Freeview films from 20 August 2022

World Cinema

Sunday (21/8)        00:30    BBC2      Foxtrot (2017)

Directed by Israeli filmmaker Samuel Munoz and winner of the Grand Jury prize at Venice. Tel Aviv couple Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) and Dafna (Sarah Adler) receive a visit from Israeli Defence Force officials to tell them their son Jonathan has been killed in the line of duty. The impact on the couple is understandably profound and is played out mostly in their apartment, adding a claustrophobic element. Some time later they are told there has been a mix up and the soldier who actually died was someone different with the same name. Michael demands that Jonathan be allowed to return home immediately. Meanwhile, Jonathan is on duty at a bleak checkpoint in the desert with some colleagues, living in a listing shipping container. Periodically cars with Palestinian passengers arrive and the young men exercise their ill-fitting authority. The film is an indictment of the pain and pointlessness of war, as well as being an illuminating insight for westerners into what actually goes on in that region. The Israeli Minister of Culture said the film was ‘the result of self-flagellation and cooperation with the anti-Israeli narrative’ and that it was ‘outrageous that Israeli artists contribute to the incitement of the young generation against the most moral army in the world by spreading lies in the form of art’. Munoz commented ‘If I criticise the place where I live, I do it because I worry. I do it because I want to protect it. I do it from love’. (JR)

Tuesday (23/8)      01:40    Film4     Shoplifters (2018)

An episodic, quietly compelling  arthouse drama by acclaimed auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda. It explores the daily lives of the Shibatas, a dysfunctional but warm hearted extended family in Tokyo, whose relationships and ties are gradually revealed to be far from conventional, and who do indeed shoplift to supplement some uncertain sources of more legitimate income. Important questions are raised about what defines a family and to what extent it is possible to live outside the norms of society and its legal authority.  The multi generational cast are all superb, particularly the two children who perform with extraordinary naturalism and grace.  The film received wide acclaim and won the Palme D’Or at Cannes in 2018. (However it was shunned by right-wing ex Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.)

It is beautifully shot, non-digitally on 35mm film. It has also rightly won awards for its sparing and lyrical music by Haruomi Hosono. ‘Hosono’s music in Shoplifters is surprisingly natural,’ writes Tomomoyuki Mori on ‘There is no exaggerated orchestration, and the sound of acoustic guitar, piano, mandolin, and other live instruments with delicate electronic sounds quietly colors the images with a documentary touch.’ (SF)

23:15     BBC2     The Workshop (2017)  

In 2008, Laurent Cantet made The Class, an acclaimed documentary-style drama about inner-city secondary education in France. This film is in a similar vein. A young lad, Antoine (Matthieu Lucci) attends a summer writing project for working-class kids, run by a novelist, Olivia (Marina Foïs). They are supposed to be writing a crime novel together, and there are clashes of culture and political perspective as they consider what to put in and what to leave out. Antoine’s challenging, provocative behaviour intrigues and attracts the writer, but she soon finds there is something murky going on with the boy and some of his friends. Talky at first, in the French manner we love so much, the film becomes more tense as it develops. I liked John Bleasdale’s review for Cine-Vue, which starts with Alexei Sayle’s pertinent observation that no-one should ever enter a workshop that doesn’t have a vice in it. I bring my own vices to my writing groups. (JM)

Stephen’s Selection

Saturday (20/8)   14:35    BBC2                     Witness For the Prosecution (1957)  (also Thursday 20:00)

Billy Wilder’s adaptation of an Agatha Christie story and play is an object-lesson in courtroom drama. Tyrone Power plays Leonard Vole, a man who is accused at the Old Bailey of murdering a widow who has become enamoured of him, and there is strong circumstantial evidence. Charles Laughton is his cantankerous barrister, who takes the case against the advice of his nurse, Else Lanchester, having survived a heart attack. Marlene Dietrich plays Vole’s wife, who is asked to provide an alibi for him but suddenly turns up as a prosecution witness. Laughton is a commanding presence, and his scenes with Lanchester, his real-life wife, show his excellent comic timing. Power is less convincing, in his final role: he died the following year after filming an exhausting fight scene with George Sanders in King Widor’s Solomon and Sheba, and was replaced by Yul Brynner. There are a couple of remarkable twists in the final reel. (JM)

