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last update 31.Oct.12
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Lawrence of Arabia
5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir David Lean
prd Sam Spiegel
scr Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson
with Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Jose Ferrer, Arthur Kennedy, IS Johar, Gamil Ratib, Michel Ray
o'toole and sharif release UK 10.Dec.62,
US 16.Dec.62
restored UK 16.Nov.12
62/UK Columbia 3h47

london film fest
Lawrence of Arabia Digitally restored for its 50th anniversary, this film looks jaw-dropping on the big screen with a bright 4K digital image. Yes, this is the epic of epics, a staggeringly big movie that tells a remarkably intimate true story.

As a young officer in 1916 Cairo, TE Lawrence (O'Toole) is too eccentric for anyone to know what to do with him. So he's sent to Arabia to work with locals who aren't cooperating with the British. But Lawrence realises that the Arabs can fight the invading Turks on their own terms if they co-operate. Prince Feisel (Guinness) sees the potential, and Lawrence manages to get tribal leaders Ali (Sharif) and Auda (Quinn) to cooperate, although the experiences of killing on the battlefield deeply unsettle him.

With its endless vistas and a cast of thousands, it's difficult to imagine a bigger movie than this. But what makes it such a classic is that it never feels like mere spectacle. Lean was recreating real-life scenes on a massive scale while telling the story of a man who's so complex that the script never tries to figure him out. And in his first film role, O'Toole gives Lawrence a remarkable inner life. We feel like we can see though those shining blue eyes into his soul in moments of both triumph and horror.

Meanwhile, Sharif brings Ali to vivid life, which gives the film its emotional centre in the relationship between the two men. Their friendship is beautifully played out against the backdrop of this desperate struggle for freedom. And it's so forceful that everyone else feels like they're on the sidelines, providing comedy or drama as needed. Together the balance is so right that nearly four hours pass without a single dull moment.

Artistically and technically, the film is magnificent. Freddie Young's cinematography paints vast portraits of the sand-swirled landscapes while also honing in on the most telling details. Anne Coates' editing is impeccably textured. Maurice Jarre's iconic score is stirring but never manipulative. It's no wonder that they all won Oscars, as did Lean for his ability to manage both the big and small aspects of the story. No matter how big your television is, this should only be watched on the largest cinema screen possible.

PG themes, violence, language
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Oedipus Rex
4/5   Edipo Re
dir-scr Pier Paolo Pasolini
prd Alfredo Bini
with Franco Citti, Silvana Mangano, Carmelo Bene, Julian Beck, Luciano Bartoli, Alida Valli, Ahmed Belhachmi, Ivan Scratuglia, Francesco Leonetti, Giandomenico Davoli, Ninetto Davoli, Laura Betti
mangano and citti
release It 7.Sep.67
reissue UK 24.Sep.12
67/Italy 1h44

oedipus rex Working in colour for the first time, Pasolini adapted Sophocles' epic story into an artful, intimate drama. It's a beautifully made film that hauntingly, unforgettably brings the story to vivid life.

Born in Thebes, Oedipus (Citti) is the son of Jocasta (Mangano)and a young military officer (Bartoli) who understands that she'll never love him as much as her son. So he sends the infant into the desert to be killed, but Oedipus is rescued by a shepherd (Davoli) and adopted by Polybus and Merope (Belhachmi and Valli), the childless king and queen of Corinth. As a young man, he consults an oracle, who gives him a horrible prophecy that he will kill his father and sleep with his mother.

Since Oedipus has no idea that Polybus and Merope aren't his real parents, he runs unknowingly into tragedy. And it's fascinating to see how Pasolini weaves his own life into the myth in ways that make it startlingly personal. This is most notable in the opening and closing sequences, which are set in modern-day Italy, grounding the story and giving it an eerie resonance. Pasolini also uses off-handed, naturalistic photography to capture both the expansive Moroccan landscapes and the expressive faces of the actors.

All of this makes the film feel timeless, even if the production has some key elements of 1960s Italian cinema (such as the obviously overdubbed dialog). Pasolini endeavours to make everything as gritty and realistic as possible, even as the story's grislier events unfold. And the cast members deliver raw performances that seem to come from their guts. Citti is especially compelling, mainly because his Oedipus is such a flawed figure. He's both wise and ignorant, with a fierce streak of self-obsession.

Pasolini's approach beautifully highlights Sophocles' themes about the futility of fighting fate and the inability of government to solve ordinary people's problems. And he also brings out the idea that we often have no idea that our actions are the cause of our own troubles. Indeed, much of the film takes place in the wilderness of Oedipus' mind, as he flails against his fate in the desert. And as the story reaches its horrific final act, the intimate approach carries a potent kick.

