Freeview films from 8 October 2022

World Cinema

Saturday (8/10)       23:20   Film4                    Memories of Murder (2003)

This early crime drama from Bong Joon Ho (of Parasite fame) broke box office records at home. Based on historical events, it shows two dim and crude cops sent to investigate a double murder in a provincial town in the 1980s. It emerges that they have stumbled upon the trail left by the South Korea’s first serial killer. Highly praised by critics around the world for its portrait of a society under strain as well as the expected efficiency and verve of its narrative, although that acclaim had to wait more than a decade after its original release. (JM)

23:30   BBC4                    Midwives (2022) 

A ninety-minute Burmese documentary about a couple of midwives in Myanmar at the height of the country’s persecution of Muslims. The boss, Hla, is a Buddhist and has the power in the relationship. Her apprentice, Nyo Nyo, is a member of the brutalised Rohingya minority. Against a background of propaganda and racial hatred, Nyo Nyo raises money from her community to set up her own clinic. The director, Snow Hnin El Hlaing, was born in the area but now operates from Berlin. The producer Mila Aung-Thwing is Burmese-Canadian. According to this interesting interview by National Public Radio in America, he was drawn to the story because of the contradictions in Hla’s position, who helps Muslim women but also treats them with disdain: ‘I have to say that that’s what initially pulled me into the project — when I saw the footage and saw those two things living in Hla. If she was just like Mother Teresa, I’d be so bored of the film after five minutes. But she lives with the contradiction.’ (JM)

Monday (10/10)      00:50   Film4                    Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)

Bong Joon Ho’s directorial debut is a harshly satirical comedy about a graduate student with a pregnant partner who lives in a crumbling basement and is under a great deal of pressure. A neighbour’s incessantly barking dog drives him to take extreme action. The film assures us that no animals were harmed in its making, but it is all about animal cruelty, so be warned. (JM)

23:15   Film4                    Parasite (2019)

Bong Joon-ho’s history-making, expertly poised, razor-sharp satire tells the story of two Korean families, separated by a gulf in class and wealth, who become intertwined with dramatic results. Starring the director’s long time collaborator Song Kang-ho, its blend of comedy, horror, drama and psychological thriller helped Parasite to become the first non-English language film to win a Best Picture Oscar. It also took the Palme d’Or at Cannes. (MH)

Thursday (13/10)    01:10    Great Movies     Personal Shopper (2016)

A powerful supernatural thriller by Olivier Assayas, the second film he has directed featuring Kristen Stewart, who plays Maureen, the personal shopper of the title, working for Kyra, an aloof and demanding supermodel absorbed with her wildlife ‘foundation’. Maureen has recently lost her twin brother Lewis and is convinced she is in communication with him beyond the grave, though doubts abound. On a trip to London for Kyra, Maureen starts to receive mysterious texts which she at first thinks are from Lewis, but they start to plumb her repressed psyche. Stylish, absorbing and shocking by turns, it’s basically unmissable. (SF)

Friday (14/10)          01:45   Film4                    The Man Standing Next (2020) 

A political thriller about power struggles in South Korea in 1979. Woo Min-Ho’s film has garnered a certain amount of praise for its simmering intensity and period detail, but reading between the lines it appears that hardly anyone outside its home country was able to work out what was going on. (JM)

Stephen Ilott’s Selection

Saturday (8/10)          13:15   BBC2                      The 39 Steps (1935)

Alfred Hitchcock was arguably still honing his skills in 1935. This may not quite deliver the enduring evergreen quality of some of his later classics, but is still an engrossing mystery thriller, and could be seen as a blueprint for North by Northwest. The story follows two strangers (Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll), one of whom has been falsely accused of a public killing, who must travel across country (by train, of course) to unravel a plot about military secrets and the mysterious ’39 Steps’, which should hold the key to a brace of murders. (MH)

14:40   BBC2                      The Lady Vanishes (1938)

This is the film that brought Hitchcock into Hollywood, under the wing of David O. Selznick. From the gorgeous opening shot, the film is a triumph of visual control and plot, and set Hitch on track to making some of the most arresting and enduring films of the 20th century. When an elderly lady (May Whitty, the first Dame in the theatrical profession) disappears on a train trip through the picturesque Europe, her travel companion (Margaret Lockwood) is told she only imagined her presence. But she suspects foul play and teams up with another passenger (Michael Redgrave) to expose the truth. (MH)

Sunday (9/10)             01:20   Talking Pictures   To Die For (1995)   

Gus van Sant’s splendid satire on celebrity is perennially topical, especially in an age when, as we have discovered, the only currency that counts is fame. Nicole Kidman plays a provincial newsreader who wants to get to the top of the greasy pole but fears that her lumpen husband (Matt Dillon) is holding her back. So she gets a besotted kid (Joaquin Phoenix) to bump him off. The film was a breakthrough for Kidman, who until then was just a pretty face. Here she’s rather scary. Not that the two can’t go together (he says, ruefully). Recommended. (JM)                             

19:00   Talking Pictures    Live Now – Pay Later (1962)

