Stark lives on edge

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

TEN years af­ter his block­buster suc­cess with Jaws, Steven Spiel­berg made The Color Pur­ple (Satur­day, 4.20pm, Gem). It is one of his most an­guished and dar­ing films, an adap­ta­tion of Alice Walker’s novel about racial op­pres­sion and sex­ual abuse in the Deep South. Crit­ics at the time branded it shal­low and con­de­scend­ing, but it re­mains one of the few Hol­ly­wood dra­mas to con­cern it­self with the lives of black women. As well as in­tro­duc­ing Whoopi Gold­berg to na­tional au­di­ences, it’s a re­minder that be­fore she be­came bet­ter known as a global talk-show host, Oprah Win­frey was also a fine ac­tor.

The Color Pur­ple is the story of Celie, who is mar­ried off as a teenager to the bru­tal Al­bert (Danny Glover) af­ter giv­ing birth to two chil­dren, ap­par­ently fa­thered by her own fa­ther. As an adult (played by Gold­berg) she en­dures a life of ab­ject servi­tude un­til her even­tual de­liv­er­ance, which pro­vides a deeply mov­ing res­o­lu­tion to a har­row­ing story. The Color Pur­ple should not, of course, be con­fused with Alvin Pur­ple (Sun­day, 10.40pm, Gem), Australia’s first raunchy sex com­edy, di­rected by Tim Burstall in 1973 and equally dar­ing for its time.

Hud (Sun­day, 11pm, ABC1) is one of that small group of anti-westerns ( Lonely Are the Brave and The Misfits among them) that defy the heroic con­ven­tions of the genre. Paul New­man, in the ti­tle role, lives on a Texas ranch, a crude and con­temptible char­ac­ter, es­tranged from his fa­ther (Melvyn Dou­glas) and de­ter­mined on a life of ir­re­spon­si­ble plea­sure. New­man gives one of his best per­for­mances in this bru­tal por­trait of flawed hu­man­ity (di­rected by Martin Ritt and shot in black and white by James Wong Howe).

If any­thing, Texas looks even bleaker in The Last Picture Show (Satur­day, 10.40pm, ABC2), a pierc­ing study of ado­les­cence seen through the fil­ter of small-town life in the early 1950s. Jeff Bridges and Ti­mothy Bottoms star in this hu­mane and touch­ing adap­ta­tion of Larry Mcmurtry’s novel, a break­through film for Peter Bog­danovich.

Is there any­thing more to be said about Rose­mary’s Baby (Satur­day, 8.30pm, ABC2), Ro­man Polan­ski’s great sa­tanic chiller, in which Mia Far­row en­dures the world’s most har­row­ing preg­nancy? It may not be widely known that the New York apart­ment block she moves into at the start of the film is the Dakota, where John Len­non was as­sas­si­nated. I’m I can’t be more cheer­ful this week.

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