Freeview films from 13 August 2022

World Cinema

Monday (15/8)          01:10   Film4    120 BPM (2017)

A young gay activist in 1980s Paris joins a group to campaign for action against the rising tide of AIDS deaths and finds that, like many such organisations, it rather accommodates the industry it is supposed to be challenging. At the same time, he is involved in the hedonistic world of dance music and clubbing. There are a lot of meetings, though. ‘Strident, unwieldy and confronting,’ said David Stratton of The Australian. ‘As cinema it’s a non-starter,’ said Ryan Gilbey of the New Statesman, who said those who praised it on the festival circuit were reviewing the politics rather than the film. I don’t know. I was there at that horrible time and a lot of it rings true to me. (JM)

Stephen’s Singular Selection

Thursday (17/8)      00:45   Film4        Raging Bull (1980)

Considered by many to be the greatest work from the greatest living director, Martin Scorsese. this powerful drama stars his long time collaborator Robert De Niro in his most demanding role as the famous Italian-American prize-fighter Jake LaMotta, a viciously talented but cripplingly self-destructive man. It is often hailed as the greatest sports film of all time, although the boxing is really a frame for one of the most memorable character studies in the history of film. Excellent support comes in the shape of an early performance from another of Marty’s favourites, Joe Pesci, and there is a wonderful debut from teenage Cathy Moriarty. (MH)

Friday (19/8)           22:45    ITV           The Invisible Man (2020)

Radical modern reinvention of the much-filmed H G Wells story, with which it has a fairly distant connection. A mad scientist makes himself invisible so he can terrorise an ex-girlfriend, played with panache by Elisabeth Moss, probably the most successful and convincing of the graduates of Mad Men. John Hamm might disagree. Apparently genuinely scary, although possibly not as alarming as daily life in the offices of Stirling Cooper Draper Pryce. (JM)

Other modern(ish) films of interest

Sunday (14/8)          22:00    BBC2    A Star is Born (2018)

The high profile remake of a remake of a remake of the classic love story of a talented singer who gets her big break through an established rock star who spots her talent in a club one night. They perform together and become an item, but their different world perspectives get in the way, especially when she begins to outshine him. This version delivers effective drama, with committed performances from Bradley Cooper, who also directs, and Lady Gaga. Apparently they did their own singing in the film’s most memorable scenes of live performance. (MH)

Tuesday (16/8)         01:45   Film4    Ray & Liz (2018)

Autobiographical film by the photographer Richard Billingham, which began life as a series of stills. He was brought up in the Black Country, in the hopeless squalor, abuse and misery that characterised the Thatcher era – if you were on the losing side. Thank God for our modern era of harmony, justice and compassion. Unlike many of the ‘miserabilism’ movies, this one does not pull its punches or make excuses for its characters. ‘With its very tamped-down emotion, Bellingham’s decision not to attempt insight or empathy is the most telling display of the consequences of his story,’ said Neil Minow of the Roger Ebert website. (JM)

11:00   Film4    The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004)

Stephen loves this film. The critics were divided between those who loved the somewhat anarchic humour of this television spin-off and those who found it outstayed its welcome at feature length. (JM)

Thursday (18/8)       23:15   Film4    Saint Frances (2019)

Poignant and likeable indie directed by Alex Thompson and starring Kelly O’Sullivan (who also wrote the screenplay) as Bridget, a thirtysomething waitress or ‘server’ who finds a berth as nanny to Frances (Franny). She is the precocious daughter of Annie and Maya (Lily Mojekwu and Charin Alvarez), who have a new baby and are having some problems. Bridget has little relevant experience but she is intuitive and empathic and soon finds her feet, despite the odd mishap. In contrast her personal life is mixed up, in terms of her younger partner Jace (Max Lipchitz) and her parents, who encourage her to have the children she doesn’t want. The tone is impressively frank from the outset on periods, abortion, sex and parenthood, but the core is the evolving relationship between Bridget and her charge, Franny, superbly played by Ramona Edith-Williams. (JR)

23:15   ITV4      American Gangster (2007)

Impressive slab of crime action directed by Ridley Scott and scripted by Steve Zaillian (Gangs of New York, The Irishman), loosely based on the career of a real heroin dealer, Frank Lucas, who operated in New York in the 60s and 70s. He sold a particularly pure blend, which led to him dominating the market. Denzel Washington puts in a great performance as Lucas, as does Russell Crowe as Richie Roberts, the detective who is on his trail and who is ostracised by his colleagues because he is not on the take. This becomes a bigger theme, because Lucas has a unique insight into the corruption of the NY Police Department. The cast includes Josh Brolin, as a bent cop, Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Jonathan Crocker in Time Out said of Washington’s performance ‘He’s immense: centering every scene with tractor-beam charisma, that dangerous, easy charm hovering between a luxury smile or blazing violence.’ (JR)


Sunday (14/8)              12:50   Film4                       Jason and the Argonauts (1963)  (also Friday 16:40)

Epic adventure exploring the Greek myth of the young prince Jason’s quest to find a Golden Fleece, and to avenge his father’s murder. Ray Harryhausen’s painstaking stop-motion animation is masterful, including a marauding bronze giant and a celebrated battle with a skeleton army. Despite the ancient techniques and designs, none of the drama or charm has been lost. With a score by the legendary Bernard Hermann. (MH). I edited a book about the songs of Andy Partridge, the Swindon pop idle. One of them was called ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.

