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  • May. 5th, 2009 at 9:57 AM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (iconic)
I'm reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom now, as you may know, due to a flare up of T.E. Lawrence affection prompted by the Cinerama's annual showing. One of the things that fascinates me about Lawrence is that no matter how complex the film's character was--which was got me initially--once I started looking beyond the film I found someone who wasn't exactly the guy Peter O'Toole became on screen but was, if anything, even more fascinating. (For the record, despite the inaccuracies, I love both men, and I understand Bolt's use of certain aspects of Lawrence's personality to tell a complex and yet tight story. Much the way I feel about the use of historical figures in Amadeus.) He seems a mass of contradictions. And, like my concurrent obsession, Orson Welles, he was talented in many different arenas and very eloquent about it at the same time. Maybe that's what attracts me to both: the way they are both doers and storytellers, combining so many qualities--many of them lying uneasily together--into one oft-troubled person.

So for those of you who have never picked up Seven Pillars, which is Lawrence's (very long) account of the desert war of WWI, I excerpt a few passages from the first chapter, because they're both beautiful and troubling and it touches me that someone went through what he did, and what he would continue to in his own mind, and wrote like this.
...a sensual co-efficient of the mental passion... )

Bonus total randomness: This is the best Wolverine review I've heard. It might be one of my favorite reviews ever. I don't even need to see it now!
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (kick ass)
This is not a proper review. I have too much invested in the subject matter for that, and there will be far too many screencaps. Be that as it may, I must bring your attention to a little-known tv-movie called A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia. A sort-of sequel to Lawrence of Arabia (obviously), it's an uninspiringly shot-and-directed look at the efforts T.E. Lawrence and Emir Feisal put forth at the Paris Peace Conference to put Lawrence's "chosen" Arabs in power in a Middle East already being torn into oil-rich chunks by France and Britain.

My history is pretty fuzzy, and the record as pertains to Lawrence is more complicated than I want to make the effort to interpret in relation to this film. What I find interesting about it is the relationship between Lawrence and Feisal, who in this film seems to be an amalgamation of Lawrence's Sherif Ali and Prince Feisal. They are political allies with a comrade-in-arms history, and the deep feeling between the two is palpable. What it lacks in plot, the film makes up in painting an interesting portrait of a friendship that is doomed to fail in the wake of the world events that threw the two together and now must take them apart. Siddig el Fadil (or Alexander Siddig, of Deep Space Nine and Syriana) plays Feisal with less intensity than Sherif and a lot more youth than Guinness. It's interesting to watch him and Lawrence attempt to outwit the much older, and much more powerful, heads of state they're up against. You know they don't have a chance--not just from history--and the stress of losing is compounded by Lawrence's increasing popularity.

And that's another aspect--the seeds of Lawrence's legend being sown and his own complicated relationship with it. Just like Peter O'Toole, this was Ralph Fiennes' first film and it's a perfect fit (though he's far too pretty). I can even forgive the several fourth-wall breaking scenes in which he recites passages of Seven Pillars of Wisdom to the camera, because of his delivery. A special favorite is his reaction to finding a naked, willing woman in his hotel room: Fiennes fails to stifle his nervous laughter at being presented with a situation he cannot handle, despite everything else he's capable of. O'Toole's Lawrence is a man who thinks he's a god who thinks he's a man; Fiennes' is more like a hero as frighteningly precocious boy whose armor has suddenly been rendered unhelpful.

It's not an illuminating film, and it doesn't explain Lawrence or Feisal or the murky politics of oil-driven colonialism. But there's something beautiful about it anyway, in the performances and the contradictions that drive the two men. I hope to be better able to articulate something about these films and how I feel about Lawrence (they are two different subjects, in the sense that I'm willing to appreciate both truth and legend) in the future, but right now I'm a bit overwhelmed and I'll have to settle for some very slightly moderated "squee."

And since a google search renders nothing but the cover, here are some photos taken of my VHS copy.
dangerous! )

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