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!
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.
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 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.
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.