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Lawrence of Arabia – Director’s Cut

Directed by David Lean

UK, 1962

Cornerhouse, 24 February 2013

Lawrence of Arabia

Now that some fifty years have passed, one can begin to truly appreciate what an extraordinary film this is.

David Lean’s masterpiece lasts close to four hours in length, yet you’re nary aware of the passage of time.  It feels if anything too short.

To do justice to Lawrence’s great military achievements, while presenting a warts-and-all portrait of Lawrence the man: that’s what Lean achieved.  He was a brilliant strategist, a soldier and leader of men, but also vain and given to bouts of self-aggrandisement.  He was masochistic and sometimes sadistic (the two aren’t mutually exclusive), probably gay and in denial of it (it’s certainly telling that there are no women in the film, no live ones anyway).  With bloody-minded determination he aimed to rouse and unite Arabia’s disparate tribes and create an Arab consciousness, but in the end a bloodlust took hold.  When hostilities ended he was shipped home and put out to pasture; but his nature remained and his death was a likely suicide.  For Lawrence the last years must have been a let-down, a petty end.

At least art can make recompense: the immense desert in Lean‘s epic film delivers a salutary perspective on the small affairs of men.

Lawrence of Arabia is showing again on Wednesday as part of the Matinee Classics season, further details are here.

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