World Cinema

Wednesday (5/1)    01:50   Film4   Raw (2016). This is the Julia Ducournau shocker about a vegetarian veterinary student who is introduced to a decadent subculture and eats raw meat for the first time. Soon she can’t get enough. Sexy, violent, bloody, extreme. In French with English subtitles. Go for it.

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (1/1) 12:40    BBC2                        She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). Sumptuous John Ford Western with John Wayne negotiating with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians after Custer’s last stand, and taking the wife and niece of his commanding officer with him. In his 1950 London Evening Standard review, the Canadian-born critic Milton Shulman said that Ford had brought back ‘the tingling sweep of the authentic, outdoor American Western’ but complained about ‘over-long intervals of adolescent love-making and tedious sentiment’. I worked with his long-suffering wife, the fashion writer Drusilla Beyfus. Nice woman. Very attractive daughters. One of them became editor of Vogue. The younger one is now Marchioness of Normamby, having met the Marquess at the Groucho Club. Not bad going for the granddaughter of a Ukrainian haberdasher.

                          13:10    Paramount              Patton (1970). Biopic of maverick WWII US general George S Patton, played by George C Scott, and his influence in operations in North Africa and Europe. Franklin J Schaffner directs, and the script was by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H North. It won seven Oscars, including for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. A towering performance and not unambiguous in its attitude to military glory, something that seems to have evaded Richard Nixon, who cited it as his favourite film.    

Tuesday (4/1)   01:05   Talking Pictures      Sabotage (1936). Hitchcock’s pre-Hollywood version of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, about an anarchist bomber in London, whose wife comes to suspect. Effective telling of Conrad’s most efficient novel, subtitled ‘A Simple Tale’: recommended for those who find him a bit of a windbag.

Friday (7/1)      21:00    Great Movies         Pulp Fiction (1994). Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece of ‘slapstick violence’, threading together strands involving Bruce Willis (as a boxer), Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames and Rosanna Arquette. Has a comic book quality and some outstanding set pieces, one in particular involving Thurman as Rhames’ wife Mia and Travolta as her chaperone for the evening. Jackson’s declamatory speeches, which may or may not feature quotations from the Bible, are quite something. It made $213m at the box office, against a budget of $8m.

                            22:50    Talking Pictures     The Trial (1962). Orson Welles’s skilful, imaginative adaptation of Kafka’s paranoid thriller, starring Anthony Perkins. A quiet office worker is picked and put on trial, but no-one explains why. Welles got the gig because the 1925 book was in the public domain. He updated it to a post-holocaust world: anti-semitism is the obvious subtext of the original. Perennially relevant: a morning at Cheltenham Magistrates (if they let you in) will make that clear. Welles was delighted with his own film. He also came home from Zagreb with a 21-year-old Croatian actress, Olga Palinkas, whom he renamed Oja Kodak and lived with part time (he also had a home with his third wife) until the end of his life.

Other modern films of interest

Saturday (1/1)           23:00   BBC2                      My Generation (2018). Documentary about Michael Caine, which he narrates himself. Apparently encompasses the birth of pop culture in Britain, which, as we all know, wouldn’t have happened without Michael Caine. Written for him by Dick Clement and Ian LaFrenais, and assembled over six years. Includes footage of The Beatles, Twiggy, David Bailey, etc. Mary Quant, too, who didn’t appear in the recent big documentary about herself. All seen through the eyes of Michael Caine. He was part of Swinging London. Not many people know that.

Sunday (2/1)              00:15   BBC1                      Man Up (2015). Mistaken identity comedy directed by Ben Palmer and starring Simon Pegg and Lake Bell, an American actress doing a pretty good British accent. He thinks she is his date and she goes with it. Sadly Nick Frost isn’t in it, though Sharon Horgan is, as well as Olivia Williams, Rory Kinnear and Ophelia Lovibond, who definitely gets today’s Name of the Week award. Mixed reviews, to say the least. It’s either ‘a top-notch romantic comedy’ or ‘formulaic and full of clichés’.

Monday (3/1)            11:00   Film4                      Bee Movie (2007). Computer animated comedy about a bee who attempts to sue the human race for exploiting bees, and who can blame him? Mysteriously, this was the film Jerry Seinfeld agreed to voice when he was the biggest television comedy star in the world. He performs as if he wishes he wasn’t there. So why did he do it? Money, honey? Rene Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman and Chris Rock are also on hand, but it is not a patch on the week’s other insect-based film, Antz. See below. Bees get a pretty raw deal and avocado-chomping vegans aren’t helping them. See my forthcoming pamphlet.

                                    21:00   Sky Arts                 Hitsville: The Making of Motown (2019). Self-congratulatory documentary about Motown, made by Motown and very much promoting the party line. The music is irresistible, of course, but the presentation is as slick as any product of the Charm School. Berry Gordy is still alive, astonishingly, unlike a lot of his stars, producers and session musicians.

