I’m sorry to say I haven’t got round to doing a Film of the Week this time, but I especially recommend His Girl Friday, Paths of Glory, Last Orders and Nebraska, if you haven’t seen those.

World Cinema

Saturday (6/11)   21:00   BBC4                      Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019). Very beautiful, rather static tale of an affair between two women (Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel) on a lovely French island in the 18th century. Directed by Céline Sciamma. Recently shown by CFS.

Sunday (7/11)      21:00   ITV4                       For a Few Dollars More (1965). (also Wednesday 21:00). Made in the days before Clint became a liberal, he is again unnamed in a romp about a bounty hunter, an army colonel (Lee Van Cleef), and ‘An Indian’ (Gian Maria Volonte), tussling over the contents of a bank in spaghetti country.

Monday (8/11)    01:25   Film4                      My Golden Days (2015). The original title (Trois souvenirs de ma jeunessse) tells you more. A diplomat is held by border police when coming back from Tajikistan, because someone seems to have stolen his identity. This forces him to look back on his young life and, particularly, his loves. Lots of teenage philosophy, sex and smoking: it’s French.

Tuesday (9/11)    22:50   Talking Pictures    The Gods Must Be Crazy (1981). Apartheid-era South African racial comedy, repeated from last week.

Stephen’s Picks

Sunday (7/11)        15:55   Talking Pictures    I Was a Male War Bride (1949). Cary Grant plays a French officer who marries an American lieutenant, played by Ann Sheridan, and can only get into the US by being classified as a War Bride. Howard Hawks’s film, mostly set in post-war Germany, was described in its trailer as ‘the gayest, most terrific comedy to come to the screen in years’. That was before all those rumours about Cary.

                                21:00    Film4                    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). Acclaimed film by Martin McDonagh, with a barnstorming, Oscar-winning turn from Frances McDormand as a woman who puts up large signs in an attempt to shame the local sheriff into investigating the rape and murder of her daughter. With Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.

Monday (8/11)       14:35   Film4                      His Girl Friday (1940). Howard Hawks and Cary Grant again, this time in a sparkling, somewhat frenetic newspaper comedy based on The Front Page, but with a starring role created for Rosalind Russell, as Grant’s ex-wife and star reporter Hildy Johnson. According to IMDB (I don’t have my stopwatch handy), the dialogue runs at 240 words a minute, whereas the usual rate is more like 90.

Tuesday (9/11)       12:55   Film4                      Shane (1953). Classic Western directed by George Stevens, about a homesteader (Joe Starrett, played by Van Heflin), who is in conflict with local cattlemen aiming to take his land. Alan Ladd is Shane, a nomadic gunslinger who is taken in by the Starrett family and becomes an object of hero-worship for the Starrett’s son Joey (Brandon deWilde). He presents a different version of masculinity from the boy’s father, which in due course is tested. Very popular on release and seen as a vital picture of the frontier scene, not least because of the cinematography by Loyal Griggs. Ladd was not even the first choice for the part, and Jack Palance, who played a hired gun, had trouble getting on his horse.

Thursday (11/11)   23:05   BBC4                      Paths of Glory (1957). Understated black and white Kubrick masterpiece about a doomed mission in WWI, culminating in the court martialling of three soldiers for cowardice, chosen in the most unfair way the French military can devise. Adolphe Menjou plays General Broulard, who instigated the attack and then tried to cover up his errors.  Kirk Douglas, who also produced, plays Colonel Dax, who defends the men at the trial. Timothy Carey is particularly good as Private Maurice Ferol, singled out for his ‘social undesirability’. What that could possibly mean?

Other modern films of interest

Saturday (6/11)    16:35   Film4          The Emperor’s New Clothes (2001). Napoleon Bonaparte is exiled to St Helena when some supporters arrange to have him replaced by a lookalike so he can return to France, in disguise, before resuming power. But the lookalike rather likes his new life, and Napoleon is forced to stay in his assumed role, as a humble melon-seller. A British comedy, starring Ian Holm, who has played the diminutive dictator three times in his career.

