Lawrence of Arabia

Screening on Film
Directed by David Lean.
With Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif.
UK, 1962, 35mm, color, 220 min.

David Lean's Academy Award-wining masterpiece follows the larger-than-life British polymath T.E. Lawrence (O’Toole), who led the disparate Arab nation to battle against Turkey during WWI.  Produced during the waning years of the Classical Hollywood studio system, the film stands as both the finest example of the studio-era Hollywood epic as well as its swan song. Most impressive of all (perhaps even more so than the gargantuan scale of the film) is Lean and O’Toole’s refusal to pander to the allure of hagiography; Lawrence emerges not as a superheroic ubermensch, but rather as a series of contradictions—sensitive sadist, humanitarian exploiter, frail giant—which complicate the usually black and white moral atmosphere of the epic.

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