Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com


Taking the view that it’s never too late to bash last year’s movie, Ross Douthat, writing in Slate, pounces on Ridley Scott’s new, what-he-wanted-to-release-in-theatres cut of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, which is now out on DVD. Why Scott was denied the chance to release this three-hour version, we may never know (the director mentions “some people” who were against the longer but paradoxically swifter-paced version.
If you missed the film on the big screen, you missed out. KINGDOM was an old-fashioned epic with a rare intelligence–and relevance to current events. Like all of Scott’s movies, it was magnificent to look at, with a deep blue and golden hued beauty and sweeping battle scenes.
Kingdom of heavenposter.jpg
Slate’s been running these “How Hollywood Works” essays every so often, and this essay has the grandiose title “How the Historical Epic Died With Kingdom of Heaven’–as if we won’t be seeing any more attempts at this genre for a while.
In short, the critic has problems with Orlando Bloom, whom he says “never looks like anything but what he is—a handsome, unreflective 21st-century guy dropped down in a medieval setting, with none of the hardened masculinity or the defiant otherness that would make you believe that he belongs to a different time.”

He’s not the only guy who thinks that Russell Crowe‘s the only actor who’s sufficiently butch to play a warrior-hero.
Man-pretty actors have taken extreme measures to play classic roles. As Achilles in TROY, Brad Pitt buiked up like an Olympian. Clive Owen (KING ARTHUR), practically rolled in mud to play a down-and-dirty Camelot king.
But Colin Farrell, who dared to reveal the emotional vulnerabilities of Alexander the Great (in the Oliver Stone film) and Captain John Smith in THE NEW WORLD, is dismissed in Slate as a lightweight. I couldn’t disagree more: Farrell may not be as physically imposing as Crowe or Liam Neeson (who plays Orlando Bloom’s father in KINGDOM OF HEAVEN), but most of these epic heroes weren’t gladiator kings, but wily strategists who lived fascinating, complex, contradictory private lives.
While Crowe and Neeson convey softness as well as strength, Farrell can look he’s dying of desire when he’s looking a woman (or a man) in the eyes.
It took me a while to accept Bloom as the hero–but he is supposed to be a young man, a young widower. When he meets his father (Neeson), his relative youth makes more sense.
One aspect of all these historical epics that never works for me is the extreme shortage of women in ancient and Medieval times. Of course hero and villain (and others) feud and fight for the love of a princess (Eva Green, in KINGDOM OF HEAVEN). She’s the only unattached female in the Holy Land–maybe in the entire world. Ditto for young Guinevere (Keira Knightley) in KING ARTHUR, Lucilla (Connie Niellsen (GLADIATOR), Pochahantas (Q’Rianka Kilcher), THE NEW WORLD.
In period films, these courtships take a predictable course, too.
They meet.
They banter.
They ride horses together
It rains and they get all wet.
They have sex.
I hope I can be forgiven for thinking, till I was maybe ten or eleven, that sex was always preceded by horsebackriding and thunderstorms.

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2 Responses to “KINGDOM OF HEAVEN Revisited”

  1. Bilge says:

    What did you think of the director’s cut of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?
    I was so-so on the theatrical release, but the longer version is light years better. For starters, with the significant fleshing out of Eva Green’s character (she has a son! he’s crowned King of Jerusalem!) the film attains more of a ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST structure, where Bloom’s character is just one of several who have a stake in saving Jerusalem. And because of this added emotional heft, the siege at the end feels much more compelling, immediate. We finally know why the place is worth saving.
    I’ve been wary of the recent trend of director’s cuts supplanting original release versions of films, but this is one case where it really does feel like the studio did some serious damage to the film when they cut it.

  2. Exactly. Most often a director’s cut on DVD is just an exercise in self-indulgence, not a rethinking of the movie, or a better cut.
    When I saw the movie in the cinema, I thought: it’s almost there. Scott’s cut of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN made everything move faster and make sense. The studio did itself no favors by shortening the movie.
    Bilge, do you write for Nerve?

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon