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week’s best films

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Evan Wil­liams

EAS­ILY the most be­guil­ing fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment show­ing dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son, Miss Pot­ter (Wed­nes­day, 5pm, ABC1) was di­rected by Chris Noo­nan, his first film af­ter his smash­ing success with Babe, 11 years ear­lier. It’s an­other story about in­no­cence and am­bi­tion. Beatrix Pot­ter yearns to be a suc­cess­ful au­thor much as Babe, the piglet, yearned to be a sheep­dog. And the two share cer­tain qual­i­ties — pluck, courtesy, re­spect for oth­ers. Re­nee Zell­weger’s trans­for­ma­tion from Roxie Hart, the homi­ci­dal show­biz gal in Rob Mar­shall’s Chicago, to the shy and gen­tle Beatrix is as­ton­ish­ing. Sti­fled by her re­stric­tive up­per-class fam­ily back­ground, and still (shame­fully) un­mar­ried in her 30s, Beatrix finds ro­mance at last with her pub­lisher (Ewan McGre­gor), who helps turn her il­lus­trated chil­dren’s sto­ries into world­wide best­sellers. Mov­ing, sad, beau­ti­fully acted, the film is en­livened with an­i­mated in­serts de­pict­ing Pot­ter’s beloved characters — Flopsy, Mopsy, Mrs Tiggy-Win­kle and the rest. Al­to­gether de­light­ful.

North Face (Thurs­day, mid­night, SBS One) is an ab­sorb­ing ac­count of an at­tempt by Ger­man and Aus­trian climbers to scale the north face of the Eiger, in Switzer­land, in 1936. Most of it was filmed on the Eiger it­self, that treach­er­ous wall of ice and rock in the Berne Ober­land, and for ex­cite­ment it ri­vals James March’s doc­u­men­tary Man on Wire, or Kevin Macdon­ald’s great moun­tain-climb­ing drama Touch­ing the Void. Es­sen­tially the climb was a pro­pa­ganda ex­er­cise, pro­moted by the ed­i­tor of the Ber­liner Zeitung, to glo­rify Hitler and the Third Re­ich. For those who don’t know the out­come it would un­fair to re­veal what hap­pens. I sus­pect the ro­man­tic sub­plot has been ex­ag­ger­ated, per­haps even the acts of hero­ism. But it’s his­tory now. All that mat­ters while we watch North Face are the lo­gis­tics of that climb — the courage, the in­ge­nu­ity, the sheer pa­tience of the moun­taineers.

Home Alone (Tues­day, 8.30pm, Ten) be­came the high­est-gross­ing com­edy of all time af­ter its re­lease in 1990, but fam­ily au­di­ences should avoid it: it is a sur­pris­ingly vi­o­lent, para­noid fan­tasy for kids, with a sen­ti­men­tal slap­stick plot more no­table for scenes of tor­ture and sadism. Ma­caulay Culkin made a brief name for him­self as the eight-year-old de­fend­ing his home against in­trud­ers. Yes, com­edy, though it’s more like a home-in­va­sion thriller with those sadis­tic touches.

You’ll re­mem­ber that young Kevin (Culkin) is left at home while his par­ents go on hol­i­day (just how this hap­pens is a long story), and has to deal with a cou­ple of com­i­cally in­ept bur­glars. This must be the first com­edy — yes, com­edy — to fo­cus on child abuse. But re­venge is sweet. The in­trud­ers’ heads are at­tacked with a blow­torch.

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