QUAD Cinema Programmer Adam Marsh returns with another batch of suggestions of films to stream at home during lockdown.
This week, I have had a browse of two paid services (both available with a free trial periods) to compliment the several days worth of free films from BBC iPlayer and All 4. A selection of Louis Malle films have been added to the BFI Player (14 day free trial) and one of the greatest debut films ever in Lift To The Scaffold. Over on the Arrow Player, if you are looking for an incisive comedy thriller then you could do worse that check out the Edgar Allan Poe tinged Harpoon. Or you could stick to the free platforms and enjoy the wonderful Mole Agent on the BBC iPlayer. A great mix of films this week.
Day One – BBC iPlayer
A Star Is Born
A remake of the 1937 classic, this time as a musical about a Hollywood couple going through bad times. Would-be singer Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland) finds herself taken under the wing of fading star Norman Maine (James Mason) when she saves him from making a drunken fool of himself on stage. Changing her name to Vicki Lester, Esther becomes a star, and is soon married to Norman. However, as Vicki's star rises, so Norman's falls. Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin's songs include 'The Man That Got Away'.
The Cruel Sea
World War Two drama, based on the best-selling book by Nicholas Monsarrat, starring Jack Hawkins. Lt. Commander Ericson (Hawkins) has already lost one ship to an enemy attack when he is given command of the frigate Saltash Castle. A subsequent confrontation in the North Atlantic tests Ericson's leadership to the limit once again, as he risks sacrificing the lives of his crew for the greater good.
Dolce Vita Africana
Documentary about celebrated Malian photographer Malick Sidibe, whose iconic images of his country from the late 1950s through to the 1970s captured the carefree spirit of his generation asserting their freedom after independence, up until an Islamic coup ushered in years of military dictatorship. The filmmakers travel to Malick Sidibe's studio in Bamako to witness him at work and meet many of the subjects of his earlier photographs, whose personal stories also tell the history of Mali.
Stylish and sexy, Fatal Attraction took audiences to terrifying new heights with its thrilling story of a casual encounter gone terribly awry. This box-office smash was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (Adrian Lyne - Indecent Proposal, Flashdance). Michael Douglas plays Dan Gallagher, a New York attorney who has a tryst with seductive Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) while his wife (Anne Archer) is away. Dan later shrugs off the affair as a mistake and considers it over. But Alex won't be ignored. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. even if it means destroying Dan's family to keep him.
Day Two – All4
Once Upon A Time In The Midlands
Dek (Rhys Ifans) and Shirley (Shirley Henderson) live together happily, until Dek proposes to her on national TV. Enter Shirley's ex Jimmy (Robert Carlyle), the (very) absent father of her daughter who Shirley hasn't seen for 20 years. Will she say yes to Dek or is Jimmy in with a chance? Directed by Shane Meadows.
To Kill A King
Mike Barker directs this costume drama set in 1645, just as England is coming out the other side of a civil war. The New Model Army has defeated the Royalist forces and King Charles I (Rupert Everett) is now imprisoned. General Thomas Fairfax (Dougray Scott) celebrates with his deputy Oliver Cromwell (Tim Roth) but they disagree on how to handle the king. However, it is the more powerful of the two, Cromwell, who manages to take charge and in order to introduce his new parliamentary ideas he must put the king on trial and eventually execute him.
The Look Of Love
Michael Winterbottom directs this comedy drama based on the life of the Soho property tycoon and adult magazine publisher Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan). Charting his life from his early Liverpool roots, the film follows Raymond as he steadily progresses up the financial and social ladder, accumulating wealth and notoriety in equal measure. But as his Soho-based adult entertainment empire grows, his marriage to wife Jean (Anna Friel) teeters under the pressure of his relationship with glamour model Fiona Richmond (Tamsin Egerton), whilst the love he holds for cherished daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) suffers a tragic fate.
Italian crime drama co-written and directed by Matteo Garrone. The film follows dog groomer Marcello (Marcello Fonte) as he slowly slips into a life of crime. Through dealing cocaine on the side to earn a bit more money, Marcello meets former boxer Simone (Edoardo Pesce), who convinces him to help rob the jeweller's next door to Marcello's grooming parlour. After being arrested and refusing to pin the blame on Simone, Marcello serves a year in prison for his misdeed. When he is finally released he is ostracised by his former community but returns seeking vengeance against his old friend.
