World Cinema

Sunday (29/5)        23:25    ITV4                A Fistful of Dynamite (1971) 

 Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Mexican, the second in his Once Upon A Time trilogy, starring Rod Steiger, James Coburn and Romolo Valli, but not Clint Eastwood. It is set during the Mexican Revolution and centres on the relationship between an outlaw, Juan Miranda (Steiger) and a former member of the IRA, John Mallory (Coburn). Its Italian title was Duck, You Sucker!, so maybe the US distributors missed a trick. In Mexico it was banned until 1979. (JR)

Monday (30/5)      01:25    Film4              And Then We Danced (2019)

A compelling story of forbidden love in the state dance troupe of Georgia, where homosexuality is both widely reviled and illegal. Beautiful music and terpsichorean athleticism.

Friday (3/6)           02:30    Channel 4      Suntan (2016)

Drama directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos about a middle-aged man, Kostis, played by Makis Papadimitriou (pictured), who starts a new job as the general practitioner on the island of Antiparos, but becomes infatuated with a young woman called Anna whom he initially treats for a leg injury, but whom he later sees with her friends at the nudist beach.  Glenn Kenny of the New York Times wrote that it ‘captures a set of specific feelings: the exhilaration of falling, followed by the desperate denial that one has landed in a very bad place’. (JR) [When I was doing a history MA at Oxford, a few years ago, we joked that you could get any research topic approved by appending the words ‘and the Crisis of Masculinity’. Hence: ‘Stamp collecting and the Crisis of Masculinity’; ‘Haikus and the Crisis of Masculinity’; ‘Metrication and the Crisis of Masculinity’. This film actually is about ‘the Crisis of Masculinity’. JM]

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Monday (30/5)       21:00    5 Action                The Last of the Mohicans (1992)  

Serial Oscar Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis brings his legendary commitment and method acting to Michael Mann’s authentic tale of tribal strife in the early years of English colonisation of America. Day-Lewis lived off the land, eating only what he could catch in preparation for the role of native Hawkeye, who falls for the daughter of the English colonel Munro, played by Madeleine Stowe. Wes Studi supports. (MH) [The Method, based on the work of Konstantin Stanislavski in early Soviet Russia, takes a heavy toll on the inauthentic. Ask Leslie Sheldon, who trained at the Actors’ Studio in New York. JM]

Thursday (2/6)       10:55   Talking Pictures    Young and Innocent (1937)

An early Hitchcock, in which a young writer, Robert Tisdall (Derrick De Marney) is wanted for the murder of an actress, after he finds her body on the beach and is seen running away.  It doesn’t help that he knows her.  On the run, he enlists the help of Erica Burgoyne (Nova Pilbeam), the daughter of the local Chief Constable.  I’m not making this up.  Hitchcock would later return to some of the film’s themes and devices: the paranoia of the innocent pursued, having to trust a stranger, the long tracking shot zeroing in.  Variety described it as a “Pleasing, artless vehicle’ for Nova Pilbeam.  That was presumably a compliment.   (JR)              

21:00   Great Movies       The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Wes Anderson directs an all star cast in the film that helped put him on the map. His third feature tells the story of a family of misfits, the Tenenbaums, headed by Gene Hackman and Angelica Huston as mother and father, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Anderson regulars Luke and Owen Wilson alongside Bill Murray. The family try and come to terms with looming bereavement and the lasting dynamics that make them all so unique. Dialogue and visuals can sometimes be the star of the show, as is often the way with Anderson. (MH)

21:05   BBC4                      Cat People (1942)  

An unforgettable psychological thriller, produced by Val Lewton for RKO, directed by Jacques Tourneur and written by DeWitt Bodeen. Simone Simon stars as Irena, a fashion illustrator whose relationship with husband Oliver (Kent Smith) is bedevilled by her conviction she comes from a family who turn into cats when they are aroused. When Oliver starts seeing his work colleague Alice (Jane Randolph), Irena stalks her. The Freudian implications hardly need spelling out, and the suspense is achieved through what is not shown, rather than what is. The film has had a rollercoaster ride at the hands of the critics, but is now acknowledged as very influential, being the first horror film to place its characters in a realistic contemporary setting. Tom Conway plays Dr Judd, Irena’s psychiatrist. Atmospheric, gripping and profoundly touching.  The film contains the first example of what was later to be called the ‘Lewton Bus’, a much-imitated type of jump-scare that is not to be missed.  (JR)                  

22:15   BBC4                      I Walked with a Zombie (1943) 

Jacques Tourneur’s next film after Cat People. This is about a nurse who travels to a sugar plantation in the Caribbean to look after the owner’s wife and encounters voodoo rituals and possibly the undead. Zombie-ism is used as a metaphor for slavery, and the film earned a good critical reputation.  Curt Siodmak wrote the script, using elements of Jane Eyre, and Frances Dee plays Betsy, the nurse. (JR)

23:40   BBC1                      Brooklyn (2015)

Thoughtful drama examining the heartbreaking reality of moving away from home to find your place in the world without family to support you. Saoirse Ronan is exceptional as Eilis, who moves to Brooklyn from Ireland in a bid to expand her horizons. Ronan consistently finds the perfect emotional tone, scene after scene: her performance peaks with a wonderful moment of her receiving a letter from home. Directed by John Crowley from a script by Nick Hornby. This would make a sublime double feature with Todd Haynes’ s Carol, also released in 2015. (MH)

Other modern films of interest

Monday (30/5)       00:55    Channel 4     ‘ 71 (2014)

Jack O’Connell plays Gary Hook. a British soldier in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, who is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot, and encounters both Catholics and Protestants as he tries to find his way out. Written by Gregory Burke, this is a debut feature by Yann Demange, the French-Algerian director of television’s Top Boy.  Aptly conveys the murky political landscape, not least involving the British Army, and the kindness of strangers. There was praise for the cast of character actors, and Manohla Dargis in the New York Times said ‘Mr O’Connell runs away with ’71, in which his character’s every emotional, psychological and physical hurdle makes for kinetic cinema’.  (JR) [It’s brilliant. JM.]

