World Cinema

Sunday (15/5)  01:00   BBC2  Piranhas (2019). Drama based on La Paranza dei Bambini (literally ’The Trawler of Children’), written by Roberto Saviano (Gomorrah) and directed by Claudio Giovannesi, about a group of teenage boys in Naples, beginning to make their way in the world of organised crime. Did well at the 69th Berlin Film Festival but has otherwise received a mixed reaction from critics. (JR)

Tuesday (17/5)     01:35   Film4  Night of the Kings (2020). MACA (Maison d’Arrêt et de Correction d’Abijan) is the main prison of the capital of Ivory Coast, and a world unto itself. Philippe Lacôte’s second feature follows Roman (Bakary Koné), a new arrival, who is forced to entertain fellow inmates with stories throughout his first night or face death at the hands of the prison’s fading overlord, Blackbeard. Roman gives them a magical-realist version of the rise of Zama King, leader of the “microbes”, Ivory Coast’s terrifying youth gang. Meanwhile, power struggles rage inside the jail. A grimly authentic film from Lacôte, whose mother served time in MACA, elaborating on a real prison tradition and with a cast including former inmates. (JM)

Thursday (19/5)   02:00   Channel 4    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 mountain 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 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 sci-fi 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

Saturday (14/5)   14:10    BBC2   In Which We Serve (1942). Wartime morale-booster directed and written by Noel Coward (who also plays Captain Kinross), with action scenes directed by David Lean, about HMS Torrin, which is sunk during the Battle of Crete, the story being told in flashback from the viewpoints of survivors as they cling to a life raft.  The ship’s biography, which was based on that of the destroyer HMS Kelly, includes an engagement in the Battle of Narvik, and the evacuation at Dunkirk.  The cast also includes John Mills, Celia Johnson, Bernard Miles, Michael Wilding and Richard Attenborough.  It was praised as being sharp and true, and was popular both in Britain and the US. (JR)

19:10    Great Movies    Raising Arizona (1987). A madcap comedy from the unique minds of the Coen Brothers, this followed their wonderful debut Blood Simple. When Nicholas Cage’s Hi and Holly Hunter’s Ed find out they are unable to have kids, they hatch a plan to steal a baby from a wealthy family who have just been blessed with quintuplets. This sets in motion a dangerous and entirely unpredictable plot (a Coen Brothers trademark, cf The Big Lebowski), including ex-cons, bikers, police chases and dream sequences. With slapstick comedy but also real heart, Raising Arizona is, in classic Coens’ style, both original and unforgettable. [MH]

22:00    BBC3   Drag Me to Hell (2009)  (also Tuesday 23:40). A kindly young woman, with aspirations to be promoted, is forced to be more cutthroat in her banking job, and is cursed by an old hag who is denied a loan. This tale of witchcraft and possession has moments of inventiveness, but adds up to nothing particularly new. There are some good scenes, but over all it is an enjoyable mild-horror film that will not live too long in the memory. Directed by horror film royalty Sam Raimi, who changed the landscape for ever with his Evil Dead series. [MH]

22:40    BBC2   This is Spinal Tap (1984). Not only is this the funniest film about the rock music industry, it is also perhaps the most accurate. The fictional Spinal Tap (whom some Americans took to be real) are a British band, teetering between atavistic metal thrashing and pretentious operatic bombast. On the brink of breaking up, they start a big tour of America, to unexpected indifference. Michael McKean and Christopher Guest play the band’s leaders, David St Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel. Friends since childhood, they have grown apart thanks to fame and the rockistl lifestyle. What’s worse, St. Hubbins has a Yoko-esque muse, a grasping aromatherapist played by June Chadwick (Victoria Principal was considered). The film started as a TV sketch, and when adapting it for the big screen, director Rob Reiner let the cast improvise while he shot them in hand-held mockumentary (rockumentary, if you will) style. Legions of bands subsequently claimed the ridiculous incidents in the film actually happened to them: and some certainly did. At one point Shearer’s character, pipe-smoking bassist Derek Smalls, is shut in a sort of perspex sarcophagus on stage and can’t get out. I believe I saw that happen to Yes’s Chris Squire at the Bristol Hippodrome. Anyway, it’s very funny, endlessly quotable, and always a tonic. This week it was announced that there is to be a sequel. At the end of the original film, they were going off to make a rock opera about Jack The Ripper. Clearly that is no longer surprising or shocking enough for satire. The new film revolves around a dispute between the band and the widow of their clueless public-school manager, originally played by Tony Hendra. Tap’s drummer was played by an actual musician, Ric Parnell, who had been in Atomic Rooster (a better name than Atomic Kitten IMHO). He was the son of bandleader Jack Parnell and had a long career as a journeyman professional. When he died, in May, there was a crowdfunding campaign to pay for his funeral. Sic transit, etc. (JM)

