Top Ten List for My Birthday #3

I have been writing this blog for over ten years now, and I have resisted putting up a list of my favorite films for that whole time. As the Borg say “Resistance is Futile!” 

This year I am marking another year in my sixth decade of life. I did several birthday posts in the past and enjoyed them immensely. The last two years my heart has just not been into it. This year however, I am trying to push my way back into normalcy, but I don’t have the energy to generate 63 things for a list. So what I am going to do is a ten day countdown of my favorite films.

Every year when I have posted a top ten list, I always point out that it is a combination of quality and subjective enjoyment that creates that list. Those are the guiding principles here as well. I will not claim that these are the ten greatest movies ever made, although I know several of them would be deserving of a spot on such a list. Instead, these are my ten favorite films as it stands at the moment. In a month, I could reconsider or remember something that I have tragically left off the list, but for this moment here is how they rank.

#3 Lawrence of Arabia

Next to my Number Two choice, this may be the film I have written about the most on this site. I first saw it in a truncated form on an ABC Sunday Night Movie, at least I think I did. For me though, the film came to my consciousness in the 1989 restoration. I took my father to see it in the old Century City Mall, he was a big fan of Doctor Zhivago. We drove across the county in the middle of a weekday to get to a screening because it was not widely released. A couple of years later, I owned a beautiful Criterion Laserdisc of the restoration that I must have played a dozen times.

One of the reasons that this has become a top three film for me is that my youngest daughter has embraced it wholeheartedly. Her first viewing was in ideal circumstances at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. She has made me take her to see it whenever we have found it presented on a big screen in a theater. Those opportunities have continued even though we are now far away from Hollywood and the American Cinematique.  Last October was our most recent theatrical visit. 

I try to see something different in the film every time I watch it. That is not hard to do. There are so many interesting choices made by director David Lean. From the title sequence to the end, there are clever edits, sound design, action scenes and dialogue. The cast, all men in the speaking roles, is as deep as you could get. Newcomer Peter O’Toole is sharing screen time with Claude Rains. Alec Guinness would never be given the role today, the brown face casting could not fly in these times, but the performance that he gives in a supporting part is subtle and note perfect. 

Previous Posts on Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence 2019 Again
Lawrence End of Summer 2019
Lawrence of Arabia Austin Edition

Lawrence of Arabia 70mm at Egyptian Theater

Lawrence of Arabia at the Cinerama Dome  

Lawrence of Arabia/Vertigo Double Feature Vlog  

Lawrence of Arabia (Austin)

As usual, when Lawrence of Arabia is playing on a Big Screen, I want to be there. This was my second visit to the Paramount Theater in Austin and we took a different approach this time. Choosing Orchestra seats, we watched the movie from an appropriate perspective and got to enjoy a different view of the theater. 

Again, it is a beautiful classic movie palace and I expect as the year ends, I will be joining the organization that maintains it. Memberships have privileges, but I do want to see that the programming is going to continue, even with the Covid restrictions. 

Having written about this film a number of times, it is challenging to find perspectives to focus on for each new post. However, in this weekend’s screening, I had two things jump out at me immediately.

Editors deserve a huge amount of credit for the movies they work on. There are many films that have been saved by an editor fixing things that the director was unable to take care of on set or location. Anne V. Coates was certainly deserving of accolades when she did this film, but it is clearly the vision of David Lean. Coates however realized that vision in numerous ways.

I did not take notes on all of the cuts and transitions but I noticed especially in the first third of the picture how jump cuts were used judiciously. The most famous being the jump from Lawrence blowing out the match to the rising sun over the desert. The camera work was smooth but it is enhanced by a timely use of swipes from below and the sides. It was also impeccably timed to synch with the fil’s action and music.

The other thing i was paying attention to during this screening was the willfulness of Lawrence himself. In the first half of the movie, the story revolves around the success that Lawrence wills himself to accomplish. The match trick is the perfect precursor to all of these points. As he tells his colleague who burns himself while trying to copy the action, “the trick is not minding that it hurts.” He chooses to forgo a drink when his guide  does not drink. He is unyielding in the first confrontation with Sherif Ali. The trip to Aqaba across the Nefud desert is a miracle that he chooses, and then he repeats it with the trip across the Sinai. 

He jokes at one point with General Murray that he is not insubordinate, but rather it is his manner that makes him seem so. That is a piece of circular reasoning being used to justify the fact that he is willful, even with those under whom he is supposed to be working. 

The events after the intermission, demonstrate that will alone cannot accomplish the things he wants. He uses the same fierce will power to lead the Arab Army, but with limited success in regard to their discipline.  The military success cannot be matched with political success. His will is broken at one point by his brutal encounter with the Turks, and the depraved General played by Jose Ferrer. He blames Allenby for returning him to the effort, but it is Lawrence’s will power that moves him to try to reach Damascus first. 

These were just a couple of new notes on the continuing love I have for this film. You can read more Here, and here, and here, and here, and here, oh and here