The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

IN this age of dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tions Hol­ly­wood re­tains a nos­tal­gic fas­ci­na­tion for the early years of movies. Mel Brooks re­minded us of the plea­sures of those years in Silent Movie, and Martin Scors­ese, in his charm­ing fan­tasy Hugo, re­leased two years ago, gave us a daz­zling cel­e­bra­tion of the in­ven­tion of the cin­ema. In the same year French di­rec­tor Michel Hazanavi­cius cap­ti­vated in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences with The Artist (Mon­day, 10.15am, M Mas­ter­piece), about a silent movie star com­ing to terms with the age of sound.

There were ob­vi­ous re­minders of Sin­gin’ in the Rain, Stan­ley Do­nen’s clas­sic mu­si­cal with Gene Kelly; but while Do­nen’s film had the ben­e­fit of Tech­ni­color and a great mu­si­cal score, The Artist was a silent movie, shot in black and white and pro­jected in the old-fash­ioned Acad­emy ra­tio on a near square screen, its oc­ca­sional lines of dia­logue printed on ti­tle cards. Yet au­di­ences loved it as much as the crit­ics, and it won the best pic­ture Os­car in 2012 — the first silent film to do so since Wings in 1928.

Jean Du­jardin plays a Twen­ties movie idol chal­lenged by the sound era while his young pro­tege and co-star (Berenice Bejo) thrives in the new medium. Funny and touch­ing, packed with bril­liant sight gags and movie in-jokes, and with a Jack Rus­sell called Ug­gie who al­most steals the show, The Artist is a con­stant de­light.

Fol­low­ing his tri­umph with The God­fa­ther, Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola sur­prised ev­ery­one with The Con­ver­sa­tion (Satur­day. 8.30pm, M Mas­ter­piece), a small, in­ti­mate and bril­liantly crafted film ex­plor­ing the im­pli­ca­tions of in­dis­crim­i­nate eaves­drop­ping (or, as we now call it, bug­ging). I once rated it the best Amer­i­can film of the 70s, and noth­ing has changed my mind. Gene Hack­man plays Harry Caul, a seedy San Fran­cisco sur­veil­lance ex­pert trapped in a web of cor­po­rate in­trigue.

Critic’s choice

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

(PG) ★★★★ Mon­day, 10.15am, M Mas­ter­piece

(M) ★★★★★ Thurs­day, 10am, M Drama/Ro­mance

It’s a com­mon­place to say The Con­ver­sa­tion an­tic­i­pated Water­gate; while it ap­peared a year af­ter the scan­dal broke, Cop­pola had writ­ten the screen­play years ear­lier. We be­gin with a long for­ward track­ing shot from a rooftop as the cam­era moves to­wards a man and a woman in a city square. Frag­ments of their con­ver­sa­tion are picked up by hid­den mi­cro­phones, the sounds re­played and ma­nip­u­lated to re­veal in­creas­ingly sin­is­ter mean­ings. The Con­ver­sa­tion works both as an in­ge­nious thriller and as a metaphor for the de­struc­tion of lib­eral val­ues in a world with­out pri­vacy.

When Rob Mar­shall’s Chicago (Thurs­day, 10am, M Drama/Ro­mance) won the Os­car in 2003 it was the first mu­si­cal to do so since Oliver! in 1969. This is a stun­ning blend of chore­ographed el­e­gance and vul­gar­ity, with some great songs (by John Kan­der and Fred Ebb) and gor­geous per­for­mances from Re­nee Zell­weger and Cather­ine Zeta-Jones.


Re­nee Zell­weger in

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