JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club with his pick of the films on TV in the week ahead (from Sat, May 23).
I was very sad to learn of the passing of Michel Piccoli this week. He was a stalwart of French cinema from the 1960s when he was known for roles in Belle de Jour, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and later, playing patriarchal figures in films like Milou en Mai.
If anyone has the wisdom to run a season of his films on TV in the weeks to come, I shall let you know with the assurance that whatever he did was always worth watching.
Meanwhile, a season of RKO pictures launches on BBC. RKO was the major independent studio in Hollywood in the 1940s, making relatively low budget movies, often with less experienced talent and as a consequence, delivering fresh and memorable films. I always associate them with films noirs and pictures that were not afraid to paint the American Dream in much darker colours.
The season includes John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, King Kong (1933) and Top Hat (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), but opens with Citizen Kane (BBC2, 15.00, Sat, 23 May). This was Orson Welles’ first feature and has claimed top spot in critics’ all time greatest film from 1966 to 2010 (or thereabouts). It's a tale of a charismatic press baron and demagogue who has everything but happiness. It remains ageless and the use of deep focus photography marks it out as a significant step forward in film making. This is a film that everyone should see, if only to say, "I don’t know what all the fuss is about!" There are a couple of British classics on Sunday. Great Expectations (BBC2, 10.35, Sun, 24 May) from 1946 is David Lean’s take on Dickens and is one of the most visually expressive of cinematic adaptations, full of haunted shadows and underlying menace – as though he had been watching Orson Welles!
The other hails from 1999, East is East (Channel 4, 23.25, Sun, 24 May) which is about a mixed race kid growing up in Bradford. It is funny and generous and outstanding for the towering performance of the late Om Puri as the King Lear of the chip shop, trying, in vain, to keep his family on the right path in a godless country. He appeared in many great movies but none moved me as much as this.
Tucked away in the Insomniac’s Index are a couple of films from South Korea. The Age of Shadows (BBC2, 00.45, Sun, 24 May) is a tale of resistance and retribution from the time of Japanese occupation, and Snowpiercer (Film4, 21.00, Sun, 24 May) is a sci-fi thriller set on a bullet train. It has become required cult viewing and is about to launch as a series on Netflix this week.
I recently caught up with The Driver (Talking Pictures TV, 22.00, Tue, 26 May) for the first time in almost half a century. Ryan O’Neal is just so cool and I now understand what is meant by "an existential thriller": basically, where the act is more important than the outcome. It explores its own moral compass. It is directed by Walter Hill, who made a number of riveting action thrillers which deliver the thrills without leaving its brain in neutral.
Trumbo (BBC2, 23.20, Fri, 29 May) finds Brian (Breaking Bad) Cranston playing blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, finding his way back to the light as he scripts Spartacus for Stanley Kubrick with more than a little help from Kirk Douglas. This is a fascinating portrait of the end of the McCarthy era and Cranston delivers his lines laced with irony and wry observation.
This week’s "Film I have been Wanting to Screen" is Beast (Film4, 21.00, Thu, 28 May). Set on Jersey, it features Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Judy), escaping an oppressive family set up. She falls in with Pascal (Johnny Flynn, Vanity Fair, Clouds of Sils Maria) for a torrid affair that gets more and more extreme. This is great storytelling with excellent central performances.
Also trending this week... (I wish I knew what that meant!), Slow West (Film4, 00.40, Sun, 24 May) is an eccentric western which is also quite leisurely and features Michael Fassbender. It does what it says on the tin, if you read the small print.
Breaker Morant (Sony Movies, 01.00, Wed, 27 Mar) was brought back to my attention by the excellent survey of Australian cinema which recently screened on BBC2. Edward Woodward plays the title role of an Aussie Lieutenant accused of war crimes during the Boer War.
The Fifth Estate (Film4, 23.15, Wed, 27 May) finds Benedict Cumberbatch playing Julian Assange in a recreation of the Wikileaks hacking affair. I hope it still stands up to the revelations of the intervening years.
A Bigger Splash (Film4, 23.20, Thu, 28 May) finds reclusive rock star (Tilda Swinton – other worldly at the best of times but here, positively Ziggy Stardust!) holidaying in Italy with her husband when a friend from the past (Ralph Fiennes, record producer and 80s coke casualty) arrives with daughter. Tension ensues. Director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name) summons the spirit of Antonioni but keeps it grounded and engaging.
In normal times, StokeScreen Fim Club shows great movies at Coventry & North Warwickshire Sports Club, Binley Road, Coventry. For details email Stokescreenfilmclub@aol.com or go to Facebook - Stokescreen at CNWSC