Sunday, July 8

Sunday, July 8

Hilarious and thought provoking … Kumare.Free to air

Kumare, ABC2, 8.30pmShow of the week

The religious market has long been a duopoly, dominated by Islam and, in the US at least, by the hippy dude from Galilee. But such is the unquenchable thirst for meaning that there is always room for hard-working niche players such as Vikram Gandhi, aka Sri Kumare.

As a child, the American-born Gandhi, who grew up in New Jersey, would watch spellbound as his grandmother performed traditional Hindu prayers in the family’s living room. Later, after his own spiritual quest had come to nought, he concluded that no one is more spiritual than anyone else, that spiritual leaders are illusions, and that it is we who decide who and what is “real”.

In an attempt to publicly prove this theory, he then decided to transform himself into a guru (”If I could do it,” he says, ”wouldn’t it prove anyone could?”), all the while documenting his metamorphosis on film.

By turns hilarious, thought-provoking and a little disturbing, Gandhi’s film premiered at last year’s South by Southwest film festival, where it won the feature film audience award for best documentary feature.

In one sense it’s one long parlour trick – the story, as Gandhi puts it, “of the biggest lie I’ve ever told”. Having grown his beard, donned robes and adopted a ludicrous Indian accent, Gandhi becomes Kumare, or “divine child”, a guru from the East, who with made up yoga moves and nonsense chants (“be all you can be”) sets about winning acolytes.

Incredibly, the more absurd his message and the more banal his gestures (he draws a penis on a man’s forehead, and adorns a shrine with images of himself, Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden), the more people go for it. And yet the deeper he goes, the more he is confronted by difficult questions about his own identity.

All hail Kumare, the truest false prophet ever!

Antiques Master, ABC1, 6pm

Close the curtains, disconnect the phone and pour yourself a nice hot Jarrah, here come those bitchin’ cats from Antiques Master! I’d previously assumed Gardening Australia was the daggiest half hour on Australian TV – and I say that as a massive GA fan – but watching the contestants on this antiques game show has recalibrated my nerd-o-meter.

Set against the emerald rugs and marble busts of Towneley Hall, in Lancashire, England, four contestants battle it out in a series of challenges that include ”What’s it Worth?” and ”A Place in Time”. (It’s a white-knuckle ride, all right.) Each contestant has a speciality – there’s the corpulent, tweedy Robert Gray (antique biscuit tins), new mother Sarah Morris (Lalique glass), brash Young Turk Glen Stevens (Moorcroft pottery) and Sue Hirons (Doulton ware). Do they have what it takes to go all the way? I dunno: I nodded off halfway through.

Sporting Nation, ABC1, 7.30pm

Even for the most sports-allergic viewer, Cathy Freeman’s win in the 400 metres at the Sydney Olympics was a goose-bump moment, one that evoked an intoxicating array of emotions: pride, exultation, even relief. Using the win as an entry into the modern era, John Clarke dissembles a few of our favourite sporting myths, such as the fact we’re ”the most sports mad country in the world.” (Turkey leaves us for dead, according to Harry Kewell.) As Clarke observes, playing sport has been replaced by watching it, even as our collective attention span continues to shrivel.

Wallander, ABC1, 8.30pm

We’re in southern Sweden, land of eternal dusk. There’s an elderly couple in an isolated farmhouse. Then intruders, with ropes and blunt instruments. Lots of violence, loads of blood, and Kurt Wallander, a cop too empathetic for his own good, who is called in to put the pieces back together.

Fans of quality police procedurals will find much to relish in this polished drama, which is based on a novel by Henning Menkell. Kenneth Branagh doesn’t put a foot wrong as Wallander, who tonight inadvertently sets off a firestorm with one simple yet explosive word: ”foreigner”.

Tim ElliottMovies

Easy Rider (1969) ABC1, 11pm

Follow the Yellow Brick Road or Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Somewhere in a cache of late-’60s nostalgia, I still have a life-sized poster of Peter Fonda posing as cool as you please in fashionable sharecropper’s overalls amid groves of healthy plants bearing a remarkable similarity to shrubs described by the Herald’s botanical writer, Dr Strobelight Talbot-Talbot Weemyss, as ”er, the genuine article – cannabis sativa whatsis”. This film ran locally for almost a year, establishing itself as a generational cult classic, but it’s not that good, really, as a flick. As a verite doco, however, it retains some worth. The story involves a couple of blokes who have prospered from a drug run tooling around on bikes trying to find a freedom that is either elusive or non-existent. A strong satirical element is evident as the film revs hard with contradictions both in its content and its style – taut but limp, predictable yet elusive, contradictory senses of purpose and distraction. Wyatt and Billy (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) are a couple of bikers heading to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Their hippie appearance doesn’t exactly smooth the way and they are arrested in Texas where they encounter George Hanson (Jack Nicholson), who joins their odyssey and veers into a wondrous raving babble about Venusians after smoking his first joint. Eventually they arrive. But is it just at another point of departure? Phil Spector has a lot to answer for as the dope-dealing spiv, Connection, and, in a vaguely poetic way, he probably is.

Suspicion (1941) ABC1, 12.30am (Mon)

Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant), a wealthy bounder and cad, woos a sheltered spinster, Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine), who lives in a splendid English manor house to which they repair following their marriage and where, it seems, happiness will remove the stain of Johnnie’s past indiscretions. But he becomes involved in a botched embezzlement scheme that costs the life of his stumblebum partner, Beaky (Nigel Bruce). Suspecting Johnnie may have ”removed” Beaky as a matter of convenience, Lina fears for her own safety. She does so with such conviction the Academy was moved to award her an Oscar, making this critically well-regarded film one to contemplate if you’re up late or possess sufficient skill to activate the necessary recording device. Some reviewers suggested that by throwing in a happy ending, Alfred Hitchcock behaved like a conjuror explaining his tricks.

Doug Anderson

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