Sunday, May 17, 2009

Robin and Marian (1976): the middle-aged Middle Ages

Robin Hood comes back to England after 20 years away, crusading and fighting in France, and finds that his old love, Marian, is now an abbess. And she is not young, or particularly impressed by his devil-may-care attitude. Everybody else Robin knew back when is old or dead. Nevertheless, he proceeds to try to live up to his own self-image and the even bigger legend that has grown up around him in his old neighborhood. The results are tragic, though derived from an actual Robin Hood ballad.

This is a remarkable movie. It stars Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, and a luminous Audrey Hepburn. The screenplay author is James Goldman, who wrote the Lion in Winter and They Might Be Giants. The director was Richard Lester, who gives this material an unheroic treatment similar to that which he gave to the Three Musketeers and the Four Musketeers a few years earlier. The physical setting, the buildings and the costumes are very good if not perfect. What really makes the movie is the psychological reality, of Richard Lionheart dying of his own greed and determination to be a king, or the contradictory impulses that drive Marian's behavior.

I probably should not say that this is a movie about middle-aged people for middle-aged people, but it is, and I mean it as a compliment. I certainly can't think of a better historical movie of this sort.

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