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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Hem­ing­way & Gellhorn,

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.

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