Day Three – ALL4
Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) directs this gritty, pared-down version of Emily Bronte's classic Gothic novel. Heathcliff (Solomon Glave/James Howson), a runaway slave boy, is brought back to the Earnshaws' isolated, wind-blown moorland farm from the streets of Liverpool. Brought up together in this unforgiving landscape, Heathcliff and his adoptive sister, Cathy (Shannon Beer/Kaya Scoledario), become attached to one another on a primitive and instinctual level that transcends the bond of sibling or lover. When Cathy is reluctantly married off to insipid local landowner Edgar Linton (James Northcote), Heathcliff is cruelly abused and later thrown out by his brutish adoptive brother, Hindley (Lee Shaw). He eventually returns rich, embittered and still craving his beloved Cathy.
Sofia Boutella stars in this French musical horror written and directed by Gaspar Noe. When a group of urban dancers meet at an abandoned boarding school for a three-day rehearsal, they decide to dedicate an evening to a party where they share a bowl of sangria. When they start to hallucinate, they realise that someone has spiked the drink with LSD. As a few of the dancers begin to reveal their darkest secrets while under the influence of the drug, some will end up experiencing heaven while others descend into hell...
For middle-aged Kostis, life has passed him by. As the newly appointed doctor of a tiny island, Kostis spends a dreary winter alone. By the time summer arrives, though, the island has turned into a thriving, wild vacation spot with nude beaches and crazy parties. When Kostis meets the beautiful and flirty Anna, he falls hard for her and goes out of his way to conquer and impress her. Before long, Kostis is spending nearly all of his time getting drunk, partying hard, and even making out with Anna. What starts as a rediscovery with his lost-long youth, though, slowly turns into an obsession as Kostis is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his Anna.
The Shape Of Water
Romantic fantasy drama from film-maker Guillermo del Toro starring Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer. Mute cleaner Elisa Esposito (Hawkins) works in a government laboratory in 1960s Baltimore. When the lab takes delivery of a classified experiment Elisa's life changes forever. Inside a mysterious water tank is a creature that was caught in a South American river by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). While cleaning one day, Elisa discovers that the creature is in fact a humanoid amphibian (Doug Jones) for which she quickly develops romantic feelings. When she learns of the creature's fate at the hands of the Colonel, she sets a plan in motion to kidnap him and return him to the sea. The cast also includes Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and David Hewlett.
Day Four – BBC iPlayer
Kiss Me Kate
When two squabbling ex-married are cast as squabbling Renaissance romantics in a musical The Taming Of The Shrew, life imitates art, art imitates life - and it all proves no musical comedy imitates Kiss Me Kate, the backstage/onstage delight from the 1948 Broadway smash and featuring 14 peerless Cole Porter songs.
La La Land
Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) are both down on their luck in Los Angeles, a city of broken dreams. Tired of being rejected in auditions and reduced to serving stars their coffees, Mia stumbles into a jazz club to the entrancing melody of a piano being played within; there she finds Sebastian, who is being discarded by his boss. The two soon fall in love as they strive to truly make something of themselves. But the rocky road of pursuing their dreams may prove too much strain for their budding romance to bear. The film was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, winning six including Best Actress (Stone), Best Director (Chazelle) and Best Original Music Score (Justin Hurwitz).
I Got Life!
French comedy drama in which a middle-aged woman struggles to comprehend that she is no longer youthful. With her husband laying down a divorce and her daughter sharing the news that she is pregnant all the while going through the menopausal change in life, Aurore (Agnes Jaoui) begins to feel that she is being cast aside by society. But just as she is about to resign herself to being past her shelf life, a chance encounter with an old boyfriend brings vibrancy and hope back into her life.
The film follows grieving couple Michael and Dafna Feldman (Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler) in the aftermath of learning their son Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray), a soldier, has died while dutifully manning a remote outpost on the border. As they try to come to terms with their loss and find out what really happened to their son, the film shows what life was like for Jonathan in his final days as he and three young colleagues try to pass the time at their desolate checkpoint.
