I chose this week’s Film of the Week, Young Ahmed by the Dardenne brothers, before the news of the killing of the Tory MP. It couldn’t be more topical or apposite. The review is here.

World Cinema

Sunday (17/10)         01:10     BBC2              An Impossible Love (2018)

This film was shown in June. It’s still one of the best films of the year so far. Being an enthusiastic recycler, I’m going to rerun what I said then.

An Impossible Love (2018), directed by Catherine Corsini, is an excellent French film that you probably won’t have seen: it seems to have had a very limited release. A shy Catholic-Jewish woman in late 1950s provincial France, firmly on the shelfat 26, falls for a sexy, intellectual young man from a bonne famille. They have an idyllic affair and she gets pregnant. He runs back to Paris and will not acknowledge his daughter. So Rachel, still horribly in love, has to bring up Chantal alone.

It’s a conventional setup, beautifully done, that leads into a long and brilliantly observed saga of sexual need, injustice, class conflict, mother-love, loneliness and stoicism. In the background, we see the quiet transformation France underwent while noisier folk were banging on about Chairman Mao. 

Virginie Efira (Rachel) is exquisite, Niels Schneider (Philippe) is dangerously charming, and the four actresses who play Chantal throughout her life are all perfect. There’s a lovely Nymanesque piano/orchestra score by Grégoire Corsini, too.

23:30     BBC4              Young Ahmed (2019): see my review here.

Monday (18/10)       01:25     Film4              A Touch of Sin (2013). Four powerful stories about random acts of violence in early 21st Century China, depicted in unglamorous documentary style. From Zhangke Jia, the director of the wonderful Still Life (2006).

Tuesday (19/10)       01:55     Channel 4      The Guilty (2018). Danish drama about a police call-handler (Jakob Cedergren) trying to help a woman he believes has been kidnapped: effectively one actor, on one set, and extremely intense. Shown by CFS in November 2020. Just remade and released by Netflix, with direction by police-drama regular Antoine Fuqua and a script by Nic Pizzolatto. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who got rave reviews for his performance, though the film has not won over anyone who has seen the Danish version: it has a different, more obvious, more uplifting ending and a final caption telling people that police brutality is a bad thing but that America has it under control. Of course.  

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (16/10)        15:50     Talking Pictures   Man on a Tightrope (1953). Also on Tuesday at 15:55. Elia Kazan-directed film based on the true story of the escape of the Circus Brumbach from East Germany in 1950. Fredric March is the former owner of the circus, nationalised by the Communist government, who becomes embroiled in a dispute over the content of the performances. BBC take note. The intriguing Gloria Grahame also appears, along with Richard Boone.                                     

                                      21:00     Talking Pictures   Mona Lisa (1986)  (also Wednesday 21:05). Classic pairing of Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins in Neil Jordan’s seedy noir about high class call girl Simone (Cathy Tyson) and ex-con George (Hoskins), who becomes her driver and bodyguard.  Caine plays Hoskins’s former boss, who wants to blackmail one of Tyson’s clients.  George, who succeeds in reconnecting with his teenage daughter, develops feelings for Simone, but things don’t go as smoothly as he would like. Hoskins was Oscar-nominated for his performance and Tyson won the LA Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress. Made by Handmade Productions, the company established by George Harrison and his manager Denis O’Brien, a risky venture that ended up costing the ex-Beatle some $25m. There’s a wonderful BFI briefing about the rise and fall of the British film industry of the 1980s here.

Sunday (17/10)          19:00     Talking Pictures    Monkey Business (1952)  (also Tuesday 14:05). Delightfully silly Howard Hawks comedy with Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe. Cary is a scientist who stumbles on a potion that makes people young again.

And this is where I keep the Family Jewels

Tuesday (19/10)         23:20     Film4                      The Last King of Scotland (2006). Forrest Whittaker is stunning as Idi Amin in Kevin McDonald’s version of Giles Foden’s novel, from Peter Morgan’s first feature script. James McEvoy, in his first dramatic lead, plays the fictional Scottish doctor employed as Amin’s personal physician, who witnesses the corruption and brutality of his reign and becomes morally compromised. He’s done some rubbish since then, hasn’t he? It’s never too late to change direction, James.

