FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
WHAT does an ampersand ( as distinct from the word and) signify in a movie title? Why do we have Thelma & Louise but not Antony & Cleopatra? Does the & suggest closer intimacy between the characters, a keener sense of cinematic style? I raise this pressing question because Kate & Leopold ( Friday, 8.30pm, Seven; Sydney and Brisbane) has little style and no intimacy. This is a time- warp comedy in which Hugh Jackman plays a 19th- century English duke mysteriously transported to modern- day New York, where he meets advertising executive Kate ( Meg Ryan). Leopold seems remarkably unfazed by his new surroundings, swanning about with Wildean epigrams and lots of gallantry. But Ryan isn’t her young, sweet self and doesn’t look mean enough to be a tough exec. The result is limp & soggy & a big disappointment. I’m also suspicious of films with autumn in their title, even those directed by Ingmar Bergman. You know they will be very, well, autumnal: delicately wispy and cloying. Autumn in New York ( Monday, midday, Nine; Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) proves to be thumpingly wispy and cloying, with Richard Gere’s restaurant owner falling in the autumn of middle age for the dying Winona Ryder, a 21- year- old fashion designer. Fort Apache ( Wednesday, 1.20am, ABC) is one for true believers, the first of John Ford’s cavalry series, his trilogy of westerns with settings and characters loosely inspired by the massacre of George Custer’s 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn. English film writer David Thomson is sniffy about Ford in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, but I’m here to tell you that John Wayne is magnificent as Captain Kirby York, Henry Fonda has a great part as a disgraced colonel, the action scenes and outdoor panoramas are in a class of their own, and there’s even a role for the grown- up Shirley Temple. More cavalry in The Charge of the Light Brigade ( Friday, midday, Seven), Tony Richardson’s 1968 remake of the 1936 film with Errol Flynn. As every film critic and schoolchild knows, the famous charge, for all its legendary heroics, was a supreme example of high- minded military idiocy leading to fearful loss of life. At least Richardson conveys its essentially tragic nature ( unlike the old movie, which was more rousing but historically fraudulent). Action films today are vastly more sophisticated, but I’m always confusing the titles. While we await the forthcoming Harry Potter and the Kingdom of
the Crystal Skull — or is it Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Sorcerer’s Goblet? — Seven is getting back to basics with the original Raiders of the Lost Ark ( Wednesday, 8.30pm). Yes, it’s 27 years old. I must have seen it at least six times and, as 1930s- style adventure serials go, it’s the best: a sprawling, nonstop cliffhanger with astounding action sequences, brilliant atmosphere, Nazi villains, great chase scenes, snake- infested caverns and a youngish Harrison Ford. I can’t imagine that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will be better, but we’ll soon know. And a quick reminder that ABC1 is showing the science fiction classic The Day of the Triffids at 12.35am on Sunday night.