FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
IF the greatest of all ballet films and the greatest of all Charles Dickens’s adaptations can’t get you to switch to the ABC in the small hours of the morning, perhaps nothing will. Stick with Brady Bunch sequels and something on SBS about lonely coke- addicted Turkish immigrants in Hamburg ( to which I’ll return in a moment).
Great Expectations ( Monday, 12.30am, ABC) is still the best film of the author’s work and the best example of David Lean’s direction. It begins with that famously scary graveyard scene and includes, among other great things, a superbly daffy Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham, Jean Simmons as the young Estella ( two years before she played Ophelia in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet ) and Alec Guinness in his first screen role as a delightful Herbert Pocket. John Mills is fine as the adult Pip ( though many consider the childhood scenes the best things in the film). Beautifully shot in black- and- white and brimming with unforgettable moments, it perfectly captures the spirit of Dickens.
The Red Shoes ( Sunday, 1.15am, ABC) began as an Emeric Pressburger script commissioned by Alexander Korda for his wife Merle Oberon, who was to have played the young ballerina Victoria Page ( with her dancing performed by a double). The role went by good fortune to Moira Shearer — it was the performance of her life — after Pressburger and his collaborator, Michael Powell, acquired the rights to the story.
I always find it a bit mannered and pretentious, but it bears all the PowellPressburger trademarks: marvellous visual effects, a mood of unworldly romanticism , intoxicating backstage detail and some breathtaking ballet sequences. Anton Walbrook’s stern impresario Boris Lermontov, who brooks no compromise between the demands of art and love, was modelled on Sergei Diaghilev.
Head- On ( Wednesday, 10pm, SBS), written and directed by Turkish- German filmmaker Fatih Akin, is about second- generation Turkish immigrants in Germany, and if I’ve lost you already, keep reading. It’s an electrifying film, a fine love story and a piercing exploration of cultural difference.
Cahit ( Birol Unel), an angry wreck of a man grieving for his dead wife, wants to start life afresh with Sibel ( Sibel Kekilli), a TurkishGerman girl eager to free herself from the restrictive embrace of a Muslim family. Akin divides the film into four musical acts, separated by straight- to- camera performances by a Romany musician and his band, and
within this self- imposed framework he has given us a film that is shocking and brilliant, marked by dazzling technique. The message seems to be that life in the developed world of the 21st century is aimless, harsh, rootless and unpredictable, and can be redeemed only by love and understanding, or by switching to the commercial channels.
There are echoes of the Rambo thriller First Blood in The Hunted ( Saturday, 10pm, Seven), in which Tommy Lee Jones plays a onetime US Special Forces instructor who discovers that a former recruit ( Benicio Del Toro) is on a murderous spree in the backwoods of Oregon. William Friedkin’s stark effective thriller poses the question of who is the hunter and who is the hunted.