Once upon a time there was a clear line between the output of the British film industry and the British TV movie. Unlike its glossier American counterpart, the latter— if there was such a thing — was deeply
_ rooted in the drama department of
the BBC and. not surprisingly. reflected the good. solid British theatrical tradition that was. if not its father. its favourite crusty uncle.
Then along came Channel 4 at a time when the film industry was floundering. cinema attendances were dwindling and new writers and filmmakers were accepting the warm embrace of television with pens and cameras at the ready. Film on Four productions such as My Beautiful Laundrette and The Good Father pleased both the box office cashiers and the critics. and low budget (in cinema terms) movies backed by the new channel began to appear relatively frequently on the big screen before making a startlingly swift transition to the box.
Now BBCZ has come up with a complete season of Screen Two films that beats the opposition at their own game. Of the twelve feature-length films being broadcast between January and March, three — Enchanted April. Truly. Madly, Deeply and The Object of Beauty — have recently been to a cinema near you: five have appeared at the London Film Festival. and three at the Edinburgh bash. Gillies MacKinnon‘s The Grass Arena played at both and has picked up a couple of awards on the way to its television premiere. most notably the Michael Powell Award for the best British feature film at Edinburgh and the Best British Film and the Distributor‘s Awards at France‘s Dinard Film Festial. A realistic portrait of homelessness and alcoholism. it follows the life ofJohn I-lealy (played by Mark Rylance) from abused childhood. through vagrancy to his rehabilitation as a chess champion.
Other highlights ofthe season include screen adaptations of Bruce Chatwin‘s novel Utz and Muriel Spark’s Memento Mori. The latter reunites Maggie Smith. here on the
. hunt for an anonymous phonecaller.
with the work ofthe Edinburgh-born novelist following her Oscar-winning success with 1969‘s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. (Alan Morrison) Screen Two '3 new season begins on
2 Sunday 19 January with a showing of i The Grass A rena.
As an institution, Catholicism’s purposes are manilold: in literary terms it presents a stimulating source at anguish lor intellectuals like Evelyn Waugh, Simone de Beauvoir and
Germaine Greer. Other writers who ‘ have sought sutlering, and were not
Catholics, have converted, like Muriel Spark and Graham Greene. The laith is an invaluable source at fashion ideas lor Madonna, Kylie, Prince and other popsters but, most ol all, it provides material tor endless dirty jokes. Nuns have borne the brunt at this tasteless tendency— lor what is a vicar-joke without a pregnant nun?
A new Australian mini-series has put paid to the titillation, garnering unprecedented praise lor its sensitive, but dramatic, look at convent lite. Brides oi Christ is set in a Catholic school in the 1960s, a time of upheaval tor the church: Catholic nuns had been urged by the Pope to smarten up their act, rid their image at the mysticism surrounding their image and become more involved with the community. Mass is no longerto be celebrated in Latin and ancient convent rites like the Great Silence and the loreswearing oi Particular Friendship are under debate. Outside the convent walls, ol course, the age of liberation is running rampant-the Pill, Vietnam and the Rolling Stones are the main concerns at a generation to whom religion is increasingly irrelevant.
An inspired setting lor conflict, the
Getting the habit
convent provides a backdrop lor live, sell-contained dramas- teenage upheaval among rebellious pupils; lriction between the novices, and the ever worrisome question oi vocation. The series stars Irish actress, Brenda Fricker (winner ol a 1990 Oscar lor her supporting role in My Left Foot) as Sister Agnes and Sandy Gore as the liberal, level-headed Mother Superior. An ex-convent girl herself, Gore lound that being in Brides ‘was really like putting on an old shirt— but with a new perception.‘ She realises now that nuns, as ‘careerwomen’, deserved more at her inlant respect. The suggestion is that Brides may spark oil a fashion ior nuns; new books on the subject are eagerly awaited lrom Greer, O'Brien and other Catholic rebels. (Miranda France)
Brides Ol Christ starts on Channel 4 on Thursday 23 January at 10pm.
