Freeview films 29 August to 3 September

World Cinema


By Sim Fox

On Friday (3/9) at 01:35, Film4 is showing Force Majeure (2014), overlooked by Cheltenham Film Society in 2015. Tomas and Ebba are a well-heeled Scandinavian couple on a skiing holiday in the Alps with their two young children. Faced with a supposedly controlled avalanche that looks like it will engulf their mountain-top hotel, Tomas panics and chooses the wrong option in the ‘Fight or Flight’ dichotomy. He legs it from their table in the outdoor restaurant, pushing another man out of the way, and abandons his family. 

The physical disaster, fortunately, is avoided but the domestic force majeure – an event beyond the control of the parties involved – has already struck. The rest of the film is a cool and forensic account of the consequences for the diffident Tomas, who is also running away from taking responsibility for his actions. The crisis of modern masculinity gets an airing here for sure. 

As Ebba processes Tomas’s denial her anger mounts. There are some tense encounters with their friends.  Meanwhile a hotel attendant observes the entitled but unhappy guests with wry bemusement. 

The final snowbound scenes are immensely gripping, while ambiguous in their meaning. But it seems disaster is always ready to strike… in one way or another. 

Ruben Östlund’s oblique visual style incorporates some mysterious night time imagery,  almost sci-fi like, and an almost pure white canvas by day, all adding to the sense of alienation. Plus,  there is one remarkable jump scare.  First World problems maybe, but very stylishly dissected. And plenty of pristine snow. 

On Sunday (29/8) at 01:10, Film4 has Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (2020). A rude Finnish black comedy about a relationship between a man interested in auto-asphyxiation and a leather-clad dominatrix. As I wrote when it was on in February, ‘Not a Disney production, despite its title’.    

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

On Saturday (28/8) at 16:45, Paramount has Ride the High Country (1962). An ex-Marshall hires an old associate to protect a gold shipment travelling through dangerous territory: the associate is not to be trusted. The final film of Randolph Scott and the effective start of Sam Peckinpah’s directorial career. (Also Friday 14:05). 

On Sunday (29/8) at 16:05, BBC2 has Witness For the Prosecution (1957). Directed by Billy Wilder from an Agatha Christie story, a courtroom drama starring Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power. Audiences attending press screenings were made to sign a piece of paper to say they would’t reveal the ending. (Also on BBC4 on Monday at 22:50.) At 16:50, Paramount has The Naked Spur (1953). Anthony Mann Western with James Stewart as a bounty-hunter and Janet Leigh in jeans. Masterful location shooting and intense psychological struggle. 

New Yorkers: While We’re Young

On Wednesday (1/9) at 01:35, Great Movies has While We’re Young (2014). Noam Baumbach’s tale about a middle aged couple (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) who start hanging round with a much younger pair (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). New York angst and wise-cracking, mostly hilarious, sometimes a little annoying. 

On Thursday (2/9) at 12:00, Great Movies Action has The Westerner (1940). William Wyler Western about the self-appointed Judge Roy Bean, doling out ‘suspended sentences’, always involving a rope. With Walter Brennan in the lead role, supported by Gary Cooper as a drifter. Both are obsessed with the English actress Lily Langtry (Lillian Bond), then a popular touring act in the States. 

Other modern films of interest

On Sunday (29/8) at 00:00, BBC4 has Toffs, Queers and Traitors: The Extraordinary Life of Guy Burgess (2017). Lively Storyville documentary about the Cold War Cambridge man and Soviet agent, protected by what director George Carey calls ‘Class Blinkers’, unlike Cheltenham’s own Geoffrey Prime. Have you been following Nick Hilton’s excellent podcast, The Town That Knew Too Much? At 16:45, ITV2 has The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (2012). Aardman stop-motion animated comedy, with a top British cast (Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Lenny Henry, Brian Blessed), shot in 3D and Widescreen at the behest of Sony, who subsequently declined to do any more films with the Bristol company. Renamed in the States, allegedly because the word ‘scientist’ is unappealing to Americans. A leprosy joke was removed after protests. 

On Monday (30/8) at 01:20, Drama has The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (2010). The title character (played by Maxine Peake) was an early 19th century landowner and industrialist whose diaries, when decoded in the 1930s, revealed details of her lesbian amours. Widely acclaimed, although Rachel Cooke said in the New Statesman that the film was ‘sex-obsessed, reductionist stuff’ that would never have been made without the sapphic element. At 22:30, BBC2 has On the Basis of Sex (2018). Solid, biopic/hagiography of the liberal US Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last year. Starring Felicity Jones.

On Tuesday (31/8) at 01:00, Great Movies has The Road (2009). This is a road film, but not as you would usually know it, writes John Russell.  A man and his young son walk south across a post-Apocalyptic America, a sunless place of leafless trees, abandoned malls, empty highways and roving gangs.  A Gothic landscape, with shopping trolleys.  They are searching for food, predominantly in tins, and trying to stay alive. They also have very little ammo, which might seem strange for America. Other people are mostly enemies, and the father (Viggo Mortensen, resembling a medieval monk) has to exercise occasionally questionable judgement in dealing with them.  His wife (Charlize Theron) died some time ago, and his sole duty is to protect his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and it is clear he has a serious respiratory problem himself. How long can he carry on doing this?  What does a survivor look like in this world?

Australian-Canadian director John Hillcoat has an impressive track record of making action films (The Proposition, Lawless) and music videos (for, among others, Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan). In this, he tackles Cormac McCarthy’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, a considerable challenge, and the result reflects the difficulty in adapting such a bleak subject for the screen, while conveying some sense of redemptive hope. Described as ‘certainly the bleakest and least commercial product in recent Hollywood history’ by Time Out’s Tom Huddleston.  But that shouldn’t put you off.  The cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe and the score by Nick Cave are superb and the central performances are excellent.  There are some striking sequences, such as when they reach the ocean, or when they discover a house with a cellar full of human captives, or their encounter with an old hobo, played by Robert Duvall.  And the current California wildfires are a potent reminder of just how prescient the original novel was.  

On Wednesday (1/9) at 23:00, Sky Arts has The Cavern Club: The Beat Goes On  (2018). A promotional film for the Liverpool tourist attraction, made by the Liverpool tourist attraction. A group called The Beatles played there 292 times, apparently, before it was demolished and rebuilt as a replica. A wall inside has the names of everyone who ever performed there, with the exception of Gary Glitter and Jonathan King, now airbrushed from history. 

On Friday (3/9) at 18:00, Talking Pictures has S is for Stanley (2015). Documentary about Emilio D’Alessandro, an Italian who became Stanley Kubrick’s driver, gopher and friend for 30 years. 


On Saturday (28/8) at 16:40, 5 Star has Little Voice (1998). Excellent Jane Horrocks sings all her own songs in this adaptation of Jim Cartwright’s odd play. A reclusive young woman is visited by the ghost of her father, who gives her the talent to perform the works of a series of big-voiced legends. With Brenda Blethyn and Michael Caine. 

On Sunday (29/8) at 13:45, Channel 5 has Dumb & Dumber (1994). Witless Farrelly Brothers comedy, laughing at Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey as two stupid brothers. At 15:55, the same channel brings us The Mask (1994). More clowning from Carrey, this time as a comedy superhero with a green face. He has actually made a couple of good films. Check out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). Almost a masterpiece. At 22:00, Channel 5 has Shirley Valentine (1989). Pauline Collins in the much-imitated bruised-fruit romance. 

On Wednesday (1/9) at 21:00, 5 Star has The Terminator (1984). The original and best Arnie sci-fi blockbuster, writes Sim Fox. Magnificently evil and robotic, before his persona was softened up and switched to the light side for the sequels. James Cameron achieves a  relentless comic strip energy and momentum that’s probably never been bettered, while the mind-bending time travel paradoxes are cleverly negotiated. 

On Friday (3/9) at 09:20, Talking Pictures has The Kidnappers (1953). Two boys, eight and five, are sent to live with their harsh grandfather in Nova Scotia, Canada. They desperately want a dog but find an apparently abandoned baby and make do with that: ‘I think we’ll call him Rover, Harry.’ 

Compiled by John Morrish, Stephen Ilott, John Russell, Sim Fox and Finn Candy-Waters

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