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king-arthur

What's On? 04.05.17

I would be worried about the new King Arthur movie, if the legend hadn't been ruined already some thirteen years ago. I still remember the 2004 'version' in traumatic flashbacks, a film so bad it took me a decade to realize Clive Owen was good at acting. Of Ioan Gruffudd, however, I still dare not speak his name. What the hell kind of Lancelot was he trying to be? It didn't help that they had Ray Winston as an Arthurian knight; Ray Winston, arguably the most Anglo-Saxon embodiment of unsubtle violence once could imagine, his Cockney banter making Arthur's 'knights' seem more Saxon than the invading Saxons.

And who is directing this new version? Guy Ritchie. He is to macho, Saxon, Cockney geezers, what Pedro Almodovar is for LGBT. I think I know what kind of King Arthur is coming our way.

I digress from the personal. I admit to an emotional attachment to the King Arthur legend. As a child, I used to listen to bedtime stories of the Welsh folktales the Mabinogion, and I also grew up with Excalibur (1981), a movie that captures the Celtic mystique of the legend, in style and casting. My own Welsh interpretation aside, I became especially hooked to the 'chivalrous' representation by Thomas Malory, the one of knights in shining armour, of Camelot, the Roundtable, Avalon, and the Holy Grail. All are there in our modern conception of, respectively, utopian political leadership, an idyllic retreat from the stresses and strains of reality, and the ultimate achievement. It remains an important legend, one to get right, though like any legend, it's one that gets adapted for changing times, and this, in turn, is a frightening thought.

I hope he's a pro-European Arthur, but I am afraid, given the prevailing landscape. 'Brexit,' he will say as he pulls the sword out of the stone, 'means Brexit.' Merlin (played by Kelvin McKenzie) will tell him that 'no deal is better than a bad deal.' Loyal Gawain will storm around, barking of 'taking back control.' And Guinevere will be burned at the stake this time, for betraying her King and country with a bloody Frenchman. Arthur's nemesis, Mordred, I'm afraid to say, has 'Remain' written all over him. Yet in the final battle, the 48% shall be vanquished, or ere bring forth a new Dark Age to the Britons.

I'm imagining the worst, in the hope I won't be disappointed. The Arthur legend has plenty of potential to be something beautiful, given the greenery of it all, with meadows and fields and mountains and lakes, an ode to the environment and to good manners too. They could update it and add women to the Round Table, maybe remove the clunking armour for something lighter and androgynous.

But will Guy Ritchie break with type, and give us something fantastical, without the machismo and the banter of Cockney gangsters? I remain ever optimistic and will share with you the outcome next week . . .
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