Stark lives on edge
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.