Sadly, it took me so long to push this through this week that you’ll have to seek out some these films on catch-up. No reflection on my able helpers, who all did brilliantly and on time.

World Cinema

Saturday (21/5)        02:00   Film4           Why Don’t You Just Die (2018)

Described as a ‘splatterpunk action comedy, gleefully dark’, by the Hollywood Reporter, this a Russian production, directed by Kirill Sokolov, essentially about the clash between cop Andrei (Vitaliy Khaev) and Metvey (Aleksander Kuznetsov), a young man who is dating his daughter Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde), who apparently wants her father killed. It is quite gory. There are similarities with Western filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, as well as more Eastern ones. Peter Bradshaw gave it four stars in the Guardian.  (JR) I think it is horrible, but in any case you’ve missed it if you’re a Freeview person: it is on catch-up. (JM)

Sunday (22/5)           00:45  BBC2            Land of Mine (2015)  

A drama, directed by Martin Zandvliet, about the little-known story of young German POWs clearing mines from the Danish coast after the end of the Second World War. They are watched over by Sergeant Rasmussen (Roland Møller), who treats them with contempt, suggesting continuing resentment about the German occupation. The attrition rate among the boys is cruel, though there are tentative shifts in the survivors’ relationship with Rasmussen. Even the small squad of British soldiers present do not come out of this appraisal well. Some original locations were used. Powerful, redemptive. (JR)

Monday (23/5)         01:40   Channel 4   Dogman (2018)     

Marcello (Marcello Fonte), is a diminutive dog groomer and part-time coke dealer, in this drama by Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah), based on the real life experiences of Pietro de Negri. He lives in a desolate Rome suburb, where he hangs out with the other local traders and plays football.  He is separated from his wife but the bleakness is shot through with tenderness and the possibility of love, not least for the dogs. The light of his life is his daughter Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria), with whom he takes occasional diving trips, presumably on the proceeds of the coke sales.  He has a gift for grooming the occasionally uncooperative dogs, but he finds himself driven to the limit by his association with Simone (Eduardo Pesce), a sociopathic former boxer, who initially only wants drugs from him but starts to expect more. Fonte won the Best Actor award at the 2019 Cannes Festival and Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian gave it five stars.  A brilliant study of life on the edges of petty criminality, in a deprived setting from which there is no obvious escape. (JR)

01:50   Film4           I Am Not a Witch (2017)

Rungano Nyoni’s much-praised film about Shula (Maggie Mulubwa), a young girl in Zambia who is denounced as a witch and sent to a camp where other ‘witches’ live, each tied to a spool of white ribbon. She is subjected to various tests of her witchcraft, sometimes with a successful outcome, sometimes not, and the sense is of exploitation and corruption.  It’s not even clear how many people believe she is a witch anyway.  Gwilym Mumford in the Guardian wrote of Nyoni having ‘a confidence and clarity of vision that’s hard not to admire, especially for a first feature’. She won the 2017 BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer. (JR) This is an excellent film but is not in any sense a documentary. It’s visual poetry and the spools (spoiler alert) are not literal. (JM)

Wednesday (25/5)   01:05   Film4          The Handmaiden (2016)

Park Chan-Wook’s glossy period thriller, set during Japan’s long occupation of Korea: crime story with lesbian trimmings, or a lesbian story with a crime alibi. Contrary to what Rotten Tomatoes says, it’s not a based on a Victorian novel but Fingersmith, an overheated modern imagining of what the Victorians might have been like. A sensation at the time, not least in my Cheltenham Stories writing group, where a discussion of ‘scissoring’ (look it up) nearly brought the whole operation to a halt. No Sex Please: We’re Cheltonians. Here are some of the comments when it was shown by Cheltenham Film Society:


“Surprisingly entertaining given child abuse, brutalised fingers, betrayal and lots of rain.;”Visually stunning, fabulous plot twists. Very sensual/erotic but beautiful”;”Hells bells”;”I’m afraid to comment, I might get into trouble..”;”Art or porn?”; “More like this please!”

COMMENTS – B “Twisted, clever, unexpected. How did they stop octopus from escaping?”;”As a film visually excellent. Convoluted and sometimes difficult to follow. Cinematically brilliant”; “Beautiful but a bit drawn out”;”Lost the plot from time to time – could have been cut at the end”;”Soft porn in Cheltenham? How refreshing! Needed an editor?””I always thought the Japanese were weird, now I am sure!””Shocked the genteel CFS members!!”

COMMENTS – C “Good story. Unnecessarily long. Predictably tedious sex scenes for the gratification of old men”;”Not worthy of Film Society. Quite good plot twist but I don’t really want to watch soft porn”; “Too long”;”Toooo long”

COMMENTS – OTHER “Raised my feminist hackles!”

