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Category: Robin Hood

Cannes 2010: Has class consciousness become the festival through-line?

May 14, 2010 | 10:41 am

 Class consciousness has certainly stormed the Croisette this season.

Housemaid_7 First there was "Robin Hood," or "Robin du Bois," as it's known here, with Russell Crowe playing the mythic figure as a freedom fighter bent to take down King John, who taxes his people indiscriminately to pay for foolish foreign adventures. Then there's Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," in which the baddies are ethically challenged Wall Street billionaires. Now comes "The Housemaid," a South Korean twist on the same theme, about a young, naive maid who's seduced by her Korean master, a wine-swilling, Beethoven-playing Korean Master of the Universe. 

A piece of lurid fun, "The Housemaid" is actually a remake of a famous 1960 Korean film that stormed that nation the year it premiered. The 2010 edition has a certain kitschy flair, with some exceptionally tony villainess — i.e. the master's doll-like wife and her manipulative mother who have a positively lethal hissy fit when they discover their maid is pregnant. 

Hollywood films tend to finesse class differences to the point of erasure. For instance, in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," the hero is Shia LaBeouf, who's character ostensibly grew up poor. Yet once the movie actually begins, he's a loaded young trader who loves fast motorcycles. By contrast, "The Housemaid" presents a vision of feudal-like servitude amid modern-day Korean oligarchs, a condition that ultimately enrages those on the lower end of the social spectrum. Director Im Sang-Soo is clearly a devotee of Hitchcock, so the anti-elitist furor goes down with spooky, spine-tingling panache.

— Rachel Abramowitz

Cannes 2010: At Cannes' opening night, several arrows but few sharp points

May 12, 2010 |  7:31 pm


Books shouldn't be judged by their covers, but sometimes a jacket illustration tells you all you need to know about what's inside, just like a film festival's opening night can suggest plenty about the days that lie ahead.

Cannes kicked off its 63rd edition on Wednesday night with two events that won't go down in infamy but will hardly be canonized in the festival's hallowed pages either. At the main hall in the elegant, starchy Palais, Universal unveiled its soon-to-be-released "Robin Hood," and although the premiere seemed to hit the big-event notes it needed to -- an after-party at a nearby beach-side club that featured paid medieval costume-wearers and a fireworks show amid the champagne swilling and dance-floor shaking -- it also bowled few over with its filmmaking. Those in the room described respectable but not overwhelming applause (a key indicator of any Cannes premiere). And the critics, many of whom had seen the film last week, were lukewarm.

There was concern that a particularly pointed reaction could come from the French, who aren't exactly depicted as saints or literary greats in the Ridley Scott tale.  In the end, the boo birds stayed in their cages -- "we're used to being portrayed this way in movies like 'Robin Hood,'" one French journalist told us afterward -- but the ovations didn't fly with great gusto either, according to many in the room. (That Scott himself wasn't there to take his post-screening bow probably didn't help.) In Cannes terms, it wasn't "The Da Vinci Code" (few experiences could match the 2006 opening-night debacle), but it wasn't last year's "Up" either.

Next door to the "Robin Hood" screening, in the film festival's alternative art house reality, the festival kicked off its competition sessions with a premiere screening of "Tournee," a directorial effort from French actor Mathieu Amalric, who dazzled audiences here three years ago with his astounding performance in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." "Tournee" is a film about a French sad-sack hustler (played by Amalric) who leads a group of American burlesque dancers on a tour of France. The subject matter was vastly different from "Robin Hood," but the reaction wasn't. Although it didn't fail on any major artistic level, most filmgoers, including us, found the burlesque slice of life interesting but the main protagonist opaque and familiar, as we did his problems. It's a character drama light on the characters and the drama. Don't bet on it for your office Palme d'Or pool.

Of course, it's really early, and festivals with weak opening nights can pick up speed, and those that start with a bang can end with a whimper. But for those looking for tea leaves, the two movies combined for an effect that could carry through the festival: typically elegant and without glaring holes, but overly familiar and at times unremarkable.

