Lawrence of Arabia: the 4K Experience


Remember when I posted about two weeks ago that I’d never seen Lawrence Arabia? Well, call that post obsolete because two weeks later I have seen, and thoroughly enjoyed, all 228 minutes of it.  As I said in my earlier post, good things come to those who wait and, boy, am I glad I waited to see this movie!

The film itself, as I’m sure all of you know, is glorious — but I will get to that later. What I first want to discuss is the sheer beauty of the 4K restoration as seen on the big screen. Ever since I first saw The Ten Commandments broadcast in HD on ABC about three years ago, it became my mission to see as many classic films in Blu-ray or High Definition as possible. Through the magic of technology, we are now able to see the classics look as crisp as they did 50, 60, even 70 years ago when they were first projected. Gone are the days of severely decreased color saturation and loss in fine detail that plagued the home viewing experience for the past 30 years; everything is sharp, colorful and every bit as magical as the day they first graced the screens. Now, take that image, blow it up 30 feet and you have Lawrence of Arabia.

Before (top) and after (bottom) frame of original work print.

Needless to say, the picture was breathtaking. The scope and detail to the film’s famous use of the desert was second to none. Through Director David Lean’s expert use of the wide-angle lens on the unapologetically cinematic 70mm format, the desert was transformed into an existence beyond simple geography. Bleak and ever expansive, yet beautiful in its mystery, the desert served as both setting and character, creating mood, while maintaining its own. During Omar Sharif’s famed introduction, I could see the desert heat rising from the sands with Technicolor waves of flames of illusion making Sharif appear as a mirage in the distance. Here, Lean expertly uses the desert scenery to add mystery to the character while inserting its own ethereal presence.

And, of course, the film itself was wonderful. I was completely drawn into the enigmatic character of T.E Lawrence. Part solider, part intellectual, part mad man, part egotist, but all genius, Peter O’Toole’s portrayal of him was nothing sort of stellar. Through the entire film I was absolutely engaged with the character, constantly trying to understand his motives on a military level and how they were informed by his need for power and glory. His bursts of madness and sadism combined with his charisma and intellect make for one of the most robust characters in screen history.

The beauty of picture, the elegance of the filmic language, and the character of Lawrence himself all made for one of the most enjoyable theatre experiences I’ve ever had. And given that my local theatre was packed, I can only hope this trend of 4K restorations will continue. Who knows, maybe when 2014 rolls around we’ll see a 4K Gone with the Wind re-release. Hey, a girl can hope.


Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

This entry was posted in Fathom Events, Posts by Minoo Allen and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.