While this past weekend has seen the launch of the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond movie, this fall marks the 50th anniversary of the premiere of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, a winner of seven 1962 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Today I went to a local Cineplex theatre to watch the 50th anniversary digitally remastered version; it had to be digitally remastered to be compatible with today’s projection equipment. This was exposed when they had technical difficulties starting the second half.
Aside from its awards for film mastery it is unique in that there is a 15-minute intermission after a couple of hours. There are five to ten minute musical preludes to each half of the production. At 222 minutes it is only a couple of minutes longer than Gone With The Wind and the longest movie to win a Best Picture Oscar.
From the time I first saw it in early 1963 at the then multi-hundred seat Carlton Theatre in Toronto (next to the old Maple Leaf Gardens) it remains in my memory as the best film production I have seen over time. The amazing Super Panavision 70 cinematography, Maurice Jarré’s symphonic musical accompaniment and the overall sound established new performance standards. More surprisingly is that, even today, the script is not out-dated, with its philosophical musings, innuendos and double entendres. The plot is still gripping and keeps you on the edge throughout (I have now seen it five or six times over the years).
The scenes of Arab tribal armies on the move are epic for their coverage of hundreds of riders thundering through each such scene. With its desert panoramas and these scenes of undisciplined herds of camel and horseback riders, it is really best seen on the large screen. It was perhaps the first movie to show the full advantage of, what was then, relatively new wide screen 70 mm film technology. The sound and music is still ringing in my ears hours later. To absorb it totally on even the best of today’s home theatre systems would be a challenge .
For all the video and sound technology available today, Lawrence of Arabia established a new movie theatre experience that is only mildly embellished by today’s technology.
Bottom line: Lawrence of Arabia remains an epic and one of the greatest films ever produced, withstanding the test of time. Read the Wikipedia entry for more background and recognitions.
And tomorrow night on to see Skyfall with some friends.