Past the Popcorn: Waterland Home Video Feature

Lawrence of Arabia reviewed by Greg Wright

When the restored “Director’s Cut” of Lawrence of Arabia played at Seattle’s legendary Cinerama theater in 1989, I was naturally at the first showing… even though it meant cutting work that afternoon. (My office was, at that time, just seven convenient blocks down the street!)

As the overture began playing to a fairly crowded house, the lights failed to come down… and the projectionist opened the curtain and unblocked the projection aperture. As the dumbfounded and confused audience looked on, timing marks on the 70mm print were projected onto the screen… and then the curtain closed. And then the projection aperture was closed. The overture continued to play, and a great many members of the audience quickly became convinced that something had gone awry with the print. Several began hooting and hollering, berating the projectionist for having flubbed the premiere screening of the restored David Lean classic.

So much for the intended effect of the overture.

Obviously, the projectionist was as young as many members of the audience, and had never before experienced a film with an overture, intermission, and entr’ acte music.

lawrence-of-arabia-insetLawrence of Arabia is so famous and so lauded as to need very little in the way of a “review.” It’s classic, it’s brilliant, it is storied and legendary. About the most one needs to say of it is that it represents the apotheosis of everything the art form is supposed to be. Every aspect—cinematography, script, acting, direction, music—is executed with the utmost attention to detail, effect, and style. It’s three-hours-plus of cinirvana.

Oh… and it tells a very specific story of a very specific man who inserted himself into the tumultuous history of the region that we call the Middle East. Realistically, it’s safe to say that if it weren’t for T.E. Lawrence, the United States probably would not be embroiled in the Middle East today. Lawrence’s legacy is that significant as a key player in simultaneously Westernizing Arab nations and liberating them from European imperialism. Extraordinary.

One of the central themes of the film, appropriately, is the nature of genius: Are extraordinary people aware that they are extraordinary? And if they are, how driven are they to fulfill their potential? How much do they fear it?

Not coincidentally, it’s the same theme that Martin Scorsese would explore in The Last Temptation of Christ—another film I cut work to see at the Cinerama, in 1988. In that film, as in Lawrence of Arabia, the hero (Jesus) is sorely tempted to leave his calling behind… and simply live the life of an ordinary man: settle down in the country with a wife and child, and a white picket fence. Leave the pain and sacrifice to someone else.

At some level, aren’t we all extraordinary? And yet, don’t we all find ourselves telling the “better angels of our nature” to just quit yammering? Isn’t the path of least resistance awfully appealing at times?

Lawrence of Arabia certainly makes the struggle between calling and the commonplace compelling. And on such an epic scale!

Lawrence of Arabia streams for free in HD on Amazon Prime. How can you lose?

Check it out tonight, and don’t forget to dine local first!


One Response to “Past the Popcorn: Waterland Home Video Feature”
  1. Birch Creek says:

    Great Movie. I was so moved by it as a kid that I read and studied everything I could find on Lawrence. It started a life long enjoyment of history.

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