You'll believe in this Yesterday!
JOHN GORE, founder of StokeScreen Film Club, with his pick of the films coming to TV (from Saturday, July 3).
It is either feast or famine. The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a challenge, trying to find fresh films worthy of attention. This week compensates for that somewhat.
Firstly, Talking Pictures TV proudly announces that it is celebrating the centenary of the partnership of Laurel and Hardy with teatime screenings of some of their classic films. It reminds me of my distant youth when there were regular screenings of silent classics ahead of the six o’clock news, or on Sunday afternoons. It also implies that the legal wrangling over ownership rights may now be resolved and we might have access to these comedy gems once again.
This season of films begins with my favourite, The Music Box 1932 (Talking Pictures TV 16.00 Sat 3 July), the saga of moving a piano across town and into a house on a very steep incline. This is a masterpiece of visual comedy and if you will, an observation on the Human Condition. One of the distractions, I find, in watching these films and those of Buster Keaton, is looking at the locations in which the films are shot. This is Los Angeles and environs in early days of rapid development where suburbia is laying claim to the wilderness/countryside.
Also screening this week are Pack Up Your Troubles 1932 (Talking Pictures TV 16.40 Sat 3 July), in which our heroes are war veterans who help an orphan find her grandparents, and Sons of the Desert 1933 (Talking Pictures TV 16.35 Sun 4 July) in which Stan and Ollie find themselves in the Foreign Legion. Titles promised for later screenings are Another Fine Mess, County Hospital, Towed in the Hole Blockheads and Lucky Dog. No Way Out West or Laughing Gravy as ye,t but a promising start.
Film 4 continues their Star Trekathon on Fri 3 July and in shorter segments throughout the week. Richard Curtis features quite prominently this week with Notting Hill 1999 (ITV Be 21.00 Sat 3 July), a romantic comedy with Hugh Grant as the bumbling Brit who finds himself wooing screen superstar Julia Roberts. She rises to the occasion with some of the most spontaneous feeling scenes she has made.
About Time 2013 (5* 19.55 Sat 3 July) with Domhnall Gleeson's bumbling soul who finds he can travel in time and correct the errors of his past in pursuing Rachel McAdams. It turns out, his dad, played by Bill Nighy, had the same talent.
These coincide with the premiere of Yesterday 2019 (BBC1 20.15 Sun 4 July, BBC4 23.25 Fri 9 July), pictured above. Richard Curtis wrote the script but was wise enough to leave the directing to Danny Boyle. Jack wakes up one morning to discover that he is the only soul on Earth to remember the Beatles and their songs, so he claims them as his own. Himesh Patel is an engaging Jack supported by Lily James, Meera Syall and Sanjeev Bhasker. It is such programming that allows broadcasters to compete with major sporting events.
We are in Pride month and there is a smattering of movies on a Gay theme. Chief among these is Pride 2014 (BBC2 23.00 Sat 3 July) about the unlikely alliance of South Wales miners and Gay activists during the miners’ strike in 1984. Based on a true story, it follows George McKay (Sunshine on Leith) as closeted Joe who joins the struggle with the miners while grappling with the struggle within himself. It is very funny, wonderfully compassionate and moving. It is a bit of a modern classic about standing up to oppression with memorable turns by Dominic West, Bill Nighy (of course) and Andrew Scott.
Summertime, La Belle Saison 2015 (BBC2 00.55 Sun 4 July) tells of a young woman who moves from the country to Paris in the 1970s where she discovers all manner of new ideas and experiences, social, political and sexual. Directed by one of France’s foremost women directors, Cathérine Corsini, it stars Cécile de France, one of the biggest names in front of the camera, in a brave and shaded role of a young woman coming to terms with the changes taking place around her.
Mommy 2014 (Film4 01.15 Tue 6 July) is a film by French Canadian director, Xavier Dolan, a prodigious talent. This is challenging but engrossing stuff about the relationship between a widowed single mother and her violent son. Anne Dorval is outstanding as the mother of the title.
And while we are on the subject of Gay programming, Bette Davis stars as one of campest creations in The Anniversary 1968 (Talking Pictures TV 20.00 Sun 4 July), eye patch and all. I follow that with passing reference to Into the Woods 2014 (BBC2 13.00 Sun 4 July) an unjustly maligned (I feel) adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s early musical which improvises on fairy tales. Its top notch cast is led by Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep and James Corden, all of whom are upstaged by a really committed performance by Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, A Quiet Place).
Also tucked away among the insomniac movies is a rather magical animation about kids but not really for them. My Life as a Courgette, Ma Vie de Courgette 2016 (Film4 02.45 Sun 4 July) is a story in which young Courgette is sent to an orphanage and is helped to come to terms with the loss of his mother. This takes quite a serious psychological approach to the boy’s problems and his adoption of his curious soubriquet. It is very affecting and illustrates ways in which animation can explore issues that live action would not be able to do.
Asif Kapadia is one of the best documentary film makers in this country. He has made films about Ayrton Senna, Maradona and most notably, Amy Weinhouse. Amy 2015 (Channel4 23.05 Fri 9 July) is a penetrating portrait of the troubled but talented singer which gives her father enough rope to hang himself with regard to pushing her beyond her limits. It may not be comfortable viewing but it is starkly revealing.
In contrast, madcap maverick director, Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel 2014 (Channel4 01.30 10 July) finds Ralph Fiennes as the challenged and compromised hotel manager in increasingly absurd situations in a primary coloured world. He does a grand job of adding gravity to cumulative silliness.
There was a reshowing of the Arena film about Nic Roeg a couple of weeks ago. I hope that it is still on BBC iPlayer. Roeg is one of the finest directors that this country has produced and it is well worth watching the doc to inform yourself of the amazing things that he achieved. One of these is The Man
Who Fell to Earth 1976 (T alking PicturesTV 00.00 Sat 10 July) with David Bowie as the visitor from outer space who arrives with a plethora of new scientific ideas by which he seeks the means to rescue his family from a dying planet.
There is a further chance to see Cat Ballou 1965 (Great Movie Classics 23.40 Thu 8 June), a comedy western with Jane Fonda in the title role. Never have a pair of jeans been so snugly filled. This, in itself, is clearly another feat of advanced engineering! It left an indelible mark on the imagination of my 14 year old self.
Le Week-end 2013 (Film4 01.55 Wed 7 June) finds Jim Broadbent and Lindsey Duncan on their 30th anniversary taking a trip to Paris. Years of marriage have taken their toll and relations are getting brittle but a succession of encounters and adventures offer some hope of renewal. It is bitter-sweet but beautifully played with some wonderful comic moments. They are also rerunning Ruth and Alex 2014
(Great Movies 04.05 Fri 9 July) with Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman recognising the complexities of buying and selling property in New York, especially in later life. It is charming and speaks a lot of truth.
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