23:50    BBC1                      A Time to Kill (1996)

Another courtroom drama, this one more modern. Joel Schumacher adapts a John Grisham book, in which Samuel L. Jackson plays a Mississippi factory hand who kills some rednecks who have raped his little daughter. Matthew McConaughey is the inexperienced lawyer who takes on the thankless task of defending him. Big stars abound; Sandra Bullock, Kevin Space, Donald Sutherland, Patrick McGoohan, etc. Criticised by some for its implausibilities and its ‘ersatz, cartoonish version of the deep south’, in the words of Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader. (JM)

Sunday (21/8)      21:00    Sky Arts                 Psycho (1960)

Sim has written an in-depth appreciation of Hitchcock’s proto-slasher, which I have placed on its own page.

Friday (26/8)        06:00   Talking Pictures    The Music Box (1932)

This is, of course, Laurel & Hardy’s masterpiece for Hal Roach: the one in which they deliver a player-piano as a surprise gift for the wife of a socialite who lives at the top of an extraordinary flight of stairs. Very funny slapstick and a ingenious series of plot events. The Myth of Sisyphus, played for laughs. (JM)

18:10    Talking Pictures    Went the Day Well? (1942)

Wartime soft propaganda from Ealing Studios, directed by Alberto Cavalcanti from a short story by Graham Greene. A group of German paratroops arrive in an English village, having adopted English identities, and take the locals hostage. The locals try to get help by various means, but their efforts are impeded by bad luck and, at one point, the treachery of the local squire, who is a Nazi sympathiser. Notable for the first appearance of the excellent Thora Hird. Its BFI rerelease in 2010 was greeted with acclaim. Tom Huddleston of Time Out said it was ‘jawdroppingly subversive. Cavalcanti establishes, with loving care and the occasional wry wink, the ultimate bucolic English scene, then takes an almost sadistic delight in tearing it to bloody shreds in an orgy of shockingly blunt, matter-of-fact violence.’ The imminent danger of invasion had passed by the time the film was released, but no-one really knew that, and the fear of fifth columnists within remained real. (JM)

Other modern films of interest

Monday (22/8)   00:15   BBC2                  X+Y (2014)

Four intertwangled stories about young people in New York City, experiencing anomie and sexual dissatisfaction of various kinds, although not for lack of trying. A second feature by Ryan Piers Williams (there has not been a third), it features lots of photogenic actors vaguely familiar from cable TV series, and a lot of photogenic sack-action. Not exactly Baisers volés. (JM)

Friday (26/8)       01:25   Great Movies   The Road (2009) 

John Hillcoat (Lawless, The Proposition) directs this gloomy post-apocalyptic tale of a nameless father and son who, across barren wastelands, search for food and relative safety. They must not only eat and find refuge to survive, but overcome gangs of cannibals on their way South to suspected greener pastures. Viggo Mortenson stars in this adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy. (MH)


Sunday (21/8)            12:05   ITV4                                Battle of the Bulge (1965)

Dramatisation of the Germans’ surprise counter-attack through the Ardennes Forest at the end of 1944. By then Hitler and taken personal control of German strategy, and seems to have reasoned that inflicting a lot of damage on the Americans in that sector, which they were barely defending, would force the Allies into a negotiated peace: he already knew the Soviets were advancing rapidly towards Berlin. Anyway, in this long (2h 47m) and rather talky film, Henry Fonda plays an intelligence officer who suspects there will be an attack, but no-one believes him. ‘The most harrowing sequences in the show occur at the beginning and the end… It’s the two-and-a-half hours in between that are the problem,’ said John J. Puccio in something called Movie Metropolis. (JM)

