Freeview films 4/12/21 to 10/12/21

World Cinema

Saturday (4/12)        21:30   BBC4                   Stieg Larssons Millenium Episode 4 (2010). The second part of The Girl Who Played With Fire. In Swedish, Italian and French, with subtitles.

                                    23:15   Film4                   First Love (2019). Extremely graphic yakuza gangster film from the ultra-prolific Takashi Miike, known for his enthusiasm for sex and violence. ‘I can only work realistically while wanting to depict something unrealistic,’ he once said. If you are one of those people who like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you will like. In Japanese, with subtitles.

Monday (5/12)         01:15   Film4                   Blade of the Immortal (2017). A more playful and fantastical film from Miike, this time about a samurai asked by a young girl to avenge her father. From a manga series by Hiroaki Samura. In Japanese, with subtitles.

Tuesday (6/12)         02:40   Film4                    My Life as a Courgette (2016). Tremendous animation about children in a care, directed by Claude Barras and written by the remarkable Céline Sciamma, who later directed Tomboy, Girlhood, Portrait of A Lady on Fire and Petite Maman, which I have just missed at the Guildhall. (Sacré bavard de mes deux!). In French, with subtitles.

Friday (10/12)          21:05   Talking Pictures   A Candle For the Devil (1973). Not seen this one, but it seems to be a gruesome Hispanic cousin to Psycho. Judy Geeson, who made her debut (aged 18) opposite Sidney Poitier in To Sir With Love, goes to a remote hotel looking for her sister, where she falls foul of a pair of weird sisters who don’t like tourists who don’t keep to their puritanical moral code. Sounds a bit like Cornwall in the 1970s. In Spanish, with subtitles.

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (4/12)        22:00    5 Star                     Django Unchained (2012). Jamie Foxx stars as Django, a freed slave who sets out to reclaim his wife from a plantation owner, in Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist Western. It is violent, in Tarantino’s stylised fashion, which is probably to be expected given the nature of the subject. Leonardo DiCaprio is chilling as the slave owner who thrives on brutal fights between slaves, and Christoph Waltz plays a German bounty hunter who partners with Django. Kerry Washington is Broomhilda, Django’s wife and the subject of his quest. Samuel Jackson also features.  Peter Bradshaw said ‘I can only say Django delivers, wholesale, that particular narcotic and delirious pleasure that Tarantino still knows how to confect in the cinema, something to do with the manipulation of surfaces. It’s as unwholesome, deplorable and delicious as a forbidden cigarette’. You get the idea. The film was very successful commercially and won two Oscars, including for Best Original Screenplay, but 12 Years A Slave was released the following year and is probably the better picture.  

Monday (6/12)         15:00    Talking Pictures    Brighton Rock (1947) (above). The original film version, directed by John Boulting, of Graham Greene’s novel about Pinkie, a sociopathic gangster who murders a reporter who wrote a story about his gang’s activities. Greene himself wrote the screenplay, with Terence Rattigan. Richard Attenborough plays Pinkie, having previously played the same character on stage, though the film Pinkie is much nastier: a faux-Catholic, rather than a troubled one. Hermione Baddeley is Ida, a local woman, the Brighton ‘Rock’ of the title, who suspects him of the murder. Carol Marsh is Rose, Pinkie’s unfortunate wife, whom he marries to prevent her testifying against him: a woman could not give evidence against her husband. To modern eyes it shows its age, but in its day it was sensational. It opens with a disclaimer, saying that the between-the-wars criminal Brighton depicted was ‘happily no more’. This was a necessary fiction to make it possible to shoot in the town. Brighton is still as rough as guts, like a lot of seaside towns.

                                    23:05    Great Movies       True Romance (1993). Christian Slater as a geek and Patricia Arquette as a former call girl on the run from the mafia after they steal drugs from her pimp. Tony Scott directed and the script was written by Quentin Tarantino before Reservoir Dogs and developed afterwards.  Initially it made little impact at the box office but later became a cult hit.  A strong supporting cast includes Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt and Christopher Walken.    

Tuesday (7/12)         01:55    Channel 4              Farming (2018).  In the 1960s and 1970s, poor Nigerian families would apparently ‘farm out’ their children to British foster parents for extended periods. The writer/director of this film, Adewale Akinnuouye-Agbaje was one of those boys. In this avowedly autobiographical film, the central character is badly treated by white racists, before becoming a leading member of a skinhead gang in Tilbury. The actual Tilbury Skins subsequently said this never happened: but the Guardian endorsed the writer’s version. Adewale went on to get a masters degree in law, then became a male model in Italy, then a successful screen actor, playing almost exclusively African heavies, although offstage he speaks in a light London accent. The young boy in the story, Enitan, is played by two actors as he grows: Zephan Amissah and Damson Idris. His adoptive mum is played by a fierce Kate Beckinsale. The critics liked the shocking story: they were less keen on the film.                  