Well, make your own mind up. (JM)

Friday (27/5)             02:00   Film4          Videoman (2018)

Ennio, a 60-something slacker and horror movie obsessive, is attempting to sell a rare and valuable 80s video to a secretive buyer, while involved in a shaky romance with fellow outsider, Simone. The apparent contradictions between Ennio and his dysfunctional but gentle mates and the violent misogyny of some of the cult films they’re obsessed with is not really explored, or perhaps just allowed to stand. But this first feature by Swedish writer /director Kristian A. Söderström is a clever and suspenseful black comedy and a homage to the pre-digital VHS age and film nerds everywhere. Söderström also directed the spoof dance video featured in the movie, ‘Hot Boy’: featuring an obviously game Samantha Fox. (SF) [No relation.]

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (21/5)  16:15 Talking Pictures Lifeboat (1944)

Tallulah centre-stage in Hitchcock’s wartime allegory

The first of Hitchcock’s four films staged in a single location (most notably Rear Window), this is a play in a boat. A motley selection of Allied humanity and one mystery German are adrift at sea after a Merchant freighter is torpedoed by a U-boat. As in all survival movies, internal conflict threatens as much as raw nature: and at times it’s reminiscent of the social allegory of 12 Angry Men, as a range of social and political attitudes play out. John Steinbeck wrote the story at Hitchcock’s request and tried to dissociate himself after the screenwriters toned down his left-wing slant. In particular, he decried the stereotyping of his Afro-American character, Joe, though stage actor and former boxer Canada Lee did his best with the role and perhaps has more agency and less subservience than was standard for that Hollywood era, though it was a low bar.

Ultimately, this isn’t a great Hitchcock for me, though some rate it highly. While dramatic and suspenseful, too much of the dialogue and interaction feels as creaky as the lifeboat itself, though Tallulah Bankhead’s imperious upper crust photographer is great, and Walter Slezak is excellent as the cool and enigmatic Willi. Essentially filmed in a tank in a studio, with painted backdrops, the illusion is still remarkably convincing, as you’d expect with Hitch’s mastery of the medium. He works wonders with all the constraints, and you’ll have fun spotting his signature cameo appearance. (SF)

Sunday (22/5)   01:10   Film4                      The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

In the work of Yorgos Lanthimos, The Killing of a Sacred Deer comes between The Lobster (2015) and the more “accessible” The Favourite, (2018) for which Olivia Colman won the Oscar for Best Actress. Olivia isn’t in this one, but Colin Farrell, who was in The Lobster, plays the leading part, that of a surgeon and paterfamilias who takes under his wing a young teenage boy, Martin, played by Barry Keoghan. The film is inspired by the play Iphigenia in Aulis by Euripedes, and without giving away too much of the plot, the themes of revenge, retribution and parental responsibility dominate. The dialogue is delivered in a stylised manner thus distancing the audience from the characters and focusing on the issues of ethics and morals. As with The Lobster, the film suddenly changes tone and direction at the midway point and becomes an unsettling combination of thriller and psychological horror film. (PW) I will be sacrificing a deer at my cafe in the London Road this lunchtime. (JM)

Monday (23/5)        23:50   Talking Pictures     The Innocents (1961)

Classic adaptation by Jack Clayton of the Gothic novella by Henry James. A a young woman, Miss Giddens (Deborah Carr), arrives to take up the post of governess to two children in a remote country house. She has been appointed by their uncle (Michael Redgrave), who seems to want very little to do with them. Miss Jessop, the previous governess, mysteriously died. The only other occupant of the house is Mrs Grose, the housekeeper (Megs Jenkins). Miss Giddens quickly takes to the young sister, Flora (Pamela Franklin), but the brother, Miles (Martin Stephens), is away at boarding school. He soon comes home, having been expelled for being a bad influence on the other pupils. Miss Giddens begins to notice odd behaviours from the children and starts to hear voices and see apparitions of two people the housekeeper identifies as the deceased Miss Jessop and Peter Quint, the gardener, also deceased.  The two had been in a relationship and the children seem to be very aware of them. Or are they?  Is this really all going on in the repressed Miss Giddens’ mind?  The screenplay was written by William Archibald, based on his stage play, with assistance from Truman Capote and John Mortimer. Pauline Kael called it ‘the best ghost movie I have ever seen’.  (JR)

Tuesday (24/5)         14:10   5 Action                  The Gunfighter (1950)  

Henry King directs Gregory Peck as honourable gunslinger Jimmy Ringo, the fastest draw in the West, who keeps getting into fights because other people start them.  He has arrived in town looking for his wife Peggy (Helen Westcott), who doesn’t want to see him, probably expecting trouble. Nonetheless he is able to speak to her, and promises to mend his ways, but he is being pursued by the brothers of one of the men he shot. As the publicity said: ‘Gregory Peck as a man who had gone too far, stopped too late, denied love too long!’  (JR)