                                22:55   BBC4          Zero Day: Nuclear Cyber Sabotage (2016). Storyville documentary, directed by Oscar-winner Alex Gilbey, about the joint US-Israel operation that unleashed some sort of ‘worm’ malware against Iran’s nuclear plants, with unintended consequences. At least we don’t have to worry about that sort of thing any more, now that GCHQ has done a deal with Amazon to keep all its secrets safe (so long as nobody forgets to renew the subscription).

Sunday (7/11)       00:15   BBC1          Pawn Sacrifice (2014). Ed Zwick’s efficient dramatisation of the epic chess battle between Bobby Fischer of the US (Tobey Maguire) and Boris Spassky of the USSR (Liev Schreiber) at the height of the Cold War. This was in 1972, and it really was a big deal at the time, not least because the champion of democracy and freedom was bonkers.

                               21:00   BBC4          Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation (2020). Documentary about the sometimes vituperative rivalry and friendship between the 20th century writers Capote and Williams. Makes extensive use of interviews by David Frost, known to his own frenemy Peter Cook as ‘the abominable plagiarist’. Sample question to Capote: ‘Does friendship always lead to sex?’

                               23:20   Film4          St Vincent (2014). Gentle, feelgood comedy with Bill Murray as a grumpy Vietnam veteran who is hired to babysit his neighbour’s son. They learn life-lessons from each other, of course. Hooray for Hollywood.

Monday (8/11)     21:00   Film4          Last Orders (2001). Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay and David Hemmings as South London drinking buddies, charged by their friend Jack (Michael Caine) with scattering his ashes on the Kent coast. They are accompanied by Ray Winstone, as Jack’s son.  Helen Mirren plays Jack’s wife and Laura Morelli his disabled daughter, who is institutionalised. Based on Graham Swift’s touching novel.

Thursday (11/11)  01:35  Film4          Nebraska (2013). Alexander Payne’s excellent character comedy, shot in black and white, with Bruce Dern in career-best form as a confused, irascible old man crossing America to collect the million dollars he thinks he has won in a bogus lottery, accompanied by his reluctant son, played by Will Forte. With excellent support from June Squibb, as the old man’s sceptical wife.


Sunday (7/11)             17:00    Great Movies      10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Sparky teenage comedy loosely based on The Taming of the Shrew, with Julia Styles as the difficult Kat (‘heinous witch is the term used most often’) and short-lived Heath Ledger, in his breakthrough Hollywood role, as the weirdo (‘I heard he ate a live duck’) who attempts to tame her.

                                      22:30   BBC4                     Suddenly, Last Summer  (1992). Remake of the 1953 classic version of the overheated Tennessee Williams melodrama, with Maggie Smith as wealthy widow Violet, Natasha Richardson as Catharine and Rob Lowe as Dr Cukrowicz. Violet’s son died on holiday with his cousin Catharine, and Violet now wants Catharine lobotomised to conceal the truth of what happened. Even in the Nineties medical practices had improved a bit. This version suffers from not having Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift in the cast. For more on Tennessee Williams, see Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation on BBC4 on Sunday at 21:00.

                                      22:35   Horror Channel   Videodrome (1983). David Cronenberg’s cult horror sees a greedy television executive, played by James Wood, trying to market a mysterious channel that shows live torture and murder. Then his self-mutilating girlfriend, played by Debbie Harry, goes off to try and appear on it. After that it all turns hallucinogenic. A resounding flop on release, it is now considered a classic by the saddos who get off on this kind of thing and teach Film Studies. Still, as everyone knows, there’s stuff on the internet that makes Videodrome look like Postman Pat. Just ask Google.

Wednesday (10/11)  23:45    ITV4                      Bullitt (1968). Peter Yates’s classic thriller about the death of a mob witness in police custody, based on the novel Mute Witness by Robert L Pike, to which it bears little resemblance. Apart from the fantastic car chase, the exchanges between DA Robert Vaughan and McQueen as detective Frank Bullitt are electrifying. Also features Jacqueline Bisset as Bullitt’s girlfriend and a score by Lalo Schifrin. What’s not to like, as they say.

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