Excalibur

John Boorman's 1981 retelling of the Arthurian legends is a continuation of the thematic thrust and visual plan of his Exorcist II, though the failure of that bold, hallucinatory, and flawed film seems to have put Boorman into partial retreat. There is humor here (in the form of a vaudeville Merlin, played by Nicol Williamson) as well as a diminution of scale that seems intended to help audiences through the thornier byways of Boorman's vision. But Boorman has not compromised in his temporal manipulations and his rigorous depsychologizing of his characters, which is where many viewers will have the most trouble. The Waste Land arrives via T.S. Eliot and From Ritual to Romance, though this slightly threadbare interpretation doesn't distract from Boorman's personal concerns, which remain as proudly recondite as ever. With Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, and Robert Addie.

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