New era, same Pinkie

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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

IS noth­ing sa­cred? When the High Court, in a re­cent decision, over­turned the long­stand­ing prin­ci­ple that a wife can­not be com­pelled to give ev­i­dence against her hus­band, it oc­curred to this col­umn that their hon­ours had in­val­i­dated the ba­sic plot premise of Brighton Rock, Gra­ham Greene’s dire story about a vi­cious teenage gang­ster called Pinkie and his path to spir­i­tual damna­tion. There have been two films of Greene’s novel, and both seem likely to sur­vive le­gal chal­lenge. Brighton Rock (Satur­day, 10am, Movie One), di­rected by Rowan Joffe, stars Sam Ri­ley as Pinkie, the role first chill­ingly played by Richard At­ten­bor­ough in a 1947 film from the Boult­ing broth­ers. Joffe has trans­posed the story from 1938 and ‘‘ reimag­ined’’ it in the 1960s, a change which, he says, is in­tended to give a new, more tragic di­men­sion to the char­ac­ter of Pinkie’s girl­friend Rose (An­drea Rise­bor­ough) by plac­ing her in an era when women were sup­posed to have gained new power and iden­tity. Joffe makes his case in a new edi­tion of the book put out for the film’s re­lease in 2010, but I re­main un­con­vinced. He­len Mir­ren is the aveng­ing Ida, de­scribed by Greene as a char­ac­ter ‘‘ who ob­sti­nately re­fused to come alive’’. There’s never a risk of that with Mir­ren around.

This week’s films in­clude two great Woody Allen come­dies and two clas­sics about Washington pol­i­tics. Among Allen fans there is a long-run­ning de­bate about which is the bet­ter film: the en­chant­ing An­nie Hall (Sun­day, 8.30pm, TCM) or the some­what more so­phis­ti­cated Man­hat­tan (Wed­nes­day, 5.15pm, TCM), in both of which Woody plays an un­happy writer. An­nie Hall won Os­cars for best picture, di­rec­tion, ac­tress and screen­play and Man­hat­tan won noth­ing, but many rate it the more ma­ture and se­ri­ous work. In his por­trait of Isaac, a TV scribe dis­il­lu­sioned with the medium and keen to use his tal­ents in other ways, Allen seemed to have out­grown his tal­ent for the smart one­liner to con­cen­trate on de­vel­op­ing more com­plex and fully rounded char­ac­ters. Meryl Streep ap­pears mem­o­rably as Isaac’s les­bian ex-wife, who has writ­ten a book about their mar­riage, and Diane Keaton is won­der­ful as An­nie Hall in a film crammed with witty lines. Ob­serv­ing that Keaton ha­bit­u­ally

Sun­day, 4pm, Stvdio

Wed­nes­day, 5.15pm, TCM

Sun­day, 8.30pm, TCM smokes a joint be­fore mak­ing love, Woody sourly ob­serves: ‘‘ Why don’t you take sodium pen­tothal? Then you could sleep through the whole thing.’’

Those dis­il­lu­sioned, for any rea­son, with the present fed­eral po­lit­i­cal scene may care to watch Mr Smith Goes to Washington (Sun­day, 4pm, Stvdio), Frank Capra’s glo­ri­ous ode to ide­al­ism and de­cency in the cor­ri­dors of power. James Ste­wart is Jef­fer­son Smith, an in­no­cent small-town bump­kin who finds him­self cat­a­pulted into a va­cant seat in the se­nate, where his staunch prin­ci­ples and in­nate hon­esty are soon pit­ted against the forces of de­ceit and op­por­tunism. Thirty-seven years later, Washington is still a place of murky in­trigue, but this time it’s the real thing. All the Pres­i­dent’s Men (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Fox Clas­sics) fol­lows the ef­forts of Washington Post re­porters Carl Bern­stein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Wood­ward (Robert Red­ford) to ex­pose the Water­gate scan­dal that brought down Richard Nixon in 1974. Part po­lit­i­cal thriller, buddy movie and de­tec­tive story, it’s an ab­sorb­ing film with a com­pelling cli­max. I won­der if Nixon saw it.

For the more dan­ger­ous side of US pol­i­tics there’s In the Line of Fire (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Ac­tion), a first-rate Clint East­wood thriller about a se­cret ser­vice agent des­per­ately seek­ing to foil a plot to as­sas­si­nate the pres­i­dent. It would go well with The Jackal (Satur­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Ac­tion), a Bruce Wil­lis thriller about a Rus­sian mafioso who hires an as­sas­sin to kill the first lady. Is noth­ing sa­cred?

Sun­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Ac­tion

Sam Ri­ley is Pinkie in a Brighton Rock set in the 60s

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