Lawrence of Arabia End of Summer

OK, yes, we went to see Lawrence again. I know this is getting a little redundant, but as I have said in the past, if you can see a movie you love on the big screen, jump at the chance. After all, life is short and you never know when the opportunity will arise again. We had planned on going to this Fathom event on Sunday, but after two late nights before and some planning of a birthday for the next day, we slid back into the Wednesday afternoon screening. This was the full roadshow presentation, with Overture and intermission. TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz introduced the film with some details about the casting process. Apparently a lot of money was spent on a screen test of Albert Finney but he fell out. Marlon Brando never responded to offers and when O’Toole was tested, halfway thru the test, Lean stopped and felt he had found his star.

I always try to find a little something different to emphasize about a film that I have written about before. It has gotten tougher over the years, because of the number of times I have seen certain films [Jaws and Lawrence stand out, but you can add almost every Bond film as well], to find a new angle. As I was sitting in the theater and the lights had gone completely out for the overture (modern theaters don’t quite get it), I was immersed in the score without any other sensory data. That inspired me to try and pay particular attention to the sound design of the film and the music cues. “Lawrence” is a film that is noted for it’s visual sweep and rightly so. I think it is also true that it is aurally a majestic piece of work as well.

The Academy Award winning score by Maurice Jarre is noteworthy because of the familiar title theme, but there is so much more in this film that the music enhances. The familiar melody reoccurs of course but there are other sections of music that are quiet and contemplative or strident and martial. They are integrated into the action seamlessly in every scene in the movie. What is also well crafted by David Lean and Jarre is the absence of music in some sections. The desert at night is often quiet. When Lawrence is thinking about the idea of attacking Aqaba there is an ominous score but as they travel under the stars later, it is eerily quiet.

In past posts I have mentioned the sound of the creaking tent poles in Faisal’s tent as the wind moves over the structure. There are dozens of other moments where the sound is equally important. At the well, listen to the echo as Tafas tosses the goatskin receptacle down to gather up some water for he and Lawrence. The ominous silence foreshadows the visual scene that is about to take place. When Lawrence is singing out to the echo and it is being heard by Brighton, the effect is staggering at suggesting the distances at which they are communicating with one another. The sound of the camels and horses at Auda’s camp is like thunder rolling over the dunes. Train whistles and steamboat horns also jump out at times, creating the equivalent of an audio jump scare. The clanging of two ladles, hanging from the animal of the retreating Turkish troops, builds an anticipation of the bloodbath that is about to begin.

From the beginning of the film, sound swallows us up before there is any dialogue. Lawrence’s motorcycle revs up as he takes off from his starting point and it ratchets up and down as he cruises through the English countryside. Note however the distinct difference in sound when the vehicle travels over the rise and we hear a hushed spinning of the wheels rather than the engine roar we had before. Every step of this film had little moments of genius like that, and then Jarre’s music cue would top it off immaculately. Frankly, I could have sat in the theater in the dark and listened to the score on the sound system and been happy. My emotions can be easily manipulated with the right musical note. Once again, my whole body shuddered with delight at the artistry of the film makers when we go to intermission.
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Lawrence of Arabia 70mm Print Screening at Egyptian Theater

If it seems like an annual tradition to see a Lawrence of Arabia post here on the KAMAD site, well I think you are pretty perceptive. This is a film, much like “Jaws” which we will go out of our way to see on the big screen, and it so happens that Southern California audiences are hungry for Lawrence on a regular basis.

 

 

Last night we had the premier of a new 70mm print, created from a restored negative, that has been in the works since 2009. Grover Crisp was introduced by the chief programming guru of the American Cinematique.  He was in charge of the restoration for the 50th Anniversary restoration that arrived in 2012. He talked about how they knew it would be a long process so they actually started three years ahead of time. They created a negative print to keep in the archives, while the digital materials were distributed for the anniversary edition. They ended up having many requests for a print version to use in repertoire screenings, and he said they created six. The North American print is now in the possession of the Cinematique and will be available regularly. Our screening was the first time this print was run for an audience in North America.

