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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

I WAS one of many crit­ics who rated Good Night, and Good Luck (Satur­day, 8.30pm, M Pre­miere) the best Amer­i­can film of 2005. Di­rected by Ge­orge Clooney, it de­picts the con­flict be­tween vet­eran US ra­dio and tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ist Ed Mur­row (David Strathairn) and no­to­ri­ous se­na­tor Joe McCarthy, an­ti­com­mu­nist crusader and de­stroyer of in­no­cent rep­u­ta­tions dur­ing the years of the Cold War. Clooney, whose fa­ther was a TV jour­nal­ist and who also plays Mur­row’s co-pro­ducer Fred Friendly at CBS, beau­ti­fully evokes the world of US TV jour­nal­ism in the 1950s. Some crit­ics have claimed that the film over­states Mur­row’s role in bring­ing about McCarthy’s down­fall, but it re­mains a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into the po­lit­i­cal hys­te­ria of those times. Act­ing, script and di­rec­tion are all be­yond praise.

Frank Lan­gella, who plays CBS chief ex­ec­u­tive Wil­liam Pa­ley in Clooney’s film, also can be seen in Ro­bot & Frank (Sun­day, 8.30pm, M Mas­ter­piece), a first fea­ture from Amer­i­can di­rec­tor Jake Schreier, set in the near fu­ture’’. Lan­gella is Frank Wells, a re­tired jewel thief — a proud, lonely, rather grumpy old codger whose mem­ory isn’t what it used to be. One day his son (James Mars­den) ar­rives with a present for dad — a ro­bot but­ler, pro­grammed to cater to Frank’s ev­ery house­keep­ing need and pre­pare his meals. It’s not a sci-fi film but a wry and witty study of con­flicted per­son­al­i­ties and the cruel pres­sures of old age. The ro­bot’s first thought is to give Frank a new in­ter­est in life and pretty soon the two are work­ing to­gether in Frank’s old field of ex­per­tise, safe­crack­ing and rob­bery. Their first suc­cess is to break into the lo­cal li­brary (run by Su­san Saran­don) and steal a valu­able first edi­tion.

Work­ing from a screen­play by Christopher Ford, Schreier gives the film a lovely, wist­ful tone, tinged with sad­ness. And noth­ing is strained — least of all Lan­gella’s gravely beau­ti­ful per­for­mance as the flawed hero.

The Stranger (Mon­day, 10pm, TCM) is one of Or­son Welles’s least re­mem­bered films, lack­ing much of the flam­boy­ance and vis­ual dar­ing of, say, Cit­i­zen Kane and The Mag­nif­i­cent Am­ber­sons, but none­the­less a mas­ter­piece. Ed­ward G. Robert­son plays Wil­son, a Nazi hunter on the trail of a sus­pected war crim­i­nal com­plicit in the Jewish geno­cide, who has in­fil­trated a small New Eng­land town pos­ing as a col­lege pro­fes­sor call­ing him­self Charles Rankin. Welles plays Kindler, a supremely chill­ing por­trait of ruth­less­ness and amoral­ity. As post-war classics go, The Stranger ranks with A Street­car Named De­sire (Satur­day, 8.30pm, Fox Classics), in which Mar­lon Brando ce­mented his screen rep­u­ta­tion as the brutish Stan­ley Kowal­ski in Elia Kazan’s great film of Ten­nessee Wil­liams’s play. Vivien Leigh is neu­rotic Blanche DuBois, who falls foul of Stan­ley’s at­ten­tions.

Critic’s choice

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

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

(M) ★★★★ Mon­day, 10pm, TCM

Ro­bot & Frank

Frank Lan­gella in

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