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Is Welles classic 'Kane' still able to work its magic?


JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club, with his latest pick of the films coming to TV (from Saturday, May 1).

First of all, let’s wish Citizen Kane 1941 (BBC2 14.30 Sat 1 May; BBC4 20.00 Thu 6 May), pictured above, a happy 80th birthday. Still regarded by many as the greatest movie ever made, it retains its currency today. A tale of a self-made media tycoon who, as his wealth and success multiply, so becomes more and more isolated and detached from the world. In acknowledgement of this momentous event, it is screening on two days so that you can watch it once and then see it again to figure out why it is so celebrated. One of the things you will notice is the camera work which uses deep focus to create a greater sense of depth in the image and more high and low angle shots than was the norm in Hollywood at the time. The use of prominent objects to tell his story, as Hitchcock did, makes Welles one of cinema’s greatest directors. In spite of this, it was not warmly received upon its release.

If this increases your awareness of Welles as a film maker, then I would also recommend to you Lady from Shanghai 1948 (Sony Classics 17.30 Thu 6 May) which is one of the archetypal films noirs. Rita Hayworth plays the dubious dame while Orson plays the innocent caught up in a yachting trip which inevitably results in a web of intrigue and murder. This film concludes with one of the great finales: a shootout in a hall of mirrors, graphically representing the confusing and perilous predicament in which our hero finds himself. Much copied but never equalled, Welles was a genuine innovator (and self-publicist!).

A couple of things have caught my attention this week, for a very different reason. I waited for two or three years for Tulip Fever 2016 (BBC2 22.00 Mon 3 May) to be released and when it was, it sank without trace. It is based on a novel by Debbie Moggach who also wrote The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The film is about a young artist (Dane DeHaan) who falls for the woman whose portrait he is painting (Alicia Vikander). She has made a great fortune from the developing the tulip bulb industry in Holland in the 17th century. OK, so this will look pretty and allow for moody, painterly lighting. It has a compelling cast that includes Tom Hollander, Joanna Scanlon and Judi Dench. Alarm bells started to ring when the production changed distributors, Tom Stoppard was brought in to revise the script and it underwent a couple of radical re-edits. Add to this, one of the principal producers, Harvey Weinstein, was beginning to grab the headlines for the wrong reasons, and we could watch the film implode before our very eyes. I shall be so interested to see what resulted, and if it shows its scars in the final cut.

There is also The Age of Innocence 1977 (TPTV 22.10 Sun 2 May), not to be confused with the Martin Scorsese adaptation of the novel by Edith Wharton, but a Canadian tale of an English teacher arriving in town on the eve of WW2. There are shockwaves when it is discovered that he is a conscientious objector. Here is a more mature David Warner, removed from his salad days in the sixties, supported by Honour Blackman, who has also moved on from her earlier fame in The Avengers. My curiosity is piqued.

If you are in need of a sophisticated laugh, you could do a lot worse than Up In the Air 2009 (BBC2 23.30 Thu 6 May). George Clooney is clocking up his air miles, consulting for firms around the country on downsizing and rationalisation. He runs in to an attractive, younger competitor (Anna Kendrick) whose new ideas threaten to make his lifestyle obsolete. Director Jason Reitman has made a series of smart and perceptive comedies about modern life including the wickedly funny Thank You for Smoking, and the teen pregnancy story, Juno.

Evergreen romcom When Harry Met Sally 1989 (BBC1 22.50 Fri 7 May) gets another airing. I will be interested to see if it has withstood the test of time. Older still is The Chain 1984 (TPTV 18.50 Sat 1 May), written by the late, great Jack Rosenthal (The Knowledge, The Lovers) which follows the fate of a series of purchasers moving house. Denis Lawson, Phyllis Logan, David Troughton, Nigel Hawthorne, Billie Whitelaw and Warren Mitchell are all ensnared in the infernal congestion. I would be grateful to avoid almost everyone on the list were I trying to move!

Speaking of individuals you might be well advised to avoid at certain times, Sully: Miracle on the Hudson 2016 (BBC1 20.30 Mon 3 May) finds Clint Eastwood as director in righteous anger. This is the true story of airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) who was forced to put his jet down on the Hudson River in the middle of New York, saving the lives of all passengers and crew, yet being reprimanded and investigated for misconduct by the insurers, reluctant to pay out on the loss of the plane. Hanks is Mr Middle America, so ideal to fill the role as the focus of this frightening and damaging suspicion.

Dusted down this week are:

Local Hero 1983 (Film4 13.30 Sat 1 May), Bill Forsyth’s comedy of the wealth of North Sea oil reaching the shores of Scotland. Burt Lancaster, a keen astronomer, arrives from Texas and takes a personal interest in the place while the quirky locals dream of the things that money can buy.

Day of the Locust 1975 (TPTV 23.10 Sat 1 May) John Schlesinger’s (Midnight Cowboy) portrait of Hollywood in the 1930s. Observing this latterday Babylon is art director, Donald Sutherland, who wants to make a star of his girlfriend only to be met by prejudice about her background. Sutherland was one of the hottest properties in cinema at that time. He and Karen Black lead a strong cast in this lavish production.

Total Recall 1990 (ITV4 21.00 Wed 5 May) finds Arnold Schwarzenegger as the bewildered victim of memory theft. The idea came from Philip K Dick’s story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, but Paul Verhoven layers on his distinctive irony and mischief. If only more sci-fi were this self aware!

 It is followed by another cult classic, Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Brian de Palma’s remake of Howard Hawks’ classic gangster movie, Scarface 1983 (ITV4 23.20 Wed 5 May). Quite a double bill!!

 I have recently referenced a couple of titles which are returning to our screens this week. If you weren’t paying attention then, here is another chance to ignore them. Internal Affairs 1990 (BBC2 00.30 Sun 2 May) in which Richard Gere is alarmingly good as corrupt cop Dennis Peck, being tracked by LA’s equivalent of AC12 in the form of Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia). In addition, there is End of Watch 2012 (BBC2 23.20 Fri 7 May) about two rookie cops on patrol in downtown LA. It is a perfectly sound cop thriller but was overshadowed by the impact of the box set phenomenon that is The Wire.

If you took my recommendations from last week to venture into the dark world of horror, you might recall that I praised The Descent and referenced Neil Marshall’s earlier film, Dog Soldiers 2001 (Film4 23.20 Sun 2 May). This is a story of squaddies vs werewolves but here, the tightknit group of men allows for more depth of character than we might ordinarily expect.

Black Death 2010 (Horror 21.00 Tue 4 May) is a story from an earlier pandemic with Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne investigating instances of reincarnation and otherworldly activities. Superstition is the main enemy here but it has grit and grime enough to imply its authenticity.

For some reason, there is a screening of the forthcoming StokeScreen feature The Disappearance of Alice Creed 2009 (Horror 22.55 Mon 3 May) on the Horror channel. This is a taut thriller with an excellent cast of Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan and Line of Duty’s Martin Compston, but horror? Never. When we finally get to screen it we have been promised a visit by the producer, Marc Samuelson, who will chat about the film afterwards.

I hope this provides you with some entertainment during the inevitable spring bank holiday hail storms.

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 Facebook: StokeScreen at CNWSC and www.StokeScreen.uk

Winner!