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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Irvin Kershner on David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962)



    Irvin Kershner is having what by most people's standards would count as a busy day. Fresh off the 17-hour overnight flight from Los Angeles to southern Argentina, he is teaching a two-hour masterclass at the Mar del Plata Film Festival. Will the 80-year-old director feel up to giving an interview for this series after that? "No problem," insists his assistant. "He's a bull!"



    A tall man with a patrician profile, Kershner is energetic and outspoken. At the end of his class, a student leaps up for tips on how to make his first movie. It is a red rag. "How old are you?" "Nineteen." The bull charges. "Well, you should go out and get some culture and a life. Then go and make movies!"



    Kershner was 35 when he made his first feature. The son of Ukrainian immigrants, he wanted to work in the arts; the question was, which? He studied classical violin and viola, hoping to become a composer and conductor, then painting and sculpture. He tried photography, before going to make documentaries for the United States Information Service in Iran, Jordan, Greece and Turkey. Finally he had found his metier. Perhaps it's this early formation which prompts Kershner to cite Lawrence of Arabia, shot in Jordan, as a film that has influenced him. "I've seen it maybe seven or eight times and got to know David Lean a little bit. He was a perfectionist in a way that very few filmmakers are now permitted to be. When he went to look for locations, he kept going further, further, further, into the desert. They had to bring in everything and it was hotter than hell, but the film was magnificent. What I love is, he uses environment and weather: rain, a burning sun, storms, sand. Many directors shoot the characters and the rest is pretty pictures."



    Yet Kershner says that Lean was also brilliant with actors, albeit in an unorthodox way. "When Peter O'Toole asked, `Can you tell me something about Lawrence?' Lean looked at him and said: 'Find a camel, learn how to ride it and you'll know the character.' It was all in the script. That, to me, is great directing. O'Toole never became melodramatic. The emotion's there, but it doesn't have to be let out. It's in his face, his bearing, the way he would walk and sit. You knew what he was feeling all the time. This is a rare ability, believe me."



    Kershner himself quickly made a reputation as a skilled director of actors with work such as The Luck of Ginger Coffey, A Fine Madness and Loving. "My favourite films are my small films," he says. Yet his most widely seen movies are The Empire Strikes Back, Robocop 2 and Never Say Never Again, blockbusters made when US independent cinema was in the doldrums. "You either did a studio film, or you went broke. Why did I do Robocop 2? I was out of work! I'd spent two and a half years trying to peddle my own scripts. I had a family. So I said, 'OK, I'll do it. I'll do it the best I can.'



    "At first I didn't want to do The Empire Strikes Back either. I said to George Lucas, `Why do you want me?' He said, 'Because you know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know. But you're not Hollywood.'"



    Empire was praised for combining spectacle with a feel for the characters, and Kershner is positive about the experience. "George has integrity. The only thing is, he's now so caught up in special effects and marketing that he doesn't see the picture any more."



    Lean, he believes, stands for an art currently lost in Hollywood: "Big pictures that are not only aesthetically exciting but full of ambiguities, so you can see them again and again. Hollywood makes hundreds of pictures every year. America, is so big, so rich, but do we have one Lean, one Bergman, one Fellini, one Kurosawa? No! Because you have to encourage filmmakers to grow into greatness. The people who run the studios no longer own them. They're lawyers, accountants, hired hands – not even producers like Zanuck or Selznick, who loved film – and they want to keep their jobs."



    Lean, I point out, had troubles too. His films were increasingly few and far between and his relationship with producer Sam Spiegel, whom he split up with after Lawrence, was notoriously tempestuous. "He drove people crazy. But he knew he was doing something worthwhile. When I hear stories of how he made Lawrence, I think, Ah! If some day I can make a film with the courage that he displayed, I would feel great."



    But surely Kershner must be contemplating a well-deserved retirement? Not so. "I have a film called Sweet Tooth, kind of a sex farce, which is the way sex should be treated. We have a script and almost all the money. I'm doing a documentary about Rachmaninov and I'm a creative producer on a Broadway musical. I'm also a professor at the University of Maryland. That," concludes Kershner, keen to zip off to dinner, "is all I'm doing for now."

