The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

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.

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