Wednesday (20/10)   21:00     Film4                      Blackkklansman (2018). Excellent Spike Lee drama, somewhat inspired by fact. In the early Seventies, Ron Stallworth was hired as the first black policeman in Colorado Springs, slap-bang in the middle of white America. Keen to prove himself under cover, he telephoned David Duke, Grand Wizard of the KuKluxKlan (then desperate to present itself as a mainstream movement), and convinced the would-be politician that he was white and eager to further the cause. In Lee’s film, a more senior Jewish detective, Flip Zimmerman, is recruited to pose as Stallworth in face-to-face meetings with Klan members, who invite him to join in their menacing activities without noticing that he is only pretending to be Aryan. Lee extracts both drama and comedy from this absurd situation, while discovering that race is anything but black and white. Adam Driver, as Zimmerman, is a reliable presence, but the film really belongs to John David Washington, as Stallworth, who is revelatory. Pamela Weaver reminds us of the appearance, in a cameo role as a civil rights leader, of Harry Belafonte, who at the age of 91 (then) still shines from the screen.

Friday (22/10)             12.55     Film4                      The Way to the Stars (1945). Anthony Asquith’s drama about a bomber squadron in WW2, with John Mills, Trevor Howard, Michael Redgrave and Stanley Holloway.  Terence Rattigan co-wrote the screenplay, which was based on his play Flare Path.  The rigours of aerial warfare are set against the relationships the airmen form on the ground, with Rosamund John and Renee Asherson playing the partners of Redgrave and Mills.  The film was well reviewed on release and seen as effective, understated and thoughtful.

Other modern films of interest

Sunday (17/10)           11:00      Film4                      Puss in Boots (2011). Antonia Banderas reprises the role of Puss from the Shrek films, in an entertaining animated spaghetti Western with a lot of charm.

                                       14:10     Talking Pictures    Keep on Burning: The Story of Northern Soul (2012). (Also Tuesday at 12:05.) It was Grim Up North in the early 1970s, but they certainly had a wild dance music scene. Documentary with contributions from Marc Almond and Tony Blackburn.

Monday (18/10)          00:00     Sky Arts                 The Ritchie Blackmore Story (2015) 

Documentary by Alan Ravenscroft about the legendary guitarist. Brian May, Gene Simmons and Ian Anderson contribute. A must for anyone who loves Deep Purple.  And who doesn’t? [Editor’s note: Me. Not after ‘Smoke on the Water’, certainly.] And what of Ritchie now? From Wikipedia: ‘Blackmore is a heavy drinker, and watches German-language television on his satellite dish when he is at home. He has several German friends and a collection of about 2,000 CDs of Renaissance music.’

                                       00:30     BBC1                       At Any Price (2012). Dennis Quaid and Zac Ephron in a drama about a mid-west farming family that starts to come adrift when its agri-business is investigated. IMDB’s helpful key-words and phrases include: ‘sex standing up’ and ‘father and son have sex with the same woman’. That would be Heather Graham. The last film given Four our of Four by the legendary Roger Ebert, before he turned into a name on a website.

                                       20:30     BBC1                       The Trick (2021). BBC film of the 2009 ‘Climategate’ scandal, with Jason Watkins as the Director of Climate Research at UEA, battling the deniers after they hack his files and misuse them.  Watkins’ presence is usually a quality mark. Feels like a long time ago, now that we are simultaneously pursuing a Green Agenda and burning through the planet’s resources as never before.

Friday (22/10)             21:00     BBC4                        Zappa (2020). Six years in the making and using rare archival material, this is a tImely and affectionate tribute, directed by Alex Winter, to the iconoclastic musician and composer who spanned rock, jazz, fusion and orchestral work. Includes appearances by Zappa’s wife Gail, David Bowie and Mick Jagger among others. Don’t ask Tony Palmer what he thinks about Frank Zappa.


Sunday (17/10)         10:05   ITV4                       True Grit (1969). The original Henry Hathaway version of the novel by Charles Portis, about a hard-bitten US Marshall and a Texas Ranger who help a teenager track down her father’s murderer. The interesting cast includes John Wayne as the Marshall, Glen Campbell, Dennis Hopper and Robert Duvall. Some will prefer the 2010 Coen Brothers version with Jeff Bridges.

                                    16:10   Talking Pictures   Mister 880 (1950). Burt Lancaster as a counterfeiter who forges only one dollar bills and succeeds in eluding arrest for ten years.  Based on the true story of Emerich Juettner. Interesting counterpoint to the usual thrust of so many crime films. May appeal to fans of The Old Man & the Gun (2018).

Monday (18/10)       00:10   Talking Pictures   Morituri (1965). Marlon Brando plays a German pacifist in WW2, who is inveigled by a British officer (Trevor Howard) into posing as a senior SS officer and being part of a plot to seize the cargo of a German merchant ship. A sympathetic Yul Brynner plays the captain. The plot is unbelievably complicated but suffice to say they don’t make them like this any more. 

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