Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sins of Cinema #1 The Epic

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
This is the first title in a series of films that I just don’t like. Not all “classic” films are good. Admittedly, it’s hard to track down the bad old films since they simply don’t survive over time or get home video releases. But sometimes there are true stinkers masquerading as good flicks.
Lawrence of Arabia is a popular film and a Best Picture Oscar winner- but I still think it reeks. I’ll be the first to admit that Peter O’Toole is a scorcher but blue eyes on a camel can get old after hour 3. And David Lean directed some of my favourite films (Brief Encounter, Doctor Zhivago) but I find this a big, dull dud.
The story of poet and overall “adventurer” T.E. Lawrence’s exploits with the Arabs in the desert attempts to be a testosterone-charged actioneer but is done in by the pretentious acting, maudlin dialogue and soft, sensitive direction. I realize this approach matches the literary style of Lawrence himself, but it is not suited to film. Lean directed Zhivago 3 years later and fared much better since it was a love story, definitely his forte. Oddly, I have only seen this film on the big screen; its supposed optimal viewing condition but I was still left completely cold.
There is not one line spoken by a female and that may be the missing something in this film. Maybe it’s just me but a film without a female voice would have to be handled in a particular rollicking way (like, say, The Great Escape) or else it just seems stilted, which I’m afraid this movie is.
The desert cinematography is admittedly sweeping but the interior shots boast still cameras and 5 minute takes that kill the pace. I’m not one of these video-game era kids who can’t sit through an intellectual, slow moving film but if the story’s not there I’m lost.
Final Reel: Check it out for posterity but if it’s desert romance you want try The English Patient.