Thursday (26/5)       21:00   BBC4                       Suspicion (1941) 

Hitchcock’s wonderfully controlled story about the importance of perception. A newly-married couple seem idyllically happy, until Cary Grant admits he is out of work and has money problems; that contradicts Joan Fontaine’s image of him and sets her mind racing. Is she paranoid or is he up to something? The film bubbles away with slowly building tension as to whether the two are being honest with each other and whether there may be some sinister intentions. Grant plays the ‘potentially untrustworthy’ but charming Johnnie Aysgarth to a tee, and in an Oscar-winning performance as his trusting and naive new wife Fontaine is a match for him: she does more with one raised eyebrow than many modern starlets can with a monologue. (MH)

Saturday (21/5)       16:40    Film4        Eddie the Eagle (2016)

Taron Egerton’s winning turn as fans’ favourite Michael Edwards, who overcame mobility issues to become a ski jumper and compete in the Alberta Winter Olympics in 1988, setting more than one British Olympic record in the process.  Ski jumping wasn’t something the British usually did, which made his selection easier, but he had to deal with the snobbish attitudes of the British Olympic Association and bullying by certain team mates. He is assisted in his quest by coach Bronson Peary, an alcoholic American played by Hugh Jackman, who tends to steal the show a bit, though sadly the role was largely invented. Anyway, Eddie became a national hero. Good for him. Critic Anthony Sharwood said ‘You can’t believe most of it, but you can believe in it’.  Directed by Dexter Fletcher. (JR) Local interest: Michael went to Naunton Park School, I believe, and is still to be found around Gloucestershire. Early in this film, a London Transport train trundles along on a parapet behind his childhood home. Hooray for Hollywood. (JM)

Monday (23/5)        23:20    Film4        American Made (2017)

Tom Cruise stars in this true story of Barry Seal, a commercial airline pilot who is, at first unwittingly, drawn into the world of drug and arms smuggling for South American Cartels, under the guise of covert reconnaissance photography missions for a shady US government agency headed by Domnhall Gleeson. As he enjoys the spoils, the net begins to close around him and his young family, and he must find a way to survive. This type of story may have been done better before, but this is a well-made crime thriller from Doug Liman, of Jason Bourne and Swingers fame. [MH]

Thursday (26/5)       01:00   Sky Arts    Hansa Studios: By the Wall 1976-90 (2018). Documentary about the recording studios in Berlin made famous by David Bowie (the ‘Berlin Trilogy’, as it became known: Low, Heroes, Lodger. Berlin is a strange and wonderful city. I wonder how honest this documentary will be? The studio was some sort of Cold War relic, and West Berlin was awash with heroin. Actual musicians got in and out very quickly. Bowie and his mate Iggy Pop hung on there, and not ‘just for one day’. Nonetheless, the resulting records are astonishing. I first heard ‘Sound and Vision’ as a 20-year-old, lying in a hospital bed in the SBW Unit, Bristol General Hospital, at the beginning of 1977. It did not help me retain my grip on reality, despite the fact that the sound was struggling down a plastic tube from a hole in the wall: drugs will do that, prescription or self-administered. Bowie appears in archive footage. Numerous lesser luminaries and wannabes (step forward Paul ‘Bono’ Hewson) speak to camera. (JM)


Saturday (21/5)       13:40   BBC2                      Whisky Galore! (1949)   

Classic Ealing comedy, directed by Alexander Mackendrick, and based on the true story of a shipwreck in the Outer Hebrides in 1943 at a time when rationing had throttled the supply of whisky. Luckily, the ship had been carrying 50,000 cases of the stuff, which the islanders set about liberating, with only the Customs and Excise department to worry about. The cast includes Basil Rathbone as the captain of the Home Guard, Joan Greenwood as the daughter of the local shopkeeper, James Robertson Justice and Gordon Jackson.  The screenplay is by Compton Mackenzie, based on his 1947 novel. It’s the kind of thing you might imagine Bill Forsyth directing, in another era. In fact a remake did appear in 2016, having taken ten years to produce, and featured Eddie Izzard and Gregor Fisher, with Bill Bryden at one point involved as a writer. (JR)


Sunday (22/5)          00:50   Talking Pictures   Prick Up Your Ears (1987)       

Directed by Stephen Frears (who was due to appear at our International Film, Festival but has pulled out), this is the story of the rackety and anarchic life of playwright Joe Orton and lover Kenneth Halliwell.  As Orton becomes more successful, Halliwell becomes more embittered and envious. It does not end well. The screenplay is by Alan Bennett, so is suitably witty and waspish. Julie Walters does Julie Walters as Joe’s Mum and two little known young actors, Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina, play Orton and Halliwell respectively. They have done well, haven’t they? (PW)                                                             