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Lawrence of Arabia

    BY GARY KAMIYA



    Sand. An ocean of sand, without beginning or end, motionless, stretching across a vast screen. The strangeness of the harsh, limitless Earth, the strangeness of a human soul, blown up into a scale beyond familiarity, beyond knowing. A single drone note sounds, always, under "Lawrence of Arabia": The world is deep, deeper than we had been aware. It is the only movie I've ever seen that makes it impossible to forget that we are all crawling around on a big ball of metal and gas hurtling through a void.



    Every art form has its "virtue," a special property, a single thing it does better than any other. Film's virtue is showing pictures of the world. And the pictures in David Lean's masterpiece are exalted. No other film I know -- not "Eraserhead," not "Gone With the Wind," not "Red Desert" -- overwhelms the eye, and the mind's eye, like "Lawrence." You drown in it. It is stupefying. You stumble out of the movie -- whose length is as majestic as its subject -- dazed by a vision of implacable splendor and horror, dazed by vision itself.



    In one sense, then, "Lawrence" is "about" nothing but the desert. But it is also about one of the most enigmatic figures in history -- T.E. Lawrence, a highly educated British army officer who, operating on his own initiative, led Arab tribesmen in a guerrilla war against the Turks in World War I, returned to England, wrote an amazing, unfathomable book called "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom," joined the Royal Air Force and died in 1935 in a motorcycle accident. Like Nietzsche, Dostoevsky's Ivan or Conrad's Kurtz, Lawrence strived to be, as he put it in a letter, "greater than mankind" -- to somehow break through the limitations of ordinary existence by sheer will. Did he succeed? Fail? He struggled, mightily, then died.



    Perhaps an actor can only capture gleaming facets of a diamond-hard personality like this. In a performance that becomes more evocative, more densely textured with each viewing, Peter O'Toole captures dozens of them. They glint and shine for an instant, then vanish.



    Some critics have assailed "Lawrence" for being murky, muddled, unsure of what it is saying. There is some justice to this criticism. But this is that rare film whose weaknesses are not only swallowed up by its vast, disturbing ambition, but somehow become part of its strengths. Lawrence's dark, inchoate vision does not fit neatly into the "epic war film" box. It does not fit into any box. His goals are turned against themselves, alien, never entirely known even to their possessor. They stand above and outside. Straining, sweating, "Lawrence of Arabia" reaches toward them.



    Two mysteries collide in this film: The earth and the human soul. It doesn't resolve them. It couldn't. We can't. It is a telescope aimed at the unknown. It is a huge film.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Desert movie saga Lawrence of Arabia has been named the greatest film epic of all time by a UK film magazine.



    The 1962 David Lean film starring Peter O'Toole in the lead role was deemed the most spectacular epic by Total Film.



    Second place went to Ben-Hur, the 1959 classic starring Charlton Heston. Third was George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy and fourth The Lord of the Rings trilogy.



    O'Toole also features in Troy, an adaptation of the Homer story co-starring Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana, which opens in the UK on 21 May.



    Other films nominated by Total Film included US civil war saga Gone With The Wind at number five, and the second part of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather gangster trilogy at six.



    Further movies in the list included Braveheart, Dances With Wolves, Monty Python And The Holy Grail, Gladiator and The Deer Hunter.



    The Last Of The Mohicans made the top 50, along with Jason And The Argonauts, The Ten Commandments, Gandhi and Out Of Africa.



    Dan Jolin, Total Film's features editor, said Lawrence of Arabia was a clear first choice when considering movie epics.





    He said: "Not only is it a gripping war drama played out on the grandest scale, but it deals with all the big themes - heroism, friendship, ambition, hubris.



    "Epic doesn't have to mean 'old'. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is proof that modern film-makers can do big movies as well as classic film-makers."



    1. Lawrence of Arabia

    2. Ben-Hur

    3. Star Wars

    4. The Lord of the Rings

    5. Gone With The Wind

    6. The Godfather Part II

    7. Spartacus

    8. Once Upon A Time In The West

    9. Ran

    10. Malcolm X

  4. #4
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    I am pleased that Lawrence won that poll.

