Freeview films 15/1/22 to 21/1/22

World Cinema

Saturday (15/1)       22:00     BBC2                  Yuli (2018). Yuli (BBC2, 22.00, Sat 15th) is billed as a biopic of the Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta, but as a film it is much more than that. It is directed by the renowned Spanish actress, writer and director Iciar Bollain, and co-written, with Acosta himself, by Paul Laverty, long-time screenwriter for Ken Loach. It combines documentary and dramatised reconstruction, the political and the personal, with great energy and skill. The depiction of Acosta’s childhood provides a lot of insight into the social fabric of Cuba in the 1970s and the high status accorded to the arts. The adult Acosta, who did not want to be a dancer when he was a child, is shown developing and choreographing a ballet loosely based on his own life: he dances the role based on his own father. A fascinating film, even if you have no interest in dance. 

Monday (17/1)         00:55    Film4                  Suntan (2016). A pudgy middle-aged doctor takes a summer placement on a hedonistic Greek island. He treats a beautiful young woman and she leads him on, for her own amusement and that of her friends. But he falls deeply in love. Humiliation and worse follow. The Greeks understand tragedy, even in its modern, demotic form. An extraordinary feature from Argyris Papadimitropoulos, a less self-regarding director than the more successful Lanthimos or the cult favourite Tsangari.

                                 18:40    Great Movies    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). Ang Lee’s beautiful, dynamic martial arts aerial ballet. The film that put him into the Hollywood big league, for better or worse.

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (15/1)   08:35   BBC2                     Kung Fu Panda (2008). Tremendous animated feature from DreamWorks. Inventive, funny and even rather wise. A raft of top-line voice talent (Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen), employed when characters were still understood to be more important than the fly-by-nights invited to speak their words.

                             16:25   Talking Pictures   It Always Rains on Sunday (1947). Austerity era thriller from Ealing. Produced by Michael Balcon, directed by Robert Hamer, with stark Picture Post cinematography from Douglas Slocombe and a haunting score from Georges Auric, who began his career with Satie and Cocteau in Paris. Housewife Rose (sexy Googie Withers) welcomes a former lover (John McCallum), escaped from prison, back into her life. She more than she bargained for. Philip French said it was as good as anything Hollywood or Europe were making at the time.

Sunday (16/1)      18:15    ITV4                      Apollo 13 (1995)  (also Thursday 20:00). An engaging true-to-life account of the NASA lunar mission that went horribly wrong, leaving the three astronauts stranded between Moon and Earth. Ron Howard uses groundbreaking zero gravity techniques and directs Tom Hanks, in perhaps his most heroic role to that point, who anchors the film with subtlety and grace. Ed Harris heads up mission control. Houston, we have no problem enjoying this one.    

Thursday (20/1)   23:10   Talking Pictures   Family Life (1971). Ken Loach’s third cinema feature, following on from the crowd-pleasing Kes and altogether more challenging. An expansed remake of a television Wednesday Play by David Mercer, it tells of a young woman who is forced to have an abortion and handed over to psychiatrists when her parents accuse her of ‘upsetting’ them. In the hospital, she is subjected to Electro Convulsory Therapy (which still exists). Mercer based his script on the theories of R D Laing, who believed that psychosis was a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances. A highly controversial view at the time and now largely replaced by major tranquillisers, prison-style inpatient facilities pens and worthless online ‘therapies’.

Friday (21/1)         23:10   ITV                        The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). Paul Greengrass returns to direct the final and most revelatory of the original Bourne trilogy, starring Matt Damon. The whole truth of the CIA soldier’s past is revealed, with the help of Chris Copper and David Strathairn. The film is laden with tech and displays the highly physical, muscular action now synonymous with this series. Unfortunately, it seems even Jason Bourne isn’t immune to weaker spinoffs and reboots.

Other modern films of interest

Saturday (15/1)      01:20     Film4              Macbeth (2015). Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard lead a dark, brutal version of the Scottish play that some suggested was designed to drag in the Game of Thrones audience. This week Joel Coen’s intermittently brilliant lockdown version, with Denzil Washington and Frances McDormand (Mrs Coen), makes it on to Apple TV. I believe you will also be able to see it at Wotton Electric Picture House on Sunday and Monday, 23rd and 24th of January. The Electric is great. Why hasn’t Cheltenham got one of those? Answers on a postcard to the National Lottery.

                                  15:00     Sky Arts         Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound (2009). Documentary biopic of the important singer and activist, directed by Mary Wharton. Includes interviews with friends, admirers, lovers and celebrity fans, including the great Vaclav Havel, the artist and intellectual who had the misfortune to be president of Czechoslovakia when it was torn apart. Note to the British electorate: some politicians actually are brilliant thinkers and writers. Not ours, though.                        