Day Five – BFI iPlayer
Lift To The Scaffold
Julien Tavernier plans the perfect murder of his boss. Having emerged from the scene of the crime, he returns to retrieve a vital piece of evidence but finds himself trapped in a lift, increasingly desperate to escape before the police arrive. The brilliant debut feature of Louis Malle, Lift to the Scaffold catapulted Jeanne Moreau to international stardom and ushered in the French New Wave. A dazzling thriller, both nailbitingly suspenseful and moodily atmospheric.
Au Revoir Les Enfants
A French boarding-school friendship threatened by Nazi hatred in Malle's elegant tale of World War Two. The story is set in January 1944 at an exclusive Catholic boys boarding school near Fontainebleau. Twelve-year-old Julien (Gaspard Manesse), a bright, popular pupil at the school, is asked by headmaster Père Jean to look after a new boy, the shy, sensitive Jean Bonnet (Raphaël Fejtö). As the boys slowly become friends, finding a shared love of reading and music, Julien discovers that Jean is Jewish and that he is being kept hidden from the Nazis by the priests of the school under an assumed name. Within an exceptionally moving, yet deliberately unsentimental central story, director Louis Malle blends fact with fiction to create notable characters such as Julien’s glamorous mother and Joseph, the much-taunted kitchen helper who runs a black market with the boys.
Perennial favourite of Metro Cinema in the 1980s. Jean-Jacques Beineix’s stylish and extravagant story of an unstable, highly sexual relationship was one of the most successful French films of the 1980s. A film of two halves (especially in its extended director’s cut, as it’s presented here), Beineix begins with a focus on the unbridled sexual intensity of a relationship in its early passionate throes, before Betty’s volatile streak soon starts to signify a more worrying descent into depression. It’s become a tirelessly repeated cliché that no 1980s student digs was complete without a poster of Betty Blue on the walls, and it’s certainly true that clever marketing (including a savvy retitling from the original: 37° 2 le matin) resulted in a film that achieved real crossover success in the UK, becoming the signature film of the ‘cinema du look’ movement.
The Watermelon Woman
Cheryl Dunye's smart and funny romance - thought to be the first feature directed by a black lesbian - remains a breath of fresh air decades on. Many years have passed since Dunye's smart and funny take on black lesbian life was first released, but The Watermelon Woman is still a breath of fresh air in a world of identikit films. This fake documentary raises questions of authenticity, visibility and authorship as Dunye plays film-maker Cheryl, in search of a forgotten Black actress. As her research progresses and her love life gets complicated, uncomfortable truths emerge. The Watermelon Woman garnered great critical and audience acclaim upon its release, and contains the most notorious lesbian sex scene of its time, (which even saw the film being discussed in Congress). The film is a fiction, but Cheryl Dunye says, “Sometimes you have to create your own history.”
Day Six – Arrow Player
The Mad Fox
In stark contrast to the monochrome naturalism of his earlier masterwork Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, visionary master director Tomu Uchida took inspiration from Bunraku and kabuki theater for arguably his strangest and most lavishly cinematic film, The Mad Fox. Amidst a mythically-depicted medieval Japan, a court astrologer foretells a great disturbance that threatens to split the realm in two. His bitter and treacherous wife conspires to have the astrologer killed, as well as their adopted daughter, Sakaki. The astrologer's master apprentice, Yasuna, who was in love with Sakaki, is driven mad with grief and escapes to the countryside. There, he encounters Sakaki's long-lost twin, Kuzunoha, and the pair meet a pack of ancient fox spirits in the woods, whose presence may be the key to restoring Yasuna's sanity, and in turn bringing peace to the fracturing nation.
They say that every story about love, friendship and betrayal extols at its heart a key lesson in virtue and morality. This is not one of those stories. Jonah, Richard and Sasha have been friends a long time... maybe too long. Following a ferocious bust-up, Richard tries to make amends in the form of a sailing trip on his family yacht. After all, a friendship is the kind of ship that never sinks - until the yacht breaks down and the trio are left stranded in the middle of the ocean. As food and water supplies start to sink and rivalries, dark secrets and sexual tension start to surface, the question becomes: which of these three broken humans will run out of air first?
