“Ullo my lover..” – Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and how an imperfect film can mean so much.

Robin... mate... your pants are fire...
Robin… mate… your pants are fire…

Robin Hood Prince of Thieves is on TV, and I’m getting all misty-eyed.

Here’s the trailer and, yes, voice-over man really does start by saying “It was a time of waaaaar…”

This is a much maligned movie: the myriad, wandering accents, the glaring historical inaccuracies, the poor grasp of British geography, Costner’s mullet, the dodgy attempted-marital-rape-done-for-laughs scene, and last but by no means least, that bloody song… As anyone who was alive with any degree of hearing will tell you, you couldn’t turn on the radio that summer without Mr. Adams’ gravelly tones imploring that everything he was doing was indeed solely for your benefit. Still, it does have a lovely middle-8 guitar solo.

But, for all its faults, I bloody love this film and it’s my favourite Robin Hood movie by far (ahead of the sprightly Errol Flynn classic and the slightly more mournful Robin and Marian). Yes, Alan Rickman steals everything but the scenery, but this is the film where the woman who would later deign to marry me first flirted with me at the cinema. It later became our film and we will still greet one another with “Ullo, my lover.”

Also, I was working in a hi-fi/CD shop in Dorking at the time, and our rep for BMG records was called Steve Densham. I learned that his brother was Pen Densham who was the screenwriter of this beloved movie. This was the first time I had known someone who knew someone that had written an actual film. And not just any film, but the biggest film of that year. My one regret is that I never asked for some writing advice, but I was 17, unsure of myself and these things only ever occur to me some twelve hours after they might have been useful. (Top writing tip for younger writers: don’t be shy and always take the opportunity to ask for advice from more experienced writers – they can only tell you to sod off).

And watching again on TV just now (the horrible extended director’s cut with unnecessary backstory for Rickman’s Sheriff) I got all the feels all over again.

The emotional impact of a film often has less to do with the content, and more to do with when you saw it and who you saw it with. This is why seeing a movie in the cinema is so important. Sitting in the dark with your friends and family, surrounded by strangers, and sharing that experience is one of only a few communal experiences we still have in the modern world. And when it works, even with a less-than-perfect film, the event gets wrapped up in memories and emotions that resurface like old friends when you watch the movie again.

I had a meeting recently with a development exec at a very big animation studio (ooh, get me!). He told me that their most successful films transported the audience to worlds. Not just to other planets, but any place where the audience can escape to time and time again. That’s not to say that all films should be pure escapism, but they seem to be the ones we like to watch on repeat.

So, historical accuracy and gritty reboots be damned. Give me Kevin “This is English currige” Costner every time. All together now… “Look into my eyes…”

 

PS. Oh, and if anyone has a cut of the film where they keep in Christian Slater’s “Fuck me!” line, then do please get in touch.

Why bother going to the cinema?

I took my mum to the cinema to see PHILOMENA last night…

The last time we saw a film together was in 1978 when she took me to see STAR WARS for the second time. I remember chatting to an old lady on the bus on the way there and telling her how excited I was, and she tried to look sympathetic but told me she didn’t understand any of that spaceman stuff.

That wasn’t mum’s last ever visit to the flicks – not long after she saw ABBA: THE MOVIE and had a great time – but she stayed away after that. It was around this time that my dad, one of those people who has to have the latest gadget*, bought a VHS recorder. Why go to the movies when you can watch them at home? A man used to come door-to-door on our Hornsey estate with a typed, mimeographed list of films available to rent. Our first ever VHS rental was SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, and I would scan the list for more, intrigued to know what kind of movie LEMON POPSICLE could be (there were no illustrations whatsoever to give us any hints or clues). I begged dad to let us rent FLASH GORDON, only for him to point out that the film listed was actually FLESH GORDON and not entirely suitable for children (he, uh, saves the Earth from Emperor Wang’s incredible sex ray, according to the trailer)…

Things got better, of course. To the point where I have HD TV, a Blu-Ray player, 5.1 digital surround sound, Sky Movies, and Apple TV with Netflix streaming and a few hundred DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. If the robot occupation ever did become a reality, I’d be well set for the rest of my life.

But I still go to the movies. In fact, I reckon I’ve already seen more films in the cinema this year than any other. So why, when you take into consideration getting a babysitter, paying for parking and over ten quid for a ticket, do I still go to the cinema?

In short, the memories.

For example…

Seeing all the STAR WARS movies

Going to the West End for the first time with dad to see THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN. I don’t remember much about the film, but remember the bright lights of the stores and restaurants in Chinatown making a big impression.

Going on a school trip to see SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS after we did it as a school play (I was Grumpy… typecast from the start).

Watching GHOST BUSTERS on a ferry to Ireland in a storm. The ship listing heavily from side to side added considerably to the feeling of horror and unease.

Watching THE GOONIES while on a soccer exchange in California. I was horribly homesick, but this had me hooting with laughter.

Swinging on lampposts and singing the Raiders’ theme after seeing INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE.

Bluffing my way into TOTAL RECALL with my best mate Tim (our first 18 movie – we were only 17… yes, shocking, I know).

Deciding to see GOODFELLAS with my A-level drama class after going to the West End to see a play, only to discover that it had closed the previous week (a great bit of planning on the part of our drama teacher). In the row in front of us were a pair of little old ladies who must have just come from the wrestling as they revelled in the film’s visceral violence while sucking on bonbons.

Bumping into Claire at a screening of ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES. We weren’t seeing each other at the time, but it’s since become “our film”… aww, stop puking at the back.

My first free preview of a movie was CASINO, hosted by Transworld, the publishers of the book. Free food and drink and a private cinema?! Nice. I could get used to this.

Taking Claire to see RESERVOIR DOGS and knowing that she was the girl for me.

Taking my young nephew to see the 1997 re-release of STAR WARS (he fell asleep).

Watching SKYFALL with the kids – their first cinema Bond movie – and seeing their little faces light up at the big screen mayhem.

And many more that I won’t bore you with now, but these are all about sharing an experience that you can’t get when sitting in your own living room. I always feel a tension when a film begins. Partly it’s “will that twat who was chatting all through the trailers continue to do so through the film?”, but it’s more to do with what kind of emotional rollercoaster is this story going to take me and my companions on today?

Going with mum last night was a shared experience. Having a drink and a chat before the film, I learned stuff about her that I never knew before. Watching the film we laughed and cried together, and I suppressed a giggle when she called the nuns “Bitches” just a little too loudly near the end.

And that’s why I go to the movies.

*An expensive habit that I’ve inherited from him big time.