Preview RECOMMENDED VIEWING THIS WEEKEND by Gerard Gilbert
Is This Your Life? Sat 9.30 pm C4
Cinefile Sat 10.15pm C4
Idi Amin Dada Sun 8.10pm BBC2
The big picture
Sunday 9pm C4
Cult campmeister John Waters reached his largest audience with this 1988 satire, about a starstruck young teenager (Ricki Lake) living in 1962 Baltimore, "the hairdo capital of the world". Lake disobeys her mother (Divine, perfect) and auditions for a TV dance show. The pleasures of Hairspray are glowing and numerous. For one thing, all the characters have extremely silly names - Tracy Turnblad, Franklin von Tussle, Seaweed - for another, the rock'n'roll soundtrack is simply irresistible, and the cast... well, the cast is sheer heaven. Sonny Bono, Pia Zadora and the unimpeachable Debbie Harry (above, right) are amongst those making the film go with a very loud pop.
Something very strange is happening to Andrew Neil's face. It's like those clever computer-massaged portraits in which peoples' heads blend into each other - Neil's features are blending into an amalgam of his own, Clive James's and David Frost's, the cost perhaps of some Dorian Gray-ish pact to keep him on our television screens. Even the famous hair - which spawned the "Brillo" nickname - has been smoothed down with artificial ointments (perhaps it is just sweat) and natural decay. Maybe he should be nicknamed "Brillcreamo" from now on.
If that sounds prurient and over-personal, then so is his Is This Your Life? (Sat C4), a booby-trapped landmine of an interview show which has Channel 4 written on it to obscure its country of origin - Fleet Street. Not that I'm complaining - TV could do with a little less reverence to its own. By contrast with Neil, his guest, the 56-year-old Germaine Greer, looks radiant - a living testimony to saying what you think and taking life by the balls. The anatomical simile is in tune with tonight's show, as Greer debates how being raped with a penis is less unpleasant than having a broomstick stuck up one's anus, and as Neil plays "surprise, surprise" with a picture of the naked and contorted Greer taken during her brief employment by the satirical sex magazine, Suck. (The lower half is carefully pixillated to keep within the letter of the Broadcasting Act.) Other surprises include Xavier Hollander recounting how she met Greer at an orgy, and her former husband, who claimed she only married him out of social-anthropological interest. Unfair, fun, and you'd like to see the tables turned on Andrew Neil.
Bookmark (Sat BBC2) contributes to the African Summer season with a film about Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad's novel about a clerk sent upriver in the Belgian Congo to check up on an ivory trading station master, Kurtz, who has gone native in a big way. The heart of the film is a rather superior abridged version of the book, narrated by Alfred Molina and accompanied by meditative scenes from the "modern" River Zaire.
Idi Amin became modern Uganda's Kurtz, although Barbet Schroeder's 1973 portrait, Idi Amin Dada (Sun BBC2) - which was the General's full name, not some surrealist slant by Schroeder - catches him in the early stages of the horror... the horror. 1973 found Amin obsessed with helping his new Arab chums invade Israel (he sensitively telegrammed Kurt Waldheim on the morning after the Munich Massacre to discuss the correctness of Hitler's policies towards the Jews), and whetting the appetites of the crocodiles of Lake Victoria with the odd foreign minister or two.
Amin claimed to know the exact hour of his death. The director of such trash classics as Pink Flamingos, John Waters, showed equal prescience when, aged eight, he refused to swear an oath to the Catholic League of Decency. Cinefile (Sat C4), the curtain-raiser to a season of films about American youth which starts on Sunday with Waters's Hairspray, finds the mouth beneath that famous pencil-line moustache in fine, scabrous form. On his youthful (now adult) aversion to sport: "I don't care what happens to OJ; he plays sport. All sportsmen should be OJ'd". And on Woodstock: "I had no desire to be at Woodstock... all those hippies in all that mud. Altamont was more my kind of gig."
The big fight
Nigel Benn vs Vincenzo Nardiello
Saturday 9pm Sky Sports
Nigel Benn's nom de guerre, "The Dark Destroyer", has always sat uneasily with his personality: in interviews he comes across as a genuinely nice, well-balanced bloke - unlike Chris Eubank, he knows he's not a philosopher; unlike Frank Bruno, he knows he's not a pantomime thespian. The nickname has looked even more ill-chosen since Benn's last fight, in which his superb, crushing performance left his opponent, Gerald McClellan, hospitalised with brain damage from which he has not yet recovered. Can Benn, now knowing first-hand his power to maim, summon up the necessary aggression to retain his WBC super-middleweight crown convincingly?
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