(M) Sunday, 12.25am, Masterpiece
(PG) Wednesday, 6.40pm, Romance
(M) Monday, 10.30pm, Masterpiece
Million Dollar Baby
WHAT do the following films have in common: Surrogates, Sex and the City, Drive Me to Hell, A Clockwork Orange and Disney’s Fantasia? Answer: Along with about 200 others, they all have bits of Beethoven’s music on the soundtrack. The composer himself featured in Immortal Beloved, a 1994 biopic with Gary Oldman, and was played most recently by Ed Harris in (Wednesday, 6.40pm, Romance), a likable romantic fantasy directed by Agnieszka Holland. We are asked to believe that Beethoven hired a young music student (Diane Kruger) to copy out the orchestral parts of his score for the Ninth Sympathy. The
mood of the period is well caught, Harris delivers a fine study of tormented genius, and the film closes with a triumphant first performance of the Ninth, conducted by the composer with some off-stage prompting from his copyist. It’s all rather contrived, but full of passionate, theatrical touches. I think Beethoven would have liked it.
(Sunday, 4.20pm, Masterpiece) famously concerns a psychopathic killer — two such killers, in fact — one who flays his female victims alive (and is mercifully not seen), the other who prefers to eat them. The source, Thomas Harris’s novel Red Dragon, was first filmed by Michael Mann in 1986 as Manhunter. But it was Jonathan Demme’s film that caught the public imagination, thanks to Anthony Hopkins’s hypnotic performance as Hannibal (“The Cannibal”) Lecter, one of the cinema’s most celebrated villains. His scenes with Jodie Foster’s FBI agent are unbearably tense. The film collected five Oscars, including best picture, and the screenplay is admired for its touches of bitter humour: “I do wish we could chat longer, but I’m having an old friend for
The Silence of the Lambs
dinner.” Though beautifully crafted, Silence ranks among my least favourite Oscar-winning films, perhaps because I found the sadistic relish of the subject matter too much to stomach. My deserving winners include
(Monday, 10.30pm, Masterpiece), Clint Eastwood’s fine, understated drama about a dead-beat boxing trainer who agrees to coach a not-so-young, rough-hewn backwoods girl (Hilary Swank) for a career in the ring. The relationship between Maggie and Eastwood’s Frankie Dunn might have been hopelessly sentimental, but it’s explored with honesty and depth in this bracingly poignant film.
Two years ago I’d have given the best picture Oscar to Michael Haneke’s (Sunday, 12.25am, Masterpiece), which had to settle for best foreign-language film. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play a married couple in their 80s whose lives are transformed when she succumbs to dementia and her husband resolves to care for her. It’s a film of shining goodness and compassion, with a devastating, though not unexpected, climax.
May 3-4, 2014
Ed Harris in