Monday, May 10, 2010

Robin Hood (1938)

For some reason - I suspect a free print lent out to promote the upcoming Russell Crowe film - the Roxy (2023 Sansom) has been running a two-week engagement of the 1938 Warner Bros. Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn. That's right: a decent 35mm Technicolor print (if not perfect: the first reel has a scratch) of a film that really shines on the screen. When I went I was the only person in the cinema, so had what amounted to a private screening.

It's a famous film that probably does not need me talking it up, but if you're wondering why you should care about a fluffy classic adventure film, I'd say two reasons. One, the film does give a fun fairy-tale account but yokes it with a political message that clearly speaks to the Depression yet raises more questions than it answers (New Dealism as monarchism?). Two, the color scheme helped expand the expressive possibilities of Technicolor. As film historian Scott Higgins notes, previously Hollywood cinematographers had argued between flamboyant, thematic color (red = passion, etc) and a realistic, muted color palette. What Robin Hood does is combine them both, muting backgrounds and keeping palettes relatively controlled, but also using bright, saturated color for specific characters and thematic effects.

As a bonus, the Bugs Bunny "Rabbit Hood" screens beforehand.

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