The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

OPEN­ING in cine­mas next week is a French film called The In­touch­ables, about a quad­ri­plegic and his street-smart carer, which has bro­ken box-of­fice records in Europe. View­ers should be aware that it bears no re­la­tion to The Un­touch­ables (Fri­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Ac­tion), the 1987 Brian De Palma gang­ster film, which in turn bears lit­tle re­la­tion to the 1950s tele­vi­sion se­ries. The Un­touch­ables made a star of Kevin Cost­ner as G-man Eliot Ness, and has a won­der­fully witty and pow­er­ful script by David Mamet. Its many strik­ing set-pieces in­clude a Cana­dian bor­der am­bush shot like a Sergio Leone western and a 10-minute se­quence at a rail­way sta­tion that pays homage to Bat­tle­ship Potemkin (1925), with a shot of a baby car­riage bounc­ing down steps while Ness and Al Capone (Robert De Niro) shoot it out. One of the great gang­ster films of all time, it’s en­riched by a fine En­nio Mor­ri­cone score.

The Help (Fri­day, 8.30pm, Starpics), from a 2009 novel by Kathryn Stock­ett, is about the in­ter­lock­ing lines of af­flu­ent Mis­sis­sippi housewives and their black maids in the early 60s. The white women in the film are gush­ing subur­ban new­ly­weds and bridge club belles who treat their ser­vants as slaves. Black do­mes­tic work­ers were paid a pit­tance in those days. They had no time off, no le­gal or in­dus­trial pro­tec­tion. It would have been against the law in Mis­sis­sippi for Stock­ett to pub­lish her book in the early 60s, and any cinema there that showed Tate Tay­lor’s film then prob­a­bly would have been put to the torch. There are lu­mi­nous per­for­mances from Vi­ola Davis and Oc­tavia Spencer as two of the maids, while the housewives play out their do­mes­tic and so­cial rit­u­als with a de­gree of jaun­ti­ness verg­ing on the creepy. The film is big, bright and glossy, shot in the flu­o­res­cent colours of 60s af­flu­ence. I en­joyed it but kept wish­ing it were harsher, gut­sier and more con­fronting.

Mark Her­man is the British writer-di­rec­tor who made the ex­cel­lent Brassed Off in 1996. His sub­se­quent film, Lit­tle Voice (Wed­nes­day, 10.20pm, Movie Greats), is based on Jim Cartwright’s play about a patho­log­i­cally shy girl (Jane Hor­rocks) who me­morises the best known songs in her late fa­ther’s record col­lec­tion and learns to mimic the voices of Judy Gar­land and Shirley Bassey. Even­tu­ally she’s per­suaded by an un­scrupu­lous the­atri­cal agent (Michael Caine) to per­form on stage, and au­di­ences are ec­static. You can’t help rel­ish­ing these scenes, though they tend to coarsen what sets out to be a del­i­cate story of emo­tional trans­for­ma­tion. In Peter Hyam’s Capricorn One (Thurs­day, 8.30pm, TCM), the first Amer­i­can mis­sion to Mars is faked by NASA for TV au­di­ences while the real as­tro­nauts are spir­ited away to a se­cret desert hide­out. All wildly un­be­liev­able, but it works in a weird way. Con­spir­acy the­o­rists will love it. Stars El­liott Gould and James Brolin.

Critic’s choice

(M) ★★★★✩ Fri­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Ac­tion

(M) ★★★ ✩ Fri­day, 8.30pm, Starpics

(M) ★★★✩✩ Thurs­day, 8.30pm, TCM

The Help

Vi­ola Davis in

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