JANUARY is a splendid time to revisit films that haunt the memory. Last week’s column mentions one of the highlights of 1970s American paranoid thrillers, Robert Redford in 1975 drama Three Days of the Condor. This week it’s Warren Beatty’s turn, with director Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View (Thursday, 8.30pm, M Masterpiece). Beatty stars as investigative reporter Joe Frady, who becomes involved with the shadowy Parallax Corporation in the wake of a presidential assassination. It’s the centrepiece of Pakula’s so-called political paranoia trilogy, bookended by Klute in 1971 and All the President’s Men in 1976.
There’s another mysterious conglomerate at the heart of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (Saturday, 10.50pm, M Masterpiece). Made between Coppola’s first and second Godfather films, it stars Gene Hackman as a surveillance expert who becomes obsessed by a couple he’s hired to shadow and the company for whom they work. Tony Scott’s 1998 thriller Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith and Hackman, is considered an unofficial sequel — and even fleetingly uses a photo of Hackman’s character from Coppola’s film.
Director David O. Russell’s new film American Hustle has opened to positive reviews and is among the frontrunners for nominations at the upcoming Academy Awards. It comes on the heels of his previous effort Silver Linings Playbook (Tuesday, 8.30pm, M Premiere), which won an Oscar last year but in my view is among the very skilled director’s most chaotic and grating films.
Director Robert Zemeckis ( Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Back to the Future trilogy, Forrest Gump and Cast Away) is adept at special effects that don’t look like special effects. Legend has it studio bosses considered the special effects budget on Forrest Gump wasted because they didn’t believe the feather or ping-pong balls were computer-generated. Zemeckis does it again with Flight (Sunday, 8.30pm, M Premiere), in which alcoholic pilot Denzel Washington performs an impossible manoeuvre with his passenger jet to minimise loss of life during a crash.
There’s never a bad time to revisit a James Bond movie, and the franchise is at a zenith of quality and popularity by virtue of director Sam Mendes’s terrific Skyfall (Thursday, 8.30pm, M Premiere). Daniel Craig returns for his third go as the operative of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Credit screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan for retooling Bond as a contemporary action hero.
Gene Hackman in The Conversation