Monday, May 17, 2010

Robin And Marian


Before watching Robin And Marian, there is a question you must ask yourself. Have you ever once said, “Gee the story of Robin Hood is a cracking good adventure but do you know what it lacks? The unremittingly grim depiction of the passage of time before the pathetic double suicide of its heroes.”

More specifically you must ask yourself if you’ve ever particularly wished to see Audrey Hepburn kill herself on screen. There are some things that have such a negative reaction, that no matter how noble the intention shooting them is ill advised. The self inflicted death of the gamine queen is one of those things.

This isn’t to say that Robin And Marian isn’t a well made film. Far from it. It is a very realistic movie, with lots of deglamorized violence and artful cinematography (The film opens with a shot of fruit, before jump cutting to that same fruit spoiled. DEEP!!!) and that tirelessly realistic, yet oddly depopulated look so common to seventies period films not set during World War II. It has a lot to say about myth, and the way it is made and distorts even during its subjects lifetime. It contains two good performances from icons playing icons, and has a heartfelt love story at its center.

It is on the whole a respectable revisionist picture.

And for that very reason, more so then the universally agreed to be terrible Scott and Costner version it made me question why this story ever needed to be revised in the first place. If this is it done well (which it is) why do I feel so dissatisfied by what the story accomplished. Like Peggy Lee I’m left asking “Is that all there is?”

Like I said, the film is well made. Its directed by the able Richard Lester. In what would sadly be the last decent movie he would make. Lester has a striking eye for composition. Framing a scene like an early one where King Richard is tended to by his physician’s in a turnip field in the foreground while a castle burns in the background; like the bastard child of Terry Gilliam and Ingmar Bergman. He also brings his subtle comic wit to bear in scenes such as the one where Robin finds that wall scaling isn’t quite as easy as it used to be. He’s obviously working with limited means, but more often then not he gets the effect he’s going for. And in all fairness far less Monty Python And The Holy Grail quotes went flying through my head then during Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves.

The film is cast with ringers, most notably Richard Harris’s magnificent utter bastard of a Richard The Lionheart, who snacks on his scenery with such unseemly gusto that it’s a shame to see him expire in the first reel. Robert Shaw’s oddly cordial Sheriff Of Nottingham also makes quite an impression. Shaw’s talent was he always allowed you to see his characters thinking. Giving his villains an intellectual edge missing from today’s crop. Ian Holm and Denholm Elliot also make the most out of what they have.

But really the film belongs to its principles. Both acquit themselves admirably. This was made during the height of Connery’s lean days, but you’d never know it watching him. He brings the full of his charisma to bear, and if he can’t quite sell the tragedy that engulfs the film at the end, he makes up for it by overselling the hubris that leads to it. Hepburn is of course radiant and wonderful, adding pathos to the film that it has not necessarily earned.

Robin And Marin is a well meaning film, it is perhaps even a noble one. Still I am not convinced that it is a worthwhile one.


Ed Cao said...

I really liked this movie. Audrey Hepburn as Marian was genius to Sean Connery's Robin Hood.
It was very lovely movie if not grim and a tad slow. The score by Barry was also memorable.

Bryce Wilson said...

In hindsight I have to agree with you Neon. I was a bit hard on this film. It is well made and has some great moments.

Of all the revisionist films this is undoubtedly the best.

Still I'm not all that convinced that Robin Hood NEEDS revisioning. He's one of the few myths that works fine as is.