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lawrence

Just before sleep, the dogs settled, and I want a diversion, ten minutes of a mindless show, so I do not anticipate the appearance of Arabia, robed men on camels seen from far away, and all around them rock and dunes and a desert light that transfigures them into an ageless sight — ancient lines of men, armed and mounted, moving into distance, purposeful as the tracing of a bullet, and then the shock of a close-up of O’Toole, impossibly white, white robed and blond and those burning eyes. No one has ever been so young. He looks like the synthesis of every Imperial dream of the Empire. His eyes, framed by his keffiyeh, never come to rest. O’Toole knows that Lawrence was torn every which way by his talents and heritage — illegitimate son of a Lord, fluent speaker of Arabic, all of the Koran memorized, friend to Faisel, a British Officer committed to the harshest kind of combat, guerilla war; an idealist and a killer, profoundly shy and mesmerizing. The man was a furnace. Everything burned inside his deflections. Shelves of books have been built around his contradictions. Then the music comes in like a storm — a Russian novel’s music, large, propulsive, melodic in every key and register, suited to the breadth of landscape and subject, and I cannot turn away even though I have watched this movie many times for hours upon hours, so much so that it has burrowed into my deepest bank of memory. Thus ten minutes vanish into Arabia, into ‘Al Auruns’, and as happens with all those movies we love, we think what it would be like to be a Corleone, a Nathan Brittles or Ethan Edwards, a laconic Chuck Yeager, or T.E. Lawrence, 100 years ago, riding out of the Nafud, the ‘Anvil of God’, the man you rescued at your back, and you have just written your life’s best beginning.

The Restoration

© Mike Wall

One Response

  1. Elaine says:

    O’Toole was amazing!

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