Monday, August 28, 2017

Lawrence of Arabia, 55 Years Later

I had to ask TBG to check my math.  I'd already subtracted in my head and counted decades on my fingers.  I'm still stunned.  Apparently, Peter O'Toole first smoldered his eyes into mine 55 years ago.  I don't know where the time's gone.

I remember being struck then as I was today by how white Omar Sharif's teeth are, by how blue Peter O'Toole's eyes are, by how vast and isolated and insulated it was.  Then and now I loved the costumes and the scenery and the grandeur of it all.

Today,  I was struck by how naive they all were.  When I was 10, I missed the nuance of the cultural divide.

The Loft has new seats in its new 70mm equipped theater and every one of them held a patron.  It was an old-time movie going experience; I was there and I was here all at the same time.  I laughed at G'ma in my head, whispering about bottles of ketchup spilled as scimitars and knives hacked at body parts on the screen and I winced into her shoulder.  Scarlett and I, nestled into our comfy padded chairs on perfectly spaced risers, before and aft, sighed together and laughed together and gasped together and were equally glad to see Intermission role around.

Let's be clear, denizens, this movie begins with 10 minutes of music (the London Philharmonic performing Maurice Jarre's Oscar winning score) which commands your attention before the curtain goes up and the story begins, and goes on and on and on and on for 3 hours and 48 minutes of dazzling photography (it really did need Super Panavision and70mm) and manly men acting in manly ways with manly weapons on a soft and unforgiving desert.

Behind all that was Peter O'Toole, wondering along with Lawrence, who he was.  Frightened and exhausted, exalted and exultant, he was confused and he knew it and that, in itself, was fascinating to watch.  I was wondering along with him.

There was more, like  Jose Ferrer's Turkish officer, who was menacing in a sexually disturbing way I hadn't noticed when I was 10.  The quicksand was almost-but-not-quite-as horrifying, although I worried about it enough  to make it almost be true. Riding a camel full speed still seems like a terribly uncomfortable but eminently practical way to cross an uncrossable desert.  And, as I knew then and know now, colonialism (do we call it nation building now?) stinks.

The movie is wonderful.  The story is sad but (almost) true. It's worth investing nearly 4 hours to see it on the big screen.... once every 55 years or so.


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