mercredi 12 mai 2010

Robin des Bois revu et corrigé

Dans le débat qui nous occupe sur la véracité historique et la liberté créative accordée au narrateur, voici un bel exemple d'imagination au travail : celui du cinéaste Ridley Scott revisitant le mythe de Robin des Bois pour qu'il colle avec les besoins d'un film à grand spectacle.

L'entraînement des acteurs au tir à l'arc.

Dans son scénario, Ridley Scott malmène l'Histoire jusqu'à un point limite mais il reste dans les clous de la vraisemblance. L'idée à la base du film est simple et efficace : un archer anglais assiste à la mort du roi Richard Cœur de Lion et à la suite d'un concours de circonstances revient au pays sous l'identité d'un aristocrate.

Ce tour de passe-passe rend possible la suite du scénario aux multiples rebondissements dont un débarquement du roi de France qui se termine comme de bien entendu par un désastre pour l'envahisseur. Rien de tel qu'un peu de francophobie pour plaire au populo rosbif.

Dans cet article du Guardian, Andrew Pulver décortique le scénario avec beaucoup d'intelligence.

Robin Hood

Ridley Scott's reworked tale of dispossession and rebellion cleverly reconciles disparate threads of the Robin Hood myth

The Cannes film festival has picked the most rousing possible opener with this new cinema treatment of the Robin Hood legend. Gladiator may be 10 years ago now, but director Ridley Scott has had his persistent faith in Russell Crowe amply rewarded; Crowe may be puffier of face, hoarser of voice and done rather too much confrontational living in public, but he still has exactly the right kind of leading-man steel to make this ambitious, serious and unashamedly populist epic work.

With so many variants of the story already filmed, Scott and his screenwriter, Brian Helgeland, have gone for what, if this was a superhero film, would be called an origin myth: it finishes at pretty much the point most tellings of the tale start. Scott's Robin Hood is not a story of derring-do in Sherwood Forest, nor is it of merry chaps in Lincoln green outsmarting the vile sheriff of Nottingham; it's a story of dispossession and rebellion that manages to cleverly link together most of the seemingly irreconcilable elements of the Hood myth, and wrap it all up in a warm, fuzzy ball of pro-democratic class consciousness.

Things get under way as Richard the Lionheart is killed while besieging a French castle, supposedly heading home to England from the crusades.

Among his army is one Robin Longstride (Crowe), a common archer who by various flukes too numerous to mention ends up in possession of the dead king's crown as well as the identity of one of Richard's most trusted retainers, Robert of Loxley, also dead. (This allows the Hood character to both partake in the aristocratic mien of a figure required to direct military operations, and also to retain a little peasant-class credibility, so necessary for that steal-from-the-rich thing he has going.)

Longstride/Loxley fakes his way back to England, is present at the coronation of Richard's weaselly brother John, then heads north to present Loxley's sword to his father, honouring the dead man's last wish. And here's the clever bit: Loxley senior suggests himself the same deception, that Longstride should pass for Loxley, even to the extent of occupying the same bedchamber as Robert's wife, Marian (Cate Blanchett).

The scene is then set for a broad, sweeping, fiendishly complicated narrative, in which Longstride must fend off the depredations of vicious skinhead Mark Strong (playing someone called Godfrey, who is both toady to King John and treasonous conspirator against him), deliver a stirring speech promoting a Magna Carta-type charter of liberties, see off an invasion attempt by the king of France, and rescue Marian from near-certain death in the surf.

It isn't till it's all over that you realise that the sheriff of Nottingham is only a footnote, reduced to a couple of buffoonish walk-on lines.

Scott orchestrates the sound and fury with a seemingly effortless bravura: unfussily pulling off a profusion of tremendous action scenes and really quite impressive period backdrops (including one CGI panorama of medieval London that looks like a Wenceslaus Hollar engraving come to life).

Only once does the strain show: the invading French turn up on the English coast in a sequence rather obviously lifted from Saving Private Ryan, even down to the carnage in the water. (It's as if Scott is saying: anything you can do, Spielberg …)

Scott is also well served by some terrific performances: particularly Blanchett, who takes advantage of a beefed-up Marian role to really burn up the screen.

Whether this will quite do the same for Crowe as Gladiator remains to be seen; it's hard for a film that is painted in such sombre browns and dull greens to be especially inspirational. But there's no doubting the strength and excellence of the film-making on display.

This is strong stuff.

Robin Hood opens the Cannes film festival tomorrow and goes on release in the UK tomorrow.

J'aime aussi l'article de Tim Robey dans les colonnes du Telegraph, plus historique et mettant davantage en valeur le volet francophobe du film.

Robin Hood: a gladiator riding through the glen

Ridley Scott's blood-and-guts adventure with Russell Crowe as the medieval hero echoes their great Roman epic.

