World Cinema

Katell. Born January 30, 1980, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Bonne anniversarie.

Monday (31/1)      01:55     Film4   Heal the Living (2016). This really looks rather good. A boy in a coma, a woman with a weak heart, doctors and nurses, organ donation. A thoughtful piece about illness and health, which could not be more topical. Directed by Katell Quillévéré, who made the underrated Suzanne (2013). Here’s a picture of her. And why not, as Barry Norman used to say. It’s her birthday tomorrow.

Wednesday (2/2)   01:05     Film4   Elle (2016). Paul Verhoeven’s first film since 2006, and his first in French, won numerous awards. Isabelle Huppert gives a magnificent performance as a computer game company executive who is raped in her home by a masked intruder and sets out to turn the tables on him. Startling, thought-provoking, unsparing.

                                  21:00     Film4   Parasite (2019). Bong Joon-ho’s history-making, expertly poised, razor-sharp satire tells the story of two Korean families, separated by a gulf in class and wealth, who become intertwined with dramatic results. Starring the director’s long-time collaborator Song Kang-ho. Balancing aspects of comedy, horror, drama and psychological thriller helped Parasite to become the first non-English language film to win a Best Picture Oscar, as well as taking the Palme d’Or at Cannes

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (29/1)      21:00    Horror Channel    Evil Dead 2 (1987). The second of Sam Raimi’s horror-comedies. ‘Evil Dead 2‘s increased special effects and slapstick-gore makes it as good — if not better — than the original,’ says the ‘critics’ consensus’ on Rotten Tomatoes. That doesn’t sell it it me (JM) but if that’s the kind of thing you like, you’ll like this.

                                  23:30    BBC2                      Apostasy (2017). This is a first, and possibly only, movie by Dan Kokotajlo. A young woman in a Jehovah’s Witness family transgresses and is punished. Heart-rending performances by a cast who have rarely graced the big screen, led by Molly Wright, Sacha Parkinson and Siobhan Finneran. Kokotajlo was a Witness himself, and writes and directs from the heart. Maybe he only had the one film in him, but it’s a goodie. These are the British films we want: not dreary costume dramas about an imaginary Britain, assembled by accountants to appeal to an imaginary Transatlantic audience and packed to the brim with the RADA gang. They deserve a rest.

Sunday (30/1)         22:00    BBC2                      In the Heat of the Night (1967). Probably Sidney Poitier’s most famous role, as Virgil Tibbs, the savvy detective from Philadelphia who stops off in the Deep South and becomes involved in investigating a murder, in Norman Jewison’s Oscar-winning racial tension drama. His scenes sparring with Rod Steiger, the unreconstructed local sheriff, are among the most memorable on screen. The moment when Tibbs is slapped in the face by a plantation owner and then slaps him back was particularly controversial.

Monday (31/1)       23:15    BBC2                      Lady Macbeth (2016). Florence Pugh is remarkable in the lead role of Katherine in William Oldroyd’s Victoria-era drama, set on a remote farm in Northumberland. Initially constrained by her repressive husband Alexander, Katherine throws off the shackles while he is away, with ultimately terrifying results.Based on the novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District by Nikolai Leskov, which, when made into an opera, was the start of Dmitri Shostakovich’s difficulties with Uncle Joe Stalin. More Russian than English in a way, but good stories are universal.

Tuesday (1/2)          01:45   Film4                      Nowhere Boy (2009). Somewhat manicured account of the early days of John Lennon, directed by visual artist Sam Taylor-Wood. Interesting, but definitely a part of the campaign to make Lennon a kind of patron saint and tourist treasure for the perennially broke City of Liverpool, which has a lot of better candidates. They even named their airport after him. A nice performance by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the central role, with Kristin Scott Thomas as a rather chilly Aunt Mimi, who brought him up. Lennon was interesting on many levels: a man who sang ‘imagine no possessions’ while living in the lap of luxury, and an avowed feminist with a penchant for terrorising the women in his life. Still, let he who is without sin, etc. Macca was the musician.

