Free to air
TWO key films of Marlon Brando’s career can be seen this Saturday. The Men (8.30pm, ABC2) was his film debut, a wrenching study of a World War II veteran left paralysed by a sniper’s bullet. The producer was Stanley Kramer, who had already given us two powerful message-based dramas in Champion and Home of the Brave; and the director was the great Fred Zinnemann, who handles his potentially mawkish material with tact and discretion. Brando’s character, Ken, is angry and resentful, refusing to cooperate with doctors and nurses and spurning the loving attentions of his girlfriend (Teresa Wright). Eventually, with the support of a committed doctor (Everett Sloane), she breaks through Ken’s bitterness and reserve. It’s said Brando moved into a 32-bed ward with real paraplegics to observe their suffering and study their attitudes. The results are unforgettable. The Wild One (Saturday, 9.55pm, ABC2) appeared three years later, in 1953, and was in many ways his signature film. His performance as the leader of a bikie gang that terrorises a small midwestern town established him as one of Hollywood’s most charismatic antiheroes and a natural successor to James Dean. Tautly directed by Laszlo Benedek (and also produced by Kramer), the film was inspired by an incident in 1947 when a 4000-strong bikie gang took over Hollister, California, on the July 4th weekend. Spare, tough and frightening.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sunday, 11.55pm, ABC1) may be the definitive spaghetti western, directed in 1966 by Sergio Leone and offering a brutal panorama of life in the American west during the Civil War. The good guy is Clint Eastwood, the bad guy is Lee Van Cleef and the ugly one, presumably, is Eli Wallach — three drifters in search of a fortune. A many-layered epic, it is Leone’s most violent — and compassionate — film. In one haunting scene Union troops organise a musical performance by Confederate prisoner-musicians to cover the sound of Van Cleef torturing his captives. Ennio Morricone supplied one of his finest scores.
The Beat that My Heart Skipped (Wednesday, 11pm, SBS One) is a French thriller directed by Jacques Audiard and a remake of cult film Fingers (1978). Its hero is Tom (Romain Duris), a troubled young man with shady connections whose secret ambition is to follow in his mother’s footsteps and become a concert pianist. The piano is his obsession. He engages a music teacher (Linh Dan Pham), under whose supervision his playing grows in strength. The separate strands of the story are brought together in a searing drama, trapping Tom in its horrifying coils. There are no cheap shocks, violence being more often suggested than shown, and the final scenes are greatly moving. ★★★★✩ Sunday, 11.55pm, ABC1
(M) ★★★★✩ Saturday, 8.30pm, ABC2 ★★★ ✩ Wednesday, 11pm, SBS One