Week’s best films
WITH Easter and Anzac Day competing for screen time this week, viewers are rewarded with a generous mix of grim war movies and seasonal crowd-pleasers.
Easter Parade (Sunday, 4.15pm, Gem), this column’s second favourite musical, is crammed with gorgeous costumes and lovely Irving Berlin songs, with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland supplying the romantic bits. And yes, everyone’s all-time favourite musical, Singin’ in the Rain (Sunday, 2pm, Gem), is showing as well. It has nothing to do with Holy Week, but with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor knocking our socks off in every second scene, who cares? Mel Gibson gives us the dark side of Easter in The Passion of
the Christ (Saturday, 9.30pm, SBS One), his graphic and deeply moving account of the Crucifixion, best seen as Gibson’s personal testament of his faith. Jim Caviezel plays Jesus in all his anguish and loneliness.
Platoon (Sunday, 11.30pm, ABC1) is probably the best film made about the Vietnam War and one of the best war movies of any period. Oliver Stone delivers a shattering insight into the misery and terror of close-range combat, with no hint of moralising or patriotic fervour.
All Quiet on the Western Front (Friday, 11pm, 7Two) is a TV remake of Lewis Milestone’s World War I classic, no match for the original and no match for Jeremy Sims’s Beneath Hill 60 (Friday, 8.30pm, 7Two). Sims’s film ranks with Peter Weir’s Gallipoli among the greatest of Australian war films (and considering the importance of war in our history, there haven’t been many of them). It’s an account of an attack by the 1st Australian Tunnellers — a bunch of raw, largely untrained volunteers, many of them miners or civil engineers at home — on a fortified German position at Ypres. More than 700 Germans died when the first explosive charges were detonated under their trenches. And lest we forget, more Australians died in World War I than Americans in Vietnam.
For something completely different, I recommend Julie Taymor’s The Tempest (Saturday, 9pm, 7Two), starring Helen Mirren as Prospera, the duchess of Milan. Yes, it’s Shakespeare, and Prospero has become Prospera — for the good reason (according to Taymor) that she couldn’t find a male actor who excited her enough. At least we have a male actor playing Ferdinand. The play has everything Hollywood loves — fantasy, magic, spectacle, a fearsome monster, triumphant lovers — and the film is a delight, a judicious mixture of visual and verbal pleasures, with magical effects that are enchanting but never intrusive. Djimon Hounsou’s Caliban brings rare pride and dignity to the monster’s role, and Reeve Carney (Ferdinand) and Felicity Jones (Miranda) exude just the right childlike innocence and infatuation as the lovers.