World Cinema

Saturday (23/4) 01:35   Film4    The Guilty (2018). This Danish thriller, directed by debutant Gustav Möller, is basically a one-hander. Jakob Cedergren plays Asger, a Copenhagen police officer handling emergency calls while he awaits trial for shooting dead a 19-year-old man. He takes a call from a woman named Iben (Jessica Dinnage) who appears to have been abducted and is in a van. Asger becomes possessed by the case and, by following various leads remotely, is able to establish Iben is with her ex-husband and that the couple have two children.  He also involves his colleague Rashid, who was present at the previous shooting.  This is all distressing enough but all is not as it seems.  The van is also on its way to Elsinore. Coincidence?  The film, much enjoyed by CFS audiences in 2020/21, made the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Award at the Oscars. A 2021 remake had Jake Gyllenhaal bring his usual intensity to the lead role, and also featured Ethan Hawke, Riley Keough and Paul Dano.  (JR)

Wednesday (27/4)     01:00   Film4    Force Majeure (2014). Tomas and Ebba are a well-heeled Scandinavian couple on a skiing holiday in the Alps, with their two young children. Faced with a supposedly controlled avalanche that appears to be engulfing their mountan top hotel, Tomas panics and his subsequent actions have profound consequences for everyone. There follow tense and unsettling encounters with other guests, which reinforce growing fractures in the couple’s relationship. It’s all as suspenseful as any thriller. Writer/Director Ruben Östlund has crafted a clever moral fable about modern masculinity and our still deep-rooted instincts about the father’s responsibility to protect his family. His oblique visual style incorporates some mysterious night time imagery,  almost scifi like, and an almost pure white canvas by day, all adding to the sense of alienation. The final snowbound scenes are immensely gripping. And there is one remarkable jump scare. (SF)

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Sunday (24/4)  23:15   ITV4                        Airplane! (1980). The plot of this disaster-movie spoof follows an outbreak of a virus on a flight, with many passengers and the pilot falling ill. A retired fighter jet pilot (Robert Hays) and a doctor (Leslie Nielsen) must work together to bring the plane home safely, with the help of a rag-tag team of air traffic controllers. In reality, this is a vehicle for hilarious quick-fire gags of all types and subjects. It shouldn’t work, but it really does. It may not display the wit and perceptiveness of a Monty Python, but it is memorable, quotable, highly non-PC, and above all fun. (MH)

Monday (25/4)        16:30    Film4                     This Happy Breed (1944)  (also Friday 11:00). A sprawling melodrama about a British suburban family between the two world wars (two so far), directed by David Lean and written by Noel Coward among others. Starring Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, John Mills and others. This is James Agee in Time magazine in 1947: ‘This Happy Breed is Noel Coward’s proud and loving tribute to the unbreakable British backbone.’ And here’s something by an anonymous C4 staff writer: ‘A toff propagandist’s England, of course. But once you’ve got over its peculiar patrician tones and bitty structure, there’s much to enjoy.’ Cue Spectator think-piece: ‘Why does The Left hate Britain so much?’ (JM)

Tuesday (26/4)         12:45   Film4                      12 Angry Men (1957). Sidney Lumet’s wonderfully acted and crisply directed drama brings together some of the best character actors of the era, including Lee J Cobb and Martin Balsam, alongside the star of the show, Henry Fonda. They make up a jury who are deliberating on a murder case: it looks fairly cut and dried, but the evidence may not be as solid as it first seems. The action takes place almost entirely in one room and is not structured like a drama in the traditional sense: it doesn’t hang on a guilty or innocent verdict, but is an immersive multiple character study, almost unrivalled for depth and interest.  (MH)   

14:10   Talking Pictures   Oliver Twist (1948). David Lean’s classic adaptation, starring Robert Newton as Bill Sykes, Alec Guinness as Fagin, Kay Walsh as Nancy, Anthony Newley as the Artful Dodger and John Howard Davies as Oliver: later to be a top BBC comedy producer, as Pamela noted last week. Wonderful monochrome cinematography by Guy Green and economical image-driven direction. (JM)

Wednesday (27/4)   15:15   Talking Pictures    The Ox-Bow Incident (1943). Timeless William A. Wellman Western about a couple of drifters in Nevada (Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan) who are made to join a posse to round up some suspected cattle rustlers. ‘In contrast to the familiar Western device of the hero obliged to take the law into his own hands, The Ox-Bow Incident is a grim, messy cautionary tale, almost an anti-Western, about the dangers of vigilante justice and mob rule,’ writes Steven D. Greydanus on a blog called Decent Films: film appreciation and criticism informed by Christian faith. All styles served here. (JM)

