Freeview films from 11 June 2022

World Cinema

Saturday (11/6)    21:00    BBC4          Tove (2020) 

Biographical drama by Zaida Bergroth (The Good Son), about the versatile and unconventional Finnish author, illustrator and artist Tove Jansson. Jansson, played by Alma Pöysti (pictured doing what writers mostly do, which is stare into space) was mostly known for the Moomin books for children but produced much else, including six novels. The film also deals with her relationships, initially with men, such as the philosopher Atos Wirtanen, and then with women, including the theatre director Vivica Bandler. In the 1960s she settled down with artist and professor Tuulikki Pietila (‘Tooti’) on an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Finland. It became the inspiration for The Summer Book, about a young girl staying with her father and grandmother on just such an island. Ali Smith, on reviewing a new edition of the novel, quoted Philip Pullman: ‘Tove Jansson was a genius.’ The film does her justice. (JR)

Tuesday (14/6)          02:15   Channel 4   Two of Us (2019).

Two old French ladies (Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier) have been secretly in love for years, but everyone thinks they are just friends, including their families. First-time director Filippo Meneghetti takes this workaday material and transforms it into something approaching a thriller, at least according to the enthusiastic reviewers. (JM)

Wednesday (15/6)    02:00   Film4           Servants (2020) 

Striking, austere story of a seminary in Communist Czechoslovakia in 1980, where there is a rift between those in the Catholic church who are collaborating with their Soviet overlords (known as Pacem in Terris), and those who condemn them, getting information via Radio Free Europe. The seminary is not free of this tension and the threat of its closure is ever-present. Two friends, Juraj (Samuel Skyva) and Michal (Samuel Polakovic), newly arrived to train as priests, are are drawn in. As time goes on, Juraj becomes close to Father Coufar (Vladimir Obsil), who initiates him into the resistance, at which point things start to unravel.  Seditious notes start to appear on the seminary notice board, leading the secret police to investigate, in the person of Dr Ivan (Vlad Ivanov). The story is told as much through imagery as in dialogue: a group of trainees walking round a table tennis table, each hitting the ball in turn; a small courtyard, used for exercise and hanging out washing, seen from above; a truck filled with confiscated typewriters. It is a world where one repressive institution is being targeted by another.  Directed by Ivan Ostrochovsky. (JR)

Stephen Ilott’s Picks

Saturday (11/6)       01:05    Channel4   T2 Trainspotting (2017) 

Danny Boyle takes the reins for the long awaited sequel to his 1996 classic. The 20 years that have passed have not been particularly kind to most of the bunch of formerly heroin-addicted Scottish misfits. Ewan McGregor’s Renton returns home to Edinburgh and sees his old crew for the first time since the events of the first film. Some are able to forgive and forget; others are unable to accept him. With the whole cast returning to reprise their roles, this will appeal to fans of the original: but, perhaps predictably, T2 will not sculpt the landscape anything like its predecessor did. (MH)

Monday (13/6)        21:00   5 Action      Black Hawk Down (2001) 

An elite US taskforce takes on a mission into the heart of Somalia’s hostile capital, Mogadishuk, to remove an evil warlord from power. When their evacuation flight is shot down, there is a race against time to rescue survivors and fight the approaching militia on ground level. Roger Ebert called Ridley Scott’s film one of the best of 2001. I’m not sure it deserved the praise: there have been more effective and impressive war films before and since his one. Still, it is a well-made and professionally-delivered action ride, with a large ensemble cast of very well-known faces. (MH)

Tuesday (14/6)        17:10   Film4           Winchester ’73 (1950)      

An underappreciated black-and-white Western gem from Anthony Mann, starring James Stewart as Lin McAdam, who wins a rare and valuable Winchester rifle in a marksmanship contest, only for it to be pinched by his less-respectable brother. He has to follow Henry across country to reclaim it, encountering Injuns and bandits whilst the gun changes hands again and again. A wonderful Shelley Winters supports. (MH)

23:45   Film4          Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

Little-known Francis Ford Coppola biopic of Preston Tucker, who, in the 1940s, set out to create a different type of motor car, the Tucker Torpedo, and undermine the might of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. His car had innovative features, such as disc brakes and headlights that swivelled. You could say he was the Elon Musk of his day, though it didn’t work out so well for him. Coppola’s film is a kind of American Tragedy, as his directors water down the design and bigger companies begin to exert their grip. In the background lurk allegations of stock fraud, investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, influenced by Republican Senator Homer Ferguson (Lloyd Bridges). There is a verve about the film that matches both Tucker’s personality and his early promise. Jeff Bridges is Tucker, Joan Allen is his wife Vera and Christian Slater is his son Preston Jr.  In fact, 46 of the 50 Torpedoes originally produced are still on the road today. The film lost money, which is both sad and in keeping with the subject.  (JR)

The world could show nothing to me.’ Dano as Brian.