Maybe it's the ash from Iceland, maybe it's the slow international market, maybe it's the fact that industry types are still talking about Bob Berney, the distribution mastermind behind "The Passion of the Christ" and "Memento," who quit his year-old gig at start-up Apparition several days ago after being hailed as one of the great hopes for specialized cinema (his purchase of "Bright Star" at Cannes last year ignited talk of a rejuvenated market for upscale films in the U.S.). Whatever the reason, it hardly seems to matter; most of those nonfilm subplots have provided better drama than what's been shown on the screen.

-- Steven Zeitchik, reporting from Cannes

Photo: Russell Crowe in "Robin Hood." Credit: Universal Pictures

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Cannes Critical Consensus: 'Robin Hood'

May 12, 2010 |  4:41 pm


The Cannes Film Festival kicked off Wednesday with an out-of-competition screening of Russell Crowe as "Robin Hood." Reviewers had their quivers full of caustic arrows, delivering notices to director Ridley Scott that were occasionally respectful but largely negative. The movie opens in much of Europe on Thursday, with its American premiere coming Friday.

A roundup from some of the critics' reviews:

Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times: "The difficulty is that this 'Robin Hood' has been misconceived twice over. The first misstep, albeit a defensible one, was the decision to make this an origins story, a kind of 'Robin Before the Hood.' While there is no lack of action and intrigue here, those expecting traditional Robin Hood satisfactions will be left wondering if it'd be asking too much to have the guys kicking back in Sherwood the way we remember them."

Todd McCarthy, IndieWire: "Earthy, rugged and earnestly advanced in quasi-plausible historical terms, this grandly produced picture can be regarded as something of a tangential sequel to Scott’s ambitious 'Kingdom of Heaven,' with Richard the Lionheart as the connective thread. After several pictures dedicated to documenting his increasing girth, it’s reassuring to see Russell Crowe back in fighting form, but the villains here chart new territory in one-dimensionality, the essential storyline is bereft of surprise and the picture ends where most Robin Hood tales—sensibly, as it turns out—begin."

Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter: "Its European history is so ludicrously mangled that one almost suspects Mel Brooks and Monty Python's Flying Circus lent a hand. But the Robin-Marion romance strongly holds the movie together while Scott's muscular direction and Marc Streitenfeld's brilliant score make this one of the fastest 140-minute movies you'll ever see."

Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune: "Though Robin's band of outlaw brothers provides boisterous comic relief, there's not much merriment in the picture. When director Scott storms a castle, he wants you to feel the danger and the thwwwunnnch of the arrow entering flesh. The panoramic computer-generated landscapes are miles ahead of anything in 'Gladiator.' Robin's arrival in London on the late king's ship, for example, shows how CG can be used for cinematic-historical good as opposed to digital evil. The climactic battle with France's King Philip has Robin essentially waging war against all England's enemies, from within and without. As history, it's silly. As entertainment, it works."

Karina Longworth, The Village Voice: "It is an old-fashioned adventure epic produced with state-of-the-art cosmetics, lined with mild romantic farce, and weighed down by overly simplistic, quasi-populist dialogue. Instead of robbing from the rich to give to the poor, this Robin Hood preaches about 'liberty' and the rights of the individual as he wanders a countryside populated chiefly by Englishpersons bled dry by government greed. Conservatives will never again be able to complain that Hollywood ignores their interests, but the driving agenda behind the Nottingham makeover was most likely economic: Robin Hood is, above all, a boilerplate origin story, finely engineered to set up a franchise."

Randy Myers, San Jose Mercury News: "In one unfortunate regard, Ridley Scott's grimy 'Robin Hood' lives up to the actions of its legendary character: It, too, robs — just from richer movies. Scott's bungled yet matinee-worthy take on that brave 13th-century archer who targets England's corrupt royalty isn't nearly as original as everyone associated with it reportedly believes. The fuss about how it boldly reinvents a beloved tale winds up as truthful as those laundry-detergent claims heralding a 'new' and 'improved' product. There's no whiff of genuine freshness here."

