The Silver Eel

"A gape-jawed serpentine shape of pale metal crested with soot hung high for a sign."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

BALANCE OF TERROR

Following North Korea's nuclear test, we hear from the BBC tonight:

'Threat to peace'

President Bush told reporters that Washington remained committed to diplomacy, and had no intention of attacking.

Well, not now, anyway.

*

WHISTLING DOG HAS TIN EAR

Re: Robin Hood

I saw nothing I hadn't seen 20 years earlier in Robin of Sherwood (though I was pretty glad not to see Ray Winstone's barnet); I heard some pretty dodgy accents (though none worse than Ray Winstone's east-endish); I saw no acting that would come within a spit of Ray Winstone's dust (though, to be fair, no-one on Robin of Sherwood came close to him, either).

I hated it, and I didn't want to, really I didn't. I wanted to be surprised, bowled over, whirled away, enchanted, ambushed, and instead I watched this - production, this piece of product - fall into every pitfall I'd feared it would. Style over substance - worse, style over story; characters not people; scenes dropped in like stray turds because they allowed those characters to display their characteristics; the same pop-video flashy direction that distracts more than it engages that you see in every goddamn TV programme these days (and it can be used well - Doctor Who being an example); infodumps and sore-thumb attempts to educate sticking out of a bland, featureless script; thrill-free "action"; worst of all, no consistency of tone. No-one uses contractions - which is the first, most obvious, most fundamental error that writers across all media should sidestep when they try to write something vaguely historical - and yet we have the Sheriff saying "Yippee" in a clearly modern, deliberately self-conscious manner. Robin is the Earl of Huntingdon, yet speaks with a northern accent; his manservant, recently freed, speaks RP, and there is no sense, none, of the social gulf which would have existed between them, let alone between Robin and his villeins.

OK, it looked good, mostly, but why did it have to have that ubiquitous grey, grainy look which seems to have been exported from NYPD Blue? Correction - it looked stylish. It looked like - like a Hungarian forest in style. I'm not asking for Technicolor, but where was the brio, the dash? Did that look like a Merrie English forest to you?

I am genuinely pissed off about this, not just missed, but fouled opportunity, because I fear that kids will look at this whale-drek and mistake it for action, adventure, excitement, things it seems to have heard about third-hand but is incapable of providing. I suspect, I hope, the kids will not fall for it, but it offends me that anyone should offer it to them under those auspices. How do you make Robin Hood dull? Robin Hood managed it.

Does it matter? Yes. Adventure, best coupled with charm, intelligence, wit and style, is a birthright of children. They should not be cheated so.

*

Funnily, Polanski's Oliver Twist has similar problems. The backdrop is three-dimensional while the foreground is two-dimensional. It's now a cliche to say "X's performance was terrific and clearly in search of a decent film to appear in", but I've never seen a better case of it than Ben Kingsley's (Keith Allen does not qualify). Avoid. Better, watch the Lean version again.

I do recommend a couple of what I call solid three-star movies: The World's Fastest Indian, which I admit is entirely predictable and a little slow in parts, but is honest work done well, with an excellent performance by Hopkins; and Around the Bend, which is similarly simple and straightforward, but affecting, a little quirky, with excellent performances by Caine, Walken and Lucas. And, incredibly, only an hour and twenty minutes long.

*

I am reading Kim for the first time. Riches! Wot riches, Pip!

2 Comments:

At 26 October 2006 at 10:36 , Blogger Yvonne said...

Yes, I am increasingly disappointed by Robin Hood.

Kim's a brilliant book - really interesting.

 
At 26 October 2006 at 18:31 , Blogger The Silver Eel said...

And with such presence. Days after finishing it I realised it was still colouring how I was looking at the world, it was still very much with me. Doesn't happen often these days. I knew Thesiger loved it, but in "Quest for Kim" by Peter Hopkirk, he lists T S Eliot and many other literary heavy-hitters among its admirers.

 

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