Freeview films from 16 April 2022

World Cinema

Sunday (17/4)        23:45   Film4     Mandibles (2020). Two Provence beachbums, Jean Gab & Manu (above), inexplicably discover a giant fly in the boot of their stolen Mercedes. Unfazed, they set about doing what anyone would do – training the creature as a live drone to execute bank robberies and make them rich. Engagingly strange and touching, with occasional gross-out moments, Mandibles expertly melds idiot slacker comedy in the Dumb & Dumber vein with 50s b-movie pastiche and surreal and satirical social observation. At the heart of the film is the solidarity between the loser anti-heroes and their sunny optimism against the odds. So we just go with the absurdist premise, always rooting for them, even when an alternate perspective momentarily jolts us. Writer-Director Quentin Dupieux (he’s the editor and cinematographer to boot) designs each off-kilter setpiece meticulously and it all pays off extremely well. Lead actors Grégoire Ludig and David Marsais are a real life TV comedy duo who’ve worked  together for years. Dupieux wrote the parts for them and it’s inspired casting. Also remarkable is Adèle Exarchopoulos, but to say more would be a spoiler. Delightful theme tune too by English electropop outfit Metronomy. (SF)

Wednesday (20/4)   02:00   Film4      Pili (2018). A first feature by Leanne Welham, co-written with Sophie Harman, an international politics lecturer and expert on the World Bank and global health. In Tanzania, Pili works the fields, bringing up her two children and desperate to keep her HIV-positive status secret. Then a market stall becomes available and she struggles to get the deposit together, with troubling consequences. A British-Tanzanian co-production in Swahili, produced, apparently, by Queen Mary College, University of London, where Harman is a professor. She got the money to make a documentary, but was persuaded to go down the feature route, which makes sense to me. Music by Tim Morrish (no relation). Sophie has a new book on Women’s Health out in 2024. The wheels of publishing turn exceeding slow. (JM)

Friday (22/4)             01:15   Film4      Eden (2014). Mia Hansen-Løve’s feature about a wannabe DJ in the House Music scene in France in the 1980s. Mia, who based this film on her brother’s story, has her fans. Her forthcoming One Fine Morning, starring Léa Seydoux as a single mother running a nursing home, who embarks on an affair, has been snapped up by the majors for international distribution later this year. (JM)

Stephen Ilott’s Picks 

Saturday (16/4)        02:00    Channel 4             Kill Your Friends (2015). Music-industry satire, about a ruthless A & R man, played by Nicholas Hoult, at the height of the Britpop era of the late 1990s. With a soundtrack from Oasis, Blur and the usual suspects. Described by some as a sort of UK take on the horrible American Psycho, the film received some damning reviews for the unpleasantness of the characters, the performances (step forward James Corden as a coke-crazed pop-biz rival whom the Hoult character bludgeons with an injustry award, about all they’re good for) and its wildly uneven tone. ‘A would-be blacker-than-black comedy that is so misconceived and so wretchedly executed that I have no trouble in putting it down as one of the most unpleasant afternoons I’ve ever spent in the cinema,’ wrote Matthew Bond in the Mail on Sunday. Stephen liked it, though, so it might be worth a second chance, particularly for those who don’t subscribe to the Mail group’s suburban aesthetics. (JM)

Sunday (17/4)           17:40    5Action                 The Big Country (1958). Epic western by William Wyler, starring Gregory Peck as James McKay, a former sailor retiring to start a new life with his fiancée Patricia (Carroll Baker). He becomes embroiled in a feud about water between his father-in-law (Charles Bickford) and the Hannassey family, headed by Rufus (Burl Ives). McKay’s reluctance to be drawn into the violence between the two families disappoints Patricia and her father and tests his resolve. Instead, he tries to secure joint access to the water supply. The love interest is provided by Jean Simmons as the local schoolteacher, and Charlton Heston also appears, as Leech, the foreman.  Terrific cast, great score, stunning cinematography, and a plot that’s actually about something.  And John Wayne’s not in it.  What more could you want?  (JR)

Monday (18/4)         22:00    BBC2                      Official Secrets (2019). Effective, unshowy drama telling the true story of Katharine Gun, played by Keira Knightley on good form, who has to choose between professional duty and personal ethics as a GCHQ staffer who discovers the American NSA is trying to rope GCHQ into eavesdropping on members of the UN Security Council. It wants to blackmail them into supporting George Bush’s invasion of Iraq. She gives the information to a peace activist, who passes it on to an Observer journalist. Gun’s personal life is called into question and GCHQ hunts her down. She also seeks legal help to claim her actions may have been illegal but were also ethically correct. The film builds strong tension and asks the question: what would you do? (MH)