Christy Lemire, The Associated Press: "...the brawny battle scenes, which set this incarnation apart from its lilting and swashbuckling predecessors, are shot so and edited in such a chaotic, choppy way, it's nearly impossible to tell what's happening. They're all frenzied, kinetic energy. And the climactic showdown is chock full of cliches, including Robin yelling 'Noooo!' in slow motion; meanwhile, other members of his posse magically hit their targets at just the right opportune moment."

James Mottram, New Zealand Herald: "The British director's fifth film with Russell Crowe, it's an attempt to recapture their mojo from 'Gladiator,' their first outing a decade ago. But while that revived the swords-and-sandals epic, it's hard to foresee Robin Hood precipitating a host of imitators."

--John Horn

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Cannes 2010: Russell Crowe wants us to look at the serious side of Robin Hood

May 12, 2010 |  6:03 am

Russell Crowe
"Robin Hood" may be a big-budget action movie that Universal hopes will generate blockbuster numbers. But star Russell Crowe also sees it as something else: an allegory for ... Rupert Murdoch?

Asked at the Cannes Film Festival opening-day press-conference about interpreting Robin Hood for a modern audience, Crowe wondered aloud how the character would operate if he were alive today. "Would Robin Hood's aim be political? Would it be economic?" he asked reporters. "Or would he look at what you guys are doing?"

Crowe's conclusion is that Robin Hood would target -- of course -- the forces behind newspaper and television consolidation. "My theory is that if Robin Hood was alive today he'd be looking at the monopolization of media" as a villain, Crowe said, though he didn't elaborate on just what the justice seeker might do about it.

Robin Hood billboard In a swaggering and entertaining performance, Crowe explained that the new movie, which was to open the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday night, junks the familiar inconography of flashy green tights and witty repartee to showcase a freedom fighter who helped give rise to the Magna Carta.

In a similarly serious vein, Crowe hopes that filmgoers hit the books after coming out to see his new action movie: "We're just doing a version of the history, and hopefully people's own curiosity is piqued and they discover things for themselves afterward." Among the history lessons he hopes audiences seek out: "An indolent egoist [King John] ends up signing the first version of the Magna Carta. What brought an indolent egoist to be the man who champions the rights of people?"

Crowe also said he wanted to put Robin Hood on the couch. "There wasn't a [previous] Robin Hood which game me a satisfactory feeling that I knew his motivation or backstory. " (The new version focuses on the events leading up to the character becoming an outlaw.) Crowe added later, "Whatever you think you know about Robin Hood is a previously understandable mistake. "

Crowe, costar Cate Blanchett and producer Brian Grazer (director Ridley Scott didn't make it to Cannes as he recovers from knee surgery), were also all asked about the elephant in the room: the unsavory depiction of the French for a movie opening a French film festival. (France's King Philip schemes to take over Britain, among other distasteful details.)

Grazer cautiously allowed that the portrayal could trouble some in the audience but thought the film's particular focus should mute criticism.  "We're somewhat aware there's a political nature, but really this is a story of Robin," he said.

Crowe mused that, for the Cannes selection committee, historical accuracy may have trumped national identity: "Richard de Lyon didn't make it home to England," Crowe said. "He was shot by a French cook. ... I think that's an important piece of history, and I think that's why we're opening the Cannes Film Festival." (A few in the room laughed at this, but Crowe appeared to be serious.)

But Blanchett may have had the most slyly honest response to the question. Said the actress of the movie: "I think the English come off worse than the French."

-- Steven Zeitchik and Rachel Abramowitz


Photos: Top, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett at a "Robin Hood" press conference in Cannes, France. Credit: Ian Langsdon / EPA. Second, a "Robin Hood" billboard adorns the pier in the city. Credit: Steven Zeitchik

Cannes 2010: The Boo Bird: Will an exotic Cannes creature peek out of its nest?

May 11, 2010 |  3:40 pm

Even those with only a casual knowledge of Cannes (a film festival we finally reached Tuesday evening after two planes, two trains and a bus, as though in a European version of a John Hughes movie) probably know about one of its most venerable traditions: an audience expressing its, er, opinion of a movie it doesn't like with post-screening boos and catcalls. (No, it's not just an "Entourage" myth.)

