Around the year 1200, as depicted in Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe's "Robin Hood," British King Richard the Lion-Heart lays siege to a castle in France, while the French later connive to wage an all-out invasion of England.
Jump ahead to Wednesday, when the English folk hero was guest of honor at one of France's top cultural events as "Robin Hood" opened the Cannes Film Festival in conjunction with the movie's worldwide theatrical release this week.
Scott, unable to attend Cannes because he is recovering from knee-replacement surgery, said in an interview before the festival that he thought he might like to introduce "Robin Hood" with a quip to the French crowd: "Let me apologize for the end of the movie, because you get your butts kicked."
Co-star Cate Blanchett - who plays Lady Marion opposite Crowe's scruffy Robin Hood - told reporters before the premiere that she thought the "English come off worse than the French" in the film, which features the rumblings of rebellion against Richard's successor, King John, and a scheme by British traitors to smooth the way for France's offensive.
Crowe joked that an action by an obscure Frenchmen depicted in the movie likely got "Robin Hood" the prestigious slot at Cannes.
"To have so much French language in this movie and so many diverse French characters, and also to tell the one simple truth that Richard Coeur de Lion did not make it home to England," Crowe said, noting that past "Robin Hood" movies tend to show Richard making a heroic homecoming. "To tell the simple truth, that this grand English hero, he was snuffed out by a crossbow bolt shot by a French cook. I think that is an important piece of history, and I think that's probably why we're opening the Cannes Film Festival."
The 12-day festival opened amid a change of leadership in Britain as the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats formed the first coalition government since World War II.
The change prompted the "Robin Hood" cast to reflect on similarities between today and the era in the movie, which depicts a new monarchy, heavy taxation and England's bankrupt coffers from Richard's foreign wars.
"It's an irony that this is all going on when the film's being released today," Blanchett said. "It's a testament to Ridley's talent as a director that all of those things are there for the taking, but it's also a wild ride. And of course, the thing that I'm interested in, a love story, also plays. So he's able to tonally weave all those different elements into the film."
Speaking to reporters at a packed news conference, Crowe took a jab at the media, saying Robin Hood might have a whole new agenda if he were around today.
"Would he be political? Would he aim at certain figures and try to bring them down? Would his aim be economic? Would he be looking at Wall Street and the huge sums of money that people have been patting themselves on the back with, and the subprime mortgage collapse?" Crowe said.
"Or would he be looking at what you guys do for a living and realizing that the true wealth lies in the dissemination of information? And my theory would be, if Robin Hood was alive today, he would be looking at the monopolization of media as the greatest enemy."
After a pause, Crowe drew hearty laughs from reporters as he ended his remark with a cheery, "Bonjour."