The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

IT’S hard to re­mem­ber a week when so many good things were show­ing on pay TV, and I’m not count­ing such an­cient classics as Mrs Miniver (Sun­day, 8.30pm, TCM) or the muchloved Bette Davis ve­hi­cle Now, Voy­ager (Sun­day, 6.25pm, TCM). I be­gin with two won­der­ful films by Aus­tralian women di­rec­tors. Re­view­ing Sue Brooks’s Ja­panese Story (Satur­day, 8.30pm, M Mas­ter­piece) in 2003, I com­pared it with Jane Cam­pion’s The Pi­ano — both stud­ies of con­trast­ing cul­tures of­fer­ing a sense of tran­scen­den­tal ex­pe­ri­ence, love sto­ries un­fold­ing against un­for­giv­ing and barely ex­plored land­scapes. Toni Col­lette plays a Perth ge­ol­o­gist who finds her­self es­cort­ing a vis­it­ing Ja­panese busi­ness­man (Go­taro Tsunashima) around the mines and deserts of the Pil­bara. It is a film that ex­cels in ev­ery depart­ment — writ­ing (Ali­son Til­son), cam­er­a­work (Ian Baker), mu­sic and, above all, per­for­mances. Look Both Ways (Mon­day, 5pm, M Drama/Ro­mance) was the first fea­ture of the an­i­ma­tor Sarah Watt, who com­bines an­i­mated se­quences to great ef­fect with live ac­tion. A pho­to­jour­nal­ist (Wil­liam McInnes) has been di­ag­nosed with a fa­tal ill­ness; he meets an artist (Jus­tine Clarke), who wit­nesses a train crash af­ter at­tend­ing her fa­ther’s fu­neral. Look Both Ways is a film about peo­ple cop­ing with mor­tal­ity — is­sues of life and death — but it never feels mor­bid or pre­ten­tious. It won ev­ery ma­jor Aus­tralian film award in 2005.

Midnight in Paris (Tues­day, 10.20pm, M Mas­ter­piece) is one of the great Woody Allen films, a late mas­ter­work up there with Man­hat­tan and Crimes and Mis­de­meanours. It is also one of Woody’s most vis­ually en­chant­ing films. My only re­gret is that Woody has no part in it him­self. Thirty years ago he might have played Owen Wil­son’s role as Gil Pen­der, a Hol­ly­wood screen­writer who finds him­self caught in a time warp on a hol­i­day in Paris and trans­ported back to the 1920s, where he en­coun­ters all the lead­ing lit­er­ary and artis­tic fig­ures of the time. Allen builds on his fan­tasy a med­i­ta­tion on the na­ture of nos­tal­gia, the fu­til­ity of yearn­ing for a myth­i­cal golden age, ei­ther in the fu­ture or the past. He has writ­ten no wit­tier or more in­ge­nious screen­play. The per­for­mances are spot-on, the sound­track is crammed with good things, and Paris has never looked love­lier.

And quickly: Hugo (Thurs­day, 8.30pm, M Mas­ter­piece) is Martin Scors­ese’s gor­geous fan­tasy about an or­phaned boy liv­ing in a clock tower at a Paris rail­way sta­tion and an old man (Ben Kings­ley) who runs a toyshop — all com­bined with a loving homage to the birth of silent cin­ema. Alexan­der Payne’s About Sch­midt (Sun­day, 8.30pm, M Mas­ter­piece) has Jack Ni­chol­son in one of his great­est (and least typ­i­cal) per­for­mances as a re­tired in­sur­ance clerk, a lonely and melan­cholic old geezer com­ing to terms with en­croach­ing age.

Critic’s choice

(M) ★★★★ Satur­day, 8.30pm, M Mas­ter­piece

(PG) ★★★★✩ Thurs­day, 8.30pm, M Mas­ter­piece

(PG) ★★★★ Tues­day, 10.20pm, M Mas­ter­piece

Midnight in Paris

Owen Wil­son in

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