Free to air
IN the annals of classic Australian films, who remembers Christine Cavanaugh — or Dick King-Smith? What Australian film was promoted (by Universal Studios in the US) as a humorous look at the limitations and lunacy of a preordained society’’? We’re talking about Babe (Thursday, 7pm, 7Two), Chris Noonan’s delightful fantasy about a piglet who wants to be a sheepdog, written by Noonan and George Miller and based on King-Smith’s novel. Cavanaugh provided the voice of Babe, who is raised for slaughter in an assembly-line breeding pen before finding refuge with a kindly farmer (James Cromwell) and winning the hearts of other farmyard animals — not to mention audiences. An international hit in the 1990s, the film won an Oscar for its visual effects and was nominated for six others, including best picture. Corny, sentimental and utterly beguiling, it reportedly required the services of about 500 animal performers. A sequel, Babe: Pig in the City, appeared in 1998.
I thought it hopelessly sugary at the time, but everyone else loved Amelie (Saturday, 9.40pm, SBS One), the quirky French romance (actually a Franco-German co-production) that launched the quirky career of Audrey Tautou. Amelie is a waitress shy, lonely, implacably good-hearted — who discovers behind a wall of her apartment an old tin box full of children’s toys. After tracing their owner she is inspired to a new purpose in life: devoting herself to random acts of kindness. There is no way Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film would have worked without Tautou — her beaming smiles, her eccentric sweetness. Jeunet is known as an animation specialist and many of the film’s images were digitally tweaked to give the story an extra layer of charm, as if extra charm were needed.
The third of Laurence Olivier’s great Shakespearean films, Richard III (Sunday, 11.25pm, ABC1), was the perfect vehicle for Olivier’s air of chilly magnetism. His riveting portrayal of the hunchbacked pretender who murders his way to the throne (according to Tudor legend) is perhaps his most famous role. For most of the film Richard walks with a limp — a real one, apparently, the result of an injury sustained during the filming of the battle of Bosworth Field, when a bolt from the film’s stunt archer missed its intended target (a horse in protective armour) and struck Olivier in the leg.
In Limbo (Friday, 11.30pm, 7Two), a bunch of disparate and desperate characters, including a fisherman, a criminal and a nightclub singer and her daughter, are stranded on an island, where they survive as best they can while hiding from pursuing gangsters. This wholly engrossing and satisfying film was written, directed and edited by John Sayles, with an excellent cast including David Strathairn and Vanessa Martinez. And without giving away the ending, it’s fair to say Limbo doesn’t have one. ABC1 (PG) ★★★★✩ Thursday, 7pm, 7Two (M) ★★★ ✩ Friday, 11.30pm, 7Two
(M) ★★★★✩ Sunday, 11.25pm,