Lawrence of Arabia: the importance of things past

Rather than the poster typically seen today, I decided to go for a slight more retro one...

Rather than the poster typically seen today, I decided to go for a slight more retro one…

When I joined the film group at my university this year, this classic was one of the films that I marked off immediately as one I had to see. I didn’t expect it to be as long as it was – I don’t really check such details anymore – and was stunned to be presented with a mid-film break! However, the challenge of sitting through more than four hours was worth it: despite some historical inaccuracies, the glimpses of politics was completely fascinating, for what happened and did not happen back in the early 1900s has huge implications for what’s happening in the Middle East today.

One thing that struck me as I was researching lightly for the purpose of writing this post is that photos of T.E. Lawrence show that the costume designer recreated what he wore with pretty darned good accuracy. Although history was indeed adapted for the needs of the theater, Lawrence’s level of empathy and integration into the groups of people he encountered was well captured. Considering how many Westerners are incredibly insular today, balking at the idea of cultural relativism and focusing on what’s in their interests without regard to the interests of others who share this planet, it’s fascinating to consider the experiences of someone who integrated himself so deeply into the Arab culture that he was deeply respected by many of them at the time.

It’s difficult to imagine such a tale today. Modern people so caught up in ‘getting results quickly’ that any seemingly impossible challenge would automatically be left by the wayside. Furthermore, the tendency today is for an ideal that is highly influenced by Western culture, which many justify by pointing to beliefs and practices that revolt us. Conversely, the practices and beliefs that make sense to us may be completely alien, even barbaric to them. This is not to say that I condone what is clearly problematic in terms of the rights of any person to life, food, shelter, education and so on, but I do have issues with the blatant condemnation of the so-called lack of rights that are not quite as ‘necessary’, so-to-speak. What I see instead is the great danger of losing all possibility of interacting with others if we do not even attempt to understand how they think. From what I have read since seeing this film, this is the argument that Lawrence tried to make for much of his life, and something that many people today would do well to learn.

Two more film reviews

The remaining reviews are being attempted tonight. Maybe I should make myself write them all before I sit down and watch all those first episodes I’ve been collecting… Ok, I’ll stop procrastinating here.

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Anna Karenina

Reviews: Schindler’s List and Shichinin no Samurai

Schindler’s List
Seven Samurai
Pretty Face
Russian Dolls
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Onegin
Ju on (The Grudge)

I’ve work and study to do, but if this list isn’t attempted, I’ll be needing to watch these films again!

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Three to go before Schindler’s List!!

It’s no secret that Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is an outright adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, except that Africa has been replaced by a Vietnam in the grips of a civil war that blew out to international proportions (i.e. the Vietnam war). Like it’s novel counterpart, this experience of darkness is framed by the man (Marlowe in the novel, here known as Willard) given the mission to track down a man named Kurtz. Unlike the novel however, this mission is a non-existant assassination assignment. I have never seen the original 152 minute version (does a dvd of that actually exist?) so this is based entirely on the huge 202 minute long Redux. All up, my conclusion is…one should never watch such a long film based on material one does not truly understand. and this will have SPOILERS, unlike most of my reviews

霍元甲

Directed by Ronny Yu, 霍元甲 (Huo Yuan Jia), aka Fearless, is a semi-autobiographical account of the life of the man who is recognised as the founder of 精武門 (this link also contains another account of Huo’s life), a martial arts institution that has since spread over the world. Yu mentioned in an interview that filming went so well that this would have been the last time he works with Jet Li. Li has actually decided that this would be his final martial arts film. I’m not entirely sure if he never intends to make a film again (I don’t believe he has ever done a non-martial arts film), but after decades of entertaining fans and film-goers with his skills, I don’t blame him for deciding that this is probably enough, and that it might be better to spend the rest of his life to what he feels is more important to him. Before he quit, he wanted to make a film that represents what he felt to be the true spirit of martial arts. IMHO, the basic message is achieved, but I wonder if certain decisions taken by the production team may have prevented the making of a better biopic. Read more of this post

Good Night, and Good Luck

Thanks largely to Memoirs of a Geisha being sold out, I caught this little gem with SC and two of her college friends before I headed to Singapore. Unless one is a student of history, sociology, politics, or something along those lines, Joseph McCarthy is probably a name that wouldn’t register. In the 1950s, the Cold War era being in swing, this senator took it upon himself to remove all traces of communism from American soil, a political and ideological approach named McCarthyism (here’s the wiki article – I don’t know how accurate it is) after him. In 1953, CBS news journalist, Edward R. Murrow and his producer, Fred Friendly, examined McCarthy’s actions on Murrow’s ‘current affairs’ program, “See It Now”, with far-reaching consequences. Read more of this post

Book Reviews – Schindler’s List and Freakonomics

Schindler’s List (Thomas Keneally)

Since 2004, I’ve had lists of ‘books…’ and ‘movies I intend to see’. Schindler’s List has always been on the latter list, and thus by default, on the former as well. Haven’t seen the film yet, but NK had the book, so… Read more of this post