Cast-iron charisma

Pay tv

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

MERYL Streep as Thatcher, Michelle Wil­liams as Mon­roe, Leonardo Dicaprio as J. Edgar Hoover . . . it’s the sea­son of charis­matic cen­tral per­for­mances. And a cou­ple of Colin Firth films have prompted fur­ther re­flec­tions from this col­umn on the mys­ter­ies of per­fect cast­ing. How does it hap­pen? Good luck? Good choices? It would be im­pos­si­ble now to imag­ine The King’s Speech (Sun­day, 6.30pm, Show­time Pre­miere) with­out Firth play­ing the un­happy king, or for that mat­ter, with­out Ge­of­frey Rush as his speech ther­a­pist Lionel Logue — twin mir­a­cles of the cast­ing di­rec­tor’s art.

Firth gives an­other mes­meris­ing per­for­mance as the Dutch artist Ver­meer in Girl with a Pearl Ear­ring (Satur­day, 8.30pm and Sun­day, 12.45pm, Movie Greats), based on Tracy Che­va­lier’s novel. Peter Web­ber’s hand­some film re­counts how Ver­meer’s fa­mous paint­ing was sup­pos­edly in­spired by his in­fat­u­a­tion with a 17-year-old ser­vant girl in his house­hold (touch­ingly played by Scar­lett Jo­hans­son). It was an­other of those happy cast­ing com­bi­na­tions that turned out sub­limely right.

John Malkovich’s uniquely po­tent, al­most hyp­notic screen pres­ence was per­haps best demon­strated in Dan­ger­ous Li­aisons and The Por­trait of a Lady. Ri­p­ley’s Game (Sun­day, 4.30am, Starpics) can be classed as a guilty plea­sure. It is one of the best ver­sions of a Pa­tri­cia High­smith novel, with Malkovich ide­ally cast as the silky-sin­is­ter aes­thete Tom Ri­p­ley, up to his neck in dan­ger­ous deals and con­spir­a­cies. In Gary Sinise’s Of Mice and Men (Sun­day, 2.30am, Starpics) — the 1992 re­make of John Stein­beck’s novella — Malkovich was cast against type as Len­nie, the sweet-na­tured sim­ple­ton, rather than Ge­orge, his cun­ning and forth­right pro­tec­tor (played by Sinise). Though not in the class of Lewis Mile­stone’s clas­sic 1939 film, it re­mains a pow­er­ful and deeply mov­ing ac­count of Stein­beck’s De­pres­sion-era moral­ity tale, with Malkovich in one of his strangest roles. I sus­pect his qual­i­ties as an ac­tor — the icy de­meanour, the sat­ur­nine brow, the li­bidi­nous hau­teur — work only on the big screen. Dur­ing the Syd­ney fes­ti­val last year I saw him on stage in some­thing called The Gi­a­como Vari­a­tions, mum­bling his way through a dis­mal ac­count of the in­ner life of Casanova, set to bits of Mozart. A ter­ri­ble dis­ap­point­ment.

I’d never thought of Ewan Mc­gre­gor as any­thing but a bland per­former, but he turned up trumps in Ro­man Polan­ski’s The Ghost Writer (Satur­day, noon, Show­time Pre­miere). This fine, moody thriller (from a Robert Har­ris novel) is about a mys­te­ri­ous Bri­tish prime min­is­ter, Adam Lang, who may or may not bear some re­sem­blance to Tony Blair, and may or may not have been in­volved in a scan­dalous con­spir­acy. Mc­gre­gor’s char­ac­ter takes the job of ghost­ing Lang’s mem­oirs and dis­cov­ers his pre­de­ces­sor was washed up on a lonely beach af­ter com­plet­ing the first draft. Mc­gre­gor has never been bet­ter. His char­ac­ter is name­less, but he dom­i­nates the film with his gutsi­ness, his im­pla­ca­ble can­dour, his air of dour cal­cu­la­tion.

For my favourite charis­matic per­for­mance in re­cent years I’m tempted to nom­i­nate Chris­tian Mckay’s daz­zling im­per­son­ation of Or­son Welles in Richard Lin­klater’s Me and Or­son Welles (Mon­day, 6am, Movie One). This is about Welles’s land­mark pro­duc­tion of Julius Cae­sar at New York’s Mer­cury Theatre in 1937 and the lives of the ac­tors and hang­ers-on (fic­tional and oth­er­wise) who took part.

Me and Or­son Welles is a con­stant de­light. But would it have worked with­out Mckay in the cen­tral role — bril­liantly cap­tur­ing that dan­ger­ous com­bi­na­tion of blus­ter, ge­nius and ego­ma­nia that was to give us Cit­i­zen Kane and do much to rev­o­lu­tionise the Amer­i­can theatre?

Sun­day, 2.30am, Starpics

Mon­day, 6am, Movie One

Sun­day, 6.30pm, Show­time Pre­miere

Satur­day, noon, Show­time Pre­miere

Colin Firth and Ge­of­frey Rush in The King’s Speech

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.