Thursday (16/6)      23:15    BBC2          Love & Mercy (2014)

Director Bill Pohlad explores the history of the Beach Boys, with Paul Dano and John Cusack as both the younger and older Brian Wilson. It starts in the the hit-laden, drug-ridden 1960s and moves to the lost years of the 1980s, when the band’s troubled leader was under the ‘care’ of psychiatrist Eugene Landy (a superbly manipulative Paul Giamatti) and not making music. Dano resembles Brian physically, though Cusack doesn’t: but the narrative sweep means that is of little consequence. The early scene in which Brian plays his new song, God Only Knows, to his unappreciative, abusive father Murry (Bill Camp), is both wonderful and tragic. Into the wreckage steps car saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) who is as drawn to Brian, as he is to her, and from that point on Landy realises he has competition. There are mixed views about the film’s historical accuracy, but mostly the people it depicts were happy with it (apart from Landy). The thing is, it’s a sincere attempt to make a portrait of a genius. (JR)

Other modern films of interest

Sunday (12/6)           15:45   Channel 5        Open Range (2003)

Kevin Costner directed this modern Western, starring Robert Duvall as Boss Spearman, a rancher, and himself and Abraham Benrubi as cowhands. Less predictable is the casting of the black-hearted landowner they run up against: step forward Michael Gambon. Generally considered a worthwhile attempt to make an epic, character-driven horse opera in the John Ford mould, although Costner has always attracted a certain amount of negativity. (JM)


21:00   Pick                   Man on Wire (2008)

If you didn’t like Vertigo you definitely won’t like this. It’s a documentary by James Marsh (The Theory of Everything) about French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, who in 1974 strung a tightrope between the Twin Towers in New York City and committed the ‘artistic crime of the century’ by walking between them. It is undoubtedly a stunning achievement, minutely planned, even without considering its more metaphysical aspects. Obviously 9/11 lent it an additional poignancy. The film won the World Cinema and Audience Awards at Sundance in 2008. (JR)


22:30   BBC1                 Sully (2016)

Clint Eastwood’s emotional account of the remarkable true story of pilot Chesley B Sullenberger, who landed a stricken airliner on the River Hudson in January 2009. Tom Hanks (who else?) plays Sully, Laura Linney his wife Lorrie, and Aaron Eckhardt his co-pilot Jeff Skiles. The narrative is mainly divided between on-board action and the official inquiry into what happened, which initially does not look favourable to the crew. The rousing last act highlights the role played by hundreds of staff of the Port of New York in mobilising to help rescue the passengers. Sully wrote about the experience in his autobiography Highest Duty, which is full of insights, including as his father, a DIY enthusiast, reminding him to ‘measure twice, cut once’. The sense is of everything in Sully’s life leading up to that watery moment. (JR)

Friday (17/6) 

The Sound of Music this isn’t

01:10   Film4                St. Agatha (2018)

This gothic shocker – set unconvincingly in 1957 – tells the sorry tale of Mary, made pregnant by her feckless, jazz musician boyfriend and then blamed for the accidental drowning of her kid brother while her drunkard father is out on the tiles. Poor Mary then finds herself in the hands of some thoroughly nasty nuns, whose methods for reforming wayward young women leave much to be desired. It is soon clear that the mad Sisters are motivated by more than excessive zeal. However, Mary fights back.

The historic abuse of unmarried mothers in both Church & State institutions is a shocking reality, tackled by such films as The Magdalene Sisters. There is no serious attempt at social comment here, but if you can stomach a few scenes of Handmaid’s Tale-style victimisation, this film, after a campy start, builds into quite a grim and feverish conspiracy thriller. The villainous Mother Superior is excellently played by Carolyn Hennessy, best known in America as a daytime soap star, but clearly relishing her trip to the dark side. Director Darren Lynn Bousman is associated with the notorious ‘torture porn’ Saw franchise, but thankfully here his focus is on atmosphere and suspense. (SF)


Saturday (11/6)        14:20   BBC2                     High Society (1956

Popular Cole Porter musical, directed by Charles Walters, based on the superior comedy The Philadelphia Story (1940), directed by James Cukor. The parts played there by Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart are here taken by Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. The action revolves round the impending wedding of Tracy Lord (Kelly), who is marrying snobby socialite George Kitteridge (John Lund). Lurking in the background is her former husband C K Dexter-Haven (Crosby), who is organising the Newport Jazz Festival. The publishers of Spy magazine have sent along two reporters, Mike Connor (Sinatra) and Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm) to cover the event. It all goes to pot, as you can imagine, though not that kind of pot. (JR)

