A to Z of Films Meme (L)

It seems there are many peo­ple who do not like to watch for­eign lan­guage sub­ti­tled films. I won­der how they will­ing­ly imprison them­selves in such a cul­tur­al Alca­traz!

L

Lawrence of Arabia

That a man named ‘Lean’ should make some of the world’s best epic movies is an irony. Spec­tac­u­lar, grand, epic, and mem­o­rable, Lawrence of Ara­bia is uni­ver­sal­ly hailed as one of the best epic films ever made. Movies like Gone With The Wind, Ben Hur, and Lawrence of Ara­bia, do not leave the view­er any choice. They sim­ply sweep you into their world, and in this case, the world is the vast, unfor­giv­ing, desert.LawrenceOfArabia

The film recounts the adven­tur­ous life of T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole), a British army offi­cer serv­ing in the Mid­dle East dur­ing WWI, using the back­drop of bat­tle for a fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ter study. Impec­ca­ble per­for­mances by the cast, stun­ning cin­e­matog­ra­phy, an amaz­ing score by the Lon­don Phil­har­mon­ic, an uncom­pli­cat­ed script and plot with easy dia­logue, sound like ingre­di­ents of a recipe for suc­cess. But con­sid­er this: four hours long, no estab­lished stars in the cast, no love sto­ry, not a sin­gle dia­logue for women, a homo­sex­u­al hero, to be actu­al­ly filmed in the unyield­ing desert! This is David Lean’s achieve­ment.

Long after see­ing the film, none of the plot details remain with you; what remains is an expe­ri­ence, dif­fi­cult to describe. One of the last films to be actu­al­ly shot in 70mm film, the mag­nif­i­cent cin­e­matog­ra­phy is achieved while work­ing in blind­ing heat and blow­ing sand that entered the cam­eras. Shoot­ing at night in the desert was not pos­si­ble in those days, so the ‘night scenes’ were done using light damp­ing fil­ters. This shows in the shad­ows cast by the hors­es and camels in the night scenes, giv­ing an ethe­re­al visu­al look.

The speck on the desert hori­zon that slow­ly reveals itself to be a man on horse­back, the cut from a blown out match flame to a blaz­ing sun­set, sil­hou­et­ted camel rid­ers mak­ing their way amidst majes­tic dunes – the cin­e­matog­ra­phy is sim­ply over­whelm­ing.

Mar­lon Bran­do was the first choice for play­ing Lawrence, and O’Toole got it because Bran­do was unavail­able. And boy, did O’Toole make the most of this oppor­tu­ni­ty! Play­ing a char­ac­ter looked at as a deity by oth­ers, at the cen­ter­piece of this grand spec­ta­cle, O’Toole nev­er looks out of place, lend­ing depth to the com­plex char­ac­ter of Lawrence.

La Dolce VitaRunner Up

La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) is a caus­tic satire of the hedo­nist high-soci­ety using a man with­out a cen­ter as the cen­tral char­ac­ter. A film that brought the word ‘paparazzi’ into the Eng­lish lan­guage, it has many alle­gor­i­cal themes, struc­tured as a series of nights and dawns, ascents and descents. with strik­ing visu­als. The famous open­ing and clos­ing sequences – a stat­ue of Christ being flown over Rome by a heli­copter, and the dead fish found in fishermen’s nets in the end – have lent them­selves to numer­ous inter­pre­ta­tions.

Unbe­liev­ably, most of the film was shot in stu­dio, with over 80 sets, includ­ing the dome of St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca. Many films make a ref­er­ence to La Dolce Vita, includ­ing Good Bye Lenin! (that I haven’t seen), Lost in Trans­la­tion, Pulp Fic­tion, and Woody Allen’s adap­ta­tion Celebri­ty.

The­mat­i­cal­ly, Mar­cel­lo spends his life des­per­ate­ly try­ing to find the elu­sive ‘Sweet Life’, and this is a film that I know will be a dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence for me each time I view it in a dif­fer­ent stage in life.

Noteworthy Mentions

Last Tan­go In Paris, Bertolucci’s land­mark film with Mar­lon Brando’s unfor­get­table per­for­mance.

Loli­ta, Kubrick’s bold movie adap­ta­tion of Nabokov’s best-sell­er.

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  • That was an easy one. 🙂
    “Lawrence of Ara­bia” would be my pick too — and the full effect of that movie can only be had when watched on the big screen.

  • BTW, I.S. Johar had a small role in the film, and Dilip Kumar was offered the role of Sherif Ali but he refused and it went to Omar Sharif.

  • i saw the restored ver­sion in Lon­don — some 20 years ago — aon the big screen. i think that there were parts of the film where i for­got to breathe 🙂

    David Lean was a tru­ly bril­liant direc­tor. The scene that marks the intro­duc­tion of Omar Sharif — a sta­t­ic shot for so long, while a speck of dust grows to become a man on a camel is the mark of a man who knows what he wants, and how he wants to tell a sto­ry.
    adored the music by jarre !
    great film.
    your series is mak­ing me put down some of my favourites for re-view­ing.

  • Dev

    Here we go again. :). I mean Lawrence of Ara­bia found place in my list too..I was sooooo over­whelmed by the film that I had writ­ten a full post on it..
    I saw all Lean films after watch­ing this one, but this one remains my most favorite fol­lowed by Bridge on Riv­er Kwai..
    Iam glad that you men­tioned Loli­ta too..I now like the fact that you are doing this meme in your own way by not stick­ing to just one film per letter..this way you are get­ting an oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about many of your favorite films and we are also get­ting a peek into some of the good films we want to see..Actually I think you have done this meme the best so far because you have tak­en your sweet time and the fact that you are a real con­nois­seur of world Cin­e­ma also helps tremen­dous­ly..

  • Anand

    Haven’t see either Lawrence of Ara­bia or La Dolce Vita 🙁

    Agree with the Note­wor­thy Men­tions.

    Rec­om­men­da­tion — Lock, Stock and Two Smok­ing Bar­rels (that was the first movie I saw in a the­ater after mov­ing to the US) 🙂

  • With me too, Lawrence! I remem­ber that I was a wideeyed girl when I first saw it and the impact it made is some­thing that will remain on my mind for­ev­er!

  • delete the old­er com­ment

    havent seen most of these… more to the list

    Lawrence was a mega movie made in epic pro­por­tions
    did see it when i was a kid and still remem­ber it
    but have doubts about its his­tor­i­cal authen­tic­i­ty

    i liked the sec­ond loli­ta …did­nt see kubricks ver­sion

  • La vita è bel­la (Life is Beau­ti­ful)
    it was indeed fan­tas­tic
    i had seen it back to back with anoth­er mas­ter­piece
    the Pianist