For those about to die or cry, Saturday TV movies salute you!
First, an announcement that I have been wanting to make for 4 months: StokeScreen is scheduled to resume screening on Thursday 24 September with the resumption of the Spring programme, starting with Official Secrets. Further details regarding arrangements for our safety will be sent to you and be published on the website and via Facebook in due course.
On TV, meanwhile, the weekend begins with Apocalypse Now: The Final Cut (BBC2 21.30 Sat 1 Aug). This supersedes Francis Coppola’s The Director’s Cut, so someone at the studio obviously knows better than the director. Anyway, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is translated to the Vietnam War with Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard leading his hapless crew up river in search of the maverick Colonel Kurtz, a role filled to overflowing by Marlon Brando.
In the afternoon, there is another screening of The Railway Children (BBC2 13.20 Sat 1 Aug) which was given an entirely new perspective for me when I heard Neil Brand talk about the deftness with which the soundtrack score is handled. Each and every time it reaches the line ‘Daddy, my Daddy’, you can guarantee there will be not a dry eye in the house.
Two more for Saturday are Kirk Douglas playing the eponymous lead in Spartacus (ITV4 17.15 Sat 1 Aug), Stanley Kubrick’s account of a Roman slave revolt, notably scripted by Hollywood blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (remember him? Have you been paying attention for the last couple of weeks?) The film is also remarkable for being one the most prominent of classic films in my Closet of Shame – those films that every self respecting film programmer is expected to have seen but has not. I may be just about to correct that lapse.
The other title is The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Talking Pictures TV 21.00 Sat 1 Aug) with Robert Mitchum as the title character, an informer on the mob being hunted down by his former colleagues. It was a cult hit in the 1970s and is directed by Peter Yates, who made Bullitt and Breaking Away. I have not seen this in 40 years. I hope it stands the test of time.
Dangerous Liaisons (BBC1 22.30 Sun 2 Aug) must be one of the most frequently adapted novels. The screening on Sunday is Christopher Hampton’s adaptation which was first staged at the Royal National Theatre. The film version is directed by Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things, Philomena) with John Malkovich and Glenn Close as the conniving couple of libertines and Michelle Pfeiffer as the innocent being led astray. It was remade as Valmont with Colin Firth around the same time, later given a younger, hipper make over as Cruel Intentions and also in a beautiful and really imaginative Korean translation as Untold Scandal. Anyway, this is it in its ‘purest’ form.
What We Did on our Holiday (BBC4 22.00 Thu 6 Aug) is a gratifying comedy (yes, a real comedy!!) written and directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, creators of Outnumbered. They bring much of this strand of family dramedy to the big screen with David Tennant and Rosamund Pike as the besieged parents and a sublime Billy Connolly as the disruptive grandfather growing old disgracefully.
This would be my film recommendation of the week, were it not for the appearance, well past the bedtime of all good children, of StokeScreen favourite, Wild Tales (Film4 01.15 Sun 2 Aug). This darkly comic collection of vaguely interrelated stories about the stresses of modern lives does not shy away from the extreme and has provoked responses from our audience such as, ‘I didn’t think they made films like this!’ They do, but not many.
James Stewart would have been out of his depth in Wild Tales but shines in Hitchcock’s remake of his own The Man Who Knew Too Much (Sony Movie Classics 21.00 Mon 3 Aug), a classic Cold War thriller which is complemented later in the week by Hitchcock (Film4 01.45 Tue 4 Aug), Sasha Gervasi’s portrait of the iconic, if eccentric, director. Anthony Hopkins plays the Master of Suspense and Helen Mirren his underrated but influential missus and co-writer, Alma Reville.
Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King resurfaces on Sony Movie Channel 23.10 Wed 5 Aug. This is a wild, mythic delusion with a huge and memorable performance by Robin Williams. Gilliam’s films always feel cramped on the small screen, so seething with detail are they but still worthwhile viewing.
Then we have a couple of Aussies to recommend presenting a who’s who of antipodean acting talent. The Dressmaker (Film4 23.05 Wed 5 Aug) finds Kate Winslett’s Tilly returning to backwoods Oz after working for an haute couture house in Paris and set on righting wrongs of the past. In this, she is joined by Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving and Kerry Fox in a wry 1930s tale of the worm turning and neighbours not always becoming best friends. It is directed by Joyceline Moorhouse (producer of Muriel’s Wedding). Warning to those of a sensitive nature: this film involves innovative golf techniques!
I have not seen The Daughter (Film4 Fri 01.30 Thu 6 Aug), which dives into deep, dark family secrets, will be on my viewing list. Directed by Simon Stone, who has a strong track record, (Jindabyne, The Eye of the Storm), it boasts the rest of Australia’s international acting talent: Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, Miranda Otto!
To round up other offers, Kubo and the Two Strings (E4 10.55 Sun 2 Aug) is a superior stop motion animation from Laika Studios (Boxtrolls, Coraline), said to be much influenced by the work of Aardman Studios in this country. Possibly not for young children but with plenty to offer for older kids, parents and grandparents.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Film4 23.25 Thu 6 Aug) is a teen movie with substance, charting the relationship of three teenagers addressing mortality and illness – in effect, it does what it says on the tin but does so with wit and wisdom.
Serena (Film4 01.45 Tue 4 Aug) is a tale of a redoubtable young woman striving to save the family timber business during the Depression. Shot by Danish director, Suzanne Bier (Brothers, The Night Manager), it fails to live up to expectation in spite of the starry cast led by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
The American (Sony Movies 21.00 Sun 2 Aug) is the study of a hired assassin in Italy with George Clooney in an uncharacteristic role. Directed by the British director, Anton Corbijn, who made his name in pop videos in the 80s and 90s, this is low key and quietly affecting.
A Suitable Boy, the adaptation of the Vikram Seth novel, has started on BBC 1 on Sunday nights. Not only is it adapted by our friendly neighbourhood adapter laureate, Andrew Davis but sumptuously shot in India by Mira Nair, whose Monsoon Wedding was screened by StokeScreen in the autumn. It may not be designed for the big screen but it has that breadth and richness.
Apologies to those of you misled by the rather over egged description of Rams as a dark comedy. The years have dulled my memory and I suspect that I misremembered irony as being ‘comic’. Can do better. Must try harder.
As ever, it is always good to hear back from you, so please put your thoughts down and send them to us at Stokescreenfilmclub@aol.com Fb StokeScreen at CNWSC and www.StokeScreen.uk