Thursday (21/4)       22:00    BBC4                      King Kong (1933). An extraordinary film that everyone should see, even those who think they know the story: a giant ape terrorises an island and is shipped to America as a curiosity. Conceived by Merian C. Cooper, an RKO studio executive, who claimed to have started with the image of a gigantic gorilla on top of the Empire State Building and worked backwards from there. The British thriller-writer Edgar Wallace was hired to produce a novel and a treatment, before the film was made. Existing stop-motion animations of dinosaurs were shoe-horned into the screenplay, which passed through various hands before being completed by Ruth Rose, wife of Cooper’s co-director Ernest B Schoedsack. She had never written a film before, but wisely chopped out a lot of extraneous exposition, moving the titular simian from capture to Broadway between shots. Fay Wray, Kong’s love-object, was lured into the project by being told she would be paired with ‘the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood’. She was expecting Clark Gable. (JM)

Friday (22/4)             02:00   Talking Pictures    Emperor of the North Pole (1973). Depression-set adventure, from a Jack London novel, starring Lee Marvin as a notorious train-hopping hobo and Ernest Borgnine as the train conductor who hates him. Censored in the UK. The most recent versions were apparently cut by three seconds ‘to completely remove a shot of two men being hit with a live chicken during a fight scene.’ Directed by Robert Aldrich. [JM]                        

22:40   BBC1                      The Imitation Game (2014). Wonderful biopic of Alan Turing, played in a career highlight turn by Benedict Cumberbatch, who helped shape the modern world by creating the blueprint for the first programmable computer, and is considered the father of Artificial Intelligence. During WW2 he headed a small team responsible for breaking the Germans’ Enigma code at Bletchley Park, the UK government’s secret intelligence site. Turing’s personal life and its consequences overshadowed his efforts, which themselves were only revealed decades after the events. He was voted the greatest person of the 21st century in a 2019 BBC series. Note – Bletchley Park is now open to the public and well worth a visit. (MH)

Other modern films of interest

Saturday (16/4)          22:40   ITV               Hot Fuzz (2007). The second of the ‘Cornetto’ comedy trilogy, in between Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End, from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. PC Angel, played by Pegg, is a hot-shot London cop making his colleagues look bad. So he is sent to a sleepy Cotswolds village, Sandford in Gloucestershire, which has the lowest crime figures in the UK and consistently wins the ‘Best Village of the Year’ award. [The film was shot in Wells, Stow-on-the-Wold having turned the filmmakers away.] Angel finds a dark underbelly beneath the idyllic image of the seemingly perfect community. Directed by Edgar Wright in his typical swift-edit style, it pays homage to many films, as is customary for Pegg and Frost, and stars an impressive haul of British acting talent including, Broadbent, Colman, Nighy, Considine and many others. (MH)

Monday (18/4)           14:30   BBC1           Beauty and the Beast (2017). Another in Disney’s collection of live action remakes of their classic animated features. The songs and characters remain, but the visuals are revamped and the plot ‘modernised’. A perfectly serviceable outing for Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as Beast, but predictably, doesn’t reach the heights of the 1990s cartoon (or earlier adaptations, including, of course, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 French classic). With a voice cast that includes Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen and Ewan McGregor. (MH)                    

22:00   BBC4           Maxwell (2007). BBC Drama directed by Colin Barr about the last days of newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, with the excellent David Suchet in the lead role and Patricia Hodge as his wife Elisabeth. The script is based on tapes Maxwell made himself, due to his mistrust of his employees.  Richard Nixon did something similar and you kind of wonder why they bothered. (JR)

Wednesday (20/4)  21:00   Sky Arts       The Go-Go’s (2020) .   Documentary directed by Alison Elwood (Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time) about the hugely successful 1980s female rock band (Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine and Jane Wiedlin). The film premiered at Sundance and was well received, with a feeling that it reflected the original punk spirit of the band. As with all bands, there was a bit of litigation. (JR)                              

22:00   BBC4            Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills? (2018). Documentary by Simon Dales about the death of the British boxer who became world light heavyweight champion but was found shot dead in his car in July 1965.  The coroner’s verdict of suicide has been consistently challenged by Mills’s family, and the film uses previously unseen footage to suggest a different story. Set in Soho, it includes insights into organised crime, gambling and police corruption.  (JR)