This is what Andy said about the film: ‘Most people’s favourite scene in the movie is when the hydra’s teeth become the skeleton army. That wasn’t my favourite, though. My favourite bit is when they go into the base of the huge bronze statue of Talos, and steal stuff from in there. You know, they grab something they think is a javelin, but it’s actually a gold pin or something, or what they think is a shield is actually a gold button. Of course, Talos knows this, and comes to life.

‘But they really mess up the scale, because sometimes Talos is about 40 feet high, then in a few scenes he’s about 100 feet high, and then in a few other scenes he’s almost 1,000 feet high. It’s like, “C’mon, how big is he, fellas? Get your scale right!”‘ (JM)

13:00   Talking Pictures     Go West (1925) 

Buster Keaton classic in which a sad-faced young man climbs aboard a freight-train and befriends a cow called Daisy, whom he saves from slaughter. Some disliked Keaton’s decision to follow Chaplin away from simple gag-mongering and into drama and pathos. ‘Buster Keaton is an able pantomimist; his morose and sensitive face commands a certain sympathy. We are, therefore, not absolutely unresponsive to his new comedy, Go West,’ wrote the celebrated Edmund Wilson, American Marxist and Freudian, in the New Republic. ‘If the movie comedians continue in their present policy of pursuing tears instead of laughs, they may, not excluding Chaplin, merely succeed in becoming maudlin. Buster Keaton’s dumb solemnity was perhaps more touching in his frankly comic films than in this attempt at a sentimental one.’ Wilson was an extremely powerful critic and literary midwife, instrumental in the careers of many of the 20th century US greats, but on this occasion he seems to have mislaid his funnybone. (JM)

22:00   BBC4                        Elgar (1962) 

Early documentary, part dramatised, by Ken Russell for the Monitor series on BBC television. Extended musical extracts and lots of gorgeous shots of the composer riding his horse on the Malvern Hills. Russell’s films were revolutionary in their day. He subsequently made a career out of excess, but he was rarely boring, nowadays considered the mark of excellence in arts programming. Have you been to Elgar’s birthplace? When I went there to write about it in the 1990s, it was a modest cottage with a lot of atmosphere and a few interesting bits and pieces. You could touch the furniture. It subsequently fell victim to the Heritage Industry. The cottage was closed and a gigantic visitor centre was built at the back for the benefit of charabanc tours which failed to arrive in sufficient numbers, despite the area for miles around being vigorously rebranded as ‘Elgar Country’ or something equally crass. I see from Private Eye that the whole thing is now in danger of being sold off. Sigh. And that’s Elgar. What hope for Holst? (JM)

Monday (15/8)            01:10   Talking Pictures      Fear Strikes Out (1957) 

Interesting biopic of the baseball player Jim Piersall (played by Anthony Perkins at his most haunted), who was driven on by his harsh father (Karl Malden) and subsequently suffered a breakdown. (JM)

Wednesday (17/8)       05:20   Talking Pictures    The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case (1930)  

Stan and Ollie have been searching for work since 1921 and are taking a break. After seeing a notice in the paper they head off for a spooky old house to hear the reading of the will of Ebenezer Laurel, who may or may not be related to Stan.                               

21:00   Talking Pictures     Flame in the Streets (1961)  

Early British ‘problem picture’, in which a trade unionist (John Mills) struggles when his daughter (Sylvia Sims) forms a relationship with a black man (Johnny Sekka, who was born in Senegal). Directed by Roy Ward Baker, a good craftsman who made a number of sound British films, including the best Titanic film, A Night To Remember.

Thursday (18/8)            17:00   Sky Arts                  One More Mile to Go (1957)  (also Friday 10:00)

Hitchcock short for American television, in which a man kills his wife with a poker, then lugs her off in the boot of a car, looking for somewhere to dump her. So far, so good, but then a pesky motor-cycle cop pulls him over because he has a faulty tail-light. Will he find the body? Classic Hitchcock suspense, in which he somehow contrives to make us root for the murderer. (JM) 

18:10   Talking Pictures    Two Way Stretch (1960)

Peter Sellers is having a cushy time in jail as he nears the end of a three-year-sentence, enjoying the company of his mates Bernard Cribbins and David Lodge. The Wilfrid Hyde-White arrives with a cunning plan for a robbery the trio can carry out as soon as they are released. But a tough new governor threatens to put the kibosh on things. Entertaining fluff. (JM)

Friday (19/8)                 22:40   BBC1                       Point Break (1991)   

Action thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow about Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), an FBI agent posted to LA to help catch a gang of bank robbers who do their work disguised as former US presidents. This was in the days when the criminals weren’t in office. Gary Busey is his new colleague Pappas, who tells him his arrival means they must have ‘a shortage of assholes’. Utah goes undercover to infiltrate the surfing scene of which the gang are suspected of being part. He meets gangleader Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze (from ‘Bodhisattva’, for those in the know). Bigelow’s first film was a short called The Set Up, showing two men fighting each other while the semioticians Sylvère Lotringer and Marshall Blonsky deconstruct the images in voiceover. There isn’t any of that here, but there is Bigelow’s trademark preoccupation with violence and masculinity, plus some balletic footage of surfing, which does look very nice. Reeves and Swayze and Nick Nolte trade off each other well: it’s not exactly acting, more an exaggerated posturing, but what more do you need? (JR)

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