Friday (29/4)             21:00   Film4                      Zombieland (2009). An ultra-modern and knowing comedy about a small group of survivors of a zombie Apocalypse, travelling the US looking for anyone else still alive. After a stern Woody Harrelson and timid Jesse Eisenberg team up, luck brings them across sisters Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, who have their own agenda. This may not fuse horror and comedy as successfully as The Evil Dead, which is still the benchmark, but the laughs are certainly there, along with good special effects and a fast-paced story. (MH)

Other modern films of interest

Saturday (23/4)       15:00   Sky Arts          The Lost Leonardo (2021)  (also Monday 23:35). An excellent documentary telling the extraordinary story of the Salvator Mundi, a rather ugly portrait of Christ, described as ‘after Leonardo da Vinci’ when it was discovered in a New Orleans auction room and bought for $1,175. It was subsequently ‘authenticated’ as being by the Renaissance master and became the subject of immense art world hype and price inflation, eventually selling for $450m. This elegant, pacy film casts light on the world of the ultra-rich collectors and the experts, curators and auction-houses who knowingly or unknowingly dance to their tune. (JM)                             

17:00   Sky Arts          The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town (2010). A reverential documentary, produced and directed by one of Bruce Springsteen’s trusties, about the making of his ambitious, dark follow-up to the hit album Born to Run. Here’s blogger Bill Chambers of Filmfreak Central in Toronto: ‘It’s a pleasant mix of fly-on-the-wall footage of the original recording sessions for the titular album and retrospective interviews with the E Street Band as well as various industry types. You’ve got to admire Springsteen’s chutzpah in documenting and cataloguing his creative process with a borderline-Kubrickian obsessiveness long before his reputation warranted it, but as much as his collaborators bitch about his anal-retentiveness from their current vantage, he’s such a benign genius that the studio material frankly doesn’t generate a lot of electricity – at least between jams. Moreover, so much of it is presumed to need contextualization by the latter-day interviews that I grew restless with the constant cutting back and forth.’ Personally, I’ve never really been very excited about Brooooce, but he has legions of obsessive fans, who will surely want to see this. (JM)                           

21:00    Sky Arts         No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005). Slightly higher up the totem-pole, this is Martin Scorsese’s in-depth biographical film about Dylan, including lots of concert and press-conference footage, interviews with friends, fans and at least one lover, and a new interview with the Zim himself. None of which proves particularly revelatory. Dylan-lovers and people of that age (I’m the latter, if not the former) adored it, but I have to admit to being amused by this snarky summary by one Gregory Weinkauf, writing in Uber-Ciné, which no longer exists: ‘A competent but fawning, focusless and utterly overlong tribute to a terribly mediocre entertainer who “sings” like a bumblebee barfing. Bloated Boomers, feel free to be interred with a copy. Soon.’ That’s the way to do it. Gregory seems to write now for the free independent website Dallas Observer, part of the most defunct New Times stable, and Medium, which is glorified self-publishing. That’s what happens to nay-sayers. I like him. Here’s some more of his stuff. (JM)

Monday (25/4)        21:00    BBC2              Navalny (2022). Fascinating documentary by Daniel Roher about Russian lawyer and presidential candidate Alexey Navalny, using interviews with him, his wife Yulia and others close to him, as well as footage of his campaign against corruption and Putin, leading up to the moment when he was poisoned on the way home from a trip to Siberia and sent to Germany for treatment. Oddly, the Putin regime denied any involvement. Especially telling is Navalny’s admission that he had assumed that because he was high profile, he was less likely to come to harm. He’s not perfect, no one is, but this is a story of almost unbelievable bravery. (JR) [Daniel Roher is best known for Once Were Brothers, a documentary about Robbie Robertson and The Band, who were Dylan’s backing group when he went electric and was denounced as Judas.]

Tuesday (26/4)         01:45   Film4              Jimmy’s Hall (2014). This was expected to be Ken Loach’s last film but it has since been followed by I, Daniel Blake (2016) and Sorry We Missed You (2019). This 1930s-set feature is based on the real life of Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) who, following the Irish Civil War, returned to the Republic after living in the US for a number of years. Jimmy, a communist and member of the Workers’ Revolutionary Group, is community-minded and sets up a dance hall in Leitrim, on the banks of the Shannon. This becomes popular and naturally causes problems with the Church and the Gardai, leading eventually to Gralton’s deportation to the States for sedition. Maybe the dancing was just that bit too provocative.  It was among the competition for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2014. ‘While this deeply romanticized and fictionalized account of a little-known underdog might not serve you in any trivia capacities, it’s also a worthy and loving story of humanity in the face of oppression,’ writes Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press in the Arizona Republic. Includes an appearance by Andrew Scott as a not-particularly-hot priest. (JR/JM)

