Thursday, October 4, 2012
The 4K restoration Lawrence of Arabia (1962) at the New York Film Festival 2012
On Sunday in Alice Tully Hall they screened the restored 4K version of Lawrence of Arabia. When the Columbia Pictures logo appeared on screen a loud "Oh Shit!" could be heard running through the audience.
Oh shit indeed because boys and girls this is the finest digital transfer I have ever seen. Its also the greatest restoration I've seen.
What can I say? If you want to covert someone to digital projection show them this film. My friend Lou said it was the most amazing image transfer he's ever seen. It also called it one of the greatest movie going experiences of his life (He may be being a bit mild since he was doubled over with back pain)
The transfer was done by taking the decaying original negative (not the 1988 restoration) and preparing it despite splices, breaks and stripped sprockets. It was then scanned digitally which took 1300 hours. And then the real frame by frame restoration began. Finished just three months ago, it was a process that took over three years of work.
It was worth every minute and every penny.
Its beyond amazing.
Normally I don't care that much about transfers ans such. I grew up watching scratchy prints, chopped TV prints and VHS transfers that are damn near unwatchable. Let me see enough that I can follow the story and I'm happy....
... yea well those days are gone I want all transfers to look like this.
The thing is that while I have always held the film in high regard, having seen it big and in a transfer like this have made me feel even more strongly about the film.
You all know the story, told in flashback, this is the story of TE Lawrence who finagled his way into getting out of the office and ended up helping the Arab Rebellion happen when the various tribes ended up united to fight the Turkish overlords. The war also changed Lawrence who's run in with various cruelties, including time in a Turkish prison which is only hinted at, from a sunny individual, into something a shade or two darker. Its story that is not only filled with great action set pieces but also some troubling ideas. (Especially now when what Lawrence did is affecting what is happening in the world today).
The film is rightly considered one of the greatest films ever to come out of Hollywood, but seeing it as it should be seen the film is an absolute revelation. Sure I've seen the film on a big screen TV, but seeing the film on a truly huge screen was something else. The size of the spaces and desolation had me shaking my head. You never realized how desolate some places are, or how big mountains can be. There are shots of people riding in the desert and for the first time I saw things in the distance. There is one shot (when Lawrence returns with a man he's saved from The Sun's Anvil) I thought was a long shot of the distance before anyone showed up- no- someone is there from the start and we watch them ride in.
One of the best of Hollywood? I'm now considering it for my list of greatest films period.
You want to see this. No you do. Trust me you do.
I know the DVD is coming but you want to see this on a big screen. ...and you can Fathom Events is running this today and tonight across the country in a one day, two screenings event. It you have the time, and you love movies you have to go see this. It will blow your mind.