FILM OF THE WEEK
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) a wonderfully self-aware teenage comedy drama about Greg, a 17-year-old High School misfit whose hobby is remaking scenes from classic films, and his friend and collaborator Earl. Greg’s life changes when his Mom forces him to befriend Rachel, a girl with leukaemia. It is, perhaps surprisingly, very funny, but at the same time there is no attempt to gloss over what the obituaries used to euphemise as “a long illness”. There was a vogue for mawkish teenage death movies at the time, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl didn’t do itself many favours with its title. But this little film is moving without being sentimental. The script and direction are pin-sharp, the performances delightful and there is an excellent soundtrack featuring, among others, Antonio Vivaldi, Bernard Herrmann, Henry Purcell, Roy Orbison and lots of Brian Eno. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, with Thomas Mann as Greg, RJ Cyler as Earl and Olivia Cooke as Rachel. As Greg’s eccentric Mom and Dad, Nick Offerman and Connie Britton steal every scene in which they appear. That’s on Film4 on Thursday (6/8) at 23:25.
As far as World Cinema goes, take a look at Wild Tales (2014) if you didn’t see it when we showed in 2015/16. It’s a mad Spanish mash-up of six black comedy sketches, some of them really quite alarming. Written and directed by Damián Szifron and co-produced by, among others, the Almodóvar brothers. That’s on Film4 on Sunday (2/8) at 01:15. The same day, you can see Lost in the Desert, originally known as Dirkie. It’s a South African adventure from 1969, shot twice, once in English and once in Afrikaans, and apparently based on the true story of an eight-year-old boy and his dog who were stranded in the Kalahari Desert after an air crash. It disappeared for many years and was only disinterred because bloggers and film forum habitués recalled being petrified by it as children. You will get your chance on Talking Pictures at 15:20.
Raw (2016), at 00:45 on Monday (3/8) on Channel 4, is a deliciously gory French horror story about a young vegetarian, studying to be a vet, who develops an insatiable taste for human flesh. We’ve all been there.
On Thursday (6/8), we have our second portmanteau film of the week, and our second based on true life. A Touch of Sin is made up of four features about violence in modern China. It’s by Zhangke Jia, director of the excellent but sadly little-known Still Life (2006). A Touch of Sin is on Film4 at 01:25.
Stephen Ilott’s first pick for this week, apart from Me and Earl etc, is Gone Girl (2014), the clever and intriguing mystery with Rosamund Pike and direction by David Fincher. That’s on Channel 4 on Saturday (1/8) at 21:00. Later in the week he goes to Talking Pictures for two British classics from 1963. Billy Liar, from the Keith Waterhouse novel, directed by John Schlesinger and starring Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie, is on Monday (3/8) at 23:00. Then on Wednesday (5/8) at 00:05, he picks This Sporting Life, Lindsay Anderson’s rugby league tragedy, starring Richard Harris as a brutish number 13 with a loveless love-life. The epitome of kitchen-sink, and a bracing antidote to Tinseltown glamour.
Other notable films include War Horse (2011), the warm-hearted WWI blockbuster, on BBC1 on Sunday (2/8) at 16:20; The Work (2017), a Storyville documentary about three civilians who take part in a therapy retreat with inmates of Folsom State Prison in California, which is on BBC4 on Tuesday (4/8) at 00:00 and subsequently on iPlayer; and the same night at 01:40, Sony Movies has Precious (2009), a gut-wrenching drama about a young woman, played by first-timer Gabourey Sibde, who endures a nightmare of abuse before emerging into the sunlight. Then, for local interest if nothing else, there is The Real Thing Story (2019), about the four Liverpudlian singers who were known as “the black Beatles”, which is directed by Cheltenham filmmaker Simon Sheridan. Their big hit was ‘You To Me Are Everything’, a Number One in 1976, and two of the originals are still going, even headlining the Wychwood Festival two years ago. That’s on BBC4 on Friday (7/8) at 21:00 and subsequently on iPlayer.
A rich crop of Oldies this week. Let’s start with Saturday (1/8). On BBC2 at 13:20, and subsequently on iPlayer, Jenny Agutter is still waving her red drawers in The Railway Children (1970). At 17:15 on ITV4, Kirk Douglas is Spartacus (1960). Talking Pictures has The Desperate Hours (1955), a William Wyler noir thriller with Humphrey Bogart at 18:15 and The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), with Robert Mitchum as an ageing Boston hood at 21:00. Finally, at 21:30 and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC2 has Apocalypse Now (1979), the Vietnam epic, in the Final Cut version.
Sunday (2/8) is packed too. The now sadly topical deep South drama The Little Foxes (1941) is on 5Select at 09.55. Variety noted, “From starring Bette Davis down the line to the bit roles portrayed by minor Negroes the acting is well nigh flawless.” Oh dear. At 13:15, Talking Pictures has The Thief of Bagdad (1940), the delightful Orientalist fantasy. At 18:05, Film4 has Merchant Ivory’s decorous Howards End (1992), with Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson and Vanessa Redgrave. The 1967 newlywed comedy The Family Way, with Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett is on Talking Pictures at 22:00, and then to round off the day, at 22:30 and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC1 has Dangerous Liaisons (1988), with the dream team of Close, Malkovich and Pfeiffer.
On Monday (3/8) at 14:55, Sony Action has one of the key films of Australian cinema, Breaker Morant (1980).
On Tuesday (4/8), Talking Pictures has Powell & Pressburger’s misty-eyed wartime paean to Anglo-American cooperation, A Canterbury Tale (1944), that’s at 17:00.
Back with Sony Action, a political corruption noir, All the King’s Men (1949), appears on Wednesday (5/8) at 10:45. At 16:35 the same day, Talking Pictures has Lady Hamilton (1941), a saucy sensation at the time and supposedly Winston Churchill’s favourite film.
On Friday (7/8), Film4 dips back into the toothsome Merchant Ivory sweet-jar once again for A Room With a View (1986), at 18:45. Then, at 22:45 and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC1 sinks its teeth into Interview with the Vampire (1994), directed by Neil Jordan and starring Tom Cruise.
And that’s enough for one week.
John Morrish and Stephen Ilott