Dances With Wolves - a Western epic with real bite
JOHN GORE. founder of StokeScreen Fim Club, with his latest pick of the films coming to TV in the week ahead (from Sunday, Sept 12).
Last time we spoke of significant westerns and there are a couple more worthy of note this week. Dances with Wolves 1990 (Channel 5 15.00 Sun 12 Sep) finds Kevin Costner (pictured above) as Lt John Dunbar, a cavalry officer assigned to the western frontier where, instead of suppressing the native community, he befriends them and seeks to understand their ways. A prime example of the revisionist Western, which inevitably includes the most famous Native American actor of his generation, Graham Greene as Kicking Bird, graced with all the best lines. At three hours, it is a justifiable epic but worth your time.
Dunbar was an accidental Civil War hero. I am never quite sure where the Civil War sits in the genre of the Western. It influences a lot of the more ambivalent films and is the pivotal element of The Beguiled 2017 (BBC2 23.15 Wed 15 Sep). Originally made in 1971 with Clint Eastwood as the wounded Union soldier who seeks shelter in an exclusive academy for young ladies in Virginia, The Beguiled was directed by the rather macho Don Siegel. This iteration is directed by Sophia Coppola and puts greater emphasis on the perspective of the head mistress of the school, Nicole Kidman, and her young charges including Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. Colin Farrell is the corporal seeking succour. The tensions of doing the Christian thing in helping him are countered by loyalties to the Confederate South and those friends and loved ones lost in battle. Add to this the superabundance of hormones filling the school, leading to passion and jealousy, and you have a seething mass of issues for the poor corporal to negotiate.
I think that this and Lost in Translation are the best things that Ms Coppola has yet achieved. Daughter of Francis ‘Godfather’ Coppola, she grew up a Hollywood movie brat, first seen acting in Godfather 3 and then, wisely, retiring behind the camera where she made The Virgin Suicides, The Bling Ring and Marie Antoinette 2006 (GMC 18.35 Thu 16 Sep). This is a very post-modern take on the French queen at the time of the Revolution but her understanding of the rich and vacuous breathes a shameless energy into the court at Versailles.
I have also spoken at length about Michael Caine, and another couple of his movies crop up this week. Billion Dollar Brain 1967 (Film4 16.50 Tue 14 Sep) which is the third in the Harry Palmer trilogy of Len Deighton adaptations. This is a convoluted puzzle of who is working for whom and the power of a supercomputer which, in 1967, would probably have taken a couple of aircraft hangers to accommodate. Imagine the amount of punchtape!
The other appearance is a later portrait of Caine allowed to grow old in Youth 2015 (Film4 01.30 Fri 17 Sep). The action, if that is an apt description, takes place in a hotel in the Alps where Caine’s Fred Ballinger, a songwriter, and Harvey Keitel’s film maker, Mick Boyle, mull over a 60-year friendship along with daughter, Rachel Weisz, who worries about her father while he worries about a performance of his most famous work in front of the Queen and Prince Phillip. This has a mellow, rueful nostalgia to it and allows the whole cast to interact with grace and resignation to life moving on. It is rather charming and heart warming.
A British independent worthy of your attention is Wild Rose 2019 (Film4 21.00 Wed 15 Sep) has a stellar performance by Jessie Buckley as a troubled Glaswegian who aspires to be a singer in Nashville.
Berlin Syndrome 2016 (Film4 01.45 Sun 12 Sep) is a curious tale of a holiday romance gone horribly wrong as a young tourist is unable to leave the flat of the man with whom she has started a relationship. Directed by Australian Cate Shortland, this is a study in psychological terror. Gripping stuff.
Britt Marie was Here 2018 (BBC2 00.20 Sun 12 Sep) is, by contrast, a joyful study of rebirth as Britt Marie has just left a 40-year marriage, moved to a small town and taken over running the youth football team, even though she knows little of football and cares less. The effects on all concerned are remarkable. It played a couple of weeks back but is worth a reminder.
If what you need is something daft then there is the precursor of Brexit, Passport to Pimlico 1949 (TPTV 16.15 Tue 14 Sep), where the residents of a London Borough find ancient legislation to allow them independence and require visitors to have a passport before being admitted.
StokeScreen is back on Thursday, 23 Sep at Coventry & North Warwickshire Sports Club, Binley Road, Coventry. I can’t wait to see you all there. With all of our welfare in mind, seating will be socially distanced, recognising family and friends groups but with space to sit separately if you prefer. The air conditioning will be circulating fresh air. Masks are optional. We are keen that you feel comfortable. If you have any concerns, please contact us: Stokescreenfilmclub@aol.com Facebook: StokeScreen at CNWSC and www.StokeScreen.uk