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7 Day Film Diet #31

Stan & Ollie

QUAD Cinema Programmer Adam Marsh returns with another batch of suggestions of films to stream at home during lockdown.

Another eclectic mix this week sees us turning a couple of days over to documentarian Adam Curtis as his new series of feature length programmes, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, has debuted on the BBC iPlayer, double dipping with two classic Alfred Hitchcock films and, as it is half term, heading to Australia for an adventure with Red Dog. All this and more… 

Day 1 – BBC iPlayer 

The 39 Steps 

See The Film here

Classic Alfred Hitchcock adventure adapted from John Buchan's novel about a man on the run from threatening forces. When Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), a Canadian holidaying in London, makes the acquaintance of a distressed woman, Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim), he is little prepared for the turmoil he will face when his new friend arrives at his apartment fatally wounded. Hannay finds himself in possession of a map and a cryptic message regarding '39 steps' and sets out to solve the riddle while attempting to elude a group of seemingly all-powerful pursuers. 

The Lady Vanishes 

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Another classic thriller from Alfred Hitchcock, this one made shortly before he moved to America. When the elderly Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) goes missing on a train bound for England, her friend Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) sets out to find her. However, Iris's attempts are immediately frustrated by her fellow passengers, who question whether Miss Froy ever even existed. Only music scholar Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave) is prepared to believe Iris, and together they set about getting to the bottom of the mystery. 

Stan & Ollie 

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Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly star as famous comedy double act Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as they embark on a tour of Britain and Ireland during their final years. Playing to half-empty halls the pair are no longer as popular as they once were and as they attempt to boost ticket sales with a number of public appearances their relationship is tested by the emotional strain of touring. After many years of great success Stan and Ollie are made to face up to the harsh realities of their twilight years 

The Lighthouse 

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Not the excellent Dafoe/Pattinson film from 2019 but this cracking drama from 2016. Surrounded only by the Irish Sea, two men posted to Smalls Island Lighthouse in 1801 are left to ‘keep the light’ 25 miles from the land. But when a freak storm hits, the men are stranded for months before any relief can be sent to them. They gradually succumb to their tiny living quarters, spending their time drinking and arguing, pushing each other’s psyche to the limit. Starring Mark Lewis Jones, Michael Jibson and directed by Chris Crow. 

Day 2 – All4 

Isle Of Dogs 

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American stop-motion animation directed by Wes Anderson in which future Japan sees itself overrun by packs of dogs which are beginning to spread disease to humans. A mayor's solution is to exile every dog to an island filled with toxic waste and rubbish, where they will live out their days away from civilisation. When a young boy is devastated to find his dog is missing, he flies a plane to the island where he enlists the help of its inhabitants to track him down. As the dogs become frustrated with their new home, they formulate a plan to get off the island and back to the mainland. The cast includes the voice talents of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Scarlett Johansson. 

White God 

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When 13-year-old Lili is sent to live with her father Daniel, she hopes he won't have a problem with also taking in her dog, Hagen. In the city of Budapest however, there is a law that states mixed-breed dogs require a licence, something Daniel is not willing to pay for so he takes Hagen out in his car and abandons him in the middle of nowhere. As Lili fights to find her canine companion Hagen is plotting a reunion scheme of his very own. 

Beautiful Thing 

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Hettie MacDonald directs this gay-themed drama based on the play by Jonathan Harvey. Ste (Scott Neal), a popular sporting hero at school, is being bullied mercilessly by his drunken father and so he decides to seek refuge with Sandra (Linda Henry), the single mother of Ste's classmate Jamie (Glenn Berry). One night, Jamie and Ste end up sleeping, top to tail, in the same bed in Sandra's flat, and from these beginnings a romance develops between the two boys. 

A Fantastic Woman 

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The film follows transgender waitress Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega) in the devastating aftermath of her 57-year-old husband Orlando (Francisco Reyes)'s sudden death. Moonlighting as a nightclub singer, Marina soon finds herself having to process her grief whilst becoming the focus of everyone's suspicions surrounding her husband's untimely death. Looked upon as a murderer by the investigating authorities and Orlando's family, Marina is banned from her husband's funeral and questioned and harassed relentlessly before she can fully come to terms with her grief as she tries to make everyone around her see the truth. Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 2018 Oscars ceremony. 

Day 3 – BBC iPlayer 

We turn the next couple of days over to the work of experimental documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis as his new series of feature length films debut on the BBC iPlayer.  

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head  

Part 1 - Bloodshed On Wolf Mountain 

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We are living through strange days. Across Britain, Europe and America societies have become split and polarised. There is anger at the inequality and the ever growing corruption - and a widespread distrust of the elites. Into this has come the pandemic that has brutally dramatised those divisions. But despite the chaos, there is a paralysis - a sense that no one knows how to escape from this. Can’t Get You Out of My Head tells how we got to this place. And why both those in power - and we - find it so difficult to move on. At its heart is the strange story of what happened when people’s inner feelings got mixed up with power in the age of individualism. How the hopes and dreams and uncertainties inside people's minds met the decaying forces of old power in Britain, America, Russia and China. What resulted was a block not just in the society - but also inside our own heads - that stops us imagining anything else than this. 

