FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
OMEONE who met Nicole Kidman in Sydney recently told me that she’s much taller than people think and that the really striking thing about her is her flawless skin. So there’s my big disclosure of the week. I thought her complexion looked a bit too delicate in Cold Mountain ( Friday, 8.30pm, Seven), Anthony Minghella’s harrowing Civil War drama ( from Charles Frazier’s novel), and was relieved whenever her lovely face got smudged in the action scenes. Jude Law plays her lover, a Confederate soldier disillusioned by the carnage of war who deserts his company and travels nearly 500km to rejoin Nicole on the family farm. It’s by no means her best film, but it’s brave and absorbing and beautifully shot by Australian John Seale, and the only film I know in which an army deserter is portrayed as a hero ( difficult for Hollywood in these patriotic times). Donald Sutherland, excellent as Kidman’s father, has a much more sinister part in Eye of the Needle ( Friday, 11.35pm, Seven), a gripping, old- fashioned World War II spy thriller that was underrated in 1981 by every critic except me. Sutherland gives one of his best performances as a Nazi spy, based in Britain, who uncovers the Allies’ plans for the Normandy invasion and is forced to seek shelter during a storm with Lucy ( Kate Nelligan), a sexually frustrated housewife whose husband is a paraplegic ex- fighter pilot. The story is every bit as juicy as it sounds. Quickly: My Blue Heaven ( Monday, midday, Nine) is a truly awful Steve Martin comedy about a mobster who moves into a neat suburban neighbourhood in San Diego under a witness protection program; Alice ( Saturday, 12.30am, Seven) is one of Woody Allen’s feebler efforts, with Mia Farrow as another sexually frustrated housewife who falls for a saxophone player ( Woody was in tired, cliched form in this one, having explored similar territory in Purple Rose of Cairo ); and Romeo and Juliet ( Wednesday, 12.35am, ABC) is a 1966 film of a celebrated Royal Ballet performance, with Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev dancing the lovers’ roles in a production considered a classic by those who ought to know. But the one I want to go on about is So Long at the Fair ( Tuesday, 3am, ABC), a delightful mystery story starring Dirk Bogarde and Jean Simmons, and one of my favourite films. It opened at the Embassy — Sydney’s cinema for posh English pictures before they pulled it down — and it charmed me again the other night on DVD. Simmons’s brother disappears on a visit to Paris during the 1889 Exposition and Bogarde, an artist, helps her solve the mystery. It’s a thoroughly
engaging and ingenious story, one of those plots in which innocent witnesses ( for no apparent reason) deny all knowledge of someone who has disappeared. The best example remains The Lady Vanishes , though Alfred Hitchcock touched on the theme years later in North by Northwest in the scene where Cary Grant returns to the house in which the gang held him captive, only to find the drinks cabinet stocked with books and James Mason off at the UN. Bogarde once said So Long at the Fair was ‘‘ a refreshing change after all those excursions into the shady nooks of petty crooks’’. Of course it’s a minor work, and you may find the romance a little corny, but I’m inordinately fond of it.