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Lawrence of Arabia

Year: 1962
Director: David Lean
Writer: T E Lawrence
Cast: Peter O'Toole, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Omaf Sharif, Claude Rains
Words like 'sweeping' and 'epic' hardly to justice to Lean's masterpiece on the life of T E Lawrence.

Accomplishing long and wide shots that show the enormity of the Arabian desert or armies preparing to invade, Lean set up shots today's directors would be called visionary for even if they did them in a computer.

Lean conveys both the beauty of the landscapes in the Middle East at the time of the First World War and the elements humankind has no hope of conquering by placing the camera at times miles away from the action, massing hordes of extras, props and animals in scenes that must have made hairs stand up on arms back in the 1960's, let alone now.

Lawrence (O'Toole) isn't a particularly gifted soldier of the British army (whose one talent seems to be a literature-inspired talent to confound his colleagues) who find himself posted to a god forsaken corner of Arabia from the Cairo detachment to quell the unease of one of Britain's allied tribal peoples, led by Prince Faizal (Guinness).

Inspired by them, Lawrence virtually becomes one of them, leading them on to some of the most spectacular victories of the war against the Turks.

How much of the story is legend and how much is true hardly matters. Lean is the real star here for his vision, one that is projected straight in screen seemingly without constraint, as big as he imagined it.

Worth noting though that in these 'enlightened' times, there'd be some sort of comment on the use of English-speaking, white actors to play indigenous Arabs (or any other dark skinned people), but both Alec Guiness as the politically savvy Prince Faizal and Anthony Quinn as the brutish tribal leader Auda shine in their roles, as does O'Toole n his debut.

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