Free to air
ALFRED Hitchcock had countless admirers and imitators in France, including such filmmakers as Claude Chabrol, another master of the psychological thriller. Denis Dercourt’s The Page Turner (Tuesday, 1pm, SBS One) is a brilliant film in the Hitchcock-Chabrol tradition — slow-paced and deliberately plotted, but deeply unsettling and scary. Ten-year-old Melanie is studying for admission to the Paris conservatorium but fails her piano audition when her examiner, Ariane (Catherine Frot), is distracted during Melanie’s performance. Years later, still blaming Ariane for her blighted ambition to be a concert pianist, Melanie (Deborah Francois) manages to insinuate herself into Ariane’s comfortable household and is accepted as her indispensable helper and companion. But secretly she is plotting her revenge and awaiting her opportunity, which comes in unexpected circumstances. Also from France is M. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran (Tuesday, 11.30pm, SBS Two), a strange and beautiful film set in the 1960s. Omar Sharif plays a Muslim in charge of a grocery store in Paris who befriends an unhappy Jewish boy (Pierre Boulanger) living across the street. According to Sharif, it’s not a story about a Muslim and a Jew but a love story about an old man and a boy. And as such it’s deeply affecting. It was released in Australia in 2004 as Monsieur Ibrahim.
In the last years of the 20th century, Iranian filmmakers enjoyed a legendary reputation for films about children — often seen as vehicles for disguised attacks on the regime. Children of Heaven (Monday, 1pm, SBS One) is a charming feature from writer-director Majid Majidi about a nine-year-old boy who loses his sister’s only pair of shoes in a bustling Tehran marketplace. The loss is a catastrophe: without her shoes the girl cannot go to school. But the boy devises a scheme that will allow them to share his one pair of tattered sneakers. With reminders of the French classic Bicycle Thieves, Majidi’s film celebrates the essential goodness of human beings in the face of grinding poverty. The performances of the children (Amir Farrokh Hashemian and Bahare Seddiqi) are beyond praise.
Everyone’s favourite children’s fantasy, The Wizard of Oz, is having another run (Saturday, 7.30pm, Nine), and I can think of nothing new to say about it except that the role of Dorothy almost went to Shirley Temple and the studio’s first choice to play the Wizard was WC Fields. The Blob (Sunday, 9.30am, 7Two) enjoys a certain cult status among horror fans, mainly on the grounds of its sheer banality (purple goop eats people in small Pennsylvania town, so it’s Steve McQueen to the rescue). The best thing about the movie is the title song, written by Hal David and a 29-year-old Burt Bacharach.
(M) ★★★★✩ Monday, 1pm, SBS One
(M) ★★★★✩ Tuesday, 1pm, SBS One
(PG) ★★★✩✩ Saturday, 7.30pm, Nine