The Weekend's TV: Any Human Heart / Sun Channel 4 </br> The Duchess of Malfi / Sat More 4

Rude awakening for a dream lover
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The Independent Culture

Any Human Heart is most insistent about its central theme, restated once again at the beginning of last night's episode. "A life is all about luck," mused Logan Mountstuart. "In the end that's all there is... all the good luck and all the bad luck you've had."

Three episodes in, though, and the good luck is getting a bit thin on the ground. True, Logan was saved from his own suicide attempt by an accident, the girl he'd failed to bed returning a little later for her Zippo lighter, which Logan has kept as a talisman of contingent fortune. True too that he seems to have landed on his feet in New York, with a classy apartment and a beautiful, if somewhat passionless wife. But a glum passivity still seems to be the keynote of his character. What drive Logan once possessed has long since disappeared, as he admitted himself at one point. "There's no plan," he said, "things are just happening to me." And the persistent question – in this exceptionally well-made drama – is whether a hero this acquiescent can secure our loyalty. Logan, we now understand, goes with the flow. But what is there to keep us drifting along with him? Might there be a reason why novels and films routinely pretend that life has more plot to it than is actually the case?

Still, it's an entertaining drift, perked up with a lot of sex, which is the form that good luck most frequently takes in Logan's life. And while his wife might not be very interested in sleeping with him, his friend Peter's wife is – Kim Cattrall pitching up as the predatory Gloria, who suggests a "boffe de politesse" as a kind of sexual test-drive. "That was all very satisfactory," she said afterwards, as she did up her bra strap, "You're hired." Gloria is something of an isolated uptick in Logan's life though – grief for Freya and his daughter (killed by a bomb in the war) being the predominant note. Logan hasn't had another crack at self-slaughter – despite the ghostly form of Ernest Hemingway showing up to recommend it as a remedy for the blues – but he is drinking heavily (spiking his breakfast beer with vodka) and visiting a psychotherapist, nicely played by Richard Schiff. There haven't been a lot of laughs in Any Human Heart but this week delivered at least two, the first when Logan's shrink was briefly called out of the room and he got a chance to peek at his case notes, discovering nothing more analytical than page after page of ornate doodles.

Then it was time for another reminder of the theme. "Life doesn't run on railroad tracks," said Logan. "Something happens out of the blue and everything changes." In his case it was the arrival of his son Lionel, who turned up with a British rock band in New York and almost immediately managed to choke on his own vomit, ratcheting Logan's misery up another notch. There can be an unintentional comedy to this kind of thing, particularly when you cut away from Logan looking gloomy in the early Sixties for a quick burst of Logan looking absolutely wretched in old age, in this case Jim Broadbent on a French beach, gazing with measureless dolour at young women's breasts. Paradoxically though, given that he plays the hero in old age, Broadbent also injected a bit more youthful vitality into the drama – his role expanding from mere memento mori as the story reached Logan's late middle age. The second laugh came here when the impoverished Logan grandly sacked the literary agency who'd last earned a percentage from him during the Second World War – a very welcome burst of energy. Broadbent, I was thinking admiringly, could appear in a road-safety film and imbue it with a sense of human depth. At which point we got what looked almost exactly like a road-safety film. "It's not about looking back is it... it's about looking ahead," said Logan sententiously, before stepping directly into the path of a delivery van. And looking right and left, Logan. That too.

In The Duchess of Malfi, More 4 followed the preparations for Punchdrunk's innovative production of the world's first immersive opera, staged in an empty office block in the Docklands. They did not go about things in a traditional manner. The composer of the opera appeared to be one of the last people to have been told about it and then discovered that he would have to write a kind of exploded score, with different sections of the orchestra performing in different parts of the building at the same time. The lead had never sung contemporary music before, and the task of staying in tune was made even harder for her by the fact that the bits of the score that would keep her on track wouldn't necessarily be audible from where she was singing. Punchdrunk aren't very keen on linearity either, and had constructed the piece in such a way that the audience couldn't tell where it started or where it ended, or which order the bits in between came. It was like tailoring a bespoke suit without taking any measurements from the client or bothering with the tedious process of sewing the bits together before delivery. And, since Punchdrunk are preciously protective of the live experience, the film-makers weren't even allowed to show the end result, so we could try and judge whether it had worked. By all accounts, though, the Emperor loved his suit and thought it fitted perfectly.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

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