Other modern films of interest

Saturday (29/1)       21:00   Film4           The Untouchables (1987)  (also Friday 21:00). Loosely based on the true story of Eliot Ness and his formation of a team to prosecute Al Capone in the Prohibition era. Directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet, it is sweeping, energetic and compulsive and features a famous tribute to Sergei Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps scene in Battleship Potemkin, set in Chicago’s Union Station. A great cast includes Robert De Niro as Capone, and Sean Connery, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Thursday (3/2)         00:00   Sky Arts      Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President (2020). Possibly struggling at a feature length, but Mary Wharton’s documentary is a charming attempt to create a portrait of the president throught his genuine love for all sorts of rootsy music. We’re only now beginning to appreciate what a good man Carter was. Much better than the sax maniac Clinton, for instance.

                                   21.00   Sky Arts      Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (2019). A fascinating documentary about the underappreciated and largely lost art of sound design: anyone who has had the misfortune to see a recent blockbuster will understand what I mean. Of course, all that effort on the part of the filmmakers comes to naught if the screening facilities are sub-par. Is there anyone out there who understands sound who would like to help us sort out The Playhouse? No money, though. Sorry.    

Friday (4/2)              01:15   Film4           Moonlight (2016). Barry Jenkins’s drama is a contemplative, beautiful and superbly acted exploration of coming to terms with one’s sexuality in a hostile environment. We follow the life of street-kid Chiron in three stages of maturity, each instrumental in shaping his ideas of manhood and being true to himself. It won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali (as Chiron’s guardian: nothing for lead Ashton Sanders), and for Best Picture. You may remember Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty originally presented the gong, live onstage, to La La Land. A murky incident all-round.

                                   22:30   Sky Arts      We Are the Thousand (2020). This is a strange story. Apparently 1,000 musicians gathered in Cesena in Italy to play a hit by the Foo Fighters in an attempt to get Dave Grohl, leader of the grunge-lite band, to come and play there. This documentary shows what happened next. Caring, liberal rock musicians who make heart-warming documentaries about how much they love the little people who make them rich render me mighty suspicious, but then, I’m like that. I’ve know a few rock musicians. [Not in the carnal sense.]


Saturday (29/1)       13:50   BBC2                     The Searchers (1956). The two Johns, Ford and Wayne, bring us a solid-gold Western classic. A Civil War veteran goes to try and rescue his niece (Natalie Wood), who has been abducted by Comanches. Ambivalent and stylish.

Sunday (30/1)          08:55   Talking Pictures   Contraband (1940). Michael Powell wartime thriller about a seaman who gets caught up in a German spy operation in England. Hitchcock’s influence is apparent, but Powell has his own way with a camera.

                                   13:15   BBC2                     Rio Bravo (1959). Another classic Western, this time form Howard Hawks. After the brother of a notorious baron is arrested for murdering a defenseless man, the Sheriff and his deputies are targeted by a crew of guns for hire to release the prisoner. John Wayne is partnered with a couple of music-industry figures: Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson. Wasn’t ‘Garden Party’ a great song? Although he was ‘Rick’ by then.
                                   15:30   BBC2                     Lilies of the Field (1963). Interesting vehicle for the late Sidney Poitier, who plays a wandering black handyman in Arizona, who stumbles into a mission established by German nuns, who become convinced that he is some sort of divine emissary, sent to help them build a chapel. Poitier is excellent, and it’s all very uplifting, but really: America is very confused about race, isn’t it?

Wednesday (2/2)    23:15   ITV4                       The Revenant (2015). Alejandro González Iñárritu’s revisionist western based on the experiences of Hugh Glass, a C19th frontiersman and fur trapper who set out for revenge on the two companions who left him for dead after he was mauled by a grizzly. Leonardo Di Caprio’s brave performance as Glass won him his first Best Actor Oscar and Iñárritu won Best Director. Although the CGI sometimes leaves a bit to be desired, the cinematography is stunning and there is strong sense of authenticity, and sensitivity to the landscape, which is being trashed by the trappers. With music by the peerless Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Thursday (3/2)         03:15   Talking Pictures   The Silent Partner (1978). Opinions vary about this Elliot Gould/Christopher Plummer/ Susannah York thriller. ‘Uncommonly clever and gripping’ or ‘Overcooked with a murky plot.’

Friday (4/2)              21:00    ITV4                       Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990). Although this second instalment hasn’t reached the cultural status of its predecessor, it still avoids the ‘weak sequel’ stereotype and helps to support the trilogy as a whole. John McClane is back, fighting terrorists, led by William Sadler, who have assumed control of an airport and threatened the lives of many passengers. Gun fights and explosions abound. Do not look for subtlety here. No Alan Rickman, either.

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