Freeview films 5/2/22 to 11/2/22

World Cinema

Saturday (5/2)      21:00    BBC4    Persian Lessons (2020). I find myself rather intrigued by this. It’s a Holocaust film, in German, about a young German Jew who pretends to be half-Persian to avoid being exterminated. He even gives Farsi lessons to the camp commandant, despite knowing no Farsi: the language he teaches is gibberish. IMDB has a trailer, but it’s in German: it looks like every Holocaust film you’ve ever seen. The critical reception was starkly divided, with many people insisting that the story, which is said to be ‘inspired by real events’, is not plausible. Variety said ‘The movie feels fraudulent, almost farcical at times, presenting an untenable premise and using it to rehash generic stereotypes about Germans, Jews and an event that claimed the lives of so many.’ Cath Clarke, one of the Guardian‘s critics who is not Peter Bradshaw, was a lot more positive: ‘This fable about language and memory is a troublingly easy watch – though it floored me in the devastating final moments, unexpectedly acquiring great depth and seriousness of purpose.’ It never got a cinema release. Director Vadim Perelman is Ukrainian. His first film was the acclaimed House of Sand and Fog, with Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly. (JM)

Monday (7/2)       01:10    Film4    It’s Only the End of the World (2016). Director Xavier Dolan has his fans, but this doesn’t seem to have pleased many people. A gold-plated French cast (Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard and Léa Seydoux) run through a solipsistic tale about a writer retiring to his hometown to tell his family about his imminent death. En Français. (JM)

Thursday (10/2)   01:55    Film4  Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (2020). Someone at Film4 must really love this Finnish erotic black comedy, because it keeps coming back. It’s about Juha, a widowed father who is emotionally cut off after losing his wife in a drowning accident and who meets a dominatrix called Mina and enters the BDSM world. Directed by JP Valkeapaa and with Pekka Strang as Juha and Krista Kosonen as Mona. (JR)

Friday (11/2)        23:00     Film4  The Tunnel (2019). Strange Norwegian disaster movie about a fire in a road tunnel just before Christmas. There are more than 1100 such tunnels in Norway, so it’s a bit of a preoccupation for them. Being largely concerned with the back stories of the characters and the build-up to the event, it pleased no-one who wanted action. Directed by Pal Ole, and starring Thorbjorn Harr. Not to be confused with the French-British TV series that reprised The Bridge. The IMDB trailer is in Norwegian. Apparently no-one in that formerly useful operation, now owned by Amazon, finds that a problem. (JR/JM)

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (5/2)    21:00    5 Action   The Last of the Mohicans (1992). Daniel Day Lewis brings his legendary commitment to Michael Mann’s authentic tale of tribal strife in the early years of English colonisation of America, based on the 1826 novel by James Fennimore Cooper. Day Lewis, an exponent of The Method, lived off the land, eating only what he could catch in preparation for the role of native Hawkeye, who falls for the daughter of the English colonel Munro, played by Madeleine Stowe. Wes Studi supports. (MH)

                                                           22:35    ITV   Collateral (2004)  Released in the same year, 2004, as his Oscar-winning turn as Ray Charles, it stars Jamie Foxx as an unsuspecting, mild-mannered taxi driver with dreams of retirement, who collects a customer who pushes him to his limits. The customer, an assassin, is played by Tom Cruise at almost his least Tom Cruisey in this tense action thriller, also directed by Michael Mann. (MH)

Sunday (6/2)       16:15    5 Action  Ride the High Country (1962). Sam Peckinpah Western about a retired lawman (Joel McCrea) who recruits an old friend (Randolph Scott), who has been performing in a travelling carnival, to escort a gold shipment. Scott’s character, however, has bad intentions. ‘The lynchpin in the entire genre of the Western,’ says excitable blogger Jeffrey M. Anderson. Personally, I think Peckinpah’s best effort was his version of Salad Days. (JM)

                                23:35    BBC2   Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach (2016). So, the BBC screens a documentary celebrating the life and work of Ken Loach, an important film-maker and seminal figure in the history of British television. It follows this up with some of his films. Ken Loach wouldn’t be allowed within a 100 miles of a programme budget in today’s soaraway, go-ahead, global, internet-friendly, nostalgic, trivial, useless BBC. Exactly how stupid do they think we are? (JM)

Friday (11/2)       21:05    Talking Pictures  The Pit and the Pendulum (1961). Roger Corman’s version of the Edgar Allan Poe short story about an Englishman (John Kerr) who travels to Spain in 1547 to investigate his sister’s mysterious disappearance. Vincent Price plays his brother in law, Nicholas Medina, who turns out to have a family connection to the Spanish Inquisition, which is unexpected. Corman had numerous imitators but there’s nothing better than the real thing. (JR)

Other modern films of interest

Sunday (6/2)        00:40   BBC4  Out of Thin Air: Murder in Iceland (2017)

A stylish but confusing documentary, directed by Dylan Levitt, about the disappearance of two Icelandic men, Gudmundur Einarssen and Geirfinnur Einarsson, in separate incidents in 1974, for which six people – including a young pregnant woman, Ella Bolladóttir – were later convicted. It then emerged that the police used sleep deprivation and water torture, among other things, to extract confessions. The case was a turning-point in the history of Iceland: the isolated nation was suddenly mesmerised by an incursion of the sort of crimes that people thought only happened in bigger, more modern countries. The principal suspect was compared to Charles Manson. And the police reacted as they tend to when cheered on by a mob: panic and brutality. In 2018, after the release of the film, the island’s supreme court belatedly acquitted all the men, two of whom had died in the meantime. The woman’s conviction, I believe, still stands but it is very difficult to find out what exactly has happened: the only reports I can find are in Icelandic. (JM)