That sinking feeling

21:00   Film4                    Titanic (1997)  (also Friday 21:00)

James Cameron’s film of the ill-fated 1912 maiden voyage used state-of-the-art visual effects and straightforward storytelling to redefine the modern epic and make a global superstar of a young Leonardo DiCaprio. It was far from Leo’s first film, but his role as lower-class Jack made him a household name and a heartthrob all over the world. Cast opposite Kate Winslet, the upper class Rose, the two make some of the most enduring lovers in film history. Like Ben Hur and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Titanic took home a record 11 0scars, including Best Picture and Best Director. [MH]

Sunday (12/6)           00:50   Film4                    The Abyss (1989)  (also Friday 18:15)

Heart-stopping underwater epic by director James Cameron, who was presumably practising for Titanic.  This is more daring and more intimate, as it follows a small SEAL team sent in a submersible to investigate the sinking of a submarine, the USS Montana, which had an encounter with an unidentified undersea object.  The cast includes Ed Harris as Virgil ‘Bud’ Brigman and Mary Elizabeth Mastronantonio as Dr Lindsey Brigman, his estranged wife.  Mystical and undeniably powerful.  (JR)

Monday (13/6)         02:00   Film4                     P’tang, Yang, Kipperbang (1982) 

Jack Rosenthal’s nostalgic TV film, set in the late 1940 and directed by Michael Apted, whose varied CV includes the Up documentary series, from 1964 to 2019, and Gorillas in the Mist. Rosenthal wrote for Coronation Street, before moving on to screenplays for Yentl and the excellent The Knowledge, about cabbies learning their trade. John Albasiny plays Alan, a 14-year-old grammar school boy obsessed with the war, cricket and kissing Ann Lawton (Abigail Cruttenden), a girl in his class.  Maybe he’ll grow out of it, but the signs aren’t good. Alison Steadman plays his teacher Miss Land, and Garry Cooper plays the groundsman Tommy, with whom she has a dodgy relationship. All completely out of order for the time.  The title is a password used by the boys in Alan’s gang, who are mostly more worldly than him. The suburban milieu is nicely captured. (JR)


11:00   Film4                    Those Glory Glory Days (1983) 

In its first couple of years, Channel Four made some lovely little films about British life, and this is one of those. It even earned a brief cinema release, paired with Jack Rosenthal’s school story, reviewed above. This one is about a reporter who is looking back at the club she supported as a teenager, Tottenham Hotspur, and its then extraordinary feat, in 1961, of winning both the Football League and FA Cup (which is pretty all there was in those days). The film is more about suburban life and teenage friendship than it is about football as such, although there is a cameo appearance by the legendary Danny Blanchflower (the defensive right-half not the professor of economics). Directed by the television stalwart Philip Saville from a story by Julie Welch. Julie, who is still with us, started as a secretary at The Observer and was one day asked to write report of a match between Coventry and her team, Spurs. This may have been the first time a woman ever wrote a football report for a Fleet Street paper, and she faced considerable hostility, but persevered to become something of a legend. Hard to credit the respect with which The Observer was held in those days. When Philip French died and was replaced as film critic by a young rockabilly and horror fan called Mark Kermode, the streets of Britain were awash with the tears of left-leaning intellectuals (like what I am). (JM)                


23:45   Talking Pictures  The Naked Civil Servant (1975)  

Ground-breaking drama about a ground-breaking life, that of Quentin Crisp, who was flamboyantly gay in an era, the 1930s, when that was not the norm. He was, for example, turned down for the military because of his homosexuality, and arrested for soliciting, which resulted in a famous court case. The title comes from his one-time employment as a life model in a government-funded art class. His later life was spent in New York. John Hurt plays Crisp in one of his most memorable performances, and the cast also includes Patricia Hodge, Liz Gebhardt and John Rhys-Davies. Directed by Jack Gold and first shown on ITV.  (JR)

Wednesday (15/6)   22:00   BBC4                    Tumbledown (1988) 

A rather controversial film at the time. Directed by Richard Eyre from a script by the consistently mischievous Charles Wood, it tells of a young soldier (Colin Firth), paralysed in the Falklands and taking a long time to get over it, to the frustration of his wing-commander father, played by David Calder. I remember it as being rather good, as things were in the days when Britain had culture and not a culture industry. (JM)

Thursday (16/6)        00:40   Film4                   Maurice (1987)

James Ivory’s adaptation of the closeted E M Forster’s last novel, posthumously published in 1971, about a homosexual relationship, between Clive (Hugh Grant) and Maurice (James Wilby), at the turn of the 20th century. A strong cast includes Rupert Graves, Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow, Billie Whitelaw and Ben Kingsley.  (JM)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *