Free to air
IF you were Shakespeare, would you rather fall in love with Anne Hathaway or Gwyneth Paltrow? In Shakespeare in Love (Thursday, 8.45pm, 7Two), director John Madden’s Oscar-winning romantic romp, Paltrow is a clear winner. She plays Viola de Lesseps, a young noblewoman who, disguised as a boy, successfully auditions for the part of Romeo in Shakespeare’s latest play. It’s all fiction, of course, and immensely enjoyable, with Joseph Fiennes as a boisterously youthful and good-humoured Bard who doesn’t take long to discover that his latest love and his new leading man’’ are one and the same person. The screenplay, by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, bristles with witty lines, and Geoffrey Rush is in fine form as the theatre owner Philip Henslowe, who considers the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet much too gloomy for the commercial stage. Others in the top-line cast include Colin Firth, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Affleck and Simon Callow.
And if that sounds like too much idle good fun, try 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Sunday, 11.15pm, SBS One), a sombre masterpiece from Romania. It’s striking how the shadow of communism has become a perverse source of inspiration for filmmakers in the old Soviet empire. I’m of Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin, revisiting the horrors of East German communist rule though the eyes of a dying Bolshevik, and The Lives of Others, about the dark world of a Stasi secret policeman. In 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, writer-director Cristian Mungiu traces the efforts of a teenage student in Romania to secure an illegal abortion in the 1960s. The ordeal of Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) is observed with clinical concentration, unflinching intensity and profound compassion.
The hero of Flushed Away (Thursday, 7pm, 7Two), an animated fantasy from the makers of Shrek, is a pampered English mouse called Roddy St James (voiced by Hugh Jackman) who lives in a posh house in London and is accidentally flushed down the toilet to find a vast underground city amid the sewers. This proves to be more salubrious than it sounds, everything being rather light and fanciful and largely constructed from the detritus of the world above. Roddy meets Rita (Kate Winslet), a sewer-wise rat caring for her struggling family, and saves her from the clutches of the Toad (Ian McKellen), a criminal mastermind who has been nursing a grudge against the world after being discarded as a pet in Prince Charles’s household.
Since it was voted best film of all time in a Sight & Sound poll last year, I will be forgiven for making another mention of Vertigo (Sunday, 11.20pm, ABC1), Alfred Hitchcock’s haunting tale of hopeless passion and the perils of mistaken identity. A masterpiece certainly. The best film ever? Who knows?
(M) ★★★★✩ Thursday, 8.45pm, 7Two ★★★★✩ Sunday, 11.15pm, SBS One
(M) ★★★★★ Sunday, 11.20pm, ABC1