Sunday (15/5)      16:25   Great Movies     Edward Scissorhands (1990) (also Friday 18:40). Johnny Depp once again teams up with director Tim Burton in this quirky feature, pitched somewhere in Frankenstein/Elephant Man territory. A man assembled with scissors for hands (his creator is Vincent Price in a cameo) is rescued by a friendly Avon rep. Introduced into the community, he is treated first as a celebrity, then as a menace. With a unique look, combining the bleak and gothic with gaudy pastel rainbows (imagine The Crow meets The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), the film demonstrates that Depp is not just a handsome film star, but a fearless artist. There are not enough like him. (MH)

Thursday (19/5)  21:00   BBC4                   Citizen Kane (1941). The gargantuan newspaper film, created by and starring Orson Welles. Kane is a sacred cow for a certain type of critic. ‘Extra! Extra! Kane Not Best Film – Not Even Director’s.’

                              23:00   BBC4                  The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). Welles’s second film is a family saga set in Indianapolis, famously butchered by the studio, who had already tired of their wunderkind. Some people think it’s better than Kane. Pauline Kael, who grudgingly remarked that Orson’s debut ‘may be more fun than any other great movie’, said of Ambersons that ‘even in this truncated form it’s amazing and memorable’.

Other modern films of interest

Sunday (15/5)           22:00   BBC2           Ordinary Love (2019). Liam Neeson (who can act when he wants to) and Leslie Manville play a devoted couple whose lives come under strain when she gets breast cancer. Directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, who made Good Vibrations, the Northern Ireland punk-rock feature. It is serious, gruelling, unsentimental and not the sort of thing many people wanted to rush out to see.

                                23:25   BBC2           Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie (2015). I’m always slightly puzzled by Theroux’s schtick. The son of the novelist Paul Theroux, educated at Westminster School and Oxford, a close buddy of Nick Clegg, he started his career pretty near the top, in American TV and at the legendary Spy magazine in New York City, which first alerted us to ‘the short-fingered vulgarian’ Donald Trump. Nonetheless, he has managed to overcome those appalling advantages to become rather good, deploying not so much faux-naivite as plain-man decency, in a way that has eluded some of his imitators (step forward Jon Ronson). This not one of his deceptively plain pieces of journalism but a tricksy, part-fictionalised effort to make a film about people who won’t let him film then. Instead, he dramatises the process of being rejected, followed and harassed by the tax-avoidant science fiction cult and its wealthy, would-be-scary followers. Interesting, amusing, but ultimately not very revealing. (JM)

Monday (16/5)         23:00   BBC4           The Trial of Ratko Mladić (2018). Documentary by Robert Miller (who made the TV film Wootton Bassett: The Town That Remembers) and Henry Singer (9/11:The Falling Man), about the Bosnian Serb general Mladić, whose forces perpetrated the 1995 massacre of Srebrenica, in which more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered. At the time it was seen as the worst atrocity in Europe since WWII, and recent events in Ukraine have stirred chilling echoes of it. The film took six years to make, and the directors were given unprecedented opportunities to film behind the scenes. Julian Borger in The Guardian called it ‘A superb, powerful documentary about the biggest war crimes trial since Nuremberg . . . Meticulous, devastating’. (JR)

Tuesday (17/5)         19:00   Sky Arts      On Broadway (2019). Rousing documentary by Oren Jacoby (Shadowman, My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes) about the New York theatre world, through hard times and good. With contributions from a multitude of stars including Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren,  Christine Baranski, John Lithgow and Viola Davis, and featuring shows ranging from A Chorus Line to Hamilton.

