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Location: Los Angeles, CA

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Lawrence Of Santa Monica

There are some movies that don't seem long, no matter how long they are.

The American Cinematheque opened, after months and months of speculation (followed by months and months of Santa Monica inspired crazy government regulations/obstructions, and followed by months and months of renovation) a branch a mere five blocks from my house in Santa Monica, at what used be called the Aero Theatre. Actually, it's still called the Aero Theatre on the marquee and in the Cinematheque's ads. It just shows much cooler films now.

[Unpaid plug. If you are a film student, film fan, or filmmaker and live on the west side of Los Angeles and don't march over to the Aero on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica and sign up for the American Cinematheque , then you are poseur who should be hung from the neck until dead.]

As I mentioned the other day, we all went to see Raging Bull there. It's fantastic to see films on a big screen, rather than on my dinky television.

[An aside here. The guy who cuts my hair told me on Saturday that he had just spent something like $25,000 putting in a fantastic HD wide screen, my-dick-is-bigger-than-yours, screening room in his house. He's got two young kids and doesn't get out much so this must make some sort of sense. As for me, it made me wonder if I'm paying too much to have my hair cut.

End of aside.]

Well, this afternoon/evening we caught one of their screenings of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. It's the shortest four hour film I've ever seen. (Well, unless you count MEET JOE BLACK, which felt like four hours but was actually shorter. Me, I don't count that. In fact, I try to forget it entirely.)

The amazing thing about seeing this movie in 2005 is that it seems, aside from a decided lack of quick cutting, very contemporary. It's totally about character and story. It has amazing battle scenes and some of the best cinematography I've ever seen. There's the famous cut from Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) blowing out a match to the sun hanging over the desert, a cut which preceded the famous 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY cut from the flying bone to the spaceship by some six or seven years. There are some truly amazing shots of people appearing through the wavering heat of the desert. And, years before ILM perfected the art of tossing thousands of people up on screen, when the scenes were really shot with a dozen people, there are mammothly (is this a real word, or have I gone into Webster-Is-A-Crutch mode again?) populated. I kept thinking -- "every single one of those people was actually there on the set."

Now, that's a real Sensawonda.

But, at its core, the film is a great success because the characters are so interesting. Peter O'Toole's depiction of the rise and emotional fall of Lawrence, combined with Omar Sharif's Ali (who goes from skeptic to admirer and back to skeptic), make for some powerful storytelling.

One interesting observation (well, interesting to me anyways, you'll have to be the judge of that for yourself; I know you can do it.) is that there are virtually no live women in this movie. It's as if women did not exist in the Bedouin culture. What's up with that? How did all those little Bedouin's get there?

However, minor Politically Correct quibbles aside, this is a movie that makes me glad that I got into the film business in the first place.