    As much as I enjoyed the LOTR and the SW movies and would gladly put them in any top ten listings,Lawrence of Arabia was a rarity in epics of that era.

    I often found the so-called epics of the fifties and sixties empty of character,miscasted with a script cobbled together for a school nativity. With the exception of Spartacus and The Vikings,Roman and religious epics left me cold - that's including Ben Hur.

    Lawrence of Arabia was intelligent,with an oft witty script,spectacular photography,stirring music,full of characters and made with precision of a clockmaker's patience.

    Long,yes. Unwarrantingly long,no.

    It was film I knew a lot about before I actually seen it,so I went sat down to watch the tv-video recording knowing what to expect. I finally got the proper video version and now I possess the DVD. My only grief is that I have never seen it on the big screen.

    David Lean made it like a stage play,but on a stage bigger than a theatre. You see Lawrence's death,his memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral (where it was questioned he whether he was it) and the flashback to his days as a cartographer.

    All key characters come into his life:Mr Dryden (Claude Raines),Colonel Brighton (Anthony Quayle),Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness),Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif),Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn),Colonel Allenby (Jack Hawkins),Jackson Bentley (Arthur Kennedy). They shape Lawrence's life,but in turn he changes their lives.

    Although British,he wants to become an Arab and tries to match their prowess in the desert,drinking when they drink and conforming to barbarism to save further grief between tribes (his shooting of Gaseem,played by IS Johar).

    He relishes in battle,gaining a perverse satisfaction in the killing of Turks. Perhaps a result of his encounter with the Turkish bey (Jose Ferrer). He tries to set up an Arab council,but the tribes are at odds each other (a la the Middle East now),the result being a chaotic order.

    In the end he is a disillusioned man,having sacrificed his role in the British military to help the Arabs,but to find it an impossible dream.

    Peter O'Toole (which he should have won a joint Best Actor Oscar with Gregory Peck) carried the film through as the central character,rarely off screen,with others feeding off him.

    Ali Sherif leaves the centre stage,as does Auda Abu as Lawrence's future is decided by Allenby,Feisal,Dryden and Brighton. Lawrence,the main man throughout the film,stands in the shadow as others discuss him as if he wasn't there. His days of glory are over.

    He leaves in a car driven by Brian Pringle,passing a caravan of camels,hoping to see for the last time his friend Ali,but to no avail. He passes a truck carrying troops singing "Goodbye,Dolly Gray" - his heart heavy of going back to England,missing the Arabs already. Then a motorcyclist passes,he watches and takes an interest in thing that one day will kill him.

    In Lawrence,the sun and the sand are characters too,whether it is the opening dramatic vista from Anne V Coates' clever cut from extinguished match to the throbbing glowing of the sun,then the outburst of sand,blue sky and sun,to the relentness crossing of the sun's Anvil to get to Aqaba.

    A remake of this film should never happen,as it could not be bettered. Despite a wealth of directorial talents of today,the David Leans don't come ten a penny. As described in the Radio Times,his handling of the film was "magisterial".

    In my view,it is the greatest British film ever made (I know it had American money,but the pedigree was British),a lesson in movie making,a lesson of pooling the maximum talent to the maximum effect and delivering a film to leave us satisfied,nourished,with gratitude to such genius.

    Amen.

    Marky B thumbs_u

  5. #5
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    Originally posted by DB7:
    Desert movie saga Lawrence of Arabia has been named the greatest film epic of all time by a UK film magazine.


    Further movies in the list included ...., Monty Python And The Holy Grail.......





    ERMMMMM Epic?

    Gm

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Must-have movies: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)



    Marc Lee celebrates the best of David Lean's tremendous films



    David Lean's films got bigger and fewer as his 42-year career as a director progressed. Relatively small gems from the 1940s and '50s were produced in quick succession (Blithe Spirit and Brief Encounter, for example, coming in the same year); then a passion for grand, sprawling epics took over, and the gaps between them yawned wider.





