The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - EVAN WIL­LIAMS

THE first time I saw it I couldn’t get that march­ing tune out of my head ( it sounded even bet­ter when whis­tled). And that’s of­ten the way with a mas­ter­piece. There are so many fine things in The Bridge on the River Kwai ( Sun­day, 10.30/ 11.30am, Seven) that it’s easy to be dis­tracted by de­tails and over­look its deeper mean­ings.

It was the first film of David Lean’s epic pe­riod and among the best of all World War II dra­mas: an ab­sorb­ing study of the psy­cho­log­i­cal com­plex­i­ties of war, with a bril­liant cast and some mar­vel­lous sus­pense se­quences. In Pierre Boulle’s novel, a bunch of English pris­on­ers of war are forced to build a bridge for their Ja­panese cap­tors, but the project be­comes an ob­ses­sive point of hon­our for their com­mand­ing of­fi­cer, played by Alec Guin­ness in the film ver­sion. The writ­ers of the screen­play, Michael Wil­son and Carl Fore­man, once black­listed in Hol­ly­wood, were de­nied cred­its in the film in 1957, and it wasn’t un­til 1996 that the Writ­ers Guild of Amer­ica had their names of­fi­cially re­stored.

And while we’re still in the jun­gles of World War II, the ABC is show­ing The Pur­ple Plain ( Tues­day, 2.45am), in which Gre­gory Peck plays a fighter pilot bat­tling his way back to civil­i­sa­tion af­ter crash­ing some­where in Burma. Based on an H. E. Bates novel and scripted by Eric Am­bler, with plenty of thrills.

I’d just about given up on SBS movies, but this week the net­work has come up with a gem: Mon­sieur Ibrahim ( Wed­nes­day, 10pm), a strange and beau­ti­ful film from France. Its full ti­tle in 2003 was Mon­sieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Co­ran , but the Ko­ran wasn’t men­tioned in the ads in those days and cer­tainly it didn’t fea­ture in pro­mo­tions in the US af­ter 9/ 11. But any­one look­ing for some­one to play a sym­pa­thetic Mus­lim could hardly go past Omar Sharif. His char­ac­ter, Ibrahim, is a lonely wi­d­ower who runs a lit­tle gro­cery shop in Paris in the 1960s and be­friends an un­happy Jewish boy ( Pierre Boulanger) liv­ing across the street.

I al­ways thought Sharif a bit in­sipid and sug­ary in his Lean epics, but in Fran­cois Du­pey­ron’s film he looks won­der­fully wise and good- hu­moured.

He’s been quoted as say­ing that this isn’t a film about a Mus­lim and Jew but a love story about an old man and a boy. Ei­ther way it’s deeply af­fect­ing, with much to say about faith and a boy’s com­ing of age.

It’s turn­ing out to be a good week all

around. The Player ( Sun­day, 11pm, Ten) is Robert Alt­man’s de­li­cious satire of con­tem­po­rary Hol­ly­wood ( or at any rate 1992 Hol­ly­wood). Be­gin­ning with a fa­mously long un­bro­ken track­ing shot, in which var­i­ous char­ac­ters and strands are in­tro­duced, it be­comes a se­ries of vi­gnettes, built around a mys­tery story in­volv­ing a stu­dio ex­ec­u­tive ( Tim Rob­bins) and a mur­dered writer, with a huge cast of cameo celebri­ties and crammed with know­ing in- jokes. Ex­am­ple ( one I missed at the time): Buck Henry, who wrote The Grad­u­ate , pitches an idea for a se­quel in which a bedrid­den Mrs Robin­son moves in with Ben­jamin and Elaine. In­evitably a lit­tle dated, but con­sis­tently witty and en­joy­able.

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