21:00   BBC2           Floodlights (2022). New, feature-length BBC drama, directed by Nick Rowland (Calm With Horses) and written by Matt Greenhalgh (Nowhere Boy), telling the true story of former footballer Andy Woodward, who was abused as a youth player by his coach Barry Bennell, who has since been imprisoned. Woodward’s revelations encouraged many more former young players to come forward. Gerard Kearns (Shameless) plays Woodward, and the cast includes Morven Christie and Jonas Armstrong. (JR)

Wednesday (18/5)   21:00   BBC4           Prince of Muck (2021). Contemplative documentary by Dutch filmmaker Cindy Jansen about Lawrence McEwen, whose family has owned the island of Muck in Scotland for over century and who has himself lived there for many decades, tending cattle. Lawrence realises he is reaching the end of his time and his way of life may also pass.  (JR)

21:00   Sky Arts      Oil City Confidential (2009). Documentary about Dr Feelgood, the Canvey Island superstars, by Julian Temple, who survived the British film disaster Absolute Beginners to become a an impeccable maker of music documentaries. His subjects have included The Pogues (Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan), The Sex Pistols (The Filth and The Fury) and Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten.  Here, he turns his attention to Feelgood and their ‘Thames Delta’ roots. The sense of place is spot-on (Wilko Johnson referencing Milton – ‘darkness visible’ – when talking about the refineries seems very apt) and the band are great. They imagine the outside world saw them as four bank robbers who were playing in a band in their spare time. They avoided the excesses of early seventies prog-rock, prefigured punk and surfed that wave when it arrived. They’re still around now, though without any of the original members, Lee Brilleaux having died in 1994. Wilko is happily still doing his thing, having survived his brush with mortality (thanks to the intervention of Charlton Kings surgical superstar Charlie Chan). Little-known fact: Wilko was about to go and study English Literature at Newcastle University before deciding on a career as a legendarily metronomic guitarist.  One for the fans, and for everyone else.  (JR)


Man in the mirror

Sunday (15/5)       22:05   Talking Pictures   Dead of Night (1945). The original portmanteau horror anthology, and Ealing Studios’ first and only venture into the genre, released just after the war, in September 1945, several years before their famous cycle of Alec Guinness comedies. Leading English directors of the time were involved,  most notably Alberto Cavalcanti. The first 70 minutes or so is largely of its time, but the celebrated Cavalcanti directed final segment, with Michael Redgrave brilliant as a disturbed ventriloquist, marked a huge leap forward. Its intensity, menace and psychological grip directly influenced Psycho. Impressive too is The Haunted Mirror, directed by Robert Hamer, in which a stiff-upper-lip type is possessed by a doppelgänger. This, too, would prove influential. The second segment, the noirish The Hearse Driver, is based on a spine chilling short story by E A Benson. I read a version of this as a child and it always stayed with me. The overarching framing story – a group of posh people gathered in a country house encountering the supernatural – is reminiscent of J B Priestley, and the film ends in a welter of nightmarish expressionism and a mind-bending twist. (SF)

Monday (16/5)     01:15   Talking Pictures   All About Eve (1950). Also Friday (20/5). Wannabe actress Eve (Anne Baxter) infiltrates the inner circle of established theatre darling Margo (Bette Davis), posing as a super-fan and willing personal assistant. Before long, she shows her true colours and ambitions to take over, eventually becoming a like-for-like replacement. With themes of ego and cut-throat show business, drawing some parallells with other masterpieces like Sunset Boulevard (which was released in the same year). With a brief appearance from Marilyn Monroe, plus razor sharp dialogue and wit, this won Oscars for best director, actor, picture and writing, and has rightly been acclaimed as a Hollywood classic. [MH]

13:00    BBC2                    Dunkirk (1958). Directed by Leslie Norman, father of the critic Barry, about the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940, and its evacuation from the beaches of Dunkirk.  Bernard Lee plays Charles Foreman, a journalist who is concerned about the buildup of German forces on the continent and the silence of the British Ministry of Information on the subject. Foreman and his neighbour (played by Richard Attenborough) later become involved in the evacuation by taking their boats across the Channel.  John Mills plays Corporal ‘Tubby’ Binns, who finds himself in charge of a group of men trying to find their regiment during the German advance.  The film certainly strives for authenticity, and the implied critique of the wartime government is interesting, even in a film made sixteen years after the event.  (JR)

2 thoughts on “Freeview films from 14 May 2022

  1. While I enjoy getting this newsletter , the constant carping about the Film Society is getting rather tedious…enough .

    1. Thank you for you comment, Adam. As a member of the film society, and committee member for quite a few years, I think I’m entitled to my opinion on its direction. I’ve actually been biting my tongue for a very long time.

      You are, of course, at liberty to produce your own newsletter and website, giving you a platform from which you can praise the Society’s current leadership. It’ll only take you a couple of days a week. I’ll help you set it up, if you like.

      Alternatively, there is an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the newsletter.

      Enjoy the sunshine.

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