15 themes, violence, sexuality
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Raiders of the Lost Ark
5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir Steven Spielberg
scr Lawrence Kasdan; prd Frank Marshall
with Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Alfred Molina, Wolf Kahler, Anthony Higgins, Vic Tablian, Don Fellows, William Hootkins
del sol and gades release US 12.Jun.81,
UK 30.Jul.81
Imax reissue US 7.Sep.12,
UK 21.Sep.12
81/UK Paramount 1h55

shadows all-time top 100 films
Raiders of the Lost Ark Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford were white-hot when they teamed up to make this old-fashioned action adventure, one of the most relentlessly entertaining blockbusters ever made. And now 30 years later, it's a joy to see it up on the Imax screen, looking as good as ever.

In 1936, Indiana Jones (Ford) is a bookish archaeologist who risks life and limb to collect ancient artefacts. After surviving a booby-trapped temple and an ambush by his nemesis Belloq (Freeman) in Peru, he learns that Nazis may have located the Ark of the Covenant. En route to Egypt, he visits his angry ex Marion (Allen), who has a key piece of the Ark's puzzle. Then together with his pal Sallah (Rhys-Davies), they face one scrape after another battling Belloq and his Nazi cohorts (Lacey and Kahler) for the Ark.

Even having seen this film endlessly on video over the years, watching it again on a really big screen is thrilling. Perhaps not as exciting as discovering it at a blind preview as a student in Los Angeles in May 1982, but close. The film has aged remarkably well, with vivid performances that create characters full of shades of personality. The pace is non-stop but never hectic, with each action set-piece leading effortlessly into the next one, pulling us forward as we become hopelessly hooked by the story.

Spielberg's direction is masterful, playing with red herrings, clever revelations, character quirks and tiny details in every corner of the screen. Douglas Slocombe's photography is expansive in ways blockbusters never are anymore, while Michael Kahn's Oscar-winning editing is fast and so lucid that filmmakers today could learn a thing or two. And of course John Williams' triumphant score is electrifying.

About the only thing that dates this film is Ford's youthful square jaw. Even when he expresses Indy's weary tenacity, he's a thrusting action hero whom we're more than happy to ride along with for nearly two hours. And the story and dialog are so tightly well-written that the supernatural flourishes seem almost eerily realistic. Alas, none of that can be said about Spielberg's fourth entry in this series. But that doesn't matter since we have this one to enjoy all over again.

PG themes, language, violence
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The Shining
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir-prd Stanley Kubrick
scr Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
with Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel, Anne Jackson, Tony Burton, Lia Beldam, Billie Gibson, Barry Dennen
Duvall and Lloyd release US 23.May.80
reissue UK 31.Oct.12
80/UK Warner 2h26

See also:
Doctor Sleep (2019) Room 237
The Shining It has taken more than 32 years for the original cut of Kubrick's iconic horror film to arrive the UK. I never saw his shorter version; and I'd never worked up the nerve to rewatch the film since I first saw it in 1980. Indeed, it's just as terrifying as ever, mainly because Kubrick refused to play by horror movie rules.

Jack and Wendy Torrance (Nicholson and Duvall) take a job as winter caretakers of the Overlook Hotel, isolated in the Colorado Rockies. Their young son Danny (Lloyd) makes an instant connection with the departing chef (Crothers), who also has the "shining", an ability to see past and future events and communicate telepathically. Since the hotel is the site of a violent murder, this makes Danny's winter extremely unnerving. But problems come because Jack also has the shining. Except that he doesn't know it. So he starts to relive past horrors.

Kubrick created strikingly original images that were deeply chilling and playful at the same time. And he refused to let anything go bump in the dark, flooding every scene with bright light. Departing from Stephen King's source novel, Kubrick hints at reincarnation and ghosts as reasons for Jack's slide into homicidal psychosis. And the film's camerawork is so unblinking that it's almost painful to watch.

Everything about this film is unnerving, from the brain-bending maze of the hotel's floorplan to the actors' performances, which slowly devolve into full-on madness. Nicholson achieves this with remarkable skill, as he lets Jack's initial sliver of doubt completely consume him. Lloyd is also terrific as a young boy who hides from the voices in his head. Duvall is much better in the film's first half, before Wendy descends into dithering, flailing panic.

Through it all, Kubrick never stopped digging his fingers into us, ratcheting up the suspense with gliding camera moves and tracking shots, shrieking music and flickers of sudden violence. But what's most interesting is that no one has ever made another horror film like this, with brightly lit scenes and a focus on mental collapse even though there's a supernatural element at work. And 32 years later this is still one of the scariest movies ever made. If you can't see it in a cinema, turn off all the lights and watch it on your own.

15 themes, violence, language, nudity
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