FILM OF THE WEEK
In 1989, Spike Lee directed Do The Right Thing, a film that marked him out as a prodigious talent, but also gave him his subject: the racial politics of America. A pizza parlour owner of Italian extraction displays photographs of his cultural heroes on his walls. His young black customers, newly conscious of their racial identity, want to know why their cultural heroes are not represented. A minor riot ensues.
BlacKkKlansman (2018) is a more mature product, inspired by fact: fact is not only stranger than fiction, it can also provide a short-cut to truth. In the early Seventies, Ron Stallworth was hired as the first black policeman in Colorado Springs, slap-bang in the middle of white America. Keen to prove himself under cover, he telephoned David Duke, Grand Wizard of the KuKluxKlan (then desperate to present itself as a mainstream movement), and convinced the would-be politician that he was white and eager to further the cause. In Lee’s film, a more senior Jewish detective, Flip Zimmerman, is recruited to pose as Stallworth in face-to-face meetings with Klan members, who invite him to join in their menacing activities without noticing that he is only pretending to be Aryan. Lee extracts both drama and comedy from this absurd situation, while discovering that race is anything but black and white. Adam Driver, as Zimmerman, is a reliable presence, but the film really belongs to John David Washington, as Stallworth, who is revelatory. BlacKkKlansman is on Channel 4 on Saturday (3/4) at 21:00.
On Sunday (4/4) at 01:10, Film4 has Train to Busan (2016), Sang-ho Yeon’s pacy action movie, in which an airborne virus turns passengers on a Korean express into zombies and creates havoc in the quiet carriage.
On Wednesday (7/4) at 01:50, Film4 has It’s All About Love (2003), a quirky fable which the Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg set in a hellish near future: 2021! Joaquin Phoenix and Clare Danes play a divorcing couple rekindling their affection while the climate – and gravity – go haywire. With the brooding presence of Sean Penn.
On Friday (9/4) at 01:00, Film4 has The Raid 2 (2014), an Indonesian sequel about an undercover cop investigating the criminal underworld. Elegantly choreographed violence.
On Saturday (3/4) at 15:40, Talking Pictures has Lifeboat (1944), a Hitchcock thriller with just one set. Survivors of a u-boat attack are troubled when a German crewman clambers aboard. Starring Tallulah Bankhead, who supposedly wore no underwear throughout the shoot and accepted an award for her performance with the words “Dahlings, I was wonderful!” (Also on Tuesday at 15:55.)
On Thursday (8/4) at 21:00, BBC4 has The Elephant Man (1980). After the stylish weirdness of Eraserhead (1977), David Lynch showed he could tell a story, at least when he had John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins to embody his characters, the Victorian “freak” John Merrick and his kindly surgeon, Frederick Treves.
On Saturday (3/4) at 00:10, ITV3 has The Danish Girl (2015). Heartbreaking performance by Alicia Vikander as the artist Gerda Wegener, who has the misfortune to be married to a man who thinks he is a woman and starts to behave like one. Eddie Redmayne does wonders with millinery and slap, but I didn’t buy it. At 17:20, ITV2 has Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) (also on Wednesday at 18:15). At 21:00, Sky Arts has The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (2020), a documentary about the rise and fall of the underrated British brothers, complete with excellent archive clips and the usual redundant endorsements by celebrity fans. At 23:50, BBC1 has Bo66y (2016), a moving portrait of the England and West Ham defensive genius Bobby Moore. On top of the world one minute, on the football scrapheap the next. A lovely guy by all accounts, but he liked a drink.
On Sunday (4/4) at 01:30, BBC2 has A Late Quartet (2012). Intense musical melodrama about a world-famous string ensemble, with fine performances from Christopher Walken, who has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who doesn’t want to play second fiddle any more. At 02:00, Sky Arts has Romeo & Juliet (2021), the National Theatre production, starring Cheltonian Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley. With Tamsin Grieg and Adrian Lester. (Also on Sunday at 21:00, Monday at 21:30, Thursday at 22:00.) ITV2 has two more Harry Potters. The Goblet of Fire (2005) is at 15:15, and also on Thursday at 17:55. The Order of the Phoenix (2007) is at 18:20 and also on Friday at 18:20.
On Monday (5/4) at 02:35, Sky Arts has Depeche Mode: Spirits in the Forest (2019). The final gig of the Basildon band’s 2017 world tour, seen through the eyes of actual ticket-buying fans. At 18:05, ITV2 rounds off its J.K. Rowling marathon with the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001).
On Tuesday (6/4) at 11:00, Film4 has The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004). Stephen must love this film, because he is always listing it.
On Wednesday (7/4) at 00:00, BBC4 has Out of Thin Air: Murder in Iceland (2017). In 1974, when Iceland had virtually no serious crime, two men disappeared without trace. Six locals were rounded up and, despite having no memory of involvement, were tortured into confessing to murder. This documentary investigates the investigation. At 21:00, the same channel has Dark Son: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (2019), another documentary, this time about a 15-year-old shop worker who killed two small girls in Abertillery in 1921. The film argues that he may have gone on to become “Jack the Stripper”, the charming soubriquet given to the killer of six grown women in the 1960s in London.
On Friday (9/4) at 18:50, Film4 has Suffragette (2015). Carey Mulligan does her best cockney as a working-class mother mobilised by the rather posh Votes for Women movement. With Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham-Carter and Meryl Streep as Mrs Pankhurst.
On Saturday (3/4) at 20:40, Talking Pictures has House of Strangers (1949). Unusual noir with Edward G. Robinson as Gino Monetti, the head of a dodgy Italian banking family. Co-starring Susan Hayward as the love interest of Max Monetti (Richard Conte), the son who goes to jail to protect his father and comes out seeking revenge on the three brothers who betrayed him.
On Sunday (4/4) at 13:00, BBC2 has Easter Parade (1948). Musical romance with sexy Judy Garland and dapper Fred Astaire. At 13:55, ITV4 has The Guns of Navarone (1961). Gregory Peck, David Niven, Stanley Baker and Anthony Quinn storm a German-held Greek island during World War II. At 15:05, BBC2 has The Vikings (1958), with Kirk Douglas leading the rape and pillage and Janet Leigh as his comely prey. Unreliable history.
On Monday (5/4) at 17:30, ITV4 has The Horse Soldiers (1959). The two Johns, Ford and Wayne, provide plenty of cavalry action in a Civil War setting, with support from William Holden. Constance Towers causes trouble as a captured Southern belle.
Some people have asked why so many of our films start in the early hours of the morning. That’s really up to the TV companies, which prefer to devote their peak hours to rubbish. Most of the movies are made available online after broadcast.