Friday, June 29, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia (Director’s cut) (50th anniversary) [2012 digital restoration]

GB 1962. D: David Lean. Based on the autobiography of T. E. Lawrence. SC: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson. DP: F. A. Young. ED: Anne V. Coates. AD: John Box. Cost: Phyllis Dalton. M: Maurice Jarre. S: Paddy Cunningham, John Cox, Winston Ryder. C: Peter O’Toole (T. E. Lawrence), Alec Guinness (Principe Feisal), Anthony Quinn (Auda Abu Tayi), Jack Hawkins (Generale Allenby), Omar Sharif (Ali), José Ferrer (Bey turco), Anthony Quayle (colonnello Brighton), Claude Rains (Mr. Dryden), Arthur Kennedy (Jackson Bentley), Donald Wolfit (generale Murray), I S. Johar (Gasim), Gamil Ratib (Majid), Michael Ray (Farraj), John Dimech (Daud), Zia Mohyeddin (Tafas). Prod: Columbia Pictures, Horizon Pictures, Sam Spiegel, David Lean. Premiere: 10 dicembre 1962.  DCP. 222’. Col. From: Sony Columbia. Restored in 4K by Sony Columbia in 2012. Friday 29 July 2012, Piazza Maggiore (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian. Presented by Grover Crisp.

The restored version, presented at Cannes Classics, was made from the Director’s Cut in 1989, when the film was rereleased in cinemas. It includes 21 minutes of unreleased footage, bringing the total running time to 3 hours 42 minutes. Over the years the film was heavily cut, but in 1988 a reconstruction of the film was undertaken, produced by Robert A. Harris and Jim Painten. David Lean and original editor Anne V. Coates then worked on the film to create Lean’s Director’s Cut.

David Lean: “In spite of the span of time being only two years we have an enormously long film. It will be at least three hours, perhaps nearer four. We have had to use a lot of a dramatic economy. Consequently we have short-circuited certain incidents, and run six characters into one. There were many military men concerned in the Lawrence story. It would be impossible to include them all in a screenplay so we have one (played by Anthony Quayle) who represents them as ‘an English military character’, complimentary to the role Jack Hawkins has as General Allenby. It is, I believe, the best performance Hawkins has ever given. […] In treating Lawrence as a character we have not been able to avoid, or indeed wanted to avoid, the controversial aspects of his private life. Our treatment for instance shows him to be masochistic. We have not implied that Lawrence was homosexual, though it depends on what you call homosexual. […] We have not avoided stating the facts of the political climate of the time, the British-Arab relationship; but the political arena was not our main concern. Mostly I hope we have created a very exceptional hero. This is one of the things I am longing to find out when the film is seen by an audience. I don’t know how an audience will take Lawrence as we have shown him: because in certain ways he is full-blown traditional hero figure and he does some heroic things, but he also does things which will shock an audience. I think audiences are unaccustomed to this kind of shock. […] The film has been shot on 65mm stock in the Panavision process. All the material we shot in Jordan we could not see until we returned in Britain. […] I supervise the editing myself, particularly the tricky action sequences. As I was an editor, it is hard to keep my hand off the celluloid. Nobody can prophesy at the script stage how a thing is going to be cut; but I try to shoot with a plan of the cutting in mind. I try to get the shots that I know will be wanted, moving the artists from here to there and not repeating the action all over again from another set-up. Sometimes one slips up and I curse myself for not having taken a long-shot which later I find was really necessary.” David Lean, Out of the Wilderness, “Films and Filming”, n. 100, January 1963

AA: As Gian Luca Farinelli said in his introduction, the Bologna heat brought a proper effect to the screening of Lawrence of Arabia on the Piazza Maggiore. Grover Crisp explained in his introduction that the movie was scanned from the original negatives in 8K to be mastered in 4K. Anne V. Coates, the editor of the film, was the senior advisor who helped with the colour. Grover also revealed that this was the first screening of the final restoration for the 50th anniversary of Lawrence of Arabia (the previous screenings having been of an unfinished version). On the Piazza the screening was in 2K. I sampled it for 45 minutes from the beginning. It looked magnificent, and I had no complaints. I would look forward to a demonstration with a 70 mm print and a 4K projection. The movie itself ages well and gets better on repeat viewings. The opening sequence is topical right now as the favourite movie of the android David in Prometheus by Ridley Scott; the trick being "not minding that it hurts".

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