New era, same Pinkie
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