film’s interview scenes were played by Julie Christie, Charlotte Rampling or Vanessa Redgrave. Kidman simply rivets your attention. It’s as if, like an old-time movie star, she can wall herself off somehow from the ravages of ordinary experience and ordinary time, and she steals this movie. By contrast Owen, good though he often is, his shoulders square, a glass or bottle rarely absent from his hands, cigar snug in the corner of the mouth, just seems like an actor.
After establishing his central characters in Key West, Kaufman follows them to Spain and into a cleverly depicted Civil War, ‘‘ a crazy war’’, she tells us, narrating the movie as the lived-in, older Gellhorn, ‘‘ where you could take a streetcar to the front’’. She’s covering the conflict for Collier’s magazine and Hemingway helps his friends Joris Ivens (Lars Ulrich), John Dos Passos (David Strathairn) and Robert Capa (Santiago Cabrera) shoot the documentary The Spanish Earth, about the struggle to defeat fascism.
Soon Hemingway, the Big Man in every town, is mentoring the young journalist. ‘‘ There’s nothing to writing, Gellhorn,’’ he tells her. ‘‘ All you’ve got to do is sit down at your typewriter and bleed.’’ Like much of the dialogue, it’s an actual Hemingway quote. As is ‘‘ the best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them’’, something he tells her through a hotel door at the beginning of their relationship. Soon her heels are in the air, Hemingway attacking her like a lion devouring prey while bomb blasts flash in the hotel’s bedroom window; they then lie indolently together, covered in ash.
The sex scenes are graphically explicit and the nudity, while hardly unusual for a HBO production, not something we really expect from these two actors. They obviously believed in giving their all to further the cause; another case, maybe, of Hemingway’s notion of grace under pressure.
They return to Cuba. Hemingway writes For Whom the Bell Tolls, which he dedicates to Gellhorn, and Kaufman goes on to cover the seven years of their relationship, the tough journalist preferring war zones to domesticity. The great man eventually finds the world isn’t big enough for him, irreparably damaged as he is by his own need to shine forever. Kidman has the best line of the film, supposedly an actual remark of Gellhorn’s. At the end of their marriage, after returning to London to visit the writer in hospital, she finds him with the woman who will become his next wife. ‘‘ I guess I just came by for a divorce,’’ she says. CORPORATE psychology is all about persuasion, its practitioners schooled in the science of influence and motivation, and helps bosses design programs that account for the idiosyncrasies of human behaviour. It’s been around since factories and assembly lines came into existence and the guys who ran factories wanted to get as much as the could out of their workers. But the first organisational scientists had little interest in the happiness of workers; they simply wanted to ensure the jobs were as streamlined as possible.
One famous study conducted by psychologist Harry Landsberger found workers only became more productive when there were people around them wearing white coats, carrying clipboards, interested in what they were doing. God only knows what Harry would make of this new ABC2 series called Do or Die, a four-part, hour-long factual show that tosses regular office workers into torrid survival adventures in an attempt to change their lives and their workplaces. Each week calculating producers, wearing their own white coats, drop a group of unsuspecting workers into some of Australia’s harshest environments for five demanding days. It’s both a survival adventure and a deeply interpersonal encounter group session combined.
In the first episode six cocktail workers from the trendy Goldfish bar in Sydney’s Kings Cross are forced to examine the nature of relationships between bosses and workers in the hospitality industry (surely an oxymoron). They happily believe they are in for some office bonding during a holiday in the bush. But, led by corporate psychologist Travis Kemp, they find themselves in an inhospitable peninsula surrounded by a series of giant salt lakes, subjected to extreme temperatures and unremitting glare from the sun. Kemp is a forbidding figure with a military bearing who looks as if he has stepped straight from the pages of a Lee Child thriller. Within hours what seemed as if it was going to be a fun day at the office becomes a battle for survival.
Well directed by Steve Peddie under trying circumstances, this is an example of what some call the ‘‘ life intervention’’ format of reality shows. These are programs that mobilise ‘‘ professional motivators’’ and ‘‘ lifestyle experts’’ to help us overcome various obstacles in our personal, professional and domestic lives.
They teach different self-management techniques, interventions that can change lives or simply resolve more specific problems, such as selling a house in a foreign country, losing weight or managing our children better. There’s an odd kind of public service involved in teaching us how to become more capable. The notion of TV as social worker may be anathema to some but certainly in this case it provides some great, if at times confronting, entertainment. I’VE once again been absorbed by the brilliant work of British voiceover actor Dave Lamb, who provided the commentary for the just finished first season of Come Dine with Me South Africa. This is yet another spin-off from the now legendary original British reality cooking series from Channel 4, which took the camera out of the studio and into the kitchens and dining tables — sometimes hastily improvised — of real people. Come Dine with Me was dreamed up seven years ago by Granada television producer Nell Butler, who thought the combination of cookery, snooping around people’s homes and the subtle but ruthless social struggle at the dinner table would provide voyeuristic drama. She wasn’t wrong, and her show has become one of modern TV’s great successes.
Come Dine with Me appears under various titles across the world (the names in themselves giving hints about national traits): the German version is called Das Perfekte Dinner, the French Un Diner Presque Parfait and in the US it’s known as Dinner Takes All. It has a strong following locally on pay-TV’s Lifestyle Food Channel, where it sometimes seems to appear in endless cycles. The people are often hysterical, but Lamb provides more reliable comedy on the original show and the others he voices, such as the Irish show (yet to reach Australia) as well as the South African.
Lamb is simply one of TV’s great voices. He’s acerbic and deliciously observational and able to make a highly contrived script, written by several comedy writers, seem explosively spontaneous. The script itself is the result of a rigorous edit of about 75 hours of observational documentary footage cut down to 23 minutes for the half-hour shows. Lamb sightreads the script to the pictures and because he’s seeing it for the first time he can react spontaneously off the script as well. He has the gift, either through his realising of the writers’ words or through improvisation, of seeming to say exactly what you are thinking about the show’s madcap characters.