Tuesday (31/5)       01:25   Film4                1985 (2018)

Cory Michael Smith plays a young gay man going home to his Christian family for the holidays, feeling unable to tell them he is dying of AIDS. Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis play his parents and Jamie Chung plays his childhood friend Carly. Directed by Malaysia-born Yen Tan, with great black and white Super 16mm cinematography by the mysterious HutcH. (JR) [Some Americans complained the characters did not have Texan accents. JM]

                                21:00   Sky Arts            I Am Burt Reynolds (2020)

Documentary, written and directed by Adrian Buitenhuis, about the actor, who was more liberal and substantial than we might have appreciated. It tracks him from his early work in Deliverance and as the centrefold of Cosmopolitan magazine, through to an Emmy-winning stage role in Evening Shade and an Oscar nomination for P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights. There are contributions from Burt himself, and from Loni Anderson, Bruce Dern, Marilu Henner and Jon Voight. My favourite story about him was in John Boorman’s autobiography. When he was directing Deliverance, co-star Jon Voight went full method and spent time running in order to look hot and sweaty. Burt just poured a bottle of water over himself. (JR)

23:05   ITV4                  Collateral (2004)

In this feature, released in the same year as his Oscar-winning turn as Ray Charles, Jamie Foxx plays an unsuspecting, mild mannered taxi driver with dreams of retirement, who collects a customer who pushes him to his limits. The customer, an assassin, is played by Tom Cruise at almost his least TomCruisey [new adjective of the week from Martin], in Michael Mann’s impressively tense thriller. (MH)

Thursday (2/6)        00:15   Film4                Days of the Bagnold Summer (2019)

Directed by Simon Bird, and adapted from Joff Winterhart’s graphic novel by Bird’s wife Lisa Owens, this comedy is about a grungy teenager (Earl Cave) who has to spend the summer with his librarian single mother (Monica Dolan). A trip to Florida to see his dad has been cancelled unilaterally. Acutely observed, cringe-making and ultimately life-affirming British cinema. Also, anything with a soundtrack by Belle and Sebastian has to be worth the effort. (JR)

                                02:00   Film4                 Grandma (2015)

Lily Tomlin is Grandma; she is also Elle, a poet, lesbian and feminist of the Germaine Greer generation. Filmmakers take note: though Elle is 70-something she is not sick, and she does not have dementia. In fact, she is angry, fearless and very much out there. Her spirit – and Lily Tomlin’s – drives this engaging film (at times literally, as Ellie gets behind the wheel – a 1955 Dodge Royal, owned by Tomlin). She embarks on an erratic road trip with her naive young granddaughter, Sage, to raise funds for an abortion (they are both broke); Sage is scared to approach her successful businesswoman mother Judy, a product of the opportunities that became available to women of the post-Sixties generation.┬áJudy and Elle, both strong personalities, have a fractious relationship, and there are some home truths and a little learning on the way.

While this short, low budget comedy drama is not high on comedy, it does have a few very funny moments, and some moving ones too. It is ably directed by Paul Weitz, who worked on his script intensively with Tomlin and other members of his ensemble cast, with striking contributions from Laverne Cox and Sam Elliott. Critics have praised the explicit but sensitive treatment of abortion (and if Elle was angry in 2015, she’d be a whole lot angrier now). The film ends well with some hope and acceptance and an inspired, fixed viewpoint long take that evokes some movie classics. (SF)

Friday (3/6)             21:00   Great Movies    The Darjeeling Limited (2007)   

Wes Anderson uses his trademark style and industry pedigree to pull in another long list of talented performers for a quirky tale of three brothers (Adrian Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwarzman) on a soul-searching journey across India to reunite and reconcile with their estranged mother, played by Angelica Huston. This may not be the most perceptive and memorable of Anderson’s work, but for fans there is plenty to enjoy. (MH)


Monday (30/5)          23:15    5 Action             Papillon (1973) 

This prison break drama is worth it for the work of Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen alone. They form an unlikely alliance and make their escape attempt together, fleeing overly physically and mentally harsh conditions. Director Franklin J Schaffner followed Planet of the Apes (1968) and Patton (1970) with this, so I think it should probably qualify as his golden period. Remade in 2017 in predictably unremarkable fashion. (MH)

Friday (3/6)                01:25   Film4                      Buddies (1985).

Low-budget AIDS film, made at the height of battle, when ‘buddies’ were volunteers who helped lonely young men, deserted by their families and shunned by society, to accept death. Re-released 31 years later to critical acclaim as a historical document’. Gets 100 per cent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but only 44 per cent from viewers. I’d like to see it, but I’d like to. AIDS killed a very close friend of mine, as well as lots of young strangers. As did infected Factor 8 clotting agent, acquired by our caring Health Service from the American blood banks where HIV-positive young men sold their blood to make their final months more tolerable. The Eighties: not all Kajagoogoo and Absolute Beginners. (JM)

                          09:25   Talking Pictures    Sister Kenny (1946) 

Sister Kenny was an Australian bush nurse who developed a successful method of treating polio in the early decades of the C20th, despite opposition from the medical establishment, including a Royal Commission. At that time Australian nurses were not allowed to be married. [Nor were British nurses. JM.] The film was adapted from Kenny’s memoir by Alexander Knox and Mary McCarthy and directed by Dudley Nichols.  Rosalind Russell plays Elizabeth Kenny and she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar.   (JR)

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