Random weekends over the past few years have been given over to increasing The Sole Heir's cultural awareness by showing her old movies. Old to her, at least; I was shocked--shocked!--to realize Pulp Fiction is fifteen years old, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is forty.
Last weekend's movie was David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. I hadn't seen it since the restored version was released in the late 80s, and it was shown i an old-fashioned wide-screen theater. I couldn't get that for her at home, but the fifty-inch TV with surround sound did a decent job.
I had forgotten what it's like to watch a truly great movie. It's hard to believe Hollywood would make such a film today. There would have to be a woman in there somewhere. Nothing against women in movies, but we recently saw The Caine Mutiny, and everything stops dead when they showhorn the romantic sub-plot, which goes nowhere and adds nothing.
Lawrence is an epic, unlike the biopics that dominate today. T.E. Lawrence was a larger than life figure, and the film makers were content to tell his story without adding any sisues he may have had with parental concerns, love affairs, drug or alcohol abuse, or whatever else might "humanize" him. The story of Lawrence's accomplishments and failures is more than enough, and Lean let the story play out in such a manner one can watch for three hours and forty-five minutes without looking at your watch.
It's hard to go wrong with a cast of Peter O'Toole, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, and Alec Guinness. Even Omar Sharif came through, not having to play the debonair international playboy.
Has any director ever done a better job of making the setting a character than Lean did with the desert? (lade Runner comes to mind, but on the other extreme.) The desert provides the perfect palette for the events of Lawrence's life, and Lean used it to perfection.
It's a wonderful feeling to be watching a film--doing anything, actually--and realizing, in the moment, that you're in the presence of greatness. Lawrence of Arabia was a perfect reminder.