Lawrence of Arabia [1962]

There's no getting around a simple, basic truth: watching Lawrence of Arabia in any home-video format represents a compromise. There's no better way to appreciate this epic biographical adventure than to see it projected in 70 millimeter onto a huge theater screen. That caveat aside, David Lean's masterful "desert classic" is still enjoyable on the small screen, especially if viewed in widescreen format. (If your only option is to view a "pan & scan" version, it's best not to bother; this is a film for which the widescreen format is utterly mandatory.) Peter O'Toole gives a star-making performance as T.E. Lawrence, the eccentric British officer who united the desert tribes of Arabia against the Turks during World War I. Lean orchestrates sweeping battle sequences and breathtaking action, but the film is really about the adventures and trials that transform Lawrence into a legendary man of the desert. Lean traces this transformation on a vast canvas of awesome physicality; no other movie has captured the expanse of the desert with such scope and grandeur. Equally important is the psychology of Lawrence, who remains an enigma even as we grasp his identification with the desert. Perhaps the greatest triumph of this landmark film is that Lean has conveyed the romance, danger, and allure of the desert with such physical and emotional power. It's a film about a man who leads one life but is irresistibly drawn to another, where his greatness and mystery are allowed to flourish in equal measure. --Jeff Shannon

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