Freeview films from 9 July 2022

World Cinema

Monday (11/7)         00:50   Film4           Blade of the Immortal (2017) (pictured)

Ultra-violent Japanese nasty. ‘It’s a stylish slash fest, which delivers visceral thrills along with quietly striking moments of beauty,’ said Wendy Ide in the Observer. Well, good for Wendy. I hate these films. The Japanese people who jerk the chain of their cinema industry are strange and unhappy human beings, if you ask me. I’ll compare notes with my old friend Ruxton-sensai, some kind of professor over there, when he comes back to Cheltenham this week for his mum’s funeral. (JM)

Monday (11/7)         00:55   Channel 4   Olga (2021).

Written about by everyone, everywhere, repeatedly. This was the film the UK film industry decided everyone should watch to show solidarity with Ukraine. It’s a Swiss film, really. I like it but it’s a Swiss film, and it’s about gymnastics, family, obsession, identity, language, etc, and the beginnings of the Ukraine independence thing. It’s not about Ukraine now. It was never a fundraising device and should not have been used as such. (JM)

Wednesday (13/7)   01:25   Film4           The Witch: Part 1 – The Subversion (2018) 

Korean gore this time. ‘Plenty bloody and brutal and un-freaking-hinged, and full of twists and shifts, the work done earlier gives the rampaging chaos more a more emotional oomph than simply watching cannon fodder villains get dismantled in vicious, gory fashion,’ writes blogger Brent McKnight. Sometimes I wonder whether there is something wrong with me that these torture porn fantasies make me sad and unhappy, and then I thank my Makers (R.A Morrish and Z.B. Penrice) that I’m a human being. (JM)

Stephen Ilott’s Personal Choice

Saturday (9/7)           13:00   5 Star    Stand By Me (1987)

Directed by Rob Reiner, and based on the novella The Body by Stephen King, this is one of the best adaptations of his work. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption was in the same story collection. River Phoenix (14 at the start of filming) turns in the performance of his sadly short life, as Chris, the eldest of four teenagers who, while killing time over the summer vacation, begin a picaresque journey looking by the river for the body of a missing boy. Kiefer Sutherland plays Ace, a local gang leader they encounter. The narrative is carried by Wil Wheaton as Gordie, and Richard Dreyfuss plays Gordie as an adult, who has become an author and is writing a memoir of the events. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Screenplay Based On Material From Another Medium. (JR)

Tuesday (12/7)          23:25   BBC1     Witness (1985) 

Peter Weir’s tense and memorable thriller, about John Book (Harrison Ford, in one of his best performances), a Philadelphia cop on the run and holing up in an Amish settlement in order to protect Samuel, the young witness in question (Lukas Haas). Kelly McGillis plays Samuel’s mother, Rachel, to whom Book is drawn. Danny Glover is McFee, a colleague of Book’s, dancer Alexander Godunov plays Daniel, an Amish rival for Rachel’s affections, and Viggo Mortensen has a small part. The rousing score by Maurice Jarre is reminiscent of Aaron Copland and there is a strong sense of what Amish life might be like. (One scene was even echoed in the last episode of the TV series Detectorists). The film was made near Lancaster, Pennsylviania and the real Amish community assisted, though did not appear on camera. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two, for editing and screenplay. (JR)

Wednesday (13/7)    16:35   Film4     Stalag 17 (1953) 

Billy Wilder’s satire, based on a play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski, about life in a WW2 concentration camp. William Holden is Sefton, a cynical POW who claims, in the spirit of American enterprise, to be able to get other prisoners any item they want, for a price. He is important, but his personality means no one likes him. Otto Preminger plays the camp commandant. The other POWs are busy inventing ways to escape but they don’t involve Sefton. Various mishaps persuade them there is a Nazi mole and when they start trying to find out who it is, Sefton falls under suspicion. It’s a little long but full of choice moments and Holden has never been better. (JR)

Thursday (14/7)         01:15   BBC2     The Whistleblowers: Inside the UN (2022). A gut-wrenching documentary showing how the United Nations has been infiltrated and subverted by thieves, misogynists, rapists and child-molesters, who have been able to create a reign of terror in the unfortunate parts of the world where its entitled operatives, backed by men in uniforms and blue helmets, are able to rule without scrutiny. Based on the testimony of terrorised dissidents. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. (JM)

19:30  BBC4      Hollywood’s Brightest Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017) 

Apparently Hedy was a super-genius as well as a super-beauty. Always a gadgeteer and tinkerer, she supposedly devised the electronic location technology that eventually evolved into Bluetooth. Sorry, but I don’t buy it. On the other hand, after burning people’s feet with the self-heating sock, a British amateur inventor called John Logie Baird invented what eventually evolved into television. And my dad invented the Internet. No, really. (JM)

More modern films we like

Saturday (9/7)        21:00    Film4         Minority Report (2002)  (also Thursday 21:00).

Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise team up for a sci-fi tale based on a short story from the pulp sci-fi writer Philip. K. Dick. Cruise plays a police officer in futuristic Washington D.C., whose department uses psychics called ‘precogs’, beings that can predict future crimes with remarkable accuracy. In that way, cops can stop ‘Precrimes’ before they occur. One day, a vision emerges of Cruise himself committing a murder. He must race against time to correct the event and stay ahead of the force hunting him. Spielberg uses his considerable skill and budget to build an entirely convincing world around the story. Roger Ebert called this smarter-than-average thriller one of his favourite films of 2002. (MH)

Sunday (10/7)         01:40    Film4         War of the Worlds (2005).

The Spielberg version. Too loud, too long, not sufficiently Wellsian for me, Wells being a British socialist and not Hollywood aristocracy, but lots of people like it. (JM)

16:25    Sky Arts    I Am Jackie O (2020).

