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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

NOT ev­ery­one loves the new Woody Allen film To Rome with Love as much as I do, but ev­ery­one loved his last one, Mid­night in Paris (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Pre­miere). Woody has no part in it him­self, but 30 years ago he might have played Gil Pen­der, the Hol­ly­wood screen­writer and would-be nov­el­ist whose ad­ven­tures form the heart of the story. Owen Wil­son’s per­for­mance man­ages to sug­gest some­thing of Woody — his voice, his moods, his ru­mi­na­tions. On a visit to Paris, Gil is trans­ported back in time to find him­self in the com­pany of F. Scott Fitzger­ald, Cole Porter, Ernest Hem­ing­way, Gertrude Stein and other in­tel­lec­tual and artis­tic greats of the 1920s. Woody is back in ter­ri­tory he ex­plored in Zelig and The Pur­ple Rose of Cairo — a med­i­ta­tion on the na­ture of nos­tal­gia, the fu­til­ity of yearn­ing for a myth­i­cal golden age, whether in the fu­ture or the past. The film abounds in cin­e­matic ref­er­ences and de­light­ful in-jokes — the en­coun­ters be­tween Gil and Sal­vador Dali (Adrien Brody) and sur­re­al­ist film­maker Luis Bunuel. The per­for­mances are spot-on, the sound­track is crammed with good things, and Paris, like Rome in Woody’s lat­est film, has never looked so en­chant­ing.

I’ve just read The Drey­fus Af­fair, Piers Paul Read’s com­pelling new book about the per­se­cu­tion of Al­fred Drey­fus, the French army of­fi­cer falsely ac­cused of trea­son and im­pris­oned on Devil’s Is­land, the prison fortress where the worst French crim­i­nals served their time. The hor­rors of the French pe­nal sys­tem are vividly de­picted, as they are in Franklin J. Schaffner’s Papil­lon (Wed­nes­day, 8.35pm, Fox Clas­sics), about the es­cape from Devil’s Is­land of the no­to­ri­ous mur­derer Henri Papil­lon’’ Char­riere, played by Steve McQueen. Like Drey­fus, Char­riere spent much of his time in soli­tary con­fine­ment, en­dur­ing star­va­tion and en­croach­ing mad­ness. Schaffner’s film is a grim ac­count of Char­riere’s in­car­cer­a­tion and es­cape, with bril­liant per­for­mances from McQueen and Dustin Hoffman as a fel­low pris­oner.

In fair­ness to the French, I rec­om­mend Con­ver­sa­tions with My Gar­dener (Satur­day, 5.55pm, World Movies), a won­der­fully touch­ing film from di­rec­tor Jean Becker, in which the gen­tler and more civilised qual­i­ties of French life are charm­ingly evoked. An artist (Daniel Au­teuil) re­turns to his child­hood home and hires a gar­dener (Jean-Pierre Dar­roussin) to look af­ter the grounds. The men be­come friends. The gar­dener dis­cov­ers a wider world than he has known and the pain­ter be­comes a kinder man. There is no way I can con­vey the beauty of this del­i­cate film in words, its cel­e­bra­tion of good­ness and de­cency. For those want­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent, I sug­gest James Cameron’s Os­car-win­ning Ti­tanic (Satur­day, 9.20pm, Fox Clas­sics), at the time of its re­lease the world’s big­gest and most ex­pen­sive film about the world’s big­gest and most ex­pen­sive ship­wreck.

(M) ★★★★ Sun­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Pre­miere

(M) ★★★ ✩ Wed­nes­day, 8.35pm, Fox Clas­sics ★★★ ✩ Satur­day, 5.55pm, World Movies

Critic’s choice

(M)

Mid­night in Paris

A scene from

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