Thursday (8/12)       01:00    Channel 4              Another Year (2010). Mike Leigh’s account of a year in the life of an ageing middle-class couple, Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), and their family and friends. The main focus is on Mary (Lesley Manville), a troubled divorcee who works with Ruth and who covets the contentment Ruth appears to have. This ambition extends to the couple’s son Joe (Oliver Maltman), whom Mary has known since he was a boy. Complications ensue when Mary buys a car, Joe finds a girlfriend and Tom’s brother’s son moves in with the couple. It is hard to convey the sense of anguish that arises from watching Mary, a drinker, fail in her various overtures, or the isolation she experiences. Hard to forget but not an easy watch. ‘Life’s not always kind,’ says Gerri, who does her best. Wise, compassionate, sad and funny, and much preferable to certain other similarly-titled films about alcohol dependency.

                                   21:00     BBC4                      The Manchurian Candidate (1962). John Frankenheimer’s Oscar-winning paranoia-fest, starring Laurence Harvey as Raymond Shaw, a former Korean War POW who has been brainwashed as part of a Communist conspiracy. Angela Lansbury plays his creepy and domineering mother, who is married to a Commie-bashing senator. Frank Sinatra is the fellow POW who uncovers the plot. Richard Condon wrote the novel. The original film poster said ‘If you come in five minutes after this picture begins, you won’t know what it’s all about!’ I know all about that, I missed the beginning of Don’t Look Now (writes John Russell).

Other modern films of interest

Tuesday (7/12)         22:00   Sky Arts       Rumble Fish (1983). Francis Ford Coppola’s exercise in style. Black-and-white and deeply indebted to Expressionism, this is a frustratingly opaque tale about a teenage hoodlum (Matt Dillon), his hopeless friends (Nic Cage, Larry Fishburne and Christopher Penn), his sexy girlfriend (Diane Lane) and the Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke), his dangerous brother. Coppola modelled Dillon’s character on Albert Camus, at least in appearance. Mickey Rourke’s delivery was so uncommunicative that the crew nicknamed the film ‘Mumble Fish’. Let’s hope there are subtitles. Music by Stewart Copeland, drummer with The Police.                            

                                    23:20   Film4           Tully (2018). Black comedy directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer’s Body) about Marlo, a pregnant woman (Charlize Theron), her husband Drew (Ron Livingstone) and their new babysitter Tully (McKenzie Davis). Marlo has experienced post-natal depression after the birth of her second child Jonah, who has a developmental disorder, and Tully arrives after the latest birth, to provide support which you could say goes beyond the norm. Well-received critically, particularly in terms of the relationship between the two women.  

Wednesday (8/12)   21:45   Sky Arts      Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking (2021). Documentary about a man, born in 1884, who started as a Pullman porter, became a homesteader, wrote novels about that experience, then made a film based on one of them. He subsequently made more than 40 films, with no money, aimed squarely at the black audience. His most famous work is probably Within Our Gates (1920), which you can see here, restored from a single copy found in Spain. The film was his riposte to D.W. Griffiths’s KKK apologia, The Birth of a Nation. Italian director Francesco Zippel made this tribute over Zoom, using a US crew, employing clips, talking heads, and animation to fill the gaps.

Thursday (9/12)        21:00   Sky Arts     Touching the Void (2003). Kevin MacDonald’s version of Joe Simpson’s book, about the 1985 near-fatal descent of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes by Simpson himself and Simon Yates, centring on the moment when Simpson is lowered over the edge of a cliff into the void and Yates has to make a fateful decision whether to cut him loose or not.  Interviews with the climbers are interspersed with action sequences and you don’t have to be a climber to immerse yourself in this icy world because the drama and authenticity of it take over, and there are also moral questions to consider.  Brendan Mackey plays Simpson and Nicholas Aaron plays Yates.


Monday (6/12)     21:00   Talking Pictures    Cry of the City (1948). Gritty noir starring Victor Mature, Richard Conte and Shelley Winters. The director, Robert Siodmak, made it on the streets of New York, but hated the experience: ‘There’s so much you can’t control.’ With a score by Alfred Newman, Randy’s uncle, recycled from a 1931 King Vidor gangster flick, Street Scene.    

                               23:25   Film4                      Topsy-Turvy (1999). See Film of the Week.

Tuesday (7/12)      22:30   BBC4                    Hard Labour (1973). An early Mike Leigh television film, in the legendary Play for Today series, made when the BBC still had a soul. Starring Liz Smith, in her first big role, as a Catholic cleaning lady in Salford, Leigh’s home town. It is the only one of his films set on his own patch. Includes an early performance by Ben Kingsley and the debut of Bernard Hill, later to become the unforgettable Yosser Hughes in Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff.

Thursday (9/12)    02:05   Talking Pictures   Carnival of Souls (1962). Classic low-budget Expressionist-influenced horror about a woman who is transported to a kind of haunted fairground where she faces all sorts of jeopardy and sexual intrusion. Starring Candace Hillgoss, whose agent dropped her after seeing the finished film. The trailer declares ‘Positively No Refunds’, a weird kind of come-on, but the producers were hoping for walk-outs.

                                 23:20   Film 4                    Trainspotting (1995). You know this one. Danny Boyle’s bracing version of the ferociously demotic Irvine Welsh novel about Scottish heroin enthusiasts, starring Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Peter Mullan and others. There’s even a part for Cotswold hooligan Keith Allen. To anyone still scarred by the scene set in The Worst Toilet in Scotland, relax: it was apparently chocolate. Hard to see this film being made now, without a squad of drugs counsellors being on hand at every screening for those who missed the point.

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