Documentary from Network Entertainment, serial suppliers of showbiz and arts biographies, 14 of which are called ‘I Am…’ I wonder whether this Canadian operation got the idea for their titles from the long-running Readers’ Digest medical series, of which my favourite episode was ‘I Am John’s Testicle’. (JM)

Wednesday (13/7)   01:00   Sky Arts   Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019).

Highly-lauded documentary about the extraordinary black American writer, who came from terrible poverty to become a colossus on the literary scene (and yes, I know she was fat), helped by the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey, who starred in Beloved, the Jonathan Demme flop based on one of her most prominent novels. She rose during the extraordinary period of black self-confidence and self-education: her models were Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy. In later times, though, she became the Establishment. That’s what tends to happen with radicals of all stripes. It’s not good for writers, IMHO. (JM)

Thursday (14/7)        23:35   BBC4        Florence Foster Jenkins (2016).

Meryl Streep plays the society singer who can’t sing, but believes she can, and Hugh Grant is her strange, creepy enabler of a husband. A funny and quite subtle film that hews reasonably closely to the actual facts of the real woman’s life. Both leads are fine: Meryl has a ball and Hugh digs into his darker side. But I prefer Marguerite, the French take on the story, which fictionalised it much more boldly at around the same time and benefited from the tremendous oomph of Catherine Frot.


Saturday (9/7)          21:05   Talking Pictures   Frances (1982) 

Biopic, directed by Graeme Clifford, about the ineffably sad life of actress Frances Farmer, whose trajectory passed through early academic success, Communist associations in the 1930s, an affair with the left-wing Broadway playwright Clifford Odets, B films in Hollywood, drug dependency and mental breakdown culminating in a lobotomy. Amazingly, she survived all that, but the toll was profound. At least 19 actresses were considered for the role of Frances, including Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton, but Jessica Lange won out and was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, though the filming was gruelling and led her to identify even more closely with her subject. Rotten Tomatoes said ‘This sordid biopic emphasises the indignities visited upon Farmer to the detriment of fleshing her out as a person, but Jessica Lange’s towering performance invests the tragic figure with the humanity the script lacks.’  (JR)

Sunday (10/7)           23:55   Talking Pictures   Harry and Tonto (1974).

Rambling road movie about a New York man growing old disgracefully, directed by Paul Mazursky, who, incidentally, made the pilot show for The Monkees. A little bit Woody Allen, a little bit Altman, a little bit Coen Brothers, but looser, druggier and more hipsterish than any of those. A wonderful lead performance by Art Carney, with appearances by Ellyn Bursten and a surprising Larry Hagman as the old man’s son. Nebraska (2013), by Alexander Payne, is a much tighter, more commercial effort in the same vein, reflecting the changes in American cinema and society over three decades. (JM)

Monday (11/7)         14:30   Film4                     We’re No Angels (1955)  (also Thursday 11:00)

Michael Curtis vehicle for Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov as three convicts on Devil’s Island who escape, hijack over a shop, but start to feel sorry for the shopkeeper and stay to help him and his family. Kind of ‘cuckooing’, but for laughs. Opinions differ as to how funny it is. Not cuckooing, the film. (JM)

17:00   Sky Arts                Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Revenge (1955)  (also Tuesday 10:00)

One of Hitch’s half-hour dramas for US television. Always worth watching. From an anonymous person on IMDB: ‘I used to think this episode was highly original but I just discovered that the story is a copy from the first story in the first edition of the Crime Suspenstories Magazine, from 5 years early. The story is practically the same, except the victim on the magazine is the protagonist’s father.’

Tuesday (12/7)         23:00   Legend                  Hellraiser (1987) 

Clive Barker’s cult classic, this shocking body horror follows a family moving into a house occupied by a semi-human entity who has escaped the underworld. He lures human sacrifices to rebuild himself to escape the forces hunting him. There is a plot, and some memorable supernatural elements, but it is seemingly mostly about the visuals; with similarly graphic 1980s designs as accepted classics like The Fly, Poltergeist and The Thing. Unfortunately, yet predictably, many sub-par sequels followed, none of which were directed by Barker. (MH)

Wednesday (13/7)   15:10   Talking Pictures   The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936). A doctor inadvertently helps the wounded John Wilkes Booth after he’s shot Abraham Lincoln, and finds himself arrested as an accomplice, tried and sent to a horrible prison colony. There his medical skills come in handy. A typically humane John Ford tale, starring forgotten Warner Baxter, with Gloria Stuart as his wife. (JM)

Thursday (14/7)        17:30   Sky Arts                Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Breakdown (1955) (also Friday 10:30)

Another Hitchcock TV short. A businessman is in a road accident and becomes paralysed, while able to see and hear everything happening to him. One of those recurrent nightmares, although pedants note that on modern television transfers you can see his eyelids moving.

Here’s Hitch’s original introduction: ‘Oh. Good evening. I’ve been reading a mystery story. I find them very relaxing. They take my mind off my work. These little books are quite nice. Of course, they can never replace hardcover books. They’re just as good for reading, but they make very poor doorstops. Tonight’s story by Louis Pollock is one that appeared in this collection. I think you will find it properly terrifying, but like the other plays of our series, it is more than mere entertainment. In each of our stories, we strive to teach a lesson or point a little moral. Advice like mother used to give, you know. “Walk softly but carry a big stick.” “Strike first and ask questions later.” That sort of thing. Tonight’s story tells about a business tycoon and will give you something to ponder if you have ever given an employee the sack. Or if you intend to. You’ll see it after the sponsor story, which, like ours, also strives to teach a little lesson or point a little moral.’

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