Free to air
MY first reaction to Marnie (Sunday, 11.55pm, ABC1), shared by many others at time, was one of mild disappointment — all those crude studio backdrops, the blatant melodrama, the
atmospheric’’ thunderstorms at dramatic moments, the rear-screen projections. After the chilling virtuosity of Psycho and The Birds, Marnie felt like inferior Hitchcock. But, like Vertigo, its reputation has improved with time and it can now be seen as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most liberated and poetic films, a masterpiece that encompasses all the director’s obsessions — the unleashing of repressed female sexuality, childhood trauma and Hitch’s love of cool-looking blondes. Tippi Hedren plays a kleptomaniac whose compulsion to steal springs from a need for love. This is eventually supplied by Sean Connery, a business associate of one of Marnie’s previous victims. A profoundly disquieting thriller, Marnie is replete with great set-pieces and Hitchcock is said to have become obsessed with Hedren during the shooting. In some ways it shows in the power and anguish of her performance.
Persona (Sunday, 10.30pm, SBS Two) could almost be described as Ingmar Bergman’s Marnie. It was made two years later (in 1966) and is Bergman’s classic exploration of female psychosis. Liv Ullmann plays an actress who mysteriously stops speaking after a performance of Electra and is sent by a psychiatrist to a seaside cottage where she is looked after by a nurse (Bibi Andersson).
The two women, each with a trauma of her own, are drawn closer together until, near the end of the film, their faces merge in one of the iconic images of modern cinema. Ullmann, like Hedren, gives an unforgettable portrayal of a tormented soul.
And on the subject of great female acting, it’s worth seeing The Lion in Winter ( Friday, 12.30pm, ABC1) for Katharine Hepburn’s performance alone. This is one of the best of all historical dramas, an intelligent adaptation of James Goldman’s play about Henry II (Peter O’Toole), who summons his politically ambitious family to a reunion in 1183 at which there is much jockeying among his three sons for the spoils of empire.
Hepburn is superb as Henry’s wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, whom he has kept in a remote castle to prevent her meddling in affairs of state. There are spellbinding verbal duels between Hepburn and O’Toole (barely recognisable under a heavy beard and makeup), and the king’s three sons include a youthfullooking Anthony Hopkins as Prince Richard the Lionheart. The film was shot on location in Ireland, Wales and France, and was a box-office hit. Hepburn won her third Oscar for her performance, becoming the first actress in history to do so.
(M) ★★★★✩ Sunday, 11.55pm, ABC1
(PG) ★★★★✩ Friday, 12.30pm, ABC1
(PG) ★★★★ Sunday, 10.30pm, SBS Two
Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn in