Freeview films 11 to 17 September


By Steve Sasanow

The Graduate (1967) It would be quite difficult to over-estimate the social, cultural, cinematic and musical influence of this film. Its take on the American dream, its sexual audacity, its time-frame in American history, its use of contemporary music, all make it one of the most significant films of the 1960s and earn it a place among the top 100 films of all time.

The story is both simple and complex.  Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) is a classic American naïf – he has just finished university and is unsure of which way to turn.  He is confronted with serious decision making – how to go forward with his life (plastics?) – and his need to become sexually mature.  He not only has to deal with career choices, but with the advances of Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and his own desire for her daughter (Elizabeth Ross).  A veritable comic romp, but much more than a conventional rom-com. The historical context – slap-bang in the middle of the Vietnam War and the so-called sexual revolution – gives the film an edge usually absent from that genre.  

The film put a number of its participants on the cinema map. For seasoned stage director Mike Nichols, it was only his second film, although he had been widely praised for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Also, it was also the second film outing for Hoffman, who was somewhat old (30) for the main character, not that that had stopped Hollywood before (viz Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz). Bancroft, only six years older than Hoffman in reality but playing much older, was seen as a more serious actress for her work in films such as The Miracle Worker and The Pumpkin Eater. Ross was soon to appear with Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.  

As a cinematic footnote, the list of those considered for the role of Benjamin is a veritable Who’s Who of young male actors at the time – Steve McQueen, Harrison Ford, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, George Hamilton, et al. Nichols said he needed a character with more of an underdog quality. Hoffman was it.

The film also supercharged the careers of Simon & Garfunkel, opening with the haunting Sounds of Silence and including, of course, Mrs Robinson.  One not to be missed if you don’t know it.

The Graduate is on BBC1 on Friday (17/9) at 23:35. 

World Cinema

On Sunday (12/9) at 00:20, BBC2 has Britt-Marie Was Here (2019), a funny and insightful little comedy built on the unlikely premise of an 63-year-old woman (played by Pernille August), escaping her husband and starting to coach a youth football team. A directorial debut by Tuva Novotny.

Mind the Gap Year

At 01:40, Film4 has Berlin Syndrome (2017), previewed here by Sim Fox. Clare, a young Australian backpacker, is building a personal photography portfolio on walkabout in the old East Berlin. She encounters Andi, a handsome thirtysomething teacher, in the street, and is drawn to him. After a second, apparently fortuitous meeting, she goes back to his flat in a rambling, near deserted apartment complex. She willingly sleeps with him, but then discovers she is trapped there as Andi’s prisoner. 

Australian writer-director Cate Shortland explores the complex emotions of Clare (Teresa Palmer) as she alternates between fighting back, playing along and capitulating, while unable to fully suppress her strong attraction to the dangerous and damaged Andi: a coldly intense performance by Max Riemelt. He remains a cipher, but we are given clues to the origins of his disturbance as he visits his ailing father, leaving Clare locked in. The ghosts of the Communist DDR era linger in Andi’s psyche. 

The film has a cool, episodic style that avoids some of the usual genre clichés and the locale of rundown apartment buildings is suitably atmospheric. A compelling Arthouse thriller.

On Monday (13/9) at 01:20, Film4 has Things to Come (2016). A Parisienne teacher of philosophy experiences a series of traumatic events. Something of a vehicle for Isabelle Huppert, this film, by Mia Hansen-Løve, is determinedly undramatic and will either charm you or prove rather tiresome.

On Friday (17/9) at 01:50, Channel 4 has Birds of Passage (2018), previewed by John Russell. Based on real events, Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra’s epic follows a Colombian Wayuu family who become involved in the drugs trade in the 1960s and 1970s, with dire results. Set in a landscape that verges on the surreal, it is beautiful and ghastly by turns. It’s possible to imagine a screen version of One Hundred Years of Solitude looking something like this.  Unforgettable.

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

On Friday (10/9) at 23:00, BBC4 has The Everly Brothers: Songs of Innocence and Experience (1984). An Arena documentary, made by Anthony Wall, back when the BBC made films. Wm. Blake might have appreciated Don and Phil.  

On Sunday (12/9) at 12:00, 5 Select has The Fallen Idol (1948). Carol Reed British noir. A butler in a London embassy (Ralph Richardson) is suspected when his wife falls to her death. A small boy (Bobby Henry) is the only witness. A pan-European production, with American money. At 18:40 Paramount has Planet of the Apes (1968). First and scariest. Gorillas on horseback! At 19:20, Talking Pictures has Passport to Pimlico (1949). Quite a lot of us would like to discover we were Burgundians. Get our Burgundy-coloured passports back. (Also Tuesday 16:15.)

On Wednesday (15/9) at 22:00, BBC4 has Gunda (2020). Astonishing monochrome wordless documentary about a pig, two cows and a one-legged chicken. Animal Farm or ‘Jollity Farm’? 

On Friday (17/9) at 23:35, BBC1 has The Graduate (1967). See Film of the Week. 

Other modern films of interest

On Saturday (11/9) at 02:00, Sky Arts has Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams (2018). Why do people hate Coldplay? Career-spanning documentary, made by a college friend, with lots of good footage and stuff, but also concert shots of them during ‘the third-biggest tour of all time’. Poor Coldplay. Still, bronze is not too bad. 

The most beautiful sound I ever heard, Maria, Maria, Maria.

At 22:25, BBC2 has Maria By Callas (2017). Is it callous to adore Callas, who suffered so much for her art? The opening film of the 2019 Cheltenham International Film Festival. We have learnt a lot since then. At 22:30, BBC4 has Scandalous! The Tabloid That Changed America (2019). The hilarious and alarming story of the National Enquirer, largely a British invention, like a lot of atrocities. Boy, do the ‘liberal media’ hate us for that.  

On Sunday (1/9) at 15:10, BBC1 has Brave (2012). Plucky Scottish princess Pixar/Disney animation, with a largely British voice cast. The scene where the 10th century Princess Merida’s dress splits and you see her corset is historically inaccurate.  

On Monday (13/9) at 21:00, Great Movies has Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007). Second Shekhar Kapur/Cate Blanchett period drama, this time in the full-on Gloriana phase, facing down the Armada and narrowly missing being assassinated. The depiction of the foiling of the Babbington Plot  is historically inaccurate. 

On Wednesday (15/9) at 21:00, Film 4 has Wild Rose (2018). A Glaswegian single mother, ‘on tag’,  becomes a Nashville star. Wish-fulfilment, and why not? With Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo, and directed by Tom Harper, who made the BBC’s 2016 Lily James/Paul Dano War & Peace

On Friday (17/9) at 01:30, Film4 has Youth (2015), directed by Paolo Sorrentino and starring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel. ‘Voyeuristic and mawkish, or elegiac meditation on the process of ageing,’ says Pamela Weaver. ‘You decide.’ I know what I think. 


On Sunday (12/9) at 13:35, ITV has On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). The George Lazenby one. 

On Monday (13/9) a 09:05, Great Movies Action has Lord Jim (1965). Maritime adventure with Peter O’ Toole, James Mason and lots of others. James Mason’s parents left the Royal Premiere even before he’d made his appearance. 

On Thursday (16/9) at 20:00, BBC4 has Three Men in a Boat (1975). Stephen Frears directs, Tom Stoppard adapts, and Michael Palin, Tim Curry and Stephen Moore mess about on the water. With their dog. My Dad’s favourite book, except possibly Professor Scroggie’s Foundations of Wireless

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *