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A Minor Role

It seems fitting to crowd into a vintage theater with rickety, barely sloped seating and a broken A/C to watch Lawrence of Arabia for the very first time. And in glorious 70mm, no less. Musicbox Theatre is somehow simultaneously cavernous and cramped, grand and crusty. I love it just like I love the absurd beauty of David Lean's 226-minute, sand-covered masterpiece.


I am like a small baby seeing the world for the first time as the opening credits scroll past and I watch Lawrence clean his motorbike from above. If I was becoming affectionate then, I truly embraced the overwhelming feeling of awe when Lawrence blows out a match flame and sets the horizon on fire.

Honestly, the only thing missing from this film (besides, um, women?) is the T.E. Lawrence version of the 'Tears in rain' monologue from Blade Runner. Like, my god, the things this man has seen.

I can't even really review this. I have no new insight to bring after just one hot and sweaty mid-day viewing. So much has been written about the man, the myth, the legend, Lawrence of Arabia. The movie itself is constantly described as beautiful, unforgettable, perfect, unbelievable, epic—and all of those things are actually true. But I'd still like to parse my feelings on Lawrence—and my initial dissatisfaction with its post-intermission second half—in a messy, irreverent list.

These Things Were Perfect, and Brought Me Closer To God

• The shot of the goggles

• The score

• The blue-ness of Peter O'Toole's eyes

• The shot of Sherif Ali riding into Lawrence's life

• The aforementioned transition from Lawrence blowing out a match flame and the sun just beginning to rise in the desert

• General Murray questioning whether Lawrence is bloody bad-mannered or just half-witted and Lawrence responding, I have the same problem, sir

• Lawrence looking at himself in the blade of his knife

• The entire sequence when Lawrence goes back for Gasim

• Sherif Ali accepting Lawrence as he is and then throwing his clothes in a fire

• Many, many sleepy desert scenes of camels walking and fabric blowing in the wind

• Prince Feisal delivering that old men vs. young men speech

I Did Not Enjoy These Things and Here Is Why

• I know this was made for a 1962 audience, but since the culture has deemed this film Still Relevant, it must continue to be critiqued, even as society advances past it. So let's discuss: On a scale of 1 to 10, how distracting was being able to see the line where Alec Guiness' brownface paint ended and his white ass skin began? At least an 11. On a scale of 1 to 11, why come Anthony Quinn's fake ass nose didn't match the rest of his painted ass, brownface ass face? Huh?! Distracting. 13.

I Was Very Attracted To These People At This Specific Time For These Specific Reasons

• When Lawrence was laying on a pile of sand right before his guide-friend got shot by his future bestie

• When Sherif Ali was layin' up next to Lawrence in Feisal's tent like HAHA! in response to Feisal's response to that British man acting like the Brits weren't about to pull the okey doke on Feisal and his people

• When Lawrence burned his fingers while putting out a match and his comrade was like doesn't it hurt? and Lawrence was like, Bruh, it's about not minding that it hurts! and then milly rocked out of the room

• When Lawrence casually pulled up on a camel with a near-dead Gasim, didn't take the water Ali proffered him, and instead just says, Nothing is written. If that scene were a meme, it would be this one

• Sherif Ali when he was trying to talk snese into Lawrence in the tent, right before Lawrence goes and gets himself captured by the Turkish Bey

• Sherif Ali when he's talking to Lawrence when they first meet at the well and is acting like a badass

These Are Questions I Had Immediately After Viewing, and They Made Me Like The Movie A Little Bit Less, Until I Read More About Them, and Then They Made Me Like The Movie A Little Bit More

• What is Lawrence about? He's not a hero, not an anti-hero, not ordinary, and is certainly extraordinary, but in both negative and positive ways, which leaves his intentions and inner turmoil a bit foggy

• Why did the Arabs run away?

• Why did Sherif Ali leave and where was he going?

• Why didn't the army need Lawrence any more?

• Who was the Turkish Bey and why was he just in that weird dungeon place stuck with idiots?????????

• Why did Lawrence even go to the area where the Turkish Bey was?

• How exactly did both Feisal and General Allenby use Lawrence for their own means?

I'm glad my first viewing of this was in 70mm. I'm glad it was hot. I'm glad I was surrounded by people who really wanted to be there. Honestly, watching this movie in that theater reminded me why I love film and why I enjoy going to a physical movie theater. Sometimes, you get the exact right mixture of energy and the effect is intoxicating.
The best of them won't come for money. They'll come for me.

Film stills via Beautiful Film Frames