When my mum re-watched the last half of Camelot (1967, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe) on TV about a year ago she told me she'd become slightly obsessed with it. It was addictive, she said. I laughed it off. How could a 1960s musical about an imaginary kingdom that never existed starring Richard someone-left-the-cake-out-in-the-rain Harris be anything but camp cheese? IT COULD BE THAT AND SO MUCH MORE OMG I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO WRONG IN MY LIFE. Hands down best new movie of the christmas season. Who doesn't want to see 60s actors pacifistically frolicking in fields picking flowers? (side-note: my sister's vitamin C drink is glowing. The damn thing is purple and it's glowing. I don't even know anymore)
Everything is going swimmingly until over-confident French Round Table knight wannabe, Lancelot, turns up at Camelot proclaiming his physical strength and spiritual purity. He throws himself at Arthur's feet and offers to be his friend and protector, but Guinevere doesn't like his self-righteous ways. So she provokes several knights to challenge him to joust. After defeating two of the three, the last one is knocked off his horse and badly injured. Everyone thinks he is dead, but a devastated Lancelot goes to him and begs god to let the man live. Astonishingly, the man is brought back to life. He and Guinevere fall in love. A love that threatens the very foundations of Camelot.
I probably didn't describe the plot very well, but it's basically the classic story of Camelot and King Arthur. I really loved this film. I'm a bit obsessed now. It really can't be that healthy. I knew about the original play from reading Julie Andrews' autobiography. She created the role of Guinevere on Broadway. It shocked me that Julie Andrews lost out on not only one but two of her original Lerner and Loewe roles when they were adapted into films. What went wrong there?
The lyrics and the general style of the music is very reminiscent of "My Fair Lady", another Lerner and Loewe collaboration. I love it. You will actually be running around the house singing "IT'S MAY, IT'S MAY, THE LUSTY MONTH OF MAY!!!" Like the flower throwing pacifist medieval hippy that you know you are.
Richard Harris is a really good actor *tone of surprise*! Before this I'd only seen him in a couple of early Harry Potter movies as Dumbledore and listened to him singing about his soggy baking. He really was romantic and sensitive. It would be so easy for Arthur to turn into this weak "why don't you see what's under your nose goddamn it" kind of guy, but he isn't in this film.
Franco Nero has a harder job. He has to make an arrogant, slightly corny french Knight come alive and seem romantically available for Vanessa Redgrave. Redgrave and Nero actually got together during production of this movie and she had his baby. Her husband Tony Richardson (with whom she has two daughters, Joley Richardson and Natasha Richardson who tragically was killed in a skiing accident a few years ago) had left her for Jeanne Moreau just before. Nero and Redgrave ended their relationship (Vanessa Redgrave was with Timothy Dalton for a while) and then in 2006 they married! AWWWW!!!
Vanessa Redgrave was utterly fantastic as Guinevere. She did all her own singing as well which is a bonus. My dad said something to the effect of "she shone because she radiated youth," which was so true. She gave Guinevere so much energy. I was just shocked at how raw she got in the film. She also did the end of the "What do the Simple Folk Do" number expertly, she had to go from laughing and dancing with Arthur to the realisation that although they may still be able to laugh together, they're destined not to work out.
She turns from laughter to total sobs. It's heartbreaking. In the final scene I don't think I've ever seen anyone cry that much ever. It was so emotional. An incredible performance. Will definitely be chasing up more Vanessa Redgrave movies, as before this I'd only seen her old in Letters To Juliet (2010, actually with husband Franco Nero) and in her amazing performance in Ralph Fiennes Coriolanus.
I would definitely recommend this film. Don't be put off by the 60s ness of it!