Sunday (16/1)         23:25     5Star              Erin Brockovich (2000). Julia Roberts deservedly won an Oscar for her performance as a single mother on the trail of PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric), which, it seems, is poisoning the water supply for her town. Roberts is cast against type as the argumentative, working-class Erin and Albert Finney plays her truculent boss, a lawyer who gets drawn into a class action lawsuit. Aaron Eckhardt is the charming biker who lives next door. Steven Soderbergh directs with assurance, style and unexpected humour. You’ll probably find out more about hexavalent chromium than you ever expected.

Monday (17/1)        00:55     Channel 4     The Witch (2015). A tale of possession paranoia in 17th century New England. After a young baby goes missing, a puritan family start to suspect each other and the dark forces that may be at work. This brave horror is wonderfully dread-filled and stars Anya Taylor-Joy, now one of Hollywood’s hottest properties, in a startling cinematic debut. A future classic from Robert Eggers, director of 2019’s The Lighthouse.

                                 23:45     Film4              Loving Vincent (2017). Stunning rotoscope animated feature about Van Gogh’s life and work. The script, with Pole Robert Gulaczyk in the title role, is a bit clunky, but the visuals are sumptuous. Watch the trailer.

Tuesday (18/1)        21:00     Film4             The Martian (2015). Ridley Scott’s castaway-in-space movie, effectively a one-man turn for Matt Damon, has echoes of Robinson Crusoe, in some ways the first real novel. Based on a book by Andy Weir, which fans say is much better than Ridley’s film. But then fans always say that.

Thursday (20/1)      23:20     Film4             Wild (2014). Based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir and directed by the Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers’ Club), who died recently, aged 58. Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl, venturing on an 1100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail following the death of her mother and the break-up of her marriage. It turns out to be a challenging and revealing journey, though some of her travelling companions leave a bit to be desired. Laura Dern features as Cheryl’s mother. The script is by Nick Hornby. Reese is very game and is setting herself up to star as Elinor Oliphant (not Elephant, autocorrect), lead character in the best-selling book about a sad, lonely, mother-haunted alcoholic Londoner. A stretch, but she might get away with it. MGM are funding it, which as of today probably means Amazon. Groan.


Tuesday (18/1)          15:55   Talking Pictures    The Court Jester (1955). Technicolor musical historical rom-com, with Danny Kaye as a wise fool who rightful king of England. Scripted studio comedy in the great tradition.

Wednesday (19/1)   22:50    Film4                      Shallow Grave (1995). Danny Boyle’s twisty, turny directorial debut is a well-crafted contemporary noir about three friends whose trust is stretched to breaking point when they make a gruesome discovery. Boyle fans may spot early indications of what was to come in Trainspotting. The film also draws on other debut features: Bound, by the Wachowskis, and Blood Simple by the Coens. With Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, Ewen McGregor, Ken Stott and Cotswold irritant Keith Allen.

Thursday (20/1)        02:20    Film4                      Pi (1998). Darren Aronofsky’s award-winning, mind-bending cinema debut, a black and white exploration of the significance of numbers. Computer engineer and mathematician Max discovers a number that seemingly can answer all of life’s questions. Then he becomes a target of religious and commercial forces and struggles to keep it safe and to himself. Mark Margoois supports.

Friday (21/1)            18:10    Talking Pictures   Seven Days to Noon (1950). Boulting Brothers thriller about a rogue nuclear scientist who takes a suitcase bomb into the centre of London in a bid to force the government to stop further research into the weapons. No stars at all. The lead is the versatile character actor Barry Jones, best known for being bald in any number of films and TV series. These days scientists have easier ways of terrifying and paralysing whole countries: they hold a press conference.

                                     21:05   Talking Pictures   The Crucible (1996). A retelling of Arthur Miller’s revered play, which used the Salem witch trials of the 17th Century to explore the horrors of McCarthyism. Despite the efforts of a fine cast, which reconvened Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder after The Age of Innocence, and a compelling and perennially relevant story, the film lacks punch and may not live as long in the memory as it should. Directed by Nick Hytner of the National Theatre. (Can we drop the Royal bit now? They’re rather lowering the tone, aren’t they?)

2 thoughts on “Freeview films 15/1/22 to 21/1/22

  1. Thank you, brilliant !

    1. Glad you like it. Interesting website you have. But you do know you really ought to be making your name and address available if you are publishing. Anonymity is the curse of the internet.

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