If it weren’t for Lawrence Of Arabia, I might well not be typing this out: probably some other movie would’ve sparked nascent cinematic consciousness when I was 10, taking me over the hump from ingesting every G- and PG- rated piece of garbage I was allowed to see (getting out of the house was very important in the post-divorce days) to actually thinking about what I was watching as something other than the easiest time-killer around, but who knows. Lawrence Of Arabia is a moment-of-truth moment for a lot of kids, because it’s famous, fairly popular in revival (would I have been the rep-going freak I am without it? It’s a one-movie argument for the importance of big-screen viewings), and the kind of widescreen spectacle you don’t need actual human experience and interaction to respond to. Of course, Lawrence is a great epic not just for its dunes—though I like to think my taste for the most static-framed kind of arthouse formalism gestated here as well—but for its acute psychological understanding of a man who surely ranks among the least explicable mass of contradictions ever to serve the British empire, something that took more years to appreciate.
Film Forum’s David Lean retro is the series I’ve been most excited about since their Don Siegel fest two years ago. It looks like NYFF press screenings won’t let me make it to every single damn film (poor me etc.), but I’m pleased to have filled in more of the gaps before the killer one-two of Bridge On The River Kwai and Lawrence (and, uh, Doctor Zhivago, har har). This isn’t an overview—turn to Dan Callahan for that—just notes on four films that all deserve your time, one way or another.