19:00    Great Movies Action   Sahara (1943)   (also Wednesday 16:05/Friday 07:05)

Zoltan Korda action picture about the Allied retreat to El Alamein in World War II. Humphrey Bogart is a grizzled tank commander, trying to get his little ship back to safety. Along the way they pick up a veritable United Nations of stranded stragglers: four Brits, a Frenchman, a South African, a Sudanese and a captured Italian airman. Not having seen it, I can’t tell you how they all fit in. Bosley Crowther, writing in the New York Times when it was released, loved it: ‘Sahara is a laudable conception of soldier fortitude in this war, and it is also a bang-up action picture, cut out to hold one enthralled.’ He notes that ‘this is a real he-man picture. There isn’t a female in the cast, except for a monstrous M-3 tank which is affectionately called Lulubelle.’ It’s well worth reading his review: I like the cut of his jib. (JM)

Monday (22/8)          23:15   Talking Pictures             The Silent Playground (1963)

Shot in the astonishingly harsh winter of 1962-3 (the snow in our front garden was above my head) and benefiting from its bleakness, this is an interesting British social-realist story about a boy who hands out his mother’s barbiturates to his friends, thinking they are sweets, with disastrous results. With a cast of character-actor notables, including Bernard Archard, Jean Anderson and Desmond Llewellyn. The boy at the centre of the drama is played by Simon Lacey, who, according to a splendid IMDB review by someone called Mark James Burden (want a job?), ended up in ‘the crap soap Eldorado – “The Lowly Grail”‘. Ah, Eldorado. I remember the first episode, which we watched in open-mouthed horror. If we watched it now we’d probably think we’d stumbled on a lost Ingmar Bergman masterpiece. (JM)

Tuesday (23/8)          21:00   ITV4                                Rambo: First Blood (1982)

The first of the seemingly endless Rambo series, and quite bearable. Sly Stallone plays a Vietnam veteran driven to violence by the indifference and hostility of the small-town America to which he has returned. Not the most thoughtful feature on that subject, but a reasonable attempt to balance character study and popular appeal. Only later did the character turn into a monster of machismo and tub-thumping USA USA USA belligerence. What a pity Stallone never explored his fraught relationship with fellow-poet Paul Verlaine and his tortured decision to throw over literature and travel restlessly around the French-imperial world. Oh, hang on, that was someone else. Possibly a more interesting subject for a film. Call my agent. Oh, hang on, I don’t have one. Or want one. (JM)

Wednesday (24/8)   09:45   Talking Pictures             Teacher’s Pet (1958)

As I have said numerous times, my life’s work is to watch every journalism film, but this one has escaped me. It sounds great. Clark Gable is James Gannon, a grizzled newspaper editor (as they should be) who is supposed to talk about the inky trade at a class run by Doris Day, whose approach to the subject is rather more academic. Finding her rather attractive – and who wouldn’t – he hides his identity and enrols. There are complications, however (not the age gap: no-one notices the 25 years between them). He has a showbiz girlfriend, Mamie van Doren, who performs a number called ‘The Girl Who Invented Rock’n’Roll’; she is involved with a psychologist who has a distinguished war record, speaks many languages and plays the bongos. It’s fluff, of course, but it does illustrate a real conflict in journalism, between those who do and those who teach. As Gannon explains, ‘To me, journalism is, ah, like a hangover. You can read about it for years, but until you’ve actually experienced it, you have no conception of what it’s really like.’ (JM)

Thursday (25/8)       14:45    Film4                               A Shot in the Dark (1964)

Blake Edwards’s follow-up to The Pink Panther, this time featuring the accident-prone Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) as the lead character. Clouseau is called upon to investigate the murder of a chauffeur in the country house of Benjamin Ballon (the suavely imperious George Sanders): ballon means ‘balloon’ in French. Edwards also wrote the screenplay, improbably assisted by William Peter Blatty, who subsequently wrote the novel and film of The Exorcist. There is a range of characters in the Agatha Christie-esque mansion but the main suspect is the maid, Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer), who was literally found with a smoking gun in her hand. Clouseau naturally allows his feelings to get in the way of his lack of judgement. Herbert Lom is the increasingly unstable Commissioner Dreyfus. Sellers was at the time a very popular figure but recent reappraisals have allowed us to see what a troubled and difficult person he was. Does that make the film any less hilarious? No, but it certainly adds a bittersweet quality to it. (JR)