Wednesday (25/5)   22:00   BBC4                     Cathy Come Home (1966)

Even if they have never seen it, people should be aware of this film, because of the impact it had at the time and its lasting place in our cultural and social history. It was made in 1966 as a television film for the BBC, in its ‘Wednesday Play’ slot. It written by Jeremy Sandford, produced by Tony Garnett and directed by Ken Loach. It was shot on 16mm film, using a hand-held camera and mostly on location: techniques which were almost unheard-of in television drama. Many of the scenes were improvised, and overall it had the feel of a documentary. It tells the story of a young couple, played by Carol White and Ray Brooks, who lose first their jobs, then a succession of homes and ultimately their children, thanks mostly to an inflexible welfare system and the strict rules applied by private landlords in the rental sector. It provoked outrage amongst viewers and fortuitously it was broadcast just before the launch of Shelter, the charity founded to end homelessness and bad housing, giving that charity additional publicity. The charity Crisis also claims that it was founded as a result of the impact of the film. Cathy Come Home is no historical artefact; it is a very powerful film still well worth watching, and sadly many of the issues are still with us today. Some things have changed: where is the outrage now? Have we all become desensitised, exhausted or just indifferent? Loach and Garnett have also said that they would not be allowed to make such a film for the BBC as it is nowadays. Jeremy Sandford died in 2003, Tony Garnett, after a long career in TV and film production, died in 2020 and Carol White died in 1991 at just 48 years old. Happily Ray Brooks, who has appeared in almost everything on TV and radio, is still with us at 83 and Ken Loach, at 85, is still raising the nation’s consciousness. (PW). [Tony Garnett once suggested I write a film for him about management. I was too busy writing journalism about management. For Management Today, which subsequently went online-only and removed its editor, Matthew Gwyther, who had been in the post for 17 years and won Business Magazine Editor of the Year five times. The articles are now mostly written by the people featured in them. Management.]

Thursday (26/5)       02:15  Talking Pictures    The Color of Money (1986)                     

Martin Scorsese directs this sequel to the classic 60s drama The Hustler. Paul Newman returns as Eddie Felson, this time taking the role of mentor to Tom Cruise’s extremely talented but unpredictable Vincent, who may represent his ticket back into the hustling world. But Vincent’s ego, and his girlfriend, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, cause friction between the two of them. Scorsese does a predictably solid job of extending the story, without breaking any moulds or imitating or spoiling the original. That’s still better. [MH]

Fatal attraction

22:35   BBC4                     Angel Face (1952)

Intriguing noir by Otto Preminger, about ambulance driver Frank Jessup, who meets heiress Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons) while answering an emergency call. They hit it off, and he ditches his fiancee and moves to the Tremayne family estate. When Diane’s parents are killed, after they reverse their car over a cliff in an unlikely ‘accident’, suspicion naturally falls on the two lovers. Although unfamiliar to many modern viewers, it seems to have had a reappraisal in more recent years. Jean Luc Godard saw it as the ‘eighth best’American sound film, and Dave Kehr in the Chicago Reader described it as ‘one of the forgotten masterworks of film noir’. There were also suggestions that Howard Hughes hired Preminger with the express intention of making life difficult for Simmons, who was not renewing her contract with RKO. There is also a story in Lee Server’s book about Mitchum. After having to slap Simmons numerous times during a take, he was told to slap her again: he slapped Preminger instead. (JR)

Friday (27/5)            13:00   BBC2                     Odette (1950)

Powerful wartime drama, directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring his wife Anna Neagle, about a French woman living in England during WW2, who is asked by the Special Operations Executive to return to France to work undercover. Trevor Howard plays Captain Peter Churchill, her British contact, and Marius Goring plays Colonel Henri, who interrogates her when she and Churchill are captured, and those scenes are hard to forget. Critic Bosley Crowther was very rude about it, saying ‘Miss Neagle is tortured.  And so are we’. Maybe it’s better to focus on the real Odette and what she achieved. (JR) Certainly braver than sitting in an air-conditioned building fighting a war by joystick. (JM)

2 thoughts on “Freeview films from 22 May 2022

  1. So much to look at, so little time! Thanks for this excellent round up of films and helpful reviews. I shall enjoy leaving the real world behind for a short while and enjoy the creative world of the cinema through some of these offerings. Shall be starting with Land of Mine.

    1. Hi Liz,

      Sorry to be so slow in responding. Busy with the International Film Festival. I hope you have been to some of the events. Thank you for your comments. Cinema is best enjoyed with a screen and strangers, of course!


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