Wednesday (27/4)   21:00   Film4              Calm with Horses (2019). (Pictured, top.) Released in the USA with the title The Shadow of Violence, this is the feature debut of director Nick Rowland. It is set in very rural Ireland and stars Cosmo Jarvis in a commanding performance as Arm, a former boxer and now “enforcer” for a local family of criminals. Ned Dennehy and Barry Keoghan play the older and younger members of this family with chilling conviction. Arm is something of a lost soul: he is trying to escape the violence of his past, which also intrudes upon his present existence, while trying to be a responsible father to his young son, who has autism. The film’s UK title refers to the fact that the boy’s behaviour and his relationship with his father is more settled when they are both around horses. The film has some threatening and extremely violent scenes but it is a powerful piece of work which deserved to have a wider distribution than it received .(PW)                             

21:00   Sky Arts         Searching for Sugar Man (2011). It’s almost unbelievable, in our age of instant communication and overnight global success: a man makes a record, nobody buys it, and he falls into anonymity and poverty. But unknown to him, that record is going platinum 3000 miles away. This is exactly what happened to Sixto Rodriguez, the American singer-songwriter whose music defined an era in South Africa, without him knowing anything about it. Searching For Sugar Man is a moving documentary that focuses on the efforts of two South African fans to discover who Rodriguez was, and whether he was still out there. (FM) [The film won the Oscar for Best Documentary. It was directed by Malik Bendjelloul, who was born in Ystad, Sweden, in 1977. In 2014, while working on his follow-up, a documentary about an elephant conservationist, he jumped in front of a train.]


Saturday (23/4)      14:05    BBC2                         Funny Girl (1968) . William Wyler’s film of the backstage musical is a vehicle for Barbra Streisand, chewing the scenery to great effect in her astonishing debut. Here’s the start of Roger Ebert’s 1968 review for the Chicago Sun-Times: ‘The trouble with “Funny Girl” is almost everything except Barbra Streisand. She is magnificent. But the film itself is perhaps the ultimate example of the roadshow musical gone overboard. It is over-produced, over-photographed and over-long. The second half drags badly. The supporting characters are generally wooden. And in this movie, believe me, everyone who ain’t Barbra Streisand is a supporting character.’ He was also quite rude about Omar Sharif, who plays her husband. The words ‘wooden’ and ‘cigar-store Indian’ featured. (JM)

Thursday (28/4)      09:20   Talking Pictures       Patterns (1956). Big business melodrama, notable for having been written by Rod Serling, who created The Twilight Zone and penned Planet of the Apes. Starring Van Heflin, Ed Begley and Everett Sloane. (JM)                     

21:00   BBC4                          Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). A New York advertising executive (Cary Grant) persuades his wife (Myrna Loy) to create a dream-home in rural Connecticut, where everything that can go wrong goes wrong. ‘Blandings may turn out to be too citified for small-town audiences, and incomprehensible abroad; but among those millions of Americans who have tried to feather a country nest with ciairty greenbacks, it ought to hit the jackpot,’ wrote James Agee in Time on the film’s release. Not so incomprehensible in the Cotswolds in 2022, where money comes to die. (JM)

Friday (29/4)           13:15   Film4                          Ministry of Fear (1944). The screen version of Graham Greene’s novel, which took its title from the Nazi practice of collecting information on individuals in countries they had occupied. Ray Milland plays Stephen Neale, who during the Blitz has just been released from a psychiatric facility and goes to a village fete, where he wins a cake in a ‘Guess the Weight’ competition. As we know, cake can cause all sorts of problems, and it does here, because someone else wants that cake very badly indeed.  The rather baroque plot involves Nazis, spies, a medium, a psychiatrist, train journeys and other satisfying ingredients. Dave Kehr in the Chicago Reader said it ‘represents an epochal meeting of two masters of Catholic guilt and paranoia, novelist Graham Greene and director Fritz Lang.’ (JR)                           

17:45   Talking Pictures        Call Northside 777 (1948). Newspaper drama, directed by Henry Hathaway, about Frank Wiesel (Richard Conte) who is wrongly convicted of the murder of a police officer and sentenced to 99 years in jail. Some years later his mother puts an ad in the paper offering a reward for proving his innocence. This alerts the Chicago Times, which assigns its reporter, P J McNeal (James Stewart), to delve into the case,. He encounters layers of resistance to uncovering the truth. The story is based on the real case of Joseph Majczek who, together with Theodore Marcinkiewicz, was convicted of murdering a police officer in 1932, and the reporter James McGuire. (JR) 


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