Storytellers can do what they like with Robin Hood, one of the most chameleon-like figures English folklore has ever produced. Rebellious yeoman or wronged aristocrat? He’s been both, in and out of tights, for a good eight centuries.

t’s not surprising that Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, aiming to decant the gritty machismo of Gladiator into a medieval flagon, don their best poker faces and ditch the hosiery. No hearty thigh-slapping here: they take their Robin Hood – born Robin Longstride, and employed, when we begin, as a crack-shot archer in the crusading army of Richard I – quite seriously. Too seriously? I wonder. But when a hero has already been cut to size by an all-singing, all-dancing Mel Brooks spoof, there’s something to be said for brooding revisionism.

The setting for their very Gladiator-ish prologue is France in 1199, thereby lining up an entire nation of hissable stock villains, as Richard’s army pillages its way back, siege by siege, from the Holy Land. We get one of these sieges, and it’s the propulsive, excitingly shot highlight of a film that rations its blood-and-thunder set pieces. In a way, this is both a sequel and a prequel – the story directly follows on from Scott’s botched Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven as surely as it’s positing, Batman Begins-style, the origins of Crowe’s semi-mythical, Northern-accented outlaw. The familiar legend begins as the film ends.

Robin, a close cousin of Crowe’s Roman warrior in both script and performance, fast establishes himself as an ahead-of-his-time Republican, clapped in the stocks for criticising the savage methods of his King (an out-of-place Danny Huston, whose curly wig is more Cowardly Lion than Richard the Lionheart).

No matter: in a flurry of French arrows, Richard is shot dead, and the task of returning his crown to England falls to his lieutenant, Sir Robert Locksley (Douglas Hodge), at least until he, too, falls at a schemer’s blade. This man is Robin’s nemesis, the entirely malign if only vaguely motivated Sir Godfrey, in which role Mark Strong furthers his bid to be the most ubiquitous baddie in current cinema.

Grazing this escaping rascal’s neck with a rare stray barb, Robin smuggles his way back to England as a knight-impostor, intending to restore both the crown and Locksley’s sword to their rightful owners. These are, respectively, heir apparent John (Oscar Isaac, whose best moment is being crowd-pleasingly slapped by Eileen Atkins’s Eleanor of Aquitaine) and Locksley’s father (a touching Max von Sydow, who gets a nice joke about being tumescent at 84).

It’s a busy first act, bristling with high-level constitutional intrigue, and screenwriter Brian Helgeland does a manful job disguising two things: how overegged it all is, and how little it really does to acquaint us with the hero we’re meant to be rooting for. Crowe’s stern authority does count for something, but Robin’s only real bursts of invective are against killing Muslims and high taxation – if anything, it sounds like the Lib Dems might have taken him aside.

The film settles down into an amiable mid-section when Robin reaches Nottingham, reporting Locksley’s death to both his father and wife, and leaving the rather nondescript Merry Men – fellow army deserters, here – to over-imbibe mead and cavort with the local tarts.

Cate Blanchett’s Marion, busy milking a cow when Robin brings her the news, presents a brave face and formidable cheekbones: in her bedchamber, when she threatens to sever Robin’s manhood if he so much as touches her, you well believe it.
Although Blanchett never warms up enough to the prospect of their budding romance, I did envy Crowe his ingenious opening gambit: “I’ll need some help with the chainmail.” Try that when you’re online dating.

By the time Godfrey has mobilised French troops to land in a sweeping beach invasion, Blanchett feels more in her element, riding up fierce and vengeful in a suit of armour, a poster-maid for the film’s general and lumbering move towards an all-out, pitched-battle finale. We know how well Scott can mount these, but they do feel a little third-hand by now: Crowe emboldens his comrades by crying “Liberty! Liberty by law!”, and we’re suddenly awfully close to Braveheart territory – uh-oh.
Nothing here is as entertaining as the swordfight up the steps in Michael Curtiz’s famous 1938 film, or Alan Rickman’s withering Sheriff of Nottingham – certainly not Matthew Macfadyen’s token take on the same character.

What saves the movie, which is quite flawed but still Scott’s best in nearly a decade, is its majestic feel for the English landscape. It’s a pity we don’t spend more time actually in Sherwood Forest as opposed to hovering picturesquely over it, but you’d have to be small of soul not to admire some of the ravishing visuals here – there’s a shot of a silvery, uninhabited Thames estuary I could have looked at for hours. Scott’s regular cinematographer John Mathieson has clearly been studying his Constable – his hay-bales and twilit fields are gorgeous.

As an extra plus, the animated end credits, with their blurry pastel effect, are so rousing and superb they should have stuck them up front.

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