I've been meaning to see Lawrence of Arabia for years, but what with one thing and another never did 'til tonight. Three and a half hours (plus intermission), but well worth it. And it was on a big screen (at the Stanford Theatre), which was really nice for the Big Scenes Of Desert Grandeur.
I'm at a bit of a loss for where to start talking about it—so many possible threads!
Filmmaking: structurally a little weird, but with some really brilliant moments. (Sadly, though, my favorite moment in the film isn't quoted on the IMDB quotes page for the movie, or anywhere else online that I can find. It has to do with Lawrence's father. If any of y'all happen to know the line, please email it to me (rather than posting a comment; I want to keep the comments on this entry spoiler-free). I may need to see if I can buy a copy of the script, just to revel in the good lines.) Script by Robert (A Man for All Seasons, The Mission) Bolt; directed by David (A Passage to India, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Summertime) Lean; starring (and "introducing," though he'd been in three previous (fairly minor) movies) Peter O'Toole, in a starmaking role that he did a great job with (with a set of alternately fey and messianic mannerisms); Alec Guinness as an Arab prince; Anthony Quinn (that phenomenal nose!) as another Arab leader; Omar Sharif doing a really excellent job as another prominent Arab character; Claude Rains superb as a politician (I kept thinking that he looked like some particular modern actor, possibly Bob Hoskins, I'm not sure); a host of unknown-to-me actors doing a great job in minor parts. Cool panoramic vistas. Good stuff. Although there were also quite a few lines that I just couldn't follow; not the best-preserved soundtrack, I guess. (The live organ rendition, during intermission, of the cool but very repetitive Lawrence theme from the soundtrack music was pretty good too.)
Hepburn connections: Lean's Summertime, O'Toole in Lion in Winter. Probably others. (And according to IMDB, Lean originally wanted Albert Finney as Lawrence, but Hepburn convinced them to use O'Toole instead.) (Also, btw, the Stanford is showing special showings of Philadelphia Story in memoriam.)
Homoeroticism: forgive me, I almost said "homoeroticism up the wazoo." But I restrained myself. There were several eyebrow-raising moments (e.g., Lawrence stumbles in from the desert with a young Arab lad, and the first thing he asks for is a bed), and I see that at least one site has Lawrence listed as a gay hero. Of course, another site states firmly that Lawrence wasn't gay. I'm always dubious about claims on flimsy evidence that various historical figures were gay; but I'm also always dubious about claims that various historical figures weren't gay if the person who says that seems to indicate that they think it would be a bad thing if the person had been gay.
Africa: we just bought a story in which the African desert features prominently, so there were some interesting echoes rattling around in my head.
Science fiction: Now I know where bits of Star Wars and bits of Dune come from. The parallels with Dune were particularly striking, and particularly interesting. (See also "Masculinity in Dune, Spartacus, and Lawrence of Arabia," which contains huge spoilers for (presumably) all three (I still haven't seen Spartacus, so I'm not looking too closely at this essay yet, but what I saw of it looks interesting).)
Politics: interesting to watch this given current situations in the Middle East. I wish I knew the geography better; I wasn't sure where most of the places were, and I think it'd have had more resonance if I had known. Next time I'll bring a map.
History: as happened with The English Patient, I now want to do a whole lot of reading about the period, the real-life situations, and Lawrence himself. Luckily for me and my free time, there's such a huge amount of material that I'm not willing to get started on it just yet. But if you want places to start, it looks like the T. E. Lawrence Society, the T. E. Lawrence Studies home page, and the Lawrence of Arabia Factfile might be useful. Also, the film sparked lots of thoughts about the Great Man theory of history, and cults of personality, and so on.
Gender: and I do mean great man, as there are basically no women in this movie. IMDB notes: "Although 216 minutes long, this film has no women in speaking roles."
One more cute tidbit from the IMDB:
...filming did not resume for three months because writer Robert Bolt had been jailed for participating in a nuclear disarmament demonstration.