FULL marks to Pearl tonight for timing. The station is postponing Capitol Critters for a week and replacing it with a documentary on the making of Chen Kaige's controversial film Farewell to My Concubine (9 pm) which has just opened in Hongkong.
The film deals with homosexuality, still a taboo subject in mainland China, and director Chen only learned last week that the Chinese authorities have approved its being shown there.
Former Canto-pop star Leslie Cheung and mainlander Zhang Fenyi play two Peking opera stars who meet in 1920s and form a strong friendship. As their relationship changes and grows with them, their lives are suddenly taken over by more powerful events, with the arrival of the Japanese, the revolution and the Cultural Revolution.
For Chen - whose last film Life on a String did not get past the censors - and for the Chinese movie industry in general, the authorities' approval of Farewell to My Concubine is a big breakthrough.
* * * * AIDS is the subject of As Is (World 11.45 pm ORT 84 mins), a 1986 TV adaptation of a Broadway play which to some extent has been taken over by increased awareness of the disease - though, sadly, many of the attitudes towards its victims have not changed at all.
As Is documents the worsening phases of AIDS, as a hospice worker (Colleen Dewhurst) relates her experiences of working with AIDS patients from diagnosis to support groups and finally to a lonely death.
Robert Carradine plays a rich homosexual writer living in New York who discovers he's contracted the disease. His life is abruptly turned upside down as both his lover (Jonathan Hadary) and his best friend (Joanna Miles) spurn him, and his brother (AllanScarfe) hesitates to come into contact with him.
Darkly humorous at times, the film is a story about love under extreme circumstances. * * * *THE opening sequence to Miles From Home (Pearl 9.45 pm, ORT 108 mins) has Soviet president Khrushchev in 1959 paying an official visit to the most productive farm in Iowa, shaking hands with the farmer (Brian Dennehy) and patting his sons' heads. A promising start, but then it's downhill all the way.
The film flips forward 30 years to see the farm in financial ruin, and the sons (Richard Gere and Kevin Anderson) who are first disillusioned then rebellious.
Gere, as eldest son Frank, burns down the farm rather than see it fall into the hands of the bank, then dons obligatory black hat and takes off on a crime spree across the Mid-West.
Impressionable younger brother Terry follows him, despite the fact that Frank's actions soon become so objectionable as to lose any audience sympathy. * * * * GOLDEN Fiddles (STAR Plus 1.10 am and 8 pm) is a two-part drama set in Adelaide, Australia in the 1920s and dealing with the age-old theme money can't buy you love.
The Balfour family lives from hand to mouth on a tiny farm, until an unexpected inheritance catapults them into riches and glamour.
Kate Nelligan (Frankie and Johnny) stars.
* * * * NEW comedy series Uncle Buck (World 6.30 pm) is based on the film of the same name which starred John Candy and is being shown on Saturday, (wouldn't it have made more sense to show it before starting the series?) The action revolves around a slobbish bachelor uncle who has some very interesting methods of baby-sitting. The film was funny, and let's hope the series is as World is showing it five nights a week. * * * * QED (Pearl 6.30 pm) examines panic attacks, which can strike people anytime, anywhere, and looks at how to deal with them.
* * * * ENGLISH Soccer (Pearl 12.05 am) features Aston Villa against Arsenal, which was played on December 28. There were no English Premier League games played on Saturday, because of the FA Cup third round.