World Cinema

Saturday (27/11)        21:30   BBC4               Stieg Larssons Millenium Episode 2 (2010). According to the BBC’s website, this is the conclusion of The Girl Who Played With Fire, reviewed last week. According to the Radio Times, it’s the first part. I wish these people would get their acts together. If you’ve been watching it, you’ll know.

                                      22:00   Channel 4       Parasite (2019). Bong Joon Ho’s domestic thriller/slasher, which swept the board at the 2020 Oscars, largely for reasons of industry politics. It starts in an interesting way, as a realistic study of Korean society, but escalates in a stereotypical way and in the end seems rather empty. Shown by Cheltenham Film Society in October. Korean with subtitles.

Sunday (28/11)           01:50   Film4               The Columnist (2019). This uncompromising Dutch film stars Katja Herbers as a likeable, personable and attractive writer of a gently feminist persuasion who is threatened with hideous sexual violence by anonymous online trolls and transforms herself into an avenging angel from Hades. Gory and inventive and, if you like that sort of thing, more entertaining than Parasite. Please don’t show this film to Mary Beard. Dutch with subtitles.

                                       22:15   BBC4               The Vasulka Effect (2019). Documentary about the pioneering New York video artists Steina and Woody Vasulka. They set up ‘The Kitchen’ in 1971 as ‘a home for the homeless, or artists across disciplines’ and it was soon packed with hipsters, party-animals, charlatans and the odd genuine talent, many of whom would go on to become extremely influential and famous: they included David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, Ian Anderson (no relation), Salvador Dali, Miles Davis, Andy Warhol and Philip Glass.

Wednesday (1/12)      01:40   Film4               Northwest (2013). Directed by Michael Noer (whose first feature was R, 2010). Caspar (Gustav Dyekjaer Giese) is an 18-year-old burglar in the impoverished northern part of Copenhagen. He is working for one boss, but who switches to working for a bigger player, who runs a brothel. That might not go well. Won awards at the Festival de Beaune and the Transylvania International Film Festival. Danish with subtitles.

                                       02:45   Channel 4       Mahanagar (1963). Another wonderful film by Satyajit Ray, this time about a young wife who gets a job selling knitting machines door to door and upsets her traditionalist family. Starring the luminous Madhabi Mukherjee, in the first lead role for a woman in Indian cinema. It was my Film of the Week back in May, when Cheltenham Film Society was sending out my emails. Bengali with subtitles. Incidentally, I have been able to get a Blu-Ray of Charulata (1964), which I lauded a couple of weeks ago, and plan to show it, somewhere, at some point, for people who love slow, moving (but not slow-moving) movies in Bengali. Sadly I only have three comfy seats in my living room. (JM)

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (27/11)         07:15   Talking Pictures    Nell Gwyn (1934). Classic English history, with Cedric Hardwicke as King Charles II and Anna Neagle as Nell, who supplied him with his ration of Vitamin C and more besides. Apparently the American censors insisted on the pair getting married at the end, followed by an epilogue with naughty Nellie as an old hag in a gutter. ‘I have seen few things more attractive than Miss Neagle in breeches,’ wrote Graham Greene, a film critic at that point. Screenplay credited to Miles Mallinson, ‘in collaboration with King Charles II, Samuel Pepys and Nell Gwyn’, a rare screen credit for the proto-blogger. Director Herbert Wilcox later married his star.

17:10   Paramount            High Noon (1952). Classic Western directed by Fred Zinnemann, the running time mirroring the action. Gary Cooper is Will Kane, a lawman who learns that Frank Marshall (interesting name), an outlaw he put in jail, has been released and is on his way to town to meet his gang at the station. Kane’s wife Amy (Grace Kelly) wants him to leave town with her but he decides to stay, though he is unable to persuade anyone to help him. Less of an action film than you might expect, and it divided opinion, but it was surely helped by John Wayne’s comment that it was ‘the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life’. 

Sunday (28/11)            00:15   BBC1                      Apocalypse Now (1979). The film that drove Francis Ford Coppola to distraction and gave its star, Martin Sheen, a heart attack. Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, it is a portrait of the Vietnam War at its most psychedelic, shocking and perverse. Marlon Brando is the Kurtz character, a white man who has gone rogue in the jungle, and Sheen plays Willard, who is tasked with travelling deep into Cambodia and terminating him (‘I wanted a mission.  And for my sins, they gave me one’). Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall, Frederick Forrest, Larry Fishburne and Sam Bottoms also feature.  Exhilarating, especially if you like the smell of napalm.

                                       23:15   Film4                      Blue Velvet (1986). See Film of the Week.

Wednesday (1/12)      16:35   Film4                      The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). A Hitchcock I haven’t seen. Jimmy Stewart paired with Doris Day as an American doctor and his wife, a former singer, who get caught up in political murder in Marrakesh and London. Doris sings ‘Che sera, sera’ and a famous cymbal-clash in the Royal Albert Hall cues a balcony death-plunge. Doris felt ignored by Hitch but he reassured her. ‘My dear Miss Day,’ he said, ‘if you weren’t giving me what I wanted, then I would have to direct you!’

