Jean Dujardin stars in the Artist.

Jean Dujardin stars in The Artist.

MOVIES

The Artist (2011), Movie One (pay TV), 8.30pm

A YOUNG woman dreams of becoming a Hollywood star. She tries for a job as a movie extra, but things don't look good until she meets a silent movie star with whom she has long been enamoured. He is on the downward slide and now an alcoholic. But they get married and, while he sinks into obscurity, she gets her big break. A star is born.

Fiona Bruce looks at the story of a lost masterpiece in <i>Da Vinci: The Lost Treasure</i>.

Fiona Bruce looks at the story of a lost masterpiece in Da Vinci: The Lost Treasure.

That is the plot of the Oscar-winning The Artist, from French writer-director Michel Hazanavicius. It is also, of course, the plot of A Star Is Born, first made in 1937 (with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March: the great version), then remade in 1956 (Judy Garland and James Mason) and 1976 (Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson).

Appreciating The Artist's many charms comes down to whether you can forgive the ungracious purloining of a masterwork or will happily forget all and embrace it as new.

Assuming you are one of the latter, the film dazzles from the start: the sensuous black and white images, the silent soundtrack (excepting Ludovic Bource's music), exuberant performances from the two charismatic leads (Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo) and a highly polished charm. You may also be delighted that Hazanavicius has changed the original ending (where a man walks into the sea to free his wife from the burden of his decline) and come up with something far more modern and heart-warming.

And, despite being entirely made in Hollywood, The Artist feels like a French movie, with all the expected intellectual cleverness and postmodern playfulness. One also has to applaud Hazanavicius for so obsessively re-creating the look of a 1920s film. If only it had had the good manners to acknowledge where it came from.

We Were Strangers (1949), ABC1, 1.15am (Tuesday)

SCRIPTWRITER Peter Viertel worked with director John Huston on three films and even wrote a fictional account of their making The African Queen, which Clint Eastwood later filmed as White Hunter Black Heart.

Their first collaboration was We Were Strangers, a Cuban war drama starring Jennifer Jones and John Garfield. The heroes are pre-Castro revolutionaries, which is a bit like portraying the mujahideen as the good guys in Rambo III. Whomever Hollywood supports seems to fluctuate with the political tide.

SCOTT MURRAY


FREE TO AIR

Louis Theroux: Extreme Love - Autism, ABC2, 8.30pm

IN LOUIS Theroux's latest documentary series, Extreme Love, he moves away from quirky marginal characters and eccentrics willing to impart cringe-inducing wisdom to tackle heavier issues, namely the ''extreme pressures'' placed on relationships by conditions such as dementia (a subject of another documentary in this series) and autism, tonight's subject. Theroux visits one of the top schools in the US for students with autism, the Developmental Learning Centre in Warren, New Jersey, and meets kids who have been diagnosed with varying degrees of the disorder and the people who care for them. It's a departure from his usual schtick and at times he seems to be out of his comfort zone - the emotional subject matter doesn't lend itself to his usual faux-naive style. But he succeeds in providing us with a touching insight into the lives of families coping with severely autistic children. It's often difficult viewing: watching 13-year-old Joey being restrained during a violent tantrum by his mother, who, when Theroux asks if they should stop filming, says she wants people to see ''what autism is really like''; 20-year-old Brian, who lives in a residential care facility during the week as his mother can no longer cope with his ''behaviours'' since he burnt down the family home (and who, despite using very little verbal communication, manages to warm to Theroux); and Paula, mother to autistic twins Lucy and Marcello, about whom she says she just tries to make them happy because ''God forgive me, but I don't get a lot of enjoyment from them''. Wow. It's not all depressing though, and Nicky, a high-functioning autistic student, who was non-verbal until age six, offers some hope. It's moving viewing as much about the extraordinary love and patience shown by these kids' parents as it is about the progress being made in the treatment of the disorder.

Da Vinci: The Lost Treasure, ABC1, 9.30pm

MADE to tie in with the blockbuster da Vinci exhibition at London's National Gallery at the end of 2011, this doco is ostensibly about the freshly discovered 1513 da Vinci portrait Salvator Mundi, one of the key pieces in that exhibition. This was the first time the masterpiece, thought to have been lost, was filmed - it was bought in a clearance sale for just £45 and is now estimated to be worth £125 million ($195 million). Mostly, though, this is really a profile piece of Leonardo da Vinci, who was something of a rock star of the Renaissance.

Motorway Patrol, Channel Seven, 7.30pm

THIS might as well be sponsored by New Zealand Tourism, such is the friendliness of the Kiwi cops that feature and the laid-back attitude of the locals caught speeding or busted hitch-hiking on motorways. Nobody tries to outrun the cops, gets shot, or utters an unkind word. It's bizarrely compelling for those of us accustomed to the Victoria Police - sort of the anti-Cops, eh?

Hollywood Treasure, 7mate, 8pm

YET another in the popular auction house genre, this one themed Hollywood memorabilia. It's still achingly dull. Collector Joe Maddalina and his team hunt what would be leftover props in the rest of the world and try to auction them.

KYLIE NORTHOVER


PAY TV

Watson & Oliver, UKTV, 7.30pm

Patchy but enjoyable British sketch show starring Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver, tonight with a guest appearance by John Barrowman.

Trollied, UKTV, 8.40pm

Jane Horrocks stars in a pleasant little sitcom set in a British supermarket.

Baggage Battles, A&E, 7.30pm

Three teams of buyers go to unclaimed-baggage auctions at US airports.

BRAD NEWSOME