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Classic films give the week's TV viewing a lift

JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club, with his latest pick of the films coming to TV (from Sept 5).

Last week, I recommended the Michael Powell classic, I Know Where I’m Going, and referenced two of his best known films. Lo and Behold, as if by magic, they appear in the schedule for this week. A Matter of Life and Death (BBC2, 14.30, Mon, 7 Sep) pictured above regularly registers in the top five of "The Greatest British Movie Ever Made" polls. David Niven plays a fighter pilot in wartime Britain, flying his seriously damaged bomber back from a raid in Europe. He is talked through the final moments by an American radio operator. When all seems lost, a miracle, or a clerical error in Heaven, leads to him being given a second chance; a chance to plead his case to be spared. Hang on to your hankies. And in the very next breath, is The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (BBC2, 14.30, Tue, 8 Sep), one of the first colour movies made in the UK. Made in 1943, it is an affectionate account of the life and loves of a blustering Imperial officer from the Boer War through to World War Two, as he finds himself increasingly out of step with modern "Total War". This is surprisingly touching and looks ravishing. A war story of a very different hue comes in the shape of Enigma (5 Select, 21.00, Sun, 6 Sep), the race to crack the Nazi Enigma communications codes, allowing the Allies to have advance warning of enemy activity at sea. The team at Bletchley Park are lead by Dougray Scott and Kate Winslett in a thriller that charts the prehistory of the computer. A little later still, we have Bridge of Spies (More 4, 21.00, Wed, 9 Sep), Steven Spielberg’s Cold War spy story. Tom Hanks plays the intelligence officer charged with managing a Russian spy in Berlin. The spy is (under)played by Mark Rylance. His stillness, stoicism and understatement steals the whole film and thoroughly justifies the Oscar he won for it. This is a masterclass in acting. In contrast, Oliver Stone’s Platoon (ITV 4, 22.05, Mon, 7 Sep) is a fairly blunt object. It will be interesting to see how it stands up, 35 years on. This was running point in the wave of Vietnam movies made in the 1980s as America tried to come to terms with defeat and political incompetence, and the price that was paid by the boys in the front line. It is also remarkable for making Samuel Barber’s Adagio a popular classic. Comedy of the Week would be Hail, Caesar! (Film4, 16.35, Sat, 5 Sep), the Coen Brothers' celebration of the Golden Age of Hollywood with George Clooney as the studio wrangler charged with fixing temperamental actors and "unfortunate incidents" during the production of a 1950s' sword and sandals movie . It may not be as outrageous as others of the Coen Bros’ creations but then, it is Hollywood, how much more ridiculous could it get?! Well, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Film 4, 12.55, Wed, 9 Sep) is probably a fair answer to that. It has Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield singing Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend...The great Howard Hawks is probably the only director in Hollywood who could have kept a lid on that and still made it funny. (Maybe Billy Wilder...) Changeling (Sony Movies, 21.00, Wed, 9 Sep) is another in an informal season of later Clint Eastwood movies. This one features an impressive performance by Angeline Jolie as a mother in 1920s' Los Angeles who takes on the police department who are reluctant to believe that the baby they have recovered is not the same one that this mother has lost. Once again, the individual is up against authority and the state. A couple of years later, Eastwood made Invictus (BBC1, 20.05, Sat, 5 Sep), an account of Francois Pienaar and the Springboks team in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. This competition was remarkable as it recognised a new, post-apartheid South Africa and became a resonant rallying cry for reconciliation. Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (Sony Movie Classics, 18.35, Sun, 6 Sep), remade in Hollywood with James Stewart and Doris Day (Qué Sera Sera) gets a welcome outing, back when good upstanding Americans could stand up against foreign conspirators and know they were not going up against their own government! There is a more exotic offering in the shape of Goldstone (BBC4, 22.00, Thu, 10 Sep) which continues the stories of Mystery Road, about an indigenous Australian detective searching for a missing girl. He teams up with a white police officer to find the girl and overcome the interests and prejudices of diverse communities. Not revelatory stuff but it looks spectacular and takes you somewhere you probably not have been before. The cast includes regular Aussie stalwarts, Jackie Weaver and David Gulpilil. Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dynamite (ITV4, 23.45, Tue, 8 Sep) finds James Coburn as an IRA explosives expert (few other directors would have found the gall to glorify such a figure in the 1970s) who joins up with the anti-government movement in Mexico to take on a corrupt regime and thus become a hero of the revolution. Coburn clearly relishes the role and it gives Ennio Morricone the perfect excuse to create one of his unique and idiosyncratic scores. Ginger and Rosa (BBC2 00.45 Tue 8 Sep) is an underrated coming of age movie by Sally Potter, set in an early 1960s London, under threat from the Cuban Missile Crisis. Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) and Elle Fanning (20th Century Women) lead an impressive cast that includes Annette Bening and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men). Film of the Week, I think, is a more modest affair. The Sessions (Channel 4, 02.45, Thu, 10 Sep) is a warm, humorous tale of a man confined to an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity. John Hawkes gives a beautifully shaded performance as the patient. Helen Hunt is the sex surrogate who offers to assist him, encouraged by his priest, played with crackling dry humour by William H Macy. This is a meditation on being human that explores intimacy and love without being salacious. It is a chamber piece but leaves a lasting impression.

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