Other modern films of interest

Sunday (28/11)             19:00    Sky Arts            The V&A Presents Alice: Curiouser And Curiouser (2021) (also Thursday 03:10/Friday 11:00). Filmed taster of the V&A’s blockbuster Lewis Carroll show, which is running until December 31, price £20, booking ahead only. Presented by the curator, Kate Bailey and Andi Oliver, a TV chef, singer and sometime member of Rip, Rig + Panic, a spin-off from Bristol post-punk superstars The Pop Group. It all looks very pretty, but attending an exhibition via television doesn’t grab me. Alice Liddell was briefly a Cheltenham personality, who may have gone Through the Looking Glass in a house in Charlton Kings, but who knows?. If you like exhibitions, though, do yourself a favour and hot-foot it to the Weston Library in Oxford to see Melancholy: A New Anatomy, featuring lots of beautiful artwork and books connected with Richard Burton’s wise treatise on the subject (1621), now pathologised as depression.

Wednesday (1/12)        03:10   Sky Arts             Bachman (2018). Documentary by John Barnard about rocker Randy Bachman, of Bachman Turner Overdrive fame, with contributions from some fellow plank-spankers, including Canadian Neil Young and Brit Peter Frampton. Bachman converted to Mormonism at age 75, which probably doesn’t happen with many rock musicians, but then you ain’t seen nothing yet.

                                         23:45   ITV4                 Gran Torino (2008). At the time, it was thought this would be Clint Eastwood’s final onscreen appearance, but as we now know, it wasn’t. He plays Walt, a not unrecognisable Eastwood persona. He is a curmudgeonly, recently widowed Korea veteran and retired auto worker, living in Detroit, who has a rifle and a Ford Gran Torino. He goes to help young neighbour Thao (Bee Vang) when he gets involved with a local gang and tries to steal the Torino. Walt’s initial cantankerousness softens as he gets to know Thao and his family, though relations with his own family are strained. When Thao’s problems with the gang escalate, Walt is called on to intervene again, with fatal consequences.  Sweet, in its own way.


Saturday (27/11)          15:55     Talking Pictures   The Blue Lamp (1950). The feature that introduced kindly PC George Dixon, who went on to have a long television career. Dirk Bogarde is a young hood. One of the first films to dramatise the youth crime that hit London after World War II (and probably during, Blitz spirit mythology notwithstanding). The script included the first use of the word ‘Bastard’, though it doesn’t, apparently, appear in the version shown by Talking Pictures. We shall see, or hear.

Sunday (28/11)             19:00     Talking Pictures   One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942). The first film Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made as ‘The Archers’, part-funded by the Ministry of Information and considered a propaganda film, just like the earlier 49th Parallel (see below). It inverts the plot of that film, featuring British airmen escaping the occupied Netherlands and trying to make their way to Britain. It has no music score, in the interests of realism, although the Dutch national anthem is heard. With Eric Portman, Hugh Burden and debutant Peter Ustinov, and a strong female role for Googie Withers, a name to conjure with.

Monday (29/11)           13:10     Film4                     El Dorado (1967). Howard Hawks Western with John Wayne as a gunslinger and Robert Mitchum as an alcoholic sheriff, pitted against a rancher trying to steal another family’s land. James Caan appears in an early role. Roger Ebert gave it three stars, describing it as ‘tightly directed, humorous and altogether successful’.  

Thursday (2/12)            13:25     Film4                    49th Parallel (1941). Powell and Pressburger’s film about a German U-boat that sinks in Canadian waters. The survivors try to make their way to the border with the US, then neutral. The aim of the film was to influence that neutrality a little. Pressburger won an Oscar for Best Story and reckoned he could show Goebbels a thing or two about propaganda. Ironically, as an alien he was imprisoned on his return from Canada and threatened with deportation, though in the event he was allowed to remain. The film features a stirring first score by Ralph Vaughan Williams, born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire.

                                         21:00    Talking Pictures    The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965). Classic adaptation of John Le Carre’s second George Smiley novel, probably his best book, about an ageing British spy, Alec Leamas (Richard Burton), who is persuaded to pretend to defect so he can get close to the East German security service and spread doubt about their loyalties. Claire Bloom plays the communist librarian Leamas becomes involved with in London. 

The film came at crucial time for Burton. He had not long been married to Elizabeth Taylor, who joined him in London and Dublin, where it was being shot. The pair drank heavily, which displeased their sober director, Martin Ritt. Taylor was also unhappy with the casting of Claire Bloom, whose relationship with Burton, six years earlier, had almost ended his marriage to Sybil before Liz did exactly that. She watched him closely all the time, and Burton treated Bloom distantly throughout the shoot as a result. Meanwhile, mischievous Le Carré, who had wanted Trevor Howard or James Mason for the role, arrived for dinner with the glamour couple, bringing Bloom as his date. Taylor rapidly went to bed, summoning Burton shortly afterwards. Then she came back and the pair had a stand-up row in front of the other two. Nonetheless, despite these and other more alarming shenanigans, the film was completed and Burton’s performance was praised. Some observers, though, see in it the beginnings of his decline: Le Carré noted how he had aged between the first London shoot and the location scenes in Holland. He was not yet 40.

The black and white cinematography and the grimy locations reflect the grubby machinations of the security services. Unsurpassed.

 Friday (3/12)                 18:00    Talking Pictures    The Stranger (1946). Orson Welles’s third film, which he made under instructions to finish on time and within budget (he did).  He plays Franz Kindler, a  Nazi war criminal with a thing about clocks living in the US under another name and Edward G Robinson plays the investigator on his tail.  Loretta Young plays Kindler’s wife, who knows nothing of his past.

2 thoughts on “Freeview films 27/11/21 to 3/12/21

  1. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold – Thank you for the gossipy details! Unsurpassed as you say and unmissable, I think we saw it at the Colosseum or the cinema that was on the corner by the Neptune fountain.

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