    Utterly mesmerising: Peter O'Toole

    Lawrence of Arabia is the middle one of his three most celebrated biggies, sandwiched between The Bridge on the River Kwai and Dr Zhivago. And it's the best of them.



    At three hours 38 minutes in the restored version, this isn't exactly disciplined filmmaking, but it offers ample rewards with its stunning locations, spectacular action sequences, and Maurice Jarre's gushingly gorgeous theme music. Plus, at its heart, there's Peter O'Toole's extraordinarily intense performance as the Army misfit turned desert adventurer.



    Sam Spiegel, the film's producer, once said: "We have not tried to resolve the enigma of Lawrence but to perpetuate the legend." Which is to acknowledge that we never quite see how such a fragile and sensitive soul came to command such reserves of strength and cool determination when despatched to unite opposing Arab factions against the Turks during the First World War. Yet O'Toole, blond and piercingly blue-eyed, is utterly mesmerising in the role, as he goes native, dressing with narcissistic theatricality in flowing white robes. And the aftermath of his appalling treatment at the hands of his Turkish captors - which includes a serious sexual assault - is powerfully portrayed.



    The visual treats abound, but two in particular rank among the most memorable moments in cinema, one that's over in a flash, another that seems to stretch time. First, there's the inspired jump-cut from a close-up of Lawrence blowing out a match to a shot of the blazing desert sunrise; then there's the endless approach from the shimmering far horizon of a mysterious figure on a camel - a shot wreathed in menacing silence. You'll want to replay them both again and again.



    And notice too that, from beginning to end, not a single word is uttered by a woman

  7. #7
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    Another fascinating testimony to David Lean's directing ability. I would think O'Toole very difficult to direct.



    I think Kershner is a very shrewd and accurate observer of the Hollywood movie industry thing.



    Gibbie

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: UK Freddy's Avatar
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    A letter in todays Telegraph mentions what Noel Coward told Peter O'Toole at the time:



    "If you were any better looking, you'd be Florence of Arabia"



    regards



    Freddy

  9. #9
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    Recently on a"Lawrence of Arabia" forum somebody enquired about some deleted scenes and I responded to it. I thought that readers of this thread my be interested in reading it:



    In 1978 I was fortunate to view all the deleted footage, pre-premiere and post-premiere, on "Lawrence". It was stored away in a studio after Columbia cleared their film material from the vaults at Shepperton in the early seventies.

    Shepperton Studios was the base for all the British-based Columbia Pictures. Except for the actual picture editing, which was done at the Columbia offices on South Audley Street in London, all post production was completed at Shepperton. Music was recorded on Stage L and the film was dubbed in 4-track Stereo in what was probably the first of three dubbing stages that could mix in stereo in the fifties and sixties (The second being the British MGM Studios and third Pinewood, their first was "El Cid" in 1961).

    Robert Harris had all the material I saw shipped to the US and was able to restore the film to beyond it's premiere length. The premiere length ran 222 minutes.

    Eventually Lean came on board and helped Harris fine tune the film to, what Lean claimed how he wanted it back in December 1962.

    Below, are the cuts that I can recall that I believe still exist and hopefully will be seen sometime in the distant future.

    1) The first scene between Dryden and Murray. This scene opens with a close shot of a three-dimensional map of Arabia, the camera pulls back revealing Dryden looking on. You can see the map in the background of this same scene which just starts later.

    2) During the first scene with Tafas in the desert, when they stop for water, Lawrence will only drink when Tafas does and says with the line "I'll drink when you do". I think the edited scene comes after the binocular scene when they are struggling down a dune with the camels and they stop again and Tafas says "...and now we will both drink".

    3) When Lawrence decides to take Akaba he is gripping a rock. After saying "Akaba...from the land" in the presence of the two boys he gets up opens his bloody hand tosses the rock in the air and catches it, throws it to the boys and suddenly breaks into a sprint into the camp.



    All the above scenes are in the script which I believe can be accessed.

