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The Independent Culture
It was a pity that "A Day on the Mountain", Omnibus's film (BBC1) about Cezanne, did not show some of the single-mindedness of its subject. Cezanne himself painted Mont Saint Victoire no less than 65 times, transforming its intransigent, dependable contours into a play of colour and light. It was an almost heroic example of artistic focus but it was not followed by James Runcie's film, which was prey to a skittish febrility of invention.

Some of the ideas were very good - a sequence in which the 19 components of Cezanne's palette ("19 colours that make up my life") were named as the camera showed you raw, powdered colour, or a moment when the artist Patrick Hughes tinkered with a computer, erasing a photograph of Mont Saint Victoire to show Cezanne's transformation of the scene lying beneath, so that the charcoal silhouette of a real tree bloomed into vivid colour. Other ideas were very bad, such as the black-and-white footage of an actor grumpily pretending to be Cezanne and the repeated tableaux vivants in which some of his more famous paintings were made flesh. Though always happy to look at naked women, however thin the rationale, I really could not see how these were supposed to enlighten us about Cezanne's paintings.

It was a little more difficult to come up with a verdict about the over- arching idea of the film, which was to commission three different artists - a painter, a poet and a photographer - to travel to Mont Saint Victoire, talk about Cezanne and then produce an art work which in some way responded to his genius. This certainly seemed like a good idea in theory - an antidote to the slightly enervating courtship which you get with so many film profiles of artists, all those academics and industry placemen queuing up to pay homage. But in practice it wasn't very much different. "He was a difficult man and he's still a difficult artist," said Patrick Hughes, a bright purple blot on the Provencal landscape. I sat up at this, hoping we might get some exploration of Cezanne's ugly, Playdoh figures, or the uncomfortable heft of his early foliage, which can look as if it would need girders to keep it in place. But the remark wasn't amplified in any way - we were soon back to the faintly oppressive enumeration of qualities, the "remarkable" this and "extra- ordinary" that which are obligatory in such celebrations. The idea that the encounter with a great artist might be uncomfortable, or in some way dismaying, faded before the more conventional picture - that of surrender to self-evident mastery.

The artworks which resulted were not exactly insubordinate either. Hughes constructed an odd virtual gallery, a toy theatre device on the walls of which he painted 12 miniature copies of Cezanne landscapes. Liz Lochhead, the poet, tramped gamely up the foothills of Mont Saint Victoire and did a brief tableau herself - staring out at the scenery and pretending to be visited by the muse. The end result was a reverential poem which concluded "Colour can move, Can make/ Mountains". Thomas Joshua Cooper, the photographer, took a black- and-white picture of rock formations which seems to have disappointed Runcie - it appeared on screen for only so long as was consistent with politeness. You were relieved to get back to Cezanne, which might have been the idea all along.

The palette from which Call Red (ITV) is composed is very limited indeed. Wooden acting, cardboard dialogue, crash zooms, medical jargon, bow-tied consultants (boo!), machines that go beep, and a big red helicopter. Inexperienced diagnosticians could be misled by the frenzied agitation of these elements into believing that the series was still alive but the wiser viewer will realise it shows no vital signs at all. These are merely reflex spasms, the moribund twitches of a Grade A, self-basting, factory-farm turkey. Even the makers know it - with excoriating candour, last night's episode was called "Life Extinct".

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