Fifty Against Aqaba

Peter O’Toole takes the Cinerama by storm

A movie that truly deserves the 70 mm format must have two things: (1) an awesome landscape to photograph, and (2) a star whose face can command the frame in close-up. Check and check. But there are at least five other factors that earned the great Lawrence of Arabia its seven Oscars (including statuettes for picture, director David Lean, and cinematographer Freddie Young). The 1962 epic, which runs almost four glorious hours, places T.E. Lawrence on a heroic dune even while eroding the sand beneath his feet. O’Toole brilliantly captures this charismatic yet flawed leader of the British-sponsored World War I–era Arab insurrection against the Ottoman Empire; he’s brave, weak, sadistic, and alluring all at once—an idealist whose white cloak is spattered in blood. Colonial maps of the Middle East are being drawn in Lawrence, making its talk of nationalism, tribalism, and occupation even more resonant today. (PG) Noon today and Sun., March 23; 8 p.m. Tues., March 18 and 25.

Sun., March 16, 2008

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