When it happens, the experience can be weird and even a little thrilling: Even though I'm at a film festival, one might think, people are actually sufficiently displeased with what they've seen that they care to vocalize it, almost as though they're personally defending the medium from perceived barbarians.. That it all goes down with men in tuxedos and women in evening gowns adds to the hilarity/surrealness.

But the truth is these booing incidents happen much less frequently than you'd think -- and in very specific circumstances. Middling films generally don't get boos -- they simply get shorter ovations (forget tracking -- at Cannes, audience satisfaction can be measured by the length of ovations. It's approval ratings by way of the stopwatch.)

And controversial films or movies in questionable taste -- Lars von Trier's genital-mutilating "Antichrist" comes to mind --might get some boos, but those sounds are usually drowned out by polite or occasionally even hearty contrarian applause. (One of the few films that couldn't manage this was Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" -- even contrarians have their standards.)

The movies that do reliably tend to draw the jeers are those that show France or French figures in a revisionist light. Sofia Coppola's stylized, at times sympathetic portrait of "Marie Antoinette" four years ago is an instructive example. The audience didn't like how Coppola represented the period, and they didn't like how the last French queen came off, so they let Coppola know it. (Incidentally, a movie that fits more with the French's notion of their own identity, as last year's "Inglourious Basterds" did -- the movie portrays them as victims and heroes -- tends to draw more generosity, at least as a very general rule.)

Which brings us to this year's opening-night film, "Robin Hood." On the surface, this is a movie that should draw nothing but applause, and the lengthy kind at that. It's a big popcorn adventure with an arty gloss, exactly the kind of film that plays to the refined but spectacle-hungry opening-night crowds, as "Up" did last year. And with Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe starring, "Robin Hood" has the kind of actors -- glamorous but heady -- that Cannes audiences usually eat up.

Except for one problem: The movie doesn't exactly show France in the most flattering light. Many who've seen early screenings have noted the movie's rank portrayal of the French, who are shown to be villainous and bloodthirsty, a sharp contrast to the film's English warrior heroes.
As Kirk Honeycutt notes in the Hollywood Reporter. "The French are seen in an unsavory light at every turn. Mind you, these are not the French of the late 12th century – the film’s time period – but very much George W. Bush’s French: untrustworthy, cowardly and entirely self-interested."

Granted, the 12th century period of the film is not one that is necessarily close to many French citizens' hearts. But when it comes to their own kind, any country would be carefully attuned to how it's portrayed. And the French audience  in Cannes can be especially ... protective.

Director Ridley Scott has opted not to come to the festival this year. He's recovering from knee surgery and couldn't make the trip. We wish him well and hope for a speedy recovery. As for the French audience, it remains to be seen whether they, well, cry out with a different sort of pain.

--Steven Zeitchik (follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT).

Photo: The  "Inglourious Basterds" premiere at Cannes 2009. Credit: Festival de Cannes

Don't ask 'Robin Hood's' Russell Crowe about wearing tights

April 12, 2010 |  2:06 pm

Russellcrowe The storm clouds parted just in time for Russell Crowe to receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday morning, when studio heads, actors and producers gathered to honor one of the industry's most celebrated leading men.

Producer Brian Grazer, DreamWorks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg, and "Clash of the Titans" star Sam Worthington were some of the famous faces crowding the sidewalk in front of the Kodak Theatre, where throngs of fans held posters over barricades in hopes that Crowe might adorn them with his John Hancock.

After signing a few autographs himself, Jay Leno breezily took the stage to call Crowe an "all-around good guy" who "rides motorcycle" and is a "regular guy" who "just happens to be one of the greatest actors in the world."

Then came Ron Howard, who worked with the actor on both "A Beautiful Mind" and "Cinderella Man." He said the weather befitted the event.

"It's even more appropriate that it's clear, there's a little wind, there's a light cloud over here, dark clouds over there," he said, "because Russell is the type of artist that is a kind of force of nature."

