Monday, December 31, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia, Digital Restoration

This weekend I saw the pristine 4K digital restoration of Lawrence of Arabia at the Castro Theatre. Including the 20 minute intermission two thirds of the way through, it was a 4 hour experience. The widescreen image was crystal clear, & the lack of film jitter made it even more stunning. It was especially worth seeing on the big screen for scenes when we watch small figures emerge out of the vast desert. Peter O'Toole is ridiculously pretty, & Omar Sharif is a prince of a man. Seeing Alec Guinness made-up as a swarthy Arab did not make me feel good, though. The depiction of the Arab parliament in Damascas reminded me of the racist Congress scene in Birth of a Nation. Maurice Jarre's symphonic score, played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, often seemed like 80% of the movie's impact.

Lawrence of Arabia, 12.30.2012 Marquee for 50th anniversary restoration of Lawrence of Arabia at the Castro Theatre.There was a line when I arrived about 15 minutes prior to the evening show. I saw 2 families attend with their children. The Castro Theatre organist got into the spirit by opening his set with the Triumphal March from Aida. He closed with the main theme from the soundtrack, which the audience applauded. Both halves of the program began with an overture of the film's music, played while the house lights gradually dimmed.

§ Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
50th Anniversary restoration
director, David Lean
216 min

4 comments:

Michael Strickland said...

I tried to watch it about 20 years ago the last time it was "restored" down at the old widescreen Northpoint Theatre at the Wharf. I could only sit through about the first half of the movie because of the overuse of the Maurice Jarre score which started making me laugh, and not in a kind way. The unconscious racism of the British via David Lean was also a problem. In fact, Lean was still using Guinness as a Swarthy Furreigner in "A Passage to India" in the late 1970s.

If you ever get a chance, check out the T.E. Lawrence memoir that the movie is based on, "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom." It's one of the strangest, wildest, most interesting books ever written, and the Turkish Violation Scene finally makes some sense. From what you can read between the lines, our Lawrence was sexually violated by an entire Turkish garrison one night, and found to his own horror that he loved it.

Gavin Plumley said...

You know the Noel Coward line to Peter O'Toole at the BAFTAs? "Any prettier my dear and you'd have been Florence of Arabia."

Happy New Year!

Axel Feldheim said...

Michael: The Maurice Jarre score is certainly prominent. I sometimes wondered if it might have been pumped up for the restoration. I'll have to check out Lawrence in his own words. It's evident that the filmmakers treated their subject as tastefully as possible. Dare I admit that I have actually been in a Turkish police station?

Gavin: You know, I had heard that Noel Coward line before, & I thought of it often during the movie. And a very Happy New Year to you too!

David Lasson said...

An alumnus of the City of Oxford High School for Boys and a class of 1910 graduate of Oxford's Jesus College who didn't discover that he enjoyed sexual violation until 1916? Must've been a late bloomer.