Harpoon is Edgar Allan Poe by way of Seinfeld and an exercise in brilliant pacing, direction and acting. As the story takes darkly comedic and always unexpected turns, the three leads crescendo into a culmination of their respective crises of conscience - except the crisis here is that they have no conscience.
Originally conceived in the mid-sixties, Robert Altman’s Images concerns a pregnant children's author (Susannah York) whose husband (Rene Auberjonois) may or may not be having an affair. While holidaying in Ireland, her mental state becomes increasingly unstable resulting in paranoia, hallucinations and visions of a doppelgänger.
Mega Time Squad
Push the Button. You’ll Know When. Welcome to Thames, New Zealand. Population: 7,518 – and falling. Unless of course you’re Johnny (Anton Tennet), the new member of a local gang led by Shelton (Jonathan Brugh, What We Do in the Shadows). He’s multiplying. After Johnny is foiled in an effort to double-cross Shelton at his own game of masterminding the sleepy town’s unsurprisingly tame criminal underbelly, he inadvertently steals an ancient bracelet with which he can turn back time – and in the process create multiple clones of himself. This gives Johnny the ability to literally form his own gang against Shelton’s. The only problem is: how can you learn to live your best life, when you’re also having to figure out which one of you exactly that is? Oh, that and there’s a demon after him for bending the rules of time, physics and just general common sense. Tim van Dammen directs this 80s-throwback supernatural crime caper, dubbed by critics as “a grounded sci-fi mini-odyssey with lots of creativity and even more laugh-out-loud gags”, in which a brilliant ensemble works with sharp dialogue to deliver an endearingly odd and endlessly entertaining slice of Kiwi life.
Day Seven – BBC iPlayer
The Mole Agent
Sergio is a Chilean spy. Sort of. At least, he is offered the role of one after a casting session organised by Detective Romulo, a private investigator who needs a credible mole to infiltrate a retirement home. However, Sergio is 83, not 007, and not an easy trainee when it comes to technology and spying techniques. But he is a keen student, looking for ways to distract himself after recently losing his wife. What could be a better distraction than some undercover spy action? Maite Alberdi’s The Mole Agent is a stylish combination of an observational documentary and a spy movie, with sleek camerawork and wonderfully watchable characters.
The outbreak of World War I places Scots officer Geoffrey Richter-Douglas (Michael York) in an uncomfortable position. Although his allegiance is to Britain, his mother was from an aristocratic Bavarian family, and he spent his summers in Germany as a child. When Geoffrey is approached by a German spy who offers him a chance to defect, he reports the incident to his superiors, but instead of arresting the spy they suggest that he accept her offer--and become an Allied agent. In Germany, among old friends, Geoffrey discovers that loyalty is more complicated than he expected, especially when he finds himself aboard the maiden voyage of a powerful new prototype Zeppelin, headed for Scotland on a secret mission that could decide the outcome of the war. With Elke Sommer and Tim Curry.
Kathryn Bigelow directs John Boyega in this crime drama which focuses on the 1967 Detroit riot and the subsequent Algiers Motel Incident. When police raid an unlicensed bar on Detroit's 12th Street their overzealous handling of the bar's African-American patrons sparks a violent retaliation from the large crowd of angry observers. The disturbance quickly escalates into days of looting, rioting and widespread violence across the city, overwhelming the Detroit police force and leading to the Michigan State Police and National Guard being called in to quell the trouble. As acts of violence continue to erupt across the city, officers respond to reports of fired gunshots at the Algiers Motel, where many have sought refuge from the riots.
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
Causing mayhem and havoc wherever they go, Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) continue to enjoy their booze-soaked, glamorous lifestyle when they find themselves taking the blame for a major faux pas at a trendy London launch party. Consequently hounded by the media and paparazzi, the pair flee to the south of France where they immediately settle in to the ways of lavish living. Despite being broke, the duo conspire a way to prolong their stay. The film also sees the return of Edina's daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha), her exasperated mother (June Whitfield) and the oddball Bubble (Jane Horrocks).