Lawrence of Arabia has been described as a "thinking man's epic." The film has all the ingredients of a classic adventure yarn. Typically in epics, these ingredients are showcased to the detriment of character and plot in order to keep the action rolling. But in David Lean's epic, the title character and the political machinations surrounding his exploits take center stage; what's more, he remains an enigma even as the final credits fade to black.
Like the vast, arid landscape that, in the words of Alec Guinness's Prince Feisel, proves such a mystical allure for this latest in a line of "desert-loving Englishmen," the mystery of Lawrence's character is never quite fathomed. There is no Rosebud here. Even his rape at the hands of the Turks, which Lawrence described in his memoirs as the key assault on "the citadel of my integrity" and which may or may not have revealed to him a latent homosexuality, explains nothing.
The film overwhelms with its images of the desert and men at war, but the uncompromising genius of Lean's direction, Robert Bolt's screenplay and Peter O'Toole's starmaking performance as the obscure British map maker who becomes a national hero only to flee back to obscurity is that the focus always remains on the quest for Lawrence himself. You never stop thinking about and trying to understand him even though the quest ultimately proves unsuccessful, for the filmmakers and for us, just as it did for Lawrence himself. Our final image of the man as he is driven from the scene of his wartime triumphs to a yearned-for life of invisibility is through the windshield of a jeep, the dust-streaked glass obscuring his face. Even the film's initial advertising art (subsequently changed) showing Lawrence in arab head gear, his face in shadow, cued audiences to the puzzle without...Read More
By the time Liam Neeson yells "I'm Martin Harris!" for about the 458th time, you'll believe it. But is he, really? For those who have watched the trailer, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to assume that director Jaume Collet-Serra's Unknown is the second coming of Taken. For one, it stars Neeson as an angry man searching for answers; for another, it...Read More
Cedar Rapids is a coming of age story, but this time it's about an adult. Tim Lippe (Ed Helms, The Office and The Hangover) is a dedicated but "small town naïveté" insurance salesman who is forced to go to the "Big City" of Cedar Rapids, Iowa to make a presentation to help capture an award that his firm considers the holy grail of...Read More
Traditionally, the film musical is said to have reached its pinnacle in the 1950s at MGM studios. The creative personnel at MGM responsible for this perfection were Arthur Freed, Vincente Minnelli, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly. The "golden era" began with On the Town (1949) and ended with Gigi (1958); between were An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain, The Bandwagon, Seven...Read More
Detested when it first appeared (for satirizing the French ruling class on the brink of World War II), almost destroyed by brutal cutting, restored in 1959 to virtually its original form, La règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game) is now universally acknowledged as a masterpiece and perhaps Renoir's supreme achievement. In the four international critics polls organized every ten years (since...Read More
"By courtesy of the wizards of Hollywood The Wizard of Oz reached the screen yesterday as a delightful piece of wonderworking which had the youngsters' eyes shining and brought a quietly amused gleam to the wiser ones," begins Frank Nugent's review of The Wizard of Oz in The New York Times. Produced and distributed by MGM at a cost of $2.5 million, the...Read More
The subject of L'Atalante – Vigo's only feature-length film, completed just before his death – was not of his own choosing. The interest of the film lies in his engagement with material that was partly congenial in its unconventionality (life on a barge, with its freedom from the restrictions of established society, its alternative community of unsocialized eccentrics), and partly highly conventional (problems...Read More
The genesis of On the Waterfront is nearly as fascinating as the film itself. In April 1948, a New York dock hiring boss was murdered; it was the second killing in a short time. Reporter Malcolm Johnson was assigned by the now-defunct New York Sun to cover the story. Johnson's initial inquiries developed into a full investigation of waterfront crime. His findings were...Read More
Well, the top four films this week actually belong to new releases, but with a nearly $17 million gap between the 3rd and 4th spot, it's safe to say the Top 3 did very well for themselves indeed. Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston took the lead at the box office with Just Go with It, the romantic comedy taking in $31 million this...Read More
Fritz Lang's films are marked by an uneasy tension between moral opposites: light and dark, innocence and evil, order and chaos. No subject is too mean or sordid to be outside or beneath human experience or to be illuminated, ultimately, by the vision of the artist. According to Lang, his films are like "the loveliest German fairy tales," which, despite their beauty, accumulate...Read More