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    I'm curious what you all think of this. A friend of ours mentioned that he had just watched LAWRENCE OF ARABIA again for the third or fourth time, and how much he loved it, and what great visuals, and so on. It suddenly became apparent to me that he was unaware that the story took place during World War One. He simply assumed that somehow Britain was being an imperial bully in the Middle East by moving in on an even worse imperial bully, Turkey. The surrounding context was unknown to him. This isn't an uneducated person. But he has no knowledge at all of that time and place.



    I don't see how anyone can watch this movie and not know about the world war going on at the same time. But then I started thinking, does LAWRENCE, in fact, make this clear? If you're not informed about the modern world, would you know? Did LAWRENCE, being a film from the 60s, simply assume audiences already knew that stuff?



    The larger question, of course, given recent events, is whether many people today have any knowledge at all of the history of the Middle East in the early twentieth century...?

  11. #11
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    I'm curious what you all think of this. A friend of ours mentioned that he had just watched LAWRENCE OF ARABIA again for the third or fourth time, and how much he loved it, and what great visuals, and so on. It suddenly became apparent to me that he was unaware that the story took place during World War One. He simply assumed that somehow Britain was being an imperial bully in the Middle East by moving in on an even worse imperial bully, Turkey. The surrounding context was unknown to him. This isn't an uneducated person. But he has no knowledge at all of that time and place.



    I don't see how anyone can watch this movie and not know about the world war going on at the same time. But then I started thinking, does LAWRENCE, in fact, make this clear? If you're not informed about the modern world, would you know? Did LAWRENCE, being a film from the 60s, simply assume audiences already knew that stuff?



    The larger question, of course, given recent events, is whether many people today have any knowledge at all of the history of the Middle East in the early twentieth century...?
    History of the Middle East in the early 20th C? I suspect many people, especially, those born post-1970, have very little knowledge of the history of this country in the early [or even mid] 20th C!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: UK Freddy's Avatar
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    To be specific about Lawrence, the film itself is a film based on historical events but it can never be regarded as a definitive history of what actually went on in "a sideshow of a sideshow". Have a read of Seven Pillars Of Wisdom or look at



    Analysis: the "Lawrence of Arabia" film



    A great site and a fascinating piece of work.




    The larger question, of course, given recent events, is whether many people today have any knowledge at all of the history of the Middle East in the early twentieth century...?


    If we have a knowledge of history then we have to learn from it. As it is said 'those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it'.



    regards



    Freddy

  13. #13
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    I can understand your friends lapse. It wasn't a theatre of war we covered in great detail at school (I've probably learnt more from the History Ch etc) and LoA tends to veer more into Boys Own Adventure territory than the semi-documentary approach of many war films. Maybe he's not helped by the opening which jumps from Lawrence's crash and funeral into a flashback of WWI already advanced three years. Were it a war film rather than biopic I suppose a scene would have been devoted to the outbreak of war.



    Only last week a cabbie tripped me up with the what film has no women in speaking parts?



    Also, which female star wore the same coat in every film appearance?

  14. #14
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Also, which female star wore the same coat in every film appearance?
    If it's the obvious one then she was actually male, and there was more than one of her



    Steve

  15. #15
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    Only last week a cabbie tripped me up with the what film has no women in speaking parts?
    It was actually: which is the only Oscar winning film where there were no speaking parts for women.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B

  16. #16
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Only last week a cabbie tripped me up with the what film has no women in speaking parts?
    It was actually: which is the only Oscar winning film where there were no speaking parts for women.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B
    Oscar winning could be a bit harder.

    The usual one is "Which film has a female lead who never speaks? And yes, it's a sound film." The answer to that is usually One Million Years B.C. (1966).



    If it's a sound film then I'd assume it's a war film or a western.

    Maybe All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)?

    Or possibly a musical where they don't speak but sing?



    Steve

  17. #17
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    It was actually: which is the only Oscar winning film where there were no speaking parts for women.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B
    If it's Best Film Oscar it has to be Wings, the only silent to win that title, otherwise there must be a few candidates, including IIRC, Wallace and Gromit's Wrong Trousers...