 

Mr. Crisp gave us a brief but detailed explanation of the process that was used to create this print. There were technical elements that are beyond my ability to explain, and to some degree even understand. The visual demonstration of the defects created by the cracks in the emulsion on the original negative prints was effective at showing why the work needed to be done.  Seeing the scenes back to back and side by side shows how extensive and impressive the work done by the experts was. Thank goodness someone can still do these things and that people want to make sure they get done.

For a video blog on a previous Lawrence screening, you can click HERE .

 

The last blog post on a Lawrence screening is HERE

 

The link to the Lawrence-a-palooza post is HERE.

 

The print was magnificent and the crowd was equally appreciative. There were three young guys sitting behind us who were clearly film fans from the conversation I overheard. I asked them and they told me this was the first time they were seeing the movie. I told them they were really lucky to get the experience in this format, and that I was jealous because the first time experience with a film like this is always terrific. Even though this is the sixth time I’ve seen the movie in the last few years on the big screen, my face still hurts from smiling for three and a half hours. 

 

 Film fans may be distracted by “Star Wars” this week and next, but if you are in the Southern California area, you owe yourself a trip to Hollywood for these special screenings. Tonight and Sunday are still available to you this weekend, and there are three nights next week when you can do this as well. Here’s a link th help you get there: American Cinematique

 

If you do make one of these shows, please come back and let me know what you thought. 

TCM Classic Film Festival Day 3: Out of Sight

out_of_sightIt is not hard for me to see why a lot of attendees at this years TCMFF would be scratching their head over the inclusion of a film that is only seventeen years old. George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez continue to make films and it is a little hard to think of them as “classic” movie actors at this point. They reek of contemporary status. The answer turns out to be pretty simple and it was also the main driving force in my selection of this film for viewing on the last day of the Festival. Anne V. Coates identified it as one of her favorite films that she worked on.

Anne Coates has worked as an editor on films since 1952. That is more than sixty years in the business. That makes her the classic element of the selection. If you still have doubts let me dispel them with one title: “Lawrence of Arabia“. That’s right, she edited the greatest epic film of all time and won the Academy Award for doing so. She has been nominated four other times for her work including the current subject, her collaboration with Steven Soderbergh. This was a very creative process that included some  interesting choices. There are dramatic freeze frame moments that are not based on an action beat but instead serve the character or the emotions of the moment. A dream sequence is flawlessly inserted into the narrative, mixing both the reality of the plot and the fantasy of the romance.

The screenwriter, director and editor all managed to fashion an effective flashback structure that is interesting without becoming too confusing. “Out of Sight” may be best remembered for the performers, especially the sequence with Clooney and Lopez in the trunk of a car, but it will be studied by film students for the creative story telling and the innovative editing choices made by the film makers.

2015-03-29 16.29.36I’d  skipped the screening of “Lawrence” to be able to go to the “Dawn of Technicolor” presentation. I have seen Lawrence on the big screen a number of times in recent years, in fact it is a bit of a mania around our house. The pass that i chose also left me out of the hour long conversation that was scheduled, but her speaking at this screeening would give me an opportunity to hear from one of the greats in the industry and it was worth the extra fee i had to pay for the non-included screening. While Host Ben Mankiewicz seemed to delight in the seeming inconsistency of  Miss Coates editing both “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Fifty Shades of Grey”, she treated all of her own work with some degree of respect. She seemed to recognize that the salacious “Grey” and silly “Masters of the Universe” were just pulp product for mass consumption, there were still choices to be made. She believed that the film of “Fifty Shades” is better than the book ( a claim I think everyone will probably agree with) and she hinted that the movie could have been much more explicit, prompting Ben to say he looks forward to the extended cut on home video.

I’d like to add one delightful side note on the screening if I may. During the previous activity down at the Egyptian Theater, I’d messaged one of the bloggers I was trying to connect with, Citizen Screen (Aurora). Here is a breakdown of our contact.

Aurora 1Aurora 2Aurora 3That’s right, standing in the back of the Standby line for Out of Sight, I looked down on the very long line of people waiting to get in, and there was an enthusiastic woman waving up at me. I waved back and smiled broadly having finally connected in at least one way with my colleague. I was clearly not thinking like a film maker at that moment, because a photo of her wave would have been a nice capstone for this post. Hi Aurora, it was fun seeing you. We should wave at each other again next year.