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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18 thoughts on “A to Z of Films Meme (L)

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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..

  5. 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) 🙂

  6. “mark of a man who knows what he wants, and how he wants to tell a story” – well said. Couldn’t agree more!

    I’m glad your enjoying the series; hope apart from re-viewing favorites, it gives you some new recommendations too!

  7. Dev, a suggestion: please add a search box to your blog. It’s sometimes not easy finding an earlier post. I managed to browse and locate your post on Lawrence, but it will be much easier with a search box.

    Regarding the meme: In a way, I am sticking to just one film per letter! If you notice, there is only one clear winner among all the other runner-ups and mentions. But you’re right, rather than just mentioning the winner, I’m mentioning others as well. That’s the best way I found some of the others had followed the meme as well.

    Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and appreciation. Regarding being a connoisseur: I would say I’m just an amateur film-lover!

  8. Boy, you are missing out on a great cinematic experience. La Dolce Vita is viewable on the small screen as well, so physical access is not an issue. But with Fellini, accessibility in terms of film appreciation required some groundwork for me personally, so I would suggest some prior reading of helpful reviews before diving into a Fellini film. It also helps to get the social and historical context beforehand.

    Lock, Stock…has been on my list since a year. I made some unsuccessful half-hearted attempts to get it and gave it up. And this recommendation had also come from my professional ex-colleagues. 🙂

  9. 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!

  10. Yes, I saw your mentions of it! I hoped that my write-up would do some justice to the experience of this film and was hoping I won’t disappoint lovers of this film like you! 🙂

    Thanks for reading my meme posts, Nita.

  11. I am in DC visiting Ajeya and Ramu this weekend. Planning to go to the Holocaust Memorial today. That reminded me of a movie – La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful).

  12. Oops – you have a knack of catching all my omissions! Yep – Life is Beautiful is…just…beautiful. Awesome film.

    Have a nice trip, buddy.

  13. 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

  14. Prax, as James Berardinelli notes in his review: “It should be noted that Lawrence of Arabia, although based on T.E. Lawrence’s memoirs, “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, does not pretend to be a documentary, and, as such, should not be held to the same strict standards of factual accuracy. This is an adventure movie and a character study, not a pictorial version of a history text book.”

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

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