Lawrence of Arabia

Produced as the first film spectacular for adults, Lawrence of Arabia makes no attempt to unravel the enigma of T. E. Lawrence (played by Peter O'Toole); rather, it thrives on it. The film was criticized for being a study of Lawrence, the desert warrior, to the detriment of Lawrence, the writer and diplomat. Sure, it's a cop-out, but director David Lean leaves the legacy of this odd figure of history-a man of mysterious moods and passions who, when sent by British intelligence to observe the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War I, became personally enmeshed in the struggle-to the magnificent visual sense of cinematographer Freddie Young. He brings out the exquisite fragility and the pitiless constancy of the desert in images that seem framed by the sun's shimmering, hazy heat: that hooded figure on camelback riding toward the camera might just be a mirage.

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