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head 

Part 2 - Shooting And F**king Are The Same Thing

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The story of what tore the revolutions in the 1960s apart. Jiang Qing in China, Michael X in London, Afeni Shakur in New York believed that millions of people’s minds were haunted by the corruption and the violence of the past. They wanted to show people how to escape those ghosts. But they hadn’t reckoned with the fact that the old structures of power still haunted their minds too. They too had been scarred by the past – and some of them wanted violent revenge. While psychologists and neuroscientists were starting to discover what they said were hidden forces inside the human brain that really controlled what they did. But the people weren’t aware 

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head 

Part 3 - Money Changes Everything 

See the film here

The story of how in the 1970s those in power set out to create a world free of the dangerous big ideas of the past. They banished the grand dreams of changing the world. And replaced them with money. People would live from now on in their own heads – in their own dreams. And the banks would lend them the money to create those dreams. While China would supply a wave of cheap consumer goods on a scale never seen before in the world. But then money broke free across the world. And people started to get frightened that things were out of control. Not just money - but the world’s climate too seemed to be behaving in a strange, unpredictable way. The systems seemed to have a life of their own. Beyond the ability of anyone to shape and predict.

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head 

Part 4 - But What If The People Are Stupid? 

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No one trusted politics or politicians any longer. Instead we were all one world of free individuals. And we could intervene to save other individuals around the world without bothering with old politics and power. And people became what they as individuals truly were – emotionally and sexually. But power was mutating and finding ways to work its way back into our heads.  The politicians realised that they no longer had the support or the trust of the people. So they switched sides and gave up being our representatives who would challenge the powerful on our behalf. Instead they began to tell us what to do on behalf of the powerful. And they made new alliances - with the psychologists who said that human beings were irrational and needed to be managed. But we didn’t notice because we were too busy shopping. 

Day 4 – BBC iPlayer 

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head 

Part 5 – The Lordly Ones 

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It wasn’t just the Slave Trade. 150 years ago Britain had wrecked China by forcing opium on the country. It made Britain the richest and most powerful country in the world. But it enslaved the minds of millions of the Chinese and helped destroy the society. But then the British got frightened of what they had done and created a dream image of a Britain that had never existed. To hide from the fear. This film tells the story of how from the end of the 19th century a magical vision of Britain’s feudal past was created by artists and writers. How folk music and folk dancing was invented to create a kind of safe dream of the nation that could hide the violence and the horrors. The dream persisted under the surface of the 20th century. But as the fears and uncertainties and the chaos of the last few years rose up millions of people started to believe that dream. That it was real. 

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head  

Part 6 –Are We Pigeon? Or Are We Dancer? 

See the film here

The final episode tells how the strange paralysis that grips us today was created. How all the different forces of our age - that started out as separate have come together to create what is a block against imagining another kind of future than this. How, money and debt, melancholy over the loss of empire, the strange roots of modern conspiracy theories, the history of China, opium and opioids, Artificial Intelligence - and love and power have all fed into creating the present time of anxiety and fearfulness about the future. And whether modern culture, despite its radicalism, is really also part of the rigid system - in the West and in Russia and China - where those in power have run out of all ideas. The film also lays out what are the different possible roads from here into the future, and the choices we will have to make about the very different futures we will have to choose very soon. 

Bitter Lake 

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Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events. But now there are no big stories and politicians react randomly to every new crisis - leaving us bewildered and disorientated. Bitter Lake is an adventurous and epic film by Adam Curtis that explains why the big stories that politicians tell us have become so simplified that we can't really see the world any longer. The narrative goes all over the world, America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia - but the country at the heart of it is Afghanistan. 

HyperNormalisation 

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We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, random bomb attacks. And those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed - they have no idea what to do.  

This film is the epic story of how we got to this strange place. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening - but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them. It shows that what has happened is that all of us in the West - not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves - have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal. But there is another world outside. Forces that politicians tried to forget and bury forty years ago - that then festered and mutated - but which are now turning on us with a vengeful fury. Piercing though the wall of our fake world. 

Day 5 – My5 

Strongroom 

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Two car breakers plan a once and for all bank robbery to set them up for life, but when their hostages get locked in the bank's strongroom, they are suddenly faced with becoming potential murderers and hanging for their crime. 

Dr. Terror’s House Of Horror

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Freddie Francis directs this cult horror tale starring Peter Cushing as the mysterious Dr Schreck. Aboard a train, Dr Schreck offers to tell his five fellow passengers their fortunes using his 'House of Horrors' tarot cards. His deadly tales include werewolves, vampires, voodoo and a severed hand. But who is this sinister doctor and where exactly is the train heading? With Christopher Lee, Neil McCallum and Roy Castle. 