                               13:30   Channel 5   Miss Potter (2006). Touching biopic of Beatrix Potter about the period of her life when she started to become established as an author and illustrator.  Renée Zellweger plays Beatrix and Ewan McGregor is the younger son of a publishing family who takes on her book as a project. Bill Paterson and Barbara Flynn play her nouveau riche parents who think he isn’t good enough for her. (JR)

                                22:00   BBC2  Sorry We Missed You (2019). Ken Loach’s film about the lives of people who work in logistics (i.e. delivering parcels on a terrible self-employed contract for almost no money). It’s angry and it makes you angry. As a piece of art, though, like many of Ken’s later films it disappoints by putting its finger on the scales: the poor people trodden down by the global capitalist scammola are saintly victims rather than people making their own (ill-advised) choices. It’s curious the way supposedly socialist writers like to create characters without individuality and autonomy. It’s almost as if they prefer people who do what they’re told by those who know best. (JM)

Tuesday (8/2)       22:45   Sky Arts  Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records (2018). Wonderfully enjoyable documentary about the ska music label of the 1960s. Ska was the fruit of the arrival of the first West Indian immigrants to Britain, when everybody was having fun: dancing, drinking, engaging in cultural and actual miscegenation. The music is glorious, joyful and not to be confused with the dreary reggae that emerged when everyone got into drugs, guns and politics and forgot how to dance. You can still sometimes hear ‘The Liquidator‘ (1969) by The Harry J. All Stars when the Robins run on at Whaddon Road, although I have no doubt it will soon be replaced by some piece of EDM written by one of the board members’ mistresses’ children. (JM)

Thursday (10/2)   21:00   Sky Arts  Cartoon Carnival (2021). Feature-length documentary about the early days of animation, when it was hand-drawn, silent and funny. Made by Century 21 Films, a group of animators and animation enthusiasts who seem to have taken on the mantle of the great Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who gave us Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. (JM)

Friday (11/2)         23:35  Channel 4   Whitney (2018). British documentarian Kevin Macdonald, who made the excellent Senna and the dreadful Marley, here gives us an exhaustive and revealing account of the tortured life and death of Whitney Houston, who was born into a gospel-singing soul dynasty and grew up to witness the transformation of black music into a colossal global industry: not necessarily a happy transition for those labouring in it. I once sent my friend Nick Coleman to interview the singer. She responded rather gnomically to Nick’s earnest white-soulboy inquisition, and I gleefully appended the words ‘But Whitney’s no Wittgenstein’ to the standfirst on the resulting story. There were predictable howls of outrage, but I was more impressed by a reader’s letter, pointing out that in many respects Whitney’s attitude to language mirrored Ludwig’s observations, not least in its recognition of the difficulties created arising when two utterly different consciousnesses attempt to communicate. He might just as easily have told me ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’. Either way, I was (momentarily) chastened. (JM)


Saturday (5/2)      21:00    Talking Pictures  Hobson’s Choice (1954). Directed by David Lean from Harold Brighouse’s play about the misogynistic, alcoholic owner of a shoe and boot shop in Lancashire, and his three daughters. Charles Laughton is Hobson, Brenda de Banzie his favourite daughter Maggie, and John Mills is Willie, a bootmaker whom Maggie is in love with. Laughton delivers a full-blooded performance, as always. (JR)

Sunday (6/2)         02:00    Sky Arts  Joe Cocker: Mad Dogs & Englishmen (1971). An old and thankfully rather old-fashioned concert movie, shot on the Singing Gasman’s 1970 American tour. Cocker, whose given name was Harold, was equally impressive as a blues singer and a drinker. One of his biggest hits was ‘You Are So Beautiful‘, the compositional history of which is murky. It was written by Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher, but then Preston met the Beach Boy Dennis Wilson at a party and some adjustments were apparently made. Wilson subsequently made it a part of his act. I prefer his desperate, wrecked, apologetic rendition (in front of a British audience) to Cocker’s string-laden professionalism. After palling up with Charlie Manson for a while, Dennis had a lot to apologise for. (JM)

Monday (7/2)       17:00    Film4   Winchester ’73 (1950)  (also Friday 11:00). An underappreciated 1950 Western gem from Anthony Mann, starring James Stewart as Lin McAdam, who wins a very rare and valuable Winchester rifle in a marksman contest, just for it to be pinched by his less respectable brother. He must follow Henry across country to reclaim it, encountering native Americans and bandits whilst the gun changes hands again and again. A wonderful Shelley Winters supports. (MH)

                                21:00   Talking Pictures  The Outsiders (1983). Francis Ford Coppola’s teenage biker gang movie has an extraordinary cast, whom I can’t be bothered to list. Most of them went on to greater fame and fortune. Possibly a little too arty for its own good.

Wednesday (9/2) 23:15    BBC2  Dangerous Liaisons (1988) Intense adaptation by Stephen Frears of Christopher Hampton’s play based on de Laclos’ epistolary novel about sexual machinations in pre-Revolution Parisian high society. John Malkovich and Glenn Close play the schemers, Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman the unwitting victims. As cold, brittle and heartless as it needed to be. (JR)

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