Performance (M) Sunday, 8.35pm, Masterpiece
Evelyn (PG) Tuesday, 12.10am, Romance
The Best Years of Our Lives (PG) Saturday, 8.30pm, Fox Classics
WE take music in films for granted, and this column likes nothing better than a great musical, but films about music itself are rare indeed. I mean films about the dynamics of music-making, the passions and rivalries to be found in a group of musical performers. A Late Quartet, released in Australia as
Performance (Sunday, 8.35pm, Masterpiece), and not to be confused with the 1970 film of that name with Mick Jagger, is one of the great, insightful films about the art of music-making, in which the members of a world-famous string quartet struggle to stay together in the face of death, lust and competing egos. Superb performances all round — from Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mark Ivanir and Catherine Keener, who play the musicians, and from the members of the Brentano String Quartet, who play the instruments heard on the soundtrack.
Bruce Beresford once said he had been trying for years to have the name of one of his films scrubbed from his CV, but wouldn’t say which one. My guess at the time was King David, but I wonder now if it was Evelyn (Tuesday, 12.10am, Romance), an odd one from the Aussie director and like nothing he had done before.
It’s the story of an Irishman, Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan), deserted by his wife and deprived of the custody of his three children, who took on the Irish minister for education in a historic legal battle in 1953 and had the children restored to him.
Unashamedly sentimental and deviously heart-tugging, but when a story is true, or even partly true, much contrivance and exaggeration can be forgiven. Brosnan makes a brave and determined hero, there’s a plucky little girl at the centre of things, some nice eccentric characters and a climactic courtroom scene. What more could one ask?
And three classics this week about war and its aftermath. Apocalypse Now (Friday, 8.35pm, Fox Classics) is Francis Ford Coppola’s surreal contemplation of the agony of Vietnam, with Marlon Brando as a renegade officer, some famous lines (“I love the smell of napalm in the morning”) and a famous Wagner tune.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (Thursday, 8.35pm, Fox Classics) is the supreme wartime adventure yarn, superbly filmed by David Lean with some troubling reflections on the morality of war itself.
And The Best Years of Our Lives (Saturday, 8.30pm, Fox Classics) is the best Hollywood film about men returning from war to rejoin civilian life. It was a huge hit. “I don’t care if it doesn’t make a nickel,” producer Sam Goldwyn reportedly said. “I just want every man, woman and child in America to see it.” And just about everyone did.
Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now