Recommended films on TV

FILM OF THE WEEK

With US politics in everyone’s minds this week, The Manchurian Candidate (1962) could hardly be more topical. Its fears about Russian and Chinese interference are germane too. 

A weird product of the Cold War, the film tells of a group of US soldiers, captured during the Korean War and whisked off to a camp in Manchuria. There they are brainwashed to follow the lead of a sergeant, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), who has himself been programmed as an assassin, primed for reinsertion into Americana life as a war hero. Under this cover, he is set to shoot and kill a prominent US politician. Only one man harbours suspicions: Shaw’s captain, Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra). But that’s only the most sensible part of this strange, rambling story, that also involves playing cards, far-right politics and a hint of genteel incest. John Frankenheimer directed in startling Expressionist black and white and extracted a committed performance from the sometimes lackadaisical Sinatra. Janet Leigh is a bonus. 

It is not true that Sinatra had the film withdrawn after the assassination of his friend John Kennedy; rather the film withered after audiences turned to lighter fare. The Manchurian Candidate is on BBC2 at 00:10 on Sunday (15/11) and subsequently on iPlayer.

World Cinema

Film4 has a mini-season of the films of Hirokazu Kore-eda, whom we love at CFS. On Monday (16/11) at 23:10 it is showing Shoplifters (2018), the story of a family living off what they can gather from nearby convenience stores. Interestingly, the film was blamed for setting off a wave of shoplifting in Japan, where the crime was previously barely known. Such is the power of cinema. On Tuesday (17/11) at 01:30 the channel brings us Like Father, Like Son (2013), a tale of botched adoption, casting light on Japan’s rigid class system. Finally, on Wednesday (18/11) at 00:45, it is showing the lesser-known I Wish (2011), in which a lonely 12-year-old boy, separated from his father and brother, hears a rumour that a wish is granted every time the new bullet trains cross each other at full speed. 

On Wednesday (18/11) at 02:05, Channel 4 brings us Happy as Lazzaro (2018). Its blend of neo-realism and the magical variety left the CFS audience cold when we showed it last season, but I would urge you to give it another chance. It is no stranger, or less charming, than Vittorio de Sica’s Miracle in Milan (1951), and that is acknowledged as a masterpiece. 

Then on Friday (20/11) at 21:00, Channel 5 has A Fistful of Dollars (1964), with Clint Eastwood doing what he did in those days, with Sergio Leone at the helm as usual. 

Stephen Ilott’s picks

Aside from The Manchurian Candidate, Stephen has picked the delightful musical Easter Parade (1948), pairing 48-year-old Fred Astaire, looking older as usual, with Judy Garland, 26 and looking younger. Boy, can she sing. That’s on BBC2 on Saturday (14/11) at 15:15, and again on BBC4 on Thursday at 20:00, plus iPlayer. Also on BBC2 on Saturday, at 21:00, and subsequently on iPlayer, Stephen has picked Journey’s End (2017), a new film version of the RC Sherriff stage play of 1928, starring Paul Bettany, Sam Claflin and Stephen Graham. A group of British soldiers are trapped in a dugout in France in 1918 when their young leader begins to disintegrate. Finally, he has picked Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) on 5 Select on Sunday (15/11) at 12:10. It stars Albert Finney, Shirley Anne Field and Rachel Roberts and is a moody masterpiece of British working-class cinema. If you haven’t seen it, set your timer. 

Other modern films of interest

On Saturday (14/11) at 14:45, Film4 has Steven Spielberg’s animated feature The Adventures of Tintin (2011). Then at 15:05, 5 Star brings us a very different foray into children’s literature with Finding Neverland (2004), about J.M. Barrie and what would become the Peter Pan family. Starring pre-disgrace Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet and Julie Christie. Let us hope the lead’s misdemeanours are not considered so profound that 5 Star pulls the film from the schedules. Finally for Saturday, at 21:00, Sky Arts has David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019), a documentary about the grizzled but unstoppable Californian musician. 

On Sunday (15/11) at 17:05, ITV2 gives another outing to the first and best Shrek (2001). At 21:00, BBC1 has Mangrove (2020), altogether more urgent stuff. Directed by Sir Steve McQueen, the film, the first in a five-part anthology called Small Axe, tells the story of the Mangrove restaurant incident of 1969 and its aftermath, the first time London’s black community pulled together against police and judicial corruption. They won their battle. Subsequently available on iPlayer.

On Monday (16/11) at 00:00, Sky Arts has, by coincidence, I Am Steve McQueen (2014), a biopic of the racing driver of the same name. With a starry cast of talking heads. At 21:00 and again on Thursday (19/11) at the same time, ITV4 has The Bourne Identity (2002), the first in the Matt Damon franchise. 

On Tuesday (17/11) at 23.00, Sky Arts, always full of surprises, brings us The Rise of Jordan Peterson (2019), about the woke-defying Canadian professor and his legion of fans around the world.

Troy (2004), on Paramount as 21:00 on Wednesday (18/11), is the Homeric epic starring Brad Pitt, Brian Cox, Peter O’Toole, plus lots of extras and prehistoric military hardware. 

On Thursday (19/11) at 18:45  Film4 has Wonder (2017), the true story of August Pullman, a boy who triumphs over facial deformities after being accepted into mainstream schooling. Being born to stand out is no bad thing.

Hounds of Love (2016), on Friday (20/11) on Film4 at 01:15, has nothing to do with the Kate Bush album from 21 years earlier (I bet that ages you). Instead it is an Australian thriller about a disturbed couple terrorising a young woman in the suburbs of Perth. 

Oldies

On Saturday (14/11) at 21:00 and also Wednesday (18/11) at 22.00,  ITV4 has Pale Rider (1985), written by and starring Clint Eastwood as a mysterious preacher defending a village from a mining company. At 23:40, 5 Star has the delightful romcom As Good as It Gets (1997), with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. 

Sunday (15/11) is a Sean Connery tribute day on Film4. At 13.30 there is Terry Gilliam’s typically barking Time Bandits (1981). At 16.00, and also on Friday (20/11) at 16:40, there is Robin and Marian (1976), with Sean as an ageing man of the woods wooing his Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn) for one final time. At 18:10, there is The Man Who Would Be King, in which Connery is paired with Michael Caine in a British India thriller. Meanwhile ITV4 offers more Clint, with High Plains Drifter (1973) at 21:00. 

If you fancy a comedy Western, there is Cat Ballou (1965) on Sony Action at 06:00 on Monday (16/11). A mild schoolteacher turns outlaw to avenge the killing of her father. With Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin. 

On Tuesday (17/11) at 03.10,  Sony Movies has A League of Their Own (1992), about women’s professional baseball, with Geena Davis, Lori Petty and Tom Hanks. At 14:45, Film4 has Pimpernel Smith (1941), a wartime propaganda movie starring Leslie Howard as an archaeology professor in 1939, whose students join him in smuggling enemies of the Nazis out of Germany.

Finally for this week, 5 Star has The Talented Mr Ripley (1999), on 5 Star at 21:00 on Thursday (19/11), starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law. You may remember we showed it a while ago in our Jazz event, recognising the prominence of the stuff in the plot and the score.   

John Morrish and Stephen Ilott