By Emilio Domenech
BU News Service
This 227-minute, newly restored epic by Sir David Lean stars Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence, a British officer posted in Cairo during World War I.
Lawrence is sent to meet Prince Faisal, leader of Arab rebellion against the Ottoman Turks, because of his first-hand knowledge of the Middle East. He soon forms a friendship with Faisal, gets involved in a war ,and lives through one of the most astonishing adventures you’ll ever see on a screen.
Lean’s film, although based for the most part on Lawrence’s original writings, knows exactly how much it can deviate from the material. “Lawrence of Arabia” is not an adventure because of the truth of his life, but because of how fiction is able to portray him. Lawrence was an intellectual, a military misfit who had never fought before in battle. O’Toole’s performance delivers just that. He is able to show Lawrence’s experience with death, loss, victory, ambition and power through his acting.
It is hard to go from one of the best films ever to a Roland Emmerich popcorn flick, but the contrast matters. If we are ready to use the term epic more than once, Emmerich’s “The Patriot” also deserves the adjective.
The Patriot depicts the American Revolutionary War through the story of Benjamin Martin, played by Mel Gibson. He is a widower and father of seven who fought against the French in the Seven Years War but doesn’t want his family to live through another conflict.
Despite the script’s rampant historical inaccuracies and wildly melodramatic tone, “The Patriot” is entertaining stuff. It is all about the battles, the acting and the way it all looks and sounds. Yes, it is all superficial, but it makes for a fun 165-minute film, so keep it in mind for a boring Sunday evening.
Critics wrote rave reviews back in 2012 about “Barberian Sound Studio,” Peter Strickland’s third feature film, but “The Duke of Burgundy” was the one that gave him almost unanimous acclaim throughout the industry.
“The Duke of Burgundy” takes place in the 19th century and follows the story of Evelyn and Cynthia, a lesbian couple and BDSM enthusiasts.
What makes “The Duke of Burgundy” special is Strickland’s ability to keep things romantic. Even with a narrative so consumed by its sexual and visceral demands, the film is emotional, and its characters are easy to care about.
Strickland also plays with the aesthetics. Psychedelia and lepidopterology, the study of moths and butterflies, play large parts in the film. It’s a bizarre mix that can, at times, distract from Evelyn and Cynthia’s relationship.
However, as a whole, “The Duke of Burgundy” is powerful and it’s acting is sincere. There is surely risk in Strickland’s storytelling, but in the end, this plays to its strengths, which are many. It is original, it is forceful and it is romantic drama at its best.