One of the many film books I have in my library is called Private Screenings. In 1995, to celebrate 100 years of cinema, the AFI asked 80 industry personnel, from Debbie Allen to Robert Zemeckis, to select a moment that had a special meaning for them. How on earth do we choose just one, though? And would it be a funny moment or a dramatic one? In my case, it is likely to be something I connected with on an emotional level. For Martin Brest (who directed Scent of a Woman), it occurs in City Lights (1931) when the Flower Girl, no longer blind, realises it was the Little Tramp (Chaplin) who had paid for her operation. The celebrated critic James Agee called it “the highest moment in movies” and, even today, it is hard to disagree.
RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962) Saturday 23 September 2.05-4.10pm 5 Action (Ch 33)
Sam Peckinpah’s second film is a superb western (fittingly, it was Randolph Scott’s last) that has two old timers protecting a gold shipment, and rescuing Mariette Hartley from an unsavoury set of brothers. MEMORABLE MOMENT: Joel McCrea’s sublime response that sums up all the taciturn cowboy heroes – “all I want is to enter my house justified”.
PSYCHO (1960) Sunday 24 September 11.30pm-1.15am BBC 2
Also Thursday BBC 4 9.00-10.45pm; this showing is followed by a repeat of the Scene by Scene interview with Janet Leigh. Psycho remains a classic of terror and audience manipulation. It was a gamble by Hitchcock and cinemagoers were required to take their seats before the film started and asked not to divulge the ending. It all worked to perfection, of course. MEMORABLE MOMENT: it has to be the shower scene – brilliantly constructed and edited, hugely influential and, more recently, analysed in depth for its technical dexterity.
THE KILLERS (1964) Tuesday 26 September 9.00-10.55pm Legend (Ch 41)
Just a notch below Burt Lancaster’s 1946 debut classic, Don Siegel’s version was considered too violent for television, after JFK’s assassination, and so was released in cinemas (unusually, it still carries an 18 certificate). Two relentless hitmen are seeking out their next target; Lee Marvin is an immense presence and Ronald Reagan is on the wrong side of the law. MEMORABLE MOMENT: the opening sequence, as they go about their nasty business, sets the film’s unremitting tone so well that the director doesn’t need to show the sort of overt violence that is now commonplace.
WILDFIRE (2020) Thursday 28 September 11.50pm-1.35am Film Four P
Members like Irish dramas, so it is a shame about the late start time. Two sisters try to re-engage after the death of their mother, but there relationship is a feisty one! If you cannot catch this one, then you still have The Quiet Girl to look forward to in October!
Best Film polls and All-Time Great lists are always fascinating, even if we are bound to disagree with some of the choices. A year ago, Sight & Sound magazine was getting ready to announce the results of its decennial survey; in August of this year, Stephanie Zacharek, Time magazine’s film critic, gave us her selection. As Time is celebrating 100 years of journalism in 2023, she opted for 10 films per decade – and deliberately ignored some big hitters (Citizen Kane) for a lesser work from the same director (The Magnificent Ambersons). Anyway, LRFS has shown 11 films that are on her list, over the years. And what are they? In order of release, they are: TOP HAT (1935); STAGECOACH (1939); BLACK NARCISSUS (1947); SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959); THE NIGHT OF SAN LORENZO (1982); ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (1999); IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000); FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002); PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006); UNDER THE SKIN (2013) and the German film PHOENIX (2014). I really need to watch Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man (1995) again. It makes her list – and I would struggle to include it in my Top 1000 Westerns! Clearly, I missed something . . . .
GOLD RUN (2022) Saturday 16 September 9.00-10.55pm BBC 4 P
If, increasingly, subtitled films are not going to have a decent UK cinema release, we can hope that the likes of BBC 4 will continue to show them and at a decent time. Loosely based on actual events, resistance fighters try to hide Norway’s gold reserves as Nazi troops prepare to invade.
