Robin and Marian sustains a skilful blend of escapism and elegy. The comedy of the film is neatly injected, full of typical Lester asides on the soundtrack, and is a useful ploy at getting behind the myth, revealing the yawning gap between heroic legend and slapstick reality. Nevertheless, the predominant mood is melancholy, a tone set by Richard Harris’ prominent performance as Richard the Lionheart, whose inglorious exploits prior to his death foreshadow an era which is to see the erosion of chivalry and justice. The theme is elaborated in James Goldman’s screenplay, which seems set on turning Robin Hood’s Merrie Men into the Wild Bunchomen who came too late and stayed too long. In a fine cast, Sean Connery as Robin brings a quality to the part that also distinguished his performances in The Man Who Would Be King and The Wind and the Lionoan engaging streak of self-mockery that resides in characters conscious of their own image. His Robin is a character capable of bravery whilst also recognising its outmoded absurdity, and Connery’s performance brings out the humour in the character without diminishing the grandeur. No less fine is Nicol Williamson’s Little John, a performance of moving dignity and restraint, whilst Audrey Hepburn came out of retirement to play (beautifully) Maid Marian, who has also come out of retirement. The breathtakingly judged final shot is one of those magical moments in Lester where he transcends mere inventiveness and touches screen poetry.
U.S.A., 1976.Colour.107 mins.