From the people who brought you Deathwatch. . . comes Bratwatch, a nostalgic look back on the linies that dogged adult TV shows. Usually the last reluge oi a desperate producer, babies could always be relied onto induce sloppy audiences to go ‘aaah' at the slightest coo, and push viewing ligures through the root. We start with Coronation Street's own Tracey Barlow.
Trace was the ollspring ot dopy Deirdre Langton and sleazy husband Bay (a bad ‘un who swanned oil to Holland rather than lace up to parental responsibilities). At the age oi two Trace went missing and a despairing Deirdre headed for the canal with sell-immersion in mind. Ken Barlow came to the rescue, cleaned Deirdre’s specs and the rest is history. Tracey
was lound sale and well down the Red Rec.
Tracey‘s next major role was when Interesting Ken suggested he adopt her. Street tans who were tiring oi their regular catchphrase (Brian Tilsley's ‘I need a new hydraulic jack ler me garage Gaaaail') were given a new rallying cry, Trace‘s plaintive wail ‘I don‘t know whether me name's Langton or Baaaarlow', a mantra that can still be heard whenever Street types get together.
Tracey is now a sulky teenager hanging around Jim’s call with the MacDonald twins. It‘s rather disturbing to see a child who has grown up with the programme on the ‘threshold at womanhood'. All the same the book is declared open on who Tracey will lose her virginity to. Prices as lollows: Steve MacDonald 6-4 lav. Mike Baldwin 4-1 , Des Barnes 8-1, Jack Duckworth 20-1, Percy Sugden 100-1.
I Guitar Legends Radio fans. prepare yourselves for disappointment and consolation: there is little of interest to be gleaned from your w irelesscs this fortnight -- but this should prove a sparkling exception. In the run-up to Sex ille's Expo 93. the city hosted an extraordinary seriesof live concerts in homrnage to lhe world's great guitarists. Asan introduction to Radio 1‘s coverage of the eventdefl (irilfin interviews Bo Diddlcy. BB King. (ieorge Benson. Bob
1)} Ian. Keith Richards and Brian Ma}. (Sat l8. 3pm)
The first of the concerts features Bo [)iddlcy. BB King. Robert (‘ray . Dave lidmunds. Albert (‘ollins and Stese ('ropper. (Sat lls‘. opm)
I What iI. . . In 1968. linoch Powell's ministerial career ended abruptly when Iidward llcath sacked him forthe contrm ersial ‘Rivers of Blood speech. in which he predicted that immigration would provoke bloodshed and misery in Britain. llere ('hristopher Andrews asks ‘w hat il linoch Powell had continued as a shadow minister and taken his place. two years later. in a (‘onsersative government." Powell hirnsell ponders the question. with Politics lecturer. Patrick Seyd. (Radio-3.8a!18.5pm)
I Book at BedtimezThe SOUlIl()ne ollreland's I most admired journalists. (‘olm 'l'oibin's first novel won last year's Aer | lingus Irish'l‘irnes Award. It tells the story of
a woman w ho |ea\es her husband. her ten-yeai-old son and .l guilt)
Barcelona. w here she
meets Miguel. an
anarchist and \ eleian ol another ('i\ H “at.
contemplate the irony of their lurx e. 1 Radio 4. Wed 22. lllJSpm)
I You Can't Have One
Without The Other .»\ stud}
of the comedian and his stooge. lealurrng Dean Martin andJerry Lewis. 'l‘on} Hancock and Sid .lames. (‘annon and Ball
and Mor'ecarnbe and
Wise. 'l'lie straight guys
ha\e their day at last - too late for most of them. (Radio 3. Wed 33. Tillpml
I The Labyrinth Makers 'l'his Silver Dagger Award-winning tale of espionage kicks off w ith the discos er) of secret files relating to w reeked World War Two Dakota aeroplanes -- one with the pilot's skeleton still sitting at the controls. The SIS is intrigued. so too the
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