November 21st, 2020

Robin And Marian

I've got my mother watching Film 4. Yesterday afternoon they were showing a forgettable western about the farmer and the cowman not being friends- with Barbara Stanwyck being wicked and Glen Ford being noble and Edward G Robinson being something in-between. I liked the bit where the bad guys were riding through the scenery with flaming torches but otherwise it was film-making by numbers.

I didn't check to see what was up next but went and messed about on the computer in the next room. After a while I heard someone who was unmistakably Sean Connery saying "Marian" and I thought, "If he's already saying "Marian" I've missed the bit where Richard Harris gets to be all pale and sweaty and psychopathic as Richard Coeur de Lion. Bother!"

Robin and Marian is one of the movies I love with a passion. It has Connery being adorably bouncy and Hepburn being radiant and excellent actors all the way down the line bringing the essence of who they are to roles in which they barely say a line but don't need to- for instance Denholm Elliot as Alan-a-Dale- plus a witty, insightful and- when it needs to be- poetic script by James Goldman, plus direction by Richard Lester at the height of his powers, plus a zest for world building that is Breughelian in its passion for detail. Scan any frame that's not a close-up and you'll spot someone doing something medieval in the background; That man didn't have to be climbing a ladder pitched against a watchtower in the far far distance and those two squires didn't have to be playing a primitive form of cricket behind Robert Shaw's head but how utterly delightful that they're there.

Ailz wandered in around the point where Kenneth Haigh gets kicked in the gonads and said, "Oh, it's a comedy," and I said, "Well, not exactly..." It is of course very funny through most of its length because people getting old and trying to live their legend is funny if you look at it a certain way- but if you look at it another way it's something else.

And the film that can accommodate Kenneth Haigh getting kicked in the goolies and Ronnie Barker's mugging closes as something the 20th century rarely attempted- high tragedy- and with an aria (for Marian) that Shakespeare might have cast his eyes over and thought, "Yup, that'll do..."

"I love you. More than all you know. I love you more than children. More than fields I've planted with my hands. I love you more than morning prayers or peace or food to eat. I love you more than sunlight, more than flesh or joy. Or one more day. I love you more than God."

If Film 4 has the rights they'll no doubt schedule it again- and this time I'll make sure I get to see the bit with Richard Harris.