Thursday (21/4)          16:15   Film4           Bend It Like Beckham  (2002). In the same year as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this was a similarly unlikely smash hit. A warm-hearted, cheerfully interracial comedy about an amateur female football team and the troubles and friendship of two of the players, played by Keira Knightley (in her breakthrough role) and Parminder Nagra. Their parents figure largely in their lives, with one mother being unaware entirely and the other wanting her daughter to conform and start a family. But the girls are both determined to follow their dreams. The first big success for Gurinder Chadha, whose family were Kenyan Asians who settled in Southall. (JM)

Friday (22/4)               21:00   BBC4            Freddie Mercury: The Final Act (2021). A BBC documentary, directed by James Rogan, who has worked on all sorts of pop television series and more investigative films, under the tutelage of Roger Graef. It tells the story of Freddie Mercury’s death and the concert his fellow Queen members put on afterwards to ‘celebrate his life and challenge the prejudices around HIV/Aids’. Stories of the HIV epidemic are woven into this. As it happens, Freddie kept his illness entirely private until the end. I’m not sure he was a poster boy for anybody’s cause. I’m somewhat inclined to agree with an anonymous reviewer on IMDB: ‘In small doses, I love a bit of Queen, but sometimes it seems that the surviving band members do nothing else in their lives these days but milk the nostalgia. Moreover, it seems that Freddie did his dying away from his working; although Messrs May and Taylor speak sensitively and sympathetically about their bandmate, it’s also clear they had minor roles in his “final act.” ‘ (JM)


Sunday  (17/4)       10:50   ITV4                Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). A much-loved Western, starring the most bankable pairing of the era, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, with Katherine Ross in support. Based on the fictionalised and romanticised exploits of the two infamous outlaws who, after a bank robbery goes awry, flee to South America to make their escape. I think history has been kind to the film, which may not fully deserve its classic status. New audiences may not be as impressed as its original audience. Music by Burt Bacharach. (MH)                     

14:00    Channel 5     The Ten Commandments (1956) . Technicolor and VistaVision biblical epic made by Cecil B De Mille at the age of 75, with Charlton Heston as Moses, apparently cast for his biblical knowledge and resemblance to Michaelangelo’s statue of the prophet. I saw this as a birthday party treat as a small child (NB: not in 1956) and was powerfully impressed. Moses declares ‘blood does not make good mortar’ as the Hebrew slaves are worked to death while building a city for the Pharaoh (Yul Brynner). That has certainly proved true in respect of my own amateur bricklaying. (JM)

17:45    BBC1              The Lion King (1994). Loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and released during Disney’s second golden age, The Lion King is one of the best-loved animated films of all time. Young Prince Simba is blamed by his malevolent uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) for his father’s death, and escapes into the jungle where he meets the dynamic duo of Timon and Pumbaa, eventually to return to face his guilt and reclaim the crown. The final moment of King Mufasa (James Earl Jones), Simba’s Dad, almost rivals that of Bambi’s Mum for ‘core childhood memory’ status. With a wonderful score and great songs, including ‘Hakuna Matata’, ‘Circle of Life’ and ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’, by Elton John and Tim Rice, it is also a singalong classic. (MH)

Thursday (21/4)      23:35    BBC4              The Thing from Another World (1951). ‘We’ve found a flying saucer.  We’ve finally got one!’ This classic sci-fi thriller was one the defining films of the 1950s b-movie era, and with the twin threats of a brutal alien and killer plants has proved hugely influential. A motley bunch of gung-ho airmen, meddling scientists and one very annoying  journalist arrive at the North Pole to investigate a mystery crash-landing in the ice. Cold War paranoia is a pervasive theme, and much of the  banter is of its time. Margaret Sheridan as the one female team member tries to assert herself as a modern woman while gamely fending off endless sexist comments. Still, the movie succeeds as a taut, fast-paced thriller, with a then innovative use of overlapping dialogue and an exciting finale. I would have been somewhat alarmed by the constant talk of Geiger counters off-the-scale, but the intrepid, parka-clad crew seem undeterred. (SF) [The question of who directed is controversial. The credits award the film to Christian Nyby, who had been Howard Hawks’s editor on The Big Sleep, To Have and Have Not and Red River: but Hawks produced the film and was on the set every day. Some say Hawks gave his great collaborator a director’s credit to encourage him or help him into the Directors’ Guild. It is certainly true that nothing in Nyby’s subsequent career matched this, his debut, in impact or critical esteem. JM}

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