Bru­tal ri­val­ries

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

HOL­LY­WOOD’S po­lit­i­cal sym­pa­thies — so far as they are re­vealed in films — are broadly of the Left. No con­tem­po­rary thriller is com­plete with­out a cor­rupt Wall Street ty­coon, a crooked mil­i­tary chief or sin­is­ter cor­po­ra­tion. It was not al­ways so. I re­mem­ber com­mu­nists and left-wing crit­ics con­demn­ing the 1951 James Ma­son film The Desert Fox for its kindly por­trayal of the Ger­man field mar­shal Er­win Rom­mel, and it was not un­com­mon in the 50s for films to tar­get union cor­rup­tion. On the Waterfront (Satur­day, 10.40pm, ABC2), about vi­cious union stan­dover tac­tics on the New York docks, was a tour de force for di­rec­tor Elia Kazan. Mar­lon Brando plays Terry Molloy, ex-boxer, drifter and er­rand-boy for the gang­ster union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). Sad, mov­ing and re­lent­lessly pow­er­ful, with lev­els of vi­o­lence and raw lan­guage un­usual for its day, it re­mains land­mark cinema.

Sim­i­lar ten­sions and bru­tal ri­val­ries can be found in The Lion in Win­ter (Satur­day, 8.30pm, ABC2), set in the court of Henry II (Peter O’toole), who sum­mons his po­lit­i­cally am­bi­tious fam­ily to a re­union. Henry’s three sons — among them Richard the Lion­heart (An­thony Hop­kins) — are squab­bling for a share of the king­dom. I’m a great one for cos­tume dra­mas, but this hand­some and in­tel­li­gent film, with its lively di­a­logue (from James Gold­man’s play), is among the best. Katharine Hep­burn won her third Os­car for her per­for­mance as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, be­com­ing the first ac­tress in his­tory to do so.

Nora Ephron’s screen­play for When Harry Met Sally . . . (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Gem) may have owed some­thing to Woody Allen, and the ba­sic idea — can a friend­ship move from pla­tonic to ro­man­tic af­ter sur­viv­ing the trau­mas of breakup and di­vorce — seems rather well worn to­day. But Rob Reiner’s film re­mains one of the clas­sic rom­coms, with Billy Crys­tal and Meg Ryan as the cou­ple who grad­u­ally re­alise how they re­ally feel for one an­other, and there are plenty of ex­cel­lent one-lin­ers. I wish I could say the same for Trav­el­ling North (Sun­day, 11pm, ABC1), Carl Schultz’s film of David Wil­liamson’s play. Leo Mck­ern and Ju­lia Blake are the Melbourne cou­ple seek­ing new sur­round­ings for their last years to­gether. Though still, for me, the most hu­mane and touch­ing of all Wil­liamson plays, the film has dif­fi­culty shak­ing off its stage-bound ori­gins, de­spite an ex­cel­lent cast.

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