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    If I can tear this away from Gromit's trousers for a sec, I do think it makes quite a difference to how you look at LAWRENCE OF ARABIA if you don't know that he was part of World War One. The movie simply becomes a Boy's Own adventure -- more adult, wonderfully written and shot and acted, but not very deep. Just guys fighting in the desert.



    But if you know that we were in a war with the Germans, and the Turks were allies of the Germans, and that Lawrence was authorized to promise independent kingdoms to the Arabs (kind of reduced to Feisel in the movie) as rewards for fighting the Turks, then the movie -- and the central character -- takes on an awesome historic sweep. The British and French essentially created the modern Middle East because of the commitments they made to the Arabs (and the Jews with the Balfour Declaration), commitments that could never be completely honored, and which led to disaster in later years. That's a context. Without it, LAWRENCE might as well be THE FLAME OF ARABY Part II with Jeff Chandler as T.E...

  19. #19
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    But if you know that we were in a war with the Germans, and the Turks were allies of the Germans, and that Lawrence was authorized to promise independent kingdoms to the Arabs (kind of reduced to Feisel in the movie) as rewards for fighting the Turks, then the movie -- and the central character -- takes on an awesome historic sweep. The British and French essentially created the modern Middle East because of the commitments they made to the Arabs (and the Jews with the Balfour Declaration), commitments that could never be completely honored, and which led to disaster in later years. That's a context. Without it, LAWRENCE might as well be THE FLAME OF ARABY Part II with Jeff Chandler as T.E...
    IIRC The Balfour declaration isn't mentioned in LoA but Picot-Sykes is...and I think rightly. The Balfour declaration indicated that the British Government were minded to support calls for a Jewish homeland in Palestine and with the proviso that the rights of the non-Jewish community were unaffected. In other words, not the current situation (by which I mean the situation post-1947) by a very long way. I doubt that under the circumstances of 1917 Feisal would have objected too strongly, if other promises had been kept.

    Picot-Sykes is a very different kettle of fish indeed, slicing up regions for British and French control or influence, with Palestine an international mandate - rather like post-WW2 Germany and Austria (think The Third Man or Oh Rosalinda) which had been promised for an autonomous Arab homeland, mainly modern Syria. This was the betrayed promise in the film, with Sykes-Picot planning being represented by the ficticious Claude Rains character. Sykes-Picot was leaked to the Arabs in 1918 by Lenin post- Russian revolution

    But you have to bear in mind the date of the film; in 1962 WW1 was as long ago as the film is to us know; people who fought in it as young men were approaching retirement age, not long dead; the filmmakers of 1962 would have assumed general background knowledge (ie, Russia, France, GB + Empire and later the US versus Germany, Austro-Hungary and Ottoman Empire) of WW1 in the same way that filmmakers now would assume basic knowledge of the Vietnam War.

    Also I'm not sure (But would stand corrected) that in 1962 the Middle-East situation was as much of a hot topic; generally known or media-covered; as it would be in 1967 and since....1962 was Cold War and Cuba....we have the benefit of a further 44 years of hindsight.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Country: UK Freddy's Avatar
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    But you have to bear in mind the date of the film; in 1962 WW1 was as long ago as the film is to us know; people who fought in it as young men were approaching retirement age, not long dead; the filmmakers of 1962 would have assumed general background knowledge (ie, Russia, France, GB + Empire and later the US versus Germany, Austro-Hungary and Ottoman Empire) of WW1 in the same way that filmmakers now would assume basic knowledge of the Vietnam War.
    Those of us who were children in the fifties and sixties are, in a way, carrying our parents genes of a crucial time in British history. It was they who sat with us in the living room or cinema as we, through film, shared the experience their generation went through.

    Lawrence is a wonderful sweep of a film but an important point to consider is at that time it could only be seen on the cinema, ( other 40s/50s war films might be on television) so the only way to learn more about any 'factual' film you had just watched would be through books or newspapers. It is far easier today to replay the video or dvd and believe what you are seeing has an historical accuracy.



    As an aside, would I be correct in thinking LOA was one of the first British war films in colour?



    regards



    Freddy

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