Somersault (MA15+) Friday, 8.30pm, Romance
The Magdalene Sisters (MA15+) Sunday, 10.10pm, Romance
Spartacus (M) Thursday, 8.35pm, Fox Classics
HAUTE Cuisine (Sunday, 8.30pm, Masterpiece) is an enchanting film about food — the joys of cooking and the pleasures of eating. And not surprisingly, it’s French — the story of Daniele Delpeuch, the only woman to have been chief cook at the Elysee Palace, the residence of the French president.
In Christian Vincent’s film she’s called Hortense, and is played with great charm by Catherine Frot. For two years she prepared meals for Francois Mitterrand, who regarded eating as both a convivial ritual and a celebration of French cultural achievement — so no shortage of mouthwatering close-ups of elaborate dishes. Mitterrand was also reputed to be a serial seducer, and staff at the palace were suspicious of his intimate friendship with his chef. When tensions proved too much, she left to work as a cook at a French scientific base in Antarctica. An Australian TV journalist making a film about her career has a neat line for the gossip-mongers: “It’s not the same in Australia. We don’t have a president.” Well, not yet.
Catholics having a hard time with reports of royal commissions into child abuse, and senior prelates in the witness box should brace themselves for more unpleasantness in The
Magdalene Sisters (Sunday, 10.10pm, Romance), Peter Mullan’s film about the sadistic treatment of Irish girls in a Catholic institution in Dublin in the 1960s.
Ireland had many Magdalene asylums, and according to Mullan, who wrote and directed this unpleasant but extremely gripping film, as many as 30,000 girls passed through their doors, to be beaten, poorly fed and held against their will with little prospect of release. Geraldine McEwan makes a forbidding Sister Bridget, who rules with a heavy strap and much invective. There are reminders of Rabbit-Proof Fence, about three girls who escape from a church institution where they have been locked away. Mullan’s film touches us in the same way.
Australia has produced a string of good films about the awkwardness of youth and the pains of growing up , but none better than Cate Shortland’s Somersault (Friday, 8.30pm, Romance). Abbie Cornish is Heidi, living with her single mother in Canberra, and the image of adolescent wilfulness and confusion. After making a pass at her mother’s boyfriend, she takes up with the sturdy, rather straight-laced Joe (Sam Worthington). The film resonates with truthfulness and a powerful spring of hope, and I recommend it warmly.
But you’d like more action, more spectacle, some grand battle scenes? Stanley Kubrick’s
Spartacus (Thursday, 8.30pm, Fox Classics) is the one for you — the true story of a slave rebellion in ancient Rome, with Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier, perhaps the most literate and intelligent epic the cinema has given us.