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Lawrence of Arabia (1962)Columbia PicturesDVD, Rs. 599Directed by David LeanWriting credits: Robert Bolt & Michael WilsonMusic by Maurice JarreCast: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quale, Arthur Kennedy, I.S. JoharRun time: 216 minutes.Once in every decade a movie is made that towers over all others of its time. Lawrence of Arabia must surely rank as the film of the 1960s. Director David Lean's classic held audiences spellbound for a while but almost went into oblivion until it was painstakingly restored (the restoration took longer than the actual shooting of the film) and was captured for posterity in the DVD format. Just imagine you can actually own the film now, something that was beyond the realms of possibility four decades ago.The film is the biopic of T.E Lawrence, an English army officer who was so enamoured of the Arabs and the desert he briefly forsook his own customs and became Al Lawrence. He cut loose from his dingy office where he was assigned to inking of maps to galvanise the warring Arab tribes into uniting against the Turks, leading to the liberation of Damascus. Lawrence is valiant, intelligent and caring but he is also portrayed as a masochistic, brutal, excessively vain man with homosexual leanings. For those of us who have seen the movie in 70 mm and with stereophonic sound, the DVD version would be a wee bit disappointing. The memorable scene in which Omar Sharif makes his appearance in the film, from a mirage-like apparition to his actual form, loses its impact on the small screen. However David Lean's brilliant filming of the desert comes out quite magnificently in the DVD version.The film has almost all the great actors who were David Lean regulars. Sir Alec Guinness excels once again as King Feisal. His portrayal of the Arab statesman, especially when he is exposed to the nuances in the English language (when the American journalist Arthur Kennedy) warns him about General Allenby calling him `a slim customer' and explaining what the term implies) is simply superb.Anthony Quinn, another Lean favourite, plays his role of an Arab tribal brigand is again top draw, Jack Hawkins as the crafty English General Allenby is cast to perfection while Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif in their debut roles are flawless.David Lean himself makes a brief appearance as the motorcycle rider along the Suez Canal who meets Lawrence after his crossing of the Sinai desert. Our very own I.S Johar plays a cameo in the movie quite convincingly. Lawrence of Arabia attracted critical acclaim from all quarters. Time Magazine's critics Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel picked it for their list of top 100 movies. Time's reviewer said: "Lawrence of Arabia is a cinema colossus that takes four hours to see, employed 1,500 camels and one comparatively obscure young man (Peter O'Toole) who will soon be famous as anybody in show business." Many film critics assigned five star ratings for the film and it is hard to disagree with them. Surely a film that any avid collector would yearn to own.D.RAVI SHANKAR

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