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.
(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Saturday, 4.10pm, M Masterpiece
(M) ★★★✩✩ Saturday, 8.30pm, M Masterpiece
(M) ★★★✩✩ Friday, 8.30pm, M Drama/Romance
Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts face a clash of cultures in