Freeview films 12/2/22 to 18/2/22

World Cinema

Monday (14/2)           01:30   Film4    Rafiki (2018). Two girls in Nairobi, from very different backgrounds, are drawn together despite the disapproval of their community. A well-liked film by Kenyan director Kwanuri Kahiu. Colourful, youthful and mostly in English.

Wednesday (16/2)     01:10   Film4    The American Friend (1977). Made in 1977, this is an early adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1974 novel Ripley’s Game. It is directed by Wim Wenders in a European Film Noir style with an international cast and multi-lingual dialogue – English, French and German. It stars Dennis Hopper as Ripley and Bruno Ganz as his dupe Jonathan Zimmerman in a tale of art forgery, terminal illness and murder. Compelling, dark and haunted by the past.

Friday (18/2)               01:30   Film4    Vinyan (2008). Psychological horror that divided critics and didn’t much charm audiences. Rufus Sewell and Emmanuelle BĂ©art play a Western couple in Thailand whose son is swept away in the tsunami of Christmas 2004 (was it really that long ago?). Convinced he is still alive, they hire a Thai man to try and find him. Sky Cinema calls it ‘Don’t Look Now meets Heart of Darkness‘, which sounds pretty good, but some consider it a triumph of beautiful style over substance, and the Guardian object to the ‘dubious plot anchor of Westerners terrorised by anonymous Asiatics’.

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Sunday (13/2 )        01:00    BBC2             The Conversation (1974). This may not be the best known of Francis Ford Coppola’s works, but he brings his Godfather honed understatedness to this 1974 best picture nominated story of Harry Caul, a revered yet low esteem surveillance expert who stumbles upon a sinister plot while following a target. With John Cazale, Robert Duvall and Harrison Ford in support of a wonderful Gene Hackman performance.

                                   13:05    Channel 5    Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). This classic 1961 romcom, along with My Fair Lady, is perhaps the film that made Audrey Hepburn the evergreen cultural icon she is. This is a tale of finding what really matters in life, and is dripping in high fashion. It may be best to ignore Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of the Asian landlord, a now legendary bad decision with equal blame apportioned to all involved. In Truman Capote’s book, of course, Holly Golightly is a prostitute. In the film, she just seems to have generous friends.

                                   16:30    Film4            Big Eyes (2014). Tim Burton’s account of a curious episode in American art history, that of the dispute between Margaret Keane and her husband Walter over who actually painted the pictures of large-eyed children which had made them rich. The pictures were famous from the late 1950s onwards and the film explores ideas about good art (Warhol liked them), male power and identity, without losing narrative drive. (The following year Jennifer Lawrence appeared in Joy, about the inventor of the self-wringing mop, and the tensions her talent created in her family). Amy Adams is compelling as Margaret and Christoph Waltz appropriately monstrous as Walter.  

Monday (14/2)        23:50    Film4            Disobedience (2017). Sebastian Lelio (Gloria, A Fantastic Woman) directs powerfully from Naomi Alderman’s novel about a Jewish woman, Ronit (Rachel Weisz), returning from New York to England following the death of her rabbi father.  She stays with two friends, David (Alessandro Nicole) and Esti (Rachel McAdams) who are now married, though Ronit previously had an illicit affair with Esti and was banished because of it.  The tension between sexuality and faith is palpable and Weisz and McAdam are excellent in their portrayal of a couple denied each other.  

Thursday (17/2)      01:20    Film4             Life Is Sweet (1991). One of Mike Leigh’s funniest and most cheerful films. It made stars of Claire Skinner and Jane Horrocks as the contrasting twin daughters of a London suburban couple, played by Jim Broadbent and Alison Steadman. The big laughs come from Timothy Spall, their friend, who is an aspiring restaurateur. His dishes include ‘Liver in Lager’ and ‘Savaloys on a bed Lychees’. Very Cheltenham 2022.

                                   21:00     BBC4            Annie Hall (1977). Woody Allen’s game changing 1977 comedy comes from his golden period and stars frequent collaborator Diane Keaton as Allen’s love interest, Annie. Fans of Allen’s films will not be surprised with the milieu, the relationship, and the storytelling style, in which the characters famously famously break the fourth wall to speak to the camera.

