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Ridley Scott's Robin Hood gallops through Cannes with mixed results

Text by Jon FROSCH

Latest update : 2010-05-13

The sun was back in Cannes on Wednesday, as bleary-eyed journalists queued for an advance press screening of Ridley Scott's out-of-competition opener Robin Hood. The end result turned out to be neither a disappointment nor a surprise.

Queuing for hours...

The infamous Cannes caste system is on ample display: those flashing a VIP white badge had the luxury of waltzing in at the last minute; polished-looking TV reporters and scruffier critics assigned a pink badge stood on a separate line, but were guaranteed a plum spot in the 2,000-seat Debussy theatre; others wielding a blue badge had to wait their turn, but were eventually allowed past the stern-looking gatekeepers; and unlucky yellow badge holders showed up several hours early - patience and sense of humour in tow - to ensure their entry.

Known for sumptuously mounted action flicks filmed in an intense, kinetic style, Ridley Scott opens this year's Cannes Film Festival with the out-of-competition film Robin Hood, an original story for the legendary figure previously played by Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner, and a Disney-animated fox, and featured in a Mel Brooks spoof.

Here, the heroic archer (played by Scott regular Russell Crowe) returns from the Third Crusade and throws himself into the churning political tides of 12th century England, as internal divisions threaten to tear the nation apart and almost comically villainous French powers lie ready to pounce. Along the way, of course, Robin Hood romances Maid Marian (Cate Blanchett), who in this version is no damsel in distress, but rather a steely, knife-carrying warrior in her own right.
As could be expected, Scott stages grippingly visceral combat scenes, full of dizzying battle charges, bone-crunching blows, and spurting blood. We've seen this kind of thing before (in Scott's own Gladiator, for example), but the director manages to craft a few images of violence that feel fresh, particularly during a rousing climactic sequence in which spears plummet into the sea like high-speed raindrops.
Robin Hood trailer
Still, much of the movie carries a strong whiff of familiarity: the lavish period detail, stirring pre-warfare pep talks, and dialogue laden with references to honour and glory. It's run-of-the-mill stuff that in less sure hands might have seen Robin Hood slip into parody. Instead, Scott gives the proceedings an air of sombre importance, resulting in a film that - for all its galloping horses and swiftly paced action scenes - feels strangely laboured and lacking in the pleasure that even the darkest adventure can provide.
You leave the movie feeling as if Robin Hood has served its purpose as an out-of-competition opener at Cannes; it's skilfully made big-budget entertainment meant to warm festival-goers up before the more refined and challenging competition fare to follow. But you also may wonder why Scott bothered tackling this well-documented story without a dramatically new or different stamp to put on it.
Three questions to Lea Seydoux.
Rising French star Lea Seydoux, 24, plays a princess in Ridley Scott's Cannes opener Robin Hood. Is she stepping away from character-driven French films and toward a career in Hollywood? caught up with the actress for a quick interview on the Croisette. If you had to pick one word to describe your character in Robin Hood, what would it be?

Lea Seydoux
: Ambitious!

F24: What is Ridley Scott like as a director?

LS: He's very attentive. Before shooting a scene, he takes the actor aside to discuss the scene, the subtext, and the result is a way of directing that's very subtle.

F24: What was it like to go from working with Christophe Honoré to working with Ridley Scott, and does it mark the beginning of your Hollywood career?

LS: I don't know yet if it's the beginning of a Hollywood career [she knocks on a wooden table for luck]. Christophe Honoré and Ridley Scott are very different directors, but acting is acting, whether it's in a big-budget film or a more intimate 'auteur' film. Obviously their approaches to directing are very different, in terms of their style and their stories. But I like both of them equally. As an actress, it's a privilege to be able to work with them. Both are really great. They're important directors in film today.



Date created : 2010-05-12