We experienced that, er, force, first hand while interviewing Crowe after the ceremony. Things started out well enough, with a relaxed-seeming Crowe saying how happy he was to be receiving his star.

"Next to Sir Anthony Hopkins, that's not a bad spot," he smiled. "It's a nice piece of real estate."

But then we made our first mistake:

Continue reading »

Russell Crowe's bows and arrows to be a Cannes opener

March 26, 2010 |  8:00 am


After making animation -- or at least the people who create it -- the stars of the red carpet last year with "Up," the Cannes Film Festival is going with a more traditional opening night this year.

The festival announced Friday morning that "Robin Hood," Ridley Scott's take on the folkloric hero, will open its annual extravaganza on the Croisette. Russell Crowe stars as the iconic character, firing arrows, tangling with the sheriff of Nottingham and generally making mischief.

The movie's a pretty logical choice for Thierry Fremaux and the people who program Cannes: It offers a patina of seriousness, with Scott a multiple Oscar nominee, but also the media-ready glitz that the festival prefers for its opening night, with a glamorous international cast that includes Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt and Max von Sydow. And it jibes nicely with Universal's release date for the Brian Grazer-produced film: May 14, two days after the festival opens.

How does this choice fit with past Cannes openers? It marks the fifth straight year that the festival is opening with an English-language film (Dominik Moll's French-language "Lemming" was the last time it didn't) but the first time since "The Da Vinci Code" in 2006 that it's going with an action movie.

-- Steven Zeitchik

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Photo: Russell Crowe in "Robin Hood." Credit: Universal Pictures

Preview Review: 'Robin Hood' as the new 'Gladiator'?

March 11, 2010 |  1:28 pm

Robinhood A decade ago, Russell Crowe made his mark as a Roman general in Ridley Scott's period epic "Gladiator."

Now the pair have reunited for "Robin Hood," in which Crowe stars as an archer living in 13th century England. In a newly released trailer, we see Robin, who has previously served in King Richard's army fighting the French, travel to a town called Nottingham. There the people must deal with a tyrannical sheriff and heavy taxation, as they have in many previous iterations of the folklore. The plot thickens when Robin falls for local widow Lady Marian (Cate Blanchett).

For a change of pace, we thought we'd engage our colleague John Horn in a discussion about the new trailer.

Amy Kaufman: OK, this seems nothing like that lighthearted Disney cartoon I saw as a kid about a fox named Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor.

John Horn: Not to me. Compared to the film’s first trailer, “Robin Hood” now looks a lot less like “Gladiator” in tights. The trailer makes it feel like it’s an historical epic, with some scale, a bit of humor, some “Matrix”-like flying arrow shots and a bit of romance.

AK: Let’s talk about the romance for a second: Cate Blanchett is yet again a feisty, headstrong young lass who doesn’t need a man to save her. And speaking of reprising old roles -- don’t you think this seems at least a bit “Gladiator”-esque? The clip-clopping of angry horses, heavy armor and rustic scenery make me feel like I’m back in the film Russell Crowe is arguably best known for.

JH: But she can shoot her own arrows! I think the better comparison is not “Gladiator” but “Saving Private Ryan” with horses. The beach landing could very well have been set in Normandy, and the ships sure look like precursors of the Higgins boat, which I am sure you know was among the most important Allied tools in World War II. One thing that also must be said: While I can’t place Crowe’s accent, you have to admit he’s looking a lot better than he did in “State of Play.”

Amy: He does look a bit better since he’s trimmed off that messy mane, and maybe he buffed up a little bit. But I’m not sure his decent looks are enough to lure in a female audience here. Do you think the film has broad enough appeal to be a blockbuster?

John: I’m guessing it’s a solid hit. No "Gladiator." But no "Body of Lies."

Amy: I'll have to agree. It's hard to see how a big action-adventure flick with two Oscar-winners could fare too poorly at the box office.

-- Amy Kaufman and John Horn

Photo: Russell Crowe stars in "Robin Hood." Credit: Universal Pictures


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