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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Evan Wil­liams

APART from Singing’ in the Rain, has there been a warm, light-hearted and op­ti­mistic film about the in­ner work­ings of Hol­ly­wood? When it comes to navel-gaz­ing, the stu­dios love look­ing on the dark side. Two of the best and most cyn­i­cal films about Hol­ly­wood can be seen this Satur­day — both clas­sics and nei­ther cal­cu­lated to do much for fall­ing num­bers in mul­ti­plexes.

Day of the Lo­cust (8.30pm, ABC2), di­rected by John Sch­lesinger from a novel by Nathanael West, fo­cuses on the seamy side of Hol­ly­wood in its hey­day in the 1930s, a hot­bed of losers, mis­fits and neu­rotics. Karen Black is Faye, a slat­ternly star­let dream­ing of the big time and a reg­u­lar visi­tor to stu­dio cast­ing couches. It’s a stun­ning por­trayal of moral des­per­a­tion, matched by Don­ald Suther­land’s fine per­for­mance as Faye’s in­ef­fec­tual lover. The fi­nal se­quence — grim and apoc­a­lyp­tic — shocked au­di­ences (in­clud­ing this re­viewer) in 1975.

Sun­set Boule­vard (Satur­day, 10.55pm, ABC2) is the sad story of Norma Des­mond (Glo­ria Swan­son), a faded silent movie star who hires a hack screen­writer (Wil­liam Holden) to work on what she hopes will be her come­back movie. Holden’s char­ac­ter is found dead in the open­ing scene and the story is told in flashback, much in the way of Dou­ble In­dem­nity, an­other clas­sic of the time. Sun­set Boule­vard is Billy Wilder’s un­spar­ing por­trait of the van­i­ties and ob­ses­sions of the film community, a bizarre mix­ture of glamour and melo­drama and the de­fin­i­tive cri­tique of sour show­biz nos­tal­gia. Swan­son had much in com­mon with her fic­tional char­ac­ter and her per­for­mance is leg­endary. Lament­ing the glo­ries of Hol­ly­wood’s past, she ob­serves, in one of many fa­mous lines: We didn’t need di­a­logue. We had faces then.’’

Some may re­mem­ber a mod­est space thriller called Ma­rooned, made in 1969, the year of the first moon land­ings. Ma­rooned was re­mark­able for an­tic­i­pat­ing, al­most ex­actly, the events of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mis­sion, which mal­func­tioned af­ter launch­ing, leav­ing three crew mem­bers stranded in space. More than 20 years later Ron Howard told the story in Apollo 13 (Sun­day, 7.30pm, 7Mate), a block­buster by 1995 stan­dards, with a cast in­clud­ing Tom Hanks, Bill Pax­ton and Kevin Ba­con. The film is un­fail­ingly sus­pense­ful but never quite catches the mood of cos­mic lone­li­ness and ter­ror that the story in­spires. For that, see the indie fea­ture Love, made on a shoe­string by an Amer­i­can, Wil­liam Eubank, which I re­viewed a few weeks ago and haven’t got out of my head. You’ll be lucky to catch it in cine­mas, but watch out for a DVD.

And for fans: Harry Pot­ter and the Goblet of Fire (Satur­day, 7.40pm, Nine), the fourth film in the se­ries, is also one of the best, though at 157 min­utes by no means one of the short­est. The fa­mil­iar faces are all present.

(M) ★★★★★ Satur­day, 10.55pm, ABC2

(M) ★★★★✩ Satur­day, 8.30pm, ABC2

(M) ★★★ ✩ Sun­day, 7.30pm, 7Mate

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