MY MAN GODFREY (1936) Sunday 17 September 3.10-5.00pm TP (Channel 82)
Here we have another interesting choice from Stephanie Zacharek’s Top 100. Apparent down-and-out William Powell is employed by Carole Lombard as the family butler. The fact that the actors had divorced recently didn’t mar their chemistry, or timing, and the comedy is brilliant. Whether this classic is better than Ms Lombard’s Twentieth Century (1934) or Nothing Sacred (1937) is one for earnest discussion.
MADEMOISELLE (1966) Monday 18 September 10.05pm-12.10am TP (Channel 82)
TP are picking up again with rare showings of films that are not well known and that might be described as ‘unusual’ fare. This is a French-British co-production that stars Jeanne Moreau as a teacher whose sexual frustration causes her to behave very oddly. It doesn’t work entirely; by 1966, and after a brilliant run of films, director Tony Richardson seemed to be losing the plot, as it were. Three years later, the same fate was to befall director Bryan Forbes with The Madwoman of Chaillot.
MINARI (2020) Tuesday 19 September 11.10pm-1.25am Film Four P
New to Freeview is the third film from our shortened 2021-2022 season; it had a rating of 80% from members.
THE FAREWELL (2019) Wednesday 20 September 9.00-10.55pm Film Four P
Film Four are making it a good week for interesting premieres. Relatives (including a granddaughter from New York) fly to China to spend time with their grandmother. They meet under pretext of attending a wedding, as she has cancer and the family don’t want her to know. The Farewell isn’t a sombre drama by any means. It is engaging, has a light touch and is often funny. Without a pandemic, it is one we might well have shown.
BBC 4 is repeating the documentary Voyage to Mars: the Longest Goodbye on Wednesday evening; a timely showing in that plans to visit the Red Planet are likely to gather pace in the next five years or so. Coincidentally, the Legend channel is showing the 1978 film Capricorn One that afternoon. This is the one where the trip to Mars is a hoax, leaving three astronauts earthbound and in peril. More recent dramas, such as The Martian, feature top actors (Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain head a strong cast) and the science is more plausible. This was not the case in the 1950s and 1960s, of course, although Rocketship X-M (1950) was pretty good for a low-budget offering from a minor production company (Lippert); having Lloyd Bridges on board helped. Their original destination was the Moon and they went off course; Abbott and Costello left for Mars in 1953 and somehow ended up on Venus! Conquest of Space (1955) was better; Eric Fleming (who went on to play the trail boss in Rawhide) was the lead and the director, Byron Haskin, went on to make Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964). In case you ever wondered, the same year’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians really is one of the worst films ever made – but my record for watching a film to the end has remained intact!
RED ROCK WEST (1992) Saturday 9 September 9.00-10.55pm Legend (Channel 41)
Film noir made a modest comeback (in colour) in the early 1990s with two films directed by John Dahl. The most celebrated one was the splendid The Last Seduction (1994), but this earlier work is almost as good. Unemployed Nicholas Cage is mistaken for a hitman and thinks he has it made, until the real assassin turns up – and very few actors could do ‘crazy’ as well as Dennis Hopper.
CRIME OF PASSION (1957) Monday 11 September 7.00-8.45pm TP (Channel 82)
Having seen at least 30 of her films, I thought I knew Barbara Stanwyck’s CV pretty well but this late-entry film noir is an unknown quantity! Furthering her husband’s career by sleeping with the chief of police isn’t a problem for her until he looks to promote someone else. Whilst it isn’t Double Indemnity, there is a great cast (Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr, Fay Wray and Royal Dano) and director Gerd Oswald was known for making this kind of material very atmospheric.
LION (2016) Tuesday 12 September 9.00-11.20pm Film Four P
Based on a true story, and popular in cinemas, watching Lion will be a pleasant two hours viewing for members. Five-year-old Saroo falls asleep during a train journey, ends up alone in Calcutta and is subsequently adopted by an Australian couple. Dev Patel then plays the grown-up Saroo as he returns to India in search of his family.
BALLOON (2018) Thursday 14 September 11.40pm-1.35am BBC 4
I highlighted this German drama when it was premiered during lockdown, but it is worth mentioning again. Two East German families plan an audacious escape to the West. It is humorous, tense and a very rewarding watch.
By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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