The unexpected delights of staying in
JOHN GORE is founder of StokeScreen Film Club.
This week’s TV viewing is a bit like rummaging through the end-of-season remainder bin. You will light on things by chance, that you would not normally have considered, and find that some will fit far better than you might have expected. Love and Friendship (BBC2, 15.00, Sat, 15 Aug) is an adaptation of a novella by Jane Austen which, in the hands of Ivy League director Whit Stillman, is given a brightness and is as rich in social nuance and irony as you would expect from Austen. Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny are perfectly cast as the matchmaking friends at the heart of matters, ensuring that the path of true love never runs smoothly. In contrast, there is Belle (Film4, 18.55, Tue, 18 Aug), Amma Asante’s (Mrs America) breakthrough feature. It is the story of Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), mixed-race daughter of Captain Sir John Lindsay, raised in 18th century English society by William Murray, Lord Chief Justice. For all the privilege and status that she has, she is still restricted by society’s response to her colour. This pushes the costume drama into more thought provoking territory than most. In the wee small hours of the morn before, is Brick Lane (Film4, 01.00, Tue, 18 Aug) which the Radio Times describes as an amusing and compassionate adaptation of Monica Ali’s novel about a young Bangladeshi woman striving to determine herself in an arranged and uninspiring marriage in London’s East End. I don’t remember a lot of laughs or even wry smiles, but it is a compelling portrait which draws one’s sympathies. Sexy Beast (Film4, 22.50, Wed, 19 Aug) pictured above, is in rather marked contrast, a tale from the Costa del Crime. Crime boss Don (Ben Kingsley) recruits retired safecracker Gal (Ray Winstone) for one last job. So far, the script writes itself. What it does not anticipate is the sheer virtuosity of insult, threat and invective that can be generated between two men of ill repute and even iller temper. Violent, nasty, hideously funny, this film marked Jonathan Glazer out as rather more than a maker of music videos. And then came Under the Skin, which is visionary. Nocturnal Animals (Sony Movies, 22.00, Fri, 21 Aug) is the work of another British maverick. Fashion designer and director Tom Ford made a significant impact with A Single Man with Colin Firth. Nocturnal Animals is cerebral stuff, a thriller as cold and hard as the modernist surfaces around its characters: a gallery curator haunted by her ex-husband’s crime novel – stay with me! It is deeply psychological and enthralling. I can assure you, the butler did not do it! (Spoiler!)
StokeScreen favourite Lady Bird (BBC2, 21.00, Fri, 21 Aug) is full of surprises of a different sort. Saoirse Ronan is superb as the late teen waiting to leave Sacremento to go to college, dreaming of metropolitan sophistication and intellectual challenge. Her current life has a habit of tripping her up. Directed by Great Gershwig, it captures a moment in personal development which resonates and feels as though it contains more than a little autobiography. Fringe benefits, this week: We Are the Best (Film4, 01.20, Wed, 19 Aug) which follows a trio of disaffected Swedish teenage girls in suburban Stockholm who form a truly awful punk band but have a gift for offending people. It is surprisingly charming, positive and fun. District 9 (Sony Movies, 21.00, Wed, 19 Aug) is a low budget sci-fi movie from the townships of Johannesburg. After 35 years a refugee camp for extraterrestrials has deteriorated into a ghetto, District 9. When a government agency is sent in to clear the camp they encounter resistance, both physical and biological. It takes collaboration between Earthlings and Aliens to control the unidentified chemical menace. I am not sure if this is satirical or predictive! Ideal pandemic viewing. The Hounds of Love (Film4, 23.25, Thu, 20 Aug) is a claustrophobic study of a couple who kidnap, imprison and abuse a young woman. She learns that the way out is to drive a wedge between the two, which she does with aplomb. It is gritty but curiously compelling stuff. Director Ben Young is a name to watch. The Levelling (BBC2, 00.20, Sat, 22 Aug) is a slice of British rural glumness, a leisurely stroll back to unhappiness for a farmer’s daughter after the death of her brother. More of a study in psychology than political allegory, this is a film for enthusiasts of particular moments in life. Enjoy! Classics of the week: Brighton Rock (Talking Pictures TV,18.40, Fri, 21 Aug) finds a baby-faced Richard Attenborough as razor-toting Pinky, terrorising the seaside resort. The Lost Boys (BBC1, 22.45, Fri, 21 Aug) is a tribute to the late Joel Schumacher, whose best loved movie this is. Suburban teenage vampires – somehow, it will never be out of fashion! In Heat (Film4, 23.50, Fri, 21 Aug) De Niro and Pacino face off against one another in Michael Mann’s stylish cops and robbers, cat and mouse duel. Solaris (Sony Movies, 20.00, Fri, 21 Aug) features George Clooney and Natahsa McElhone lost in space in a remake of Tarkovsky’s art house sci-fi classic, set in a space station with a deeply troubled crew. Comedy of the week? Probably Young Frankenstein (BBC1, 00.15, Sun, 16 Aug). Mel Brookes, pre Blazing Saddles, after which he felt compelled to be Mel Brookes all the time. Peter Boyle as Frank singing Puttin’ on the Ritz figures in a lot of people’s desert island movie moments.
StokeScreen Film Club is due to resume on Thursday, 24 September. A motley StokeScreen crew assembled at the Coventry & North Warwickshire Sports Club, Binley Road, Coventry, to plan the future, and I am happy to report that it works. Capacity remains as it was, limited only by sightlines and current government guidelines.
Health and safety advice is being implemented scrupulously and we shall be sociably distanced. Sanitising material is in place and masks are available for those who need them. Welcome to the New Normal.
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