Other modern films of interest

Saturday (12/2)         23.35   Channel 4      Sicario (2015). A superbly unflinching action thriller from one of the biggest names currently in filmmaking, Denis Villeneuve (who made the unwatchable, multi-garlanded Dune last year. Emily Blunt plays inexperienced FBI agent Kate Macer, who is introduced to the real cultures of the drug cartels around the US Mexico border by an inscrutable team of Josh Brolin and an especially menacing Benicio Del Toro.

Sunday (13/2)            22:35   BBC4              Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love (2019). Nick Broomfield’s typically self-regarding account of the relationship between Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian ‘muse’, Marianne Ihlen, much of which took place on a Greek island when the whole country was awash with wealthy American hippies. (Listen to Joni Mitchell’s Blue for more illuminating commentary.) Marianne went back to Norway, and much of the film concerns Broomfield’s pursuit of her.

Tuesday (15/2)          22:30   Sky Arts          Chuck Berry: The Original King of Rock ‘n’ Roll (2019). Documentary about the brilliant, bitter pioneer. Creator of rock’n’roll guitar-playing and a true poet.

Wednesday (16/2)    22:00   BBC4              Try Harder! (2021). Straightforward, low-budget by Debbie Lum, detailing the lives of a group of American school kids, mostly of Asian extraction, stressing about getting into college. What a grisly parody education has become.


Saturday (12/2)       13:35    ITV4                      Red River (1948), Also Sunday at 10:00. Howard Hawks classic Western, with John Wayne and ambiguous Montgomery Clift.

Sunday (13/2)          14:45    BBC2                    Emma (1996). Not a Merchant-Ivory adaptation of what is usually regarded as the best Jane Austen novel, if not the most popular. Actually directed by Douglas McGrath, who went on to make Nicholas Nickleby and I Don’t Know How She Does It.  Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t the obvious choice for the lead but got the part because she could do an authentic Texan accent, according to McGrath. Her Emma tries to matchmake various members of her social circle and learns some important lessons. Jeremy Northam is Mr Knightley and Ewan McGregor is Frank Churchill, a part he later wished he hadn’t taken. [I was about to insert a joke about Gwyneth not holding a scented candle to other Emmas, but she’s actually not bad. JM]

Monday (14/2)         15:55    Film4                   The Man Who Would Be King (1975)  (also Friday 11:00). Michael Caine and Sean Connery star as two British adventurers in late C19th India who decide the Raj is not enough and travel to remote Kafiristan (now Afghanistan) where they aim to become rulers. This goes well, until it doesn’t. Directed by John Huston, from a short story by Rudyard Kipling, falsely caricatured as an ignorant imperialist.  

                                    18:45    Film4                    A Room with a View (1986). Whilst in Italy, a group of British upper class holidaymakers learn, live and love whilst experiencing a slice of real life. Brought to the screen by the legendary Merchant-Ivory team, with an all star cast including Helena Bonham-Carter, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Julian Sands, Simon Callow and Daniel Day Lewis. Voted 9th best romantic film of all time by The Guardian. It is Valentine’s Day, of course. But I expect you’ll all be at The Playhouse, watching Sequin in a Blue Room.

Tuesday (15/2)         02:05    Film4                     Beautiful Thing (1996). While we’re on the subject of ‘Queer’ cinema, this is an adaptation of Jonathan Harvey’s famous South London council-flat coming-of-age play. Low-budget, charming, with a little-known cast, direction by Hettie McDonald and production by the television giant Tony Garnett.

Thursday (17/2)       22.30    BBC4                      The Deer Hunter (1978). Michael (Robert De Niro) and pals (Christopher Walken and John Cazale) are happy to be leaving their monotonous jobs and small town lives behind to serve in Vietnam. But once captured by vindictive Vietcong and forced to put their lives to chance in an infamous Russian Roulette scene, they long to return home, and to a love interest played by the inimitable Meryl Streep. [Editor’s note: I can imitate Meryl. ‘I haff a fahhm in Ahhfrica.]

Friday (18/2)             00:30   Talking Pictures    This Property is Condemned (1966). Sydney Pollack adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play about a Southern Belle (Natalie Wood) who is denied her chosen suitor (Robert Redford) by her mother, and in revenge takes up with her mother’s lover (Charles Bronson). The adjectives ‘steamy’ and ‘seamy’ seem to be interchangeable for this one

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