Friday (26/8)            01:00   Talking Pictures            Man Hunt (1941)

Fritz Lang thriller about a big-game hunter, Captain Thorndike, who is pursuing his gruesome sport in Bavaria before the War when he stumbles across the residence of one H. Hitler and contemplates doing the world a favour by turning his sites on the dictator. He is immediately caught and beaten up but escapes on a steamship to England. On the way, someone steals his identity, and both men then fall foul of Gestapo agents in London. Walter Pidgeon is Thorndike and George Sanders is the Nazi on his tail. Someone called Nathanael Hood said this, ‘If one sought proof that [Lang’s] pre-war and post-war work were both products of the same mind, one need look no further than his 1941 film Man Hunt.’ Lang was involved in Hollywood’s Anti-Nazi League (not the one fronted by Billy Bragg) and this film was made when America was still neutral. Hood was writing in something called The Retro Set, which sounds just my kind of thing: unfortunately it seems to have disappeared. Rotten Tomatoes, meanwhile, tells us that the 1941 film has not been released yet. Such are the joys of Information Technology. (JM)

14:10   Talking Pictures            The Winslow Boy (1948)

Anthony Asquith’s original film version of Terence Rattigan’s play, which is based on a real incident. A boy, Ronnie Winslow, is expelled from a naval academy after being accused of petty theft. His banker father Arthur (Cedric Hardwicke) cannot accept this outcome, as he believes his son’s protestations of innocence, so he takes the matter to court. He employs prominent lawyer Sir Robert Morton (Robert Donat) to fight the case, which at one point is raised in the House of Commons. The rest of the family, including his sister Catherine (Margaret Leighton) and brother Dickie (Jack Watling), make considerable sacrifices to support Ronnie. It’s an absorbing exploration of class, justice and loyalty. David Mamet remade it in 1997 with Nigel Hawthorne, Jeremy Northam and Rebecca Pidgeon. Neil North, who was Ronnie in the original version, also appeared in the remake. (JR)

22:40   BBC1                              Sliding Doors (1998)

This Peter Howitt-directed romcom drama gave us a phrase for a moment where things can go one way or the other, symbolised by the sliding doors of a tube train. Gwyneth Paltrow plays two incarnations of her character Helen, who has a dodgy boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch). In one telling of the story, she misses her train, but in the version where she catches it she also meets James (John Hannah), a decent chap. They gradually get to know each other in posh riverside London and there are frequent references to lines from Monty Python, which are a bit irritating. Maybe that’s what twentysomethings did then. Paltrow is great as Helen, and much better as an actress than as a retailer of unusual merchandise, and the relationship between the two leads is genuinely touching. Howitt went on to direct Johnny English, about which the less said the better.  (JR)

23:05   Film4                              Midnight Run (1988)

Martin Brest (Beverley Hills Cop, Scent of a Woman) directs Robert De Niro, who is in prime comic form as bounty hunter Jack Walsh, who goes to pick up mob accountant Jonathan ‘The Duke’ Mardukis (the excellent Charles Grodin), who has lots of enemies. Mardukis does not make things easy. It’s a buddy-cum-road movie as the two make their way to LA by various means, and the on-screen chemistry is great. Yaphet Kotto is the endlessly-frustrated Special Agent Moseley, also on Mardukis’s trail. Money is at the core of it, as with so many Hollywood films, but there is also heart and much to enjoy. (JR)

One thought on “Freeview films from 20 August 2022

  1. Some of us even caught the courtroom drama you mention with the incomparable Marlene and long suffering Miss Plimsoll. Its a delight!

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