WITH memories of the dreadful Kill Bill pictures, I’m wary of anything based on a graphic novel. And once I would have been wary of anything directed by David Cronenberg, Canada’s leading specialist in over-the-top horror films. A History of Violence (Saturday, 8.30pm, M Masterpiece) proves exceptional on both counts. The source is a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, which Cronenberg has used to explore the idea that fate is predetermined, that no one can escape it, whatever defences, or pretences, are erected to shield us from reality. Small-town businessman Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is hailed as a local hero when he disposes of twogunmen threatening to rob his diner. With fine performances from Mortensen, William Hurt and Ed Harris, this is a superior thriller with troubling implications and abundant layers of meaning.
Another sort of film that raises warning signals is anything described as a comedy-drama. A good example is The Family Stone (Saturday, 1.35pm, M Comedy), written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, and another reminder that whenever families come together in films things get complicated. Everett (Dermot Mulroney) brings his bride-to-be, uptight career woman Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker), home to meet his family. Claire Danes and Diane Keaton head an excellent cast, and if you’re prepared to be patient there are moments of truthful revelation and a good joke or two.
Lore (Monday, 2.50pm, M Masterpiece) is a German-Australian co-production, shot in Germany and directed by Cate Shortland, who gave us the excellent Somersault in 2004. Lore is a German teenager, reared in a Nazi family, and the film is the story of her flight from her family home, in the company of three younger siblings, to the safety of their grandmother’s home in northern Germany after their parents have abandoned them at the end of World War II. Saskia Rosendahl is wonderful in the title role. Shortland, who speaks little German, was determined that this searing and poignant film be shot in the German language, making her achievement all the more remarkable.
It may not be well known that Johnny Cash served with the US Army in Germany in the 1950s, when his hearing was permanently damaged after a German girl stuck a pencil in his left ear. Along with much else that is bizarre in Cash’s career, the incident is not recorded in Walk the Line (Friday, 12.05pm, M Drama/ Romance), James Mangold’s moody biopic. The film concentrates on Cash’s romantic affairs, including his marriage to June Carter (Reese Witherspoon), to whom he proposed on stage during a concert in 1968. Joaquin Phoenix brings a craggy sexiness to Cash’s role, and he and Witherspoon do their own singing in the concert sequences.
(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Monday, 2.50pm, M Masterpiece
(MA15+) ★★★ Saturday, 8.30pm, M Masterpiece
(M) ★★★ ✩ Friday, 12.05pm, M Drama/Romance
Saskia Rosendahl in a scene from