The Real Blonde  

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Matthew Modine plays an aspiring actor whose artistic integrity means he spends much of his time 'resting'. His girlfriend (Catherine Keener) is a successful make-up artist growing tired of having to pay both their ways. Whilst Modine waits for the 'right part', a fellow thesp (Maxwell Caulfield) uses his new-found fame as a soap star to further his own personal crusade: to track down the perfect blonde. From director Tom DiCillo. 

Under Suspicion 

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Harry Hearst (Gene Hackman) is a rich and successful lawyer who discovers the body of a young girl and is consequently asked by police chief Victor Benezet (Morgan Freeman) to help with his enquiries. However, Hearst soon finds himself coming under suspicion from Benezet and Detective Owen (Thomas Jane). As they scrutinise his private life further, they speak with his wife Chantal (Monica Bellucci), who is almost 30 years his junior, and learn that their marriage is far from ideal. Soon a number of startling discoveries conspire to make Hearst the prime suspect in the murder case. 

Day 6 – Rakuten TV 

The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen 

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Director Terry Gilliam (Brazil) and an all-star cast including John Neville, Eric Idle, Oliver Reed and Uma Thurman deliver this tale of the enchanting adventures of Baron von Munchausen on his journey to save a town from defeat. Being swallowed by a giant sea-monster, a trip to the moon, a dance with Venus and an escape from the Grim Reaper are only some of the improbable adventures. 

Red Dog 

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One of the best Dog movies ever! This family comedy drama is set in a remote mining town in the far northwest of Australia in the 1970s. When a trucker drives into town, he uncovers a rich folklore that has grown up around a charismatic dog known by the locals simply as Red Dog. The story of Red Dog's colourful life is revealed in a series of episodic flashbacks, as the various oddball regulars of the town's bar each take their turn to relate the many wonderful ways in which their canine friend has affected their lives and their community. 

Toni Erdmann  

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In an attempt to reconnect with his career-driven daughter Ines (Sandra Huller), divorced music teacher Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) decides to visit her in Bucharest, where she works as a business consultant. Worried Ines is unhappy with her hectic lifestyle, Winfried takes it upon himself to dress up as his practical joke-loving alter ego 'Toni Erdmann' and integrate himself into her work circles as a way of cheering her up. Although Ines is initially mortified by her father's actions, the pair's mutual disdain for each other's behaviour begins to show signs of healing their fractured relationship. The film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

Go 

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Three tales of urban indulgence are interwoven over the course of this film from Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity). Ronna (Sarah Polley) is an eighteen-year-old checkout girl who, together with her reluctant friend Claire (Katie Holmes), organises her first drug deal in order to make the money to pay her rent. Meanwhile, Simon (Desmond Askew) and Marcus (Taye Diggs), after a night out on the tiles, find themselves driving around Las Vegas in a stolen car, attempting to avoid a beating from some angry locals. During which time, respected TV cops Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr), blackmailed by a creepy detective, have become involved in a real-life undercover drugs sting - which brings us back to Ronna and Claire. 

Day 7 – Rakuten TV 

Wadjda  

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A rebellious Saudi Arabian girl hatches a plan to get her hands on the bicycle she craves in this coming-of-age story from first time director Haifaa Al-Mansour. Living within a conservative suburb of Riyadh, fun-loving eleven-year-old Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) has her heart set on a green bicycle so that she can beat the boys in their neighbourhood races. But when her mother (Reem Abdullah) forbids it, anticipating a reaction from a society that disapproves of women riding bicycles, an enterprising Wadjda decides to raise the money herself by entering a local Qur'an-reading competition that offers a cash prize. 

Mud  

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With nothing else to do for the summer, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) take to exploring the banks of the Mississippi where they find a boat nestled in a tree. As they begin making plans to use the boat, they quickly realise that someone is living in it and it isn't long before they're introduced to its owner, Mud (Matthew McConaughey). A relationship forms between the three and Mud promises to let the boys have the vessel if they continue bringing him food and help him reunite with his lost love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). But when they agree to help, they soon realise that Mud is a wanted man and that a gang of bounty hunters are in hot pursuit... 

Tetro 

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Semi-autobiographical drama written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Set in Buenos Aires, the film tells the story of frustrated writer Tetro (Vincent Gallo), who is living in a state of melancholic creative exile with his girlfriend Miranda (Maribel Verdu) when he receives an unexpected visit from his long-distant younger brother Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich). Bennie's visit stirs up a complex mixture of memories and emotions as the two brothers struggle to come to terms with the long shadow cast by their father, a successful composer, and find a way to reconnect with one another. 

Troll Hunter 

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Norwegian thriller in which a group of students set out to film a bear poacher only to find that he is hunting something else altogether. Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) and Johanna (Johanna Morck) are a group of college students intrigued by a series of mysterious bear killings in the area. Convinced the killings are a result of illegal poaching, the students covertly follow the hunter, Hans (Otto Jespersen), into the woods and film him. When they discover that he is pursuing something much larger than bears, the trio's attitude to Hans changes completely and they find themselves caught up in the adventures of a troll hunter.