                                    22:00   BBC2                     The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019). The inspiring, exciting comedy/adventure film that I showed at my recent Cool Yule Christmas event. If you weren’t one of the lucky few who were able to see it there, watch it now. Zak, a young man with Down’s Syndrome (Zack Gottsagen), runs away from the old people’s facility where he has been inappropriately placed. He meets a petty criminal with a heart (Shia LaBeouf), who promises to take him to find his idol, a professional wrestler he hopes will teach him the ropes. They are pursued by the Zak’s professional carer (Dakota Johnson). Funny, insightful and constantly surprising, it is loosely based on Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, with the Down’s Syndrome runaway replacing standing in for Twain’s slave. This is entirely appropriate: neither slaves nor mentally-disabled people are allowed agency in their lives and both are expected to work without payment.

Wednesday (5/1)      18:25   Film4                      Hidden Figures (2016). Slightly romanticised account of the contribution black women mathematicians made to the space race, directed by Theodore Melfi, based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book. Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae star as the three key women (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson), who battle discrimination despite their obvious gifts. Kevin Costner is Al Harrison, leader of the Space Task Group, and Kirsten Dunst is Vivian Mitchell, an over-officious supervisor. Despite the narrative liberties taken, it is an absorbing picture of a hitherto little-known part of NASA history and the three leads are excellent. The real life Katherine Johnson died in 2020 after a very distinguished career.

Thursday (6/1)           15:00   Great Movies        Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008). For some reason, rom-coms attract a great deal of abuse. This unoriginal music-scene hipster romance might deserve it. Directed by the Weitz brothers, who made American Pie and About a Boy, which were sleazy and creepy respectively. All modern rom-coms have a problem: there’s nothing romantic about hook-up culture. Is there, girls?

Friday (7/1)                 22:50  BBC4                       David Bowie: Five Years (2013). Documentary by Francis Whately covering five key years in Bowie’s career, featuring contributions from Angie Bowie, Rick Wakeman, Mick Ronson, Charles Shaar Murray, Earl Slick, Carlos Alomar and others. Reverential. Bowie required the help of an awful lot of more hard-working and talented people, who carried him when he was out of his head on drugs. A good performer, but credit where it’s due.


Saturday (1/1)    17:10    Channel 4                 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) (also 4seven Wednesday 22:00). Third instalment of the Indiana Jones franchise, directed by Steven Spielberg and co-written by George Lucas. Jones searches for his father (Sean Connery), a Holy Grail scholar who has been captured by the Nazis. Until Tony Robinson arrived, the work of an archaeologist had never seemed so exciting.

                               18:35   Talking Pictures        I’m All Right Jack (1959)  (also Wednesday 21:05). Early Peter Sellers comedy, before he became a superstar, in which he plays a shop steward in a missile factory. Ian Carmichael is the new recruit (Stanley Windrush) who outperforms his fellow workers, Dennis Price his unscrupulous uncle, and Terry Thomas and Richard Attenborough also feature. The even-handed nature of the Boulting Brothers’ class satire is somewhat upended by the sheer vigour of Sellers’s performance as Fred Kite, with his dedication to Mother Russia. ‘All them cornfields and ballet in the evening,’ which is still the vision propounded by the older members of the Sochi-Cheltenham twinning fraternity, who seem not to have noticed that the old Soviet Union has been privatised.

                               23:10   Film4                          Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Francis Ford Coppola’s version of the 1897 novel, with Gary Oldman as Dracula and a cast including Anthony Hopkins (Van Helsing) and Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder as Jonathan and Mina Harker. Rotten Tomatoes describes it as ‘overblown in the best sense of the word’ and it was a commercial success.

Monday (3/1)     00:35   Channel 4                  East is East (1999). Leslee Udwin’s comedy of Pakistani life in Salford in the 1970s. Chippie-owner George Khan (known as Genghis to his kids), married to a white Englishwoman, tries to lay down the law, but the British-born generation are not having it. Funny and tragic, in its way. Archie Panchabi makes an excellent debut as a lovelorn tomboy.

                             09:00    BBC1                         The Railway Children (1970). Lionel Jeffries’ family favourite version of E Nesbitt’s novel, set in the early 1900s, about three children who move with their mother to Yorkshire after their father is arrested on suspicion of being a spy. Jenny Agutter, Sally Tomsett and Gary Warren play the three children, Dinah Sheridan is the mother and Bernard Cribbins is Albert Perks, the station porter. It was remade in 2000 and some sort of sequel, including Agutter, is due for release in 2022. Irresistible.

                              11:55    ITV                             Antz (1998). DreamWorks ‘minibeast’ animation, with the voice talent of Woody Allen and Sharon Stone as a worker and a princess respectively. Written by the Weitz brothers, but interesting nonetheless. Woody has a lot of nebbish charm, but the insects look uncomfortably like the people playing them, and do not have the simple kid-appeal of Pixar’s banal A Bug’s Life, with which this film clashed.

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