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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

KEN­NETH Branagh’s Ham­let (Satur­day, 8.30pm, M Mas­ter­piece) is four hours long, with sump­tu­ous sets and a cast fea­tur­ing ev­ery­one from Jack Lem­mon and Billy Crys­tal to John Giel­gud. The set­ting is a 19th-cen­tury Euro­pean court, with hordes of ex­tras in re­gal liv­ery and mil­i­tary uni­forms. And the text is de­liv­ered un­cut, help­ing to place the psy­cho­log­i­cal drama in its po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary con­text. But all this comes at a cost. The cin­ema, which de­mands its own spa­ces and si­lences to achieve its ef­fects, is il­ladapted to cope with such a tor­rent of lan­guage, even Shake­speare’s. Crammed with words, mu­sic and ac­tion, the film seems bereft of a di­rec­tor’s vi­sion. And the mood is strangely flat, with in­te­ri­ors uni­formly and brightly lit, rob­bing the play of light and shade, its metaphysical depths and tor­ments. Branagh’s own read­ing is firm, vig­or­ous, sol­dierly. But what this Ham­let needs, as Gertrude might have said, is less mat­ter with more art.

Spike Jonze, who gave us the gor­geously funny Be­ing John Malkovich, scored an­other hit with Adap­ta­tion (Satur­day, 4.10pm, M Mas­ter­piece), for me the best satire on the Hol­ly­wood creative process af­ter The Player. Ni­co­las Cage plays two broth­ers — Char­lie Kauf­man, a real writer (he wrote the screen­play of Adap­ta­tion) and his fic­tional brother Don­ald, a novice writer who has struck pay­dirt in Hol­ly­wood with the script of a se­rial-killer movie. While Char­lie rep­re­sents pro­fes­sion­al­ism, in­tegrity and the trou­bled artis­tic con­science, Don­ald stands for am­bi­tion, com­pro­mise and op­por­tunism. Cage’s bland­ness is a per­fect foil for the film’s sub­lime inani­ties.

The Mer­chant-Ivory com­edy Le Di­vorce (Fri­day, 8.30pm, M Drama/Ro­mance), is about Amer­i­cans in Paris. Is­abel (Kate Hud­son) flies in from Cal­i­for­nia to visit her preg­nant sis­ter Roxy (Naomi Watts), who has just been dumped by her French hus­band. Is­abel be­comes the mistress of a French diplo­mat (who hap­pens to be the un­cle of Roxy’s de­part­ing ex), and there’s a big row be­tween the Amer­i­can fam­ily and their var­i­ous French con­nec­tions about the own­er­ship of a valu­able paint­ing. So there we have it: the clash of cul­tures, con­flict­ing at­ti­tudes to mar­riage, money and morals, with sharply ob­served por­traits of the French haute bour­geoisie and their hum­bler Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts, all lov­ingly filmed against re­fined Parisian back­grounds. The Five-Year En­gage­ment (Mon­day, 8.30pm, M Pre­miere), last year’s ro­man­tic com­edy from pro­ducer Judd Apa­tow, is based on the idea that wait­ing five years to get mar­ried is an in­tol­er­a­ble bur­den for lovers. Tom (Ja­son Segel) and Vi­o­let (Emily Blunt) are plan­ning their wed­ding but events keep con­spir­ing to post­pone the big day. Will they make it to the al­tar? The end­ing is both happy and pre­dictable, and it’s a plea­sure to see our own Jacki Weaver in a small role.

Critic’s choice

(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Satur­day, 4.10pm, M Mas­ter­piece

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

(M) ★★★✩✩ Fri­day, 8.30pm, M Drama/Ro­mance

Le Di­vorce

Kate Hud­son and Naomi Watts face a clash of cul­tures in

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