British drama about a door-to-door salesman (Ian Hendry) who entices housewives into buying things they can’t afford on what we used to call the ‘never-never’. He also sleeps with a fair few of them, which is unfair on his pregnant girlfriend (June Ritchie). Oh, and he’s also cheating his boss (John Gregson). An interesting picture of Britain on the turn from 1950s respectability to Swinging Sixties self-interest. Only one print was thought to exist for many years. If you miss it here, you can download it from the Internet Archive and do anything you like with it. I might splice bits of it into my forthcoming documentary about debt, the handcuffs so many of us have gleefully donned in recent years. (JM)

Wednesday (12/10)   07:20   Talking Pictures    Brats (1930)

This is the excellent Laurel & Hardy short in which Stan and Ollie play both a pair of fathers and their troublesome children. (JM)

Friday (14/10)             05:35   Talking Pictures    Busy Bodies (1933)

More L & H. This time the duo get a job in a sawmills, where they fall foul of planks and machinery. Slapstick, of course, but much of it ingenious and elegantly turned. Here’s an enthusiastic review. (JM)

Other vaguely modern films of interest

Saturday (8/10)    23:35     BBC1   Detroit (2017)

Kathyn Bigelow’s angry historical drama about the riots that swept through Motor City in 1967 and the police’s inept and brutal raid on a hotel where they thought they might find the ringleaders. Hand-held camera, jumpy editing and woven-in documentary footage make for a great deal of impact. With all-conquering Peckham boy John Boyega. (JM)

Tuesday (11/10)   21:00     BBC4    Beneath the Surface (2022)

A young woman survives a shark attack, unlike her father and sister. But when she consults a counsellor to help recover from the trauma, a different story emerges. This film has the lowest IMDB score (2.4) that I have seen in a very long time, which always intrigues me. Not quite enough to watch it, however. (JM)

22:30     BBC4    Cannibals in the Andes: Stranded! (2002) 

In 1972, a student rugby team was flying across the Andes when their plane crashed. The survivors lived for 72 days on the mountain in extreme hardship. They also ate some of the flesh of their dead fellow-passengers to survive. In this documentary, they were brought together 30 years later to talk about the accident and its aftermath, which mesmerised the world at the time. Sensations lasted longer then. Cannibalism continues to have a weird repulsion attached to it, while other deep-seated human taboos have been embraced and commercialised in the name of progress. Don’t go there, John. (JM)


Tuesday (11/10)         00:10    Channel 4             The Watermelon Woman (1996)  

This film caused a stink in the States when it was released, with assorted politicians moaning about the National Endowment for the Arts funding something featuring not only lesbian sex but inter-racial lesbian sex (don’t get too excited; it won’t scare many horses). Cheryl Dunye was pretty much a film student when she put it together. In it, she plays a version of herself, trying to make a documentary about an imaginary star of 1940s ‘race’ movies, known as the Watermelon Woman. At the same time, she has a relationship with a white woman, who helps fund the exercise. Various hot buttons are duly pressed. The film has a lot of admirers for its ambition and wit in playing with the conventions of documentary and sending up Golden Age Hollywood’s treatment of black people. Other people got a bit fed up with Cheryl hogging the screen. Here’s a Chicago Tribune review that tries to have it all ways. (JM)

Wednesday (12/10)   06:00   Talking Pictures    Pack Up Your Troubles (1932)

Laurel & Hardy’s second feature for Hal Roach (68 minutes) finds the pair in WWI France, where they have to rescue the semi-abandoned child of a comrade who is killed in action. The unusually sentimental story owes a lot to Chaplin. The child is played by Jackie Lyn, a three-year-old British girl who had already appeared in several of Roach’s silent pictures. Wikipedia tells us what happened to her: ‘Lyn’s short career at Hal Roach Studios ended when her stepfather demanded more money for her services. She grew up, married, changed her name to Jacquelyn Woll, and was not heard from until the early 1990s. Woll’s son had purchased a Laurel & Hardy videotape for her; the tape was introduced by Stan Laurel’s daughter Lois, who related that Laurel & Hardy fans worldwide were searching for the whereabouts of Jacquie Lyn. Woll contacted The Sons of the Desert, the official Laurel & Hardy fanclub, and was reintroduced to the public, becoming an honorary member of the organization.’ (JM)

22:00    BBC4                      A Coming to Terms For Billy (1984) 

This is a BBC ‘Play for Today’ film, the third in a trilogy written by Graham J. Reid and directed by Paul Seed. It’s set in Northern Ireland and concerns a man (James Ellis, once of Z Cars) who returns to the province with his new English partner. His son (a young Ken Branagh) is not happy. Seen now as a breakthrough in Ulster drama, in that it dramatised the domestic life of a Protestant family and showed the impact the troubles were having on them rather than concentrating on the violence itself. (JM) 

Thursday (13/10)        06:00   Talking Pictures    Sons of the Desert (1933)

The fourth Laurel & Hardy feature, widely considered their best. The pair attend a convention organised by the fraternity to which they belong. The name of the group, Sons of the Desert, was later adopted as the name of the international L&H fan club. Very meta. (JM)

Friday (14/10)              06:00   Talking Pictures    Our Relations (1936)

A Laurel & Hardy feature with an unusually tricksy, somewhat Shakespearean, plot: Stan and Ollie play their own long-lost twin brothers, two sailors called Alfie and Bert. Their captain has entrusted them with a valuable ring, but some criminals try and steal it. Multiple identity-confusions ensue. That’s always a tricky thing to pull off, especially if, as seems be the case here, the twins are not radically differentiated in their characterisation. (JM)

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