharif Ali or Auda Abu Tayi or the others, it is possible for men to have close friendships, and morn the loss of a friend, and even be embarrassed by the fact that they grieve the loss. (Of course). Sherif Ali's tears for Lawrence was of brotherly love or the love of a comrade in arms, as played in this film. I would leave it be and discuss it from there. That is what the post is intended to be about... the movie ... Lawrence of Arabia.

    The dialogue was very well done, as in this exchange. Lawrence, dressed as a Bedoin, enters the officers lounge in Cairo with the lone survivor after they had crossed the Sinai desert to bring the news of the fall of Acaba, and he is immediately called up short by the bartender:

    "This is a bar for British officers!"

    To which Lawrence immediately replies:

    "That's all right. We're not particular."

    It is a magnificently beautiful movie, extremely well acted by a host of players. Peter O'Toole is impressively bright, and his sharp, well paced delivery is engaging. Omar Sharif portrayed Sharif Ali with a remarkably regal bearing. And Jack Hawkins, Alec Guiness, the two boys...the whole thing was enchanting.

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  21. Fun? I'm as fun as the day is long.

    "Fascinating story of Lawrence, as a leader, in effect unifying the various tribes, and pushing them to do their "miracles" -- which only someone from outside the tribes could do, and only someone as irrationally visionary would try."

    Though true, that is something I would not have thought of on my own. That's why we like to have Cathy around. Well, one reason anyway. The troubles of the Arab tribes were many... jealous and mistrustful of one another, unable to look beyond today's struggle, unable to foresee a future of tomorrow. Difficult to lead them into the future.

    "How devastating then to learn that the politicians were making such a liar out of him."

    Yes. He suspected much the same, as did Prince Feisal. In fact, the English were all about promising their Commonwealth colonies there independence in return for joining with England in the war effort, only for such promises to be forgotten after the cease of hostilities, as India found out after the First World War, and learned again after the Second World War. I appreciate how the back room dealings were played by Guiness, Hawkins and Rains:

    "So, it appears we will have an English power station with an Arab flag."

    Lawrence attempted to give them their freedom, but it was not in his power to give.

    And what did you think of the parting, the sadness on the part of Sharif Ali, and the regret seen in Lawrence?

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  22. Lawrence loved the country, and loved the idea of what it could become, if the feuding among the many tribes could be overcome. He wanted Arabia's autonomy even more than the Arabs did, perhaps because of his passion for being his own master. And he gave of himself so greatly -- even more, I think, than if he had given his life, because he brought out the very worst of himself, the sadism that he tried to turn his back on, but wasn't allowed, and the mad blood-lust, that alienated his friend Ali. To have set free the demon within, and looked out at the grisly carnage that he had wrought -- to know that he carried Hell in his being, and could not know when he might desire to release it again -- how could he face the prospect of returning to England and "civilization" without regret, when it meant giving up the cause he had sacrificed for, leaving behind the country he loved, and taking with him only the horrors of what he had experienced and what he had done. He gave up his soul, only to see Arabia exchange an old master for two new ones.

    And Sharif Ali, who represents those men he lived among and fought beside, and whose liberty he broke himself for, weeps to see this broken man, this friend, now left to walk utterly alone. Ali knows what Lawrence has done, and knows what it has done to Lawrence.

    "I am afraid of him, and I love him. How much more afraid of him is he, who hates himself?"

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  23. I am so pleased to have you go through these movies with us.

    "Thank you professor of poetry and movies."

    I believe you have honors.

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