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See Lean’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ on Wednesday


Thousands of filmmakers have released their movies over the past century and a quarter, but few of them have made the impression that David Lean did.

Lean's movies are wide-screen studies in cinematic beauty. Even if the stories he told and the characters whose experiences he explored had been less than enthralling — and that is hardly the case — the manner in which he portrayed them was beautifully rendered.

Trained as a cinematographer, Lean was interested in imagery first. And in the 19 films he directed over a four-decade-plus time frame, any number of scenes remain memorable.

And several of those come from his 1962 masterpiece "Lawrence of Arabia."

Think of the shot of the lone rider (played by Omar Sharif) approaching from across the desert. Think of the shots of Lawrence (played by Peter O'Toole in his breakout role) standing up against the desert sky. Think of the sky itself, with a glowing sun sinking (or rising) on the horizon.

And all of it captured in the wide-screen format that became so popular in the late 1950s and early '60s.

You can witness all of this one last time on Wednesday when "Lawrence of Arabia" will screen twice at two area Regal Cinemas theaters, at Northtown Mall and at Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium. The film will screen at 1 and 6 p.m.

If you can forgive some of the casting — the very British Alec Guinness as the Arab Prince Faisal, the Mexican-born Anthony Quinn as the Bedouin leader Auda Abu Tayi — and the obligatory twisting of history to fit dramatic ends, you just might enjoy the spectacle that Lean created.

No less a filmmaker than Steven Spielberg once said that "Lawrence of Arabia" is "between a cornerstone and a grail. It still makes me feel puny. It keeps cutting us down to size."

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