FILM OF THE WEEK
British director Jack Clayton read Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw in childhood. Ostensibly a light-hearted haunted-house yarn, it tells of an inexperienced governess who travels to a grand house to take charge of a pair of orphans and encounters the ghosts of her predecessor and her brutish lover.
For his adaptation, to be called The Innocents (1961), Clayton started with a stage version that took the story at face value, with literal ghosts. Then he asked Truman Capote, embroiled in research for his true-crime book In Cold Blood, to do a three-week rewrite. Capote unearthed the prudish James’s unacknowledged subtext and turned the governess into a woman whose own repressed sexuality may or may not incite the supernatural situation, from the weird knowingness of the children to the presence of the spectral adults who seem to have corrupted them.
The studio, 20th Century Fox, cast Deborah Kerr, the embodiment of English reserve, as the governess, even though at 40 she was twice the age of James’s heroine; she chose to emphasise Miss Giddens’s fragile mental state rather than her submerged libido. Clayton found two remarkable child actors, Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens, to play creepy Flora and precocious Miles, concealing from them the adult themes of the screenplay. His cinematographer, Freddie Francis, created a bold look in Cinemascope, with deep focus and intense contrast between the incandescent white of Kerr’s frocks and candlesticks at the centre of the frame and the gloom of the house’s interiors at the edges. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is haunted by Georges Auric’s invented folksong ‘O Willow Waly’, not to mention Daphne Oram’s eerie electronic effects.
The Innocents is an unforgettably disturbing film from a director whose perfectionist instincts ensured he was only allowed a handful of opportunities. It can be seen on Talking Pictures on Friday (16/4) at 21:00.
On Sunday (11/4) at 00:55, Film4 has Tale of Tales (2015). Matteo Garrone, who made his name with the grimly realistic Mafia tale Gomorrah, let his imagination rip with this alarming compendium of Italian folktales. Toby Jones’s love for a giant flea is among the least strange episodes. Vivid, earthy, complex, it was shown by CFS in 2017/18 to widespread bafflement.
On Friday (16/4) at 01:05, Film4 has Elle (2016). Paul Verhoeven cast fearless Isabelle Huppert as the boss of a computer game company who is raped and then tries to track down her attacker. The result is stylish and troubling. From a novel by Philippe Djian, who was the source for the equally stylish and troubling Betty Blue.
On Sunday (11/4) at 14:55, Talking Pictures has Rebecca (1940) (also on Friday at 14:25). Hitchcock’s first American film and only Best Picture winner, it is an intoxicating study of cruelty. Timid Joan Greenwood (whose character is, significantly, unnamed) marries schizoid aristo Max de Winter (Laurence Olivier) and is installed in Manderley, his oppressive stately home. There she is terrorised by Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson), the housekeeper who was in erotic thrall to Rebecca, his glamorous previous wife. A triumph of the old studio system, with Hitchcock usefully challenged by David O. Selznick at every turn. At 22:00, the same channel has Emperor of the North Pole (1973). An unusual action picture set in the Great Depression, with Ernest Borgnine is a train conductor determined to keep a legendary train-hopping hobo (Lee Marvin) from getting a free ride. Three seconds were cut by the British censors because they showed someone being hit with a live chicken during a fist-fight.
On Tuesday (13/4) at 01:55, Film4 has Submarine (2010). Richard Ayoade of The IT Crowd made his directorial debut with this well-observed story of clever Welsh kids navigating the hazards of teenage life and love. Cherishably British, despite being produced by Hollywood A-lister Ben Stiller and – avert your eyes – Harvey Weinstein. At 10:30, Talking Pictures has Kipps (1941), from H. G. Wells’s somewhat autobiographical tale of an apprentice draper’s efforts to make something of himself and find the right girl in the busy world of Edwardian non-essential shopping.
On Wednesday (14/4) at 21:05, Talking Pictures has Notorious (1946), Hitchcock’s espionage love-triangle classic with Cary Grant, Claude Rains and wonderful Ingrid Bergman. The first post-atomic thriller, with uranium smuggling a feature.
Other modern films of interest
On Saturday (10/4) at 17:55, ITV2 has Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) (also on Monday at 17:55). Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts. Jim Broadbent joins the cast of the series. At 21:00, Horror Channel has Identity (2003). Hell is being trapped in a Nevada motel with a group of strangers, especially when the unwilling guests are being bumped off one by one. With John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet and Alfred Molina.
On Sunday (11/04) at 15:45, ITV2 has Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) (also on Tuesday at 18:10). At 18:25, the wizarding saga concludes with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2010) (also on Wednesday at 18:35).
On Tuesday (13/4) at 16:35, Film4 has Akeelah and the Bee (2006). The bee in question is the National Spelling Bee, and Akeelah is a young girl from the ‘hood who seeks salvation through competitive orthography. America is a strange place. With Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne and Keke Palmer.
On Thursday (15/4) at 01:50, Channel 4 has Chef (2014). Actor-turned-director Jon Favreau serves up a cheerful road-movie about a difficult chef who buys a food truck, bonds with his family and rediscovers his love of cooking.
On Friday (16/4) at 23:45, Film4 has Shot Caller (2017). A businessman goes to jail for drunken driving and becomes a brute to survive, carrying on the lifestyle when released. Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, apparently famous for something called Game of Thrones.
On Saturday (10/4) at 21:00, Talking Pictures has Overlord (1975) (also on Tuesday at 21:00). Acclaimed documentary-style feature about young soldiers preparing for D-Day. Shot in black-and-white over 10 days to mimic and match period footage. At 21:00, ITV4 has Rocky (1976) (also on Thursday at 23:40), and then at 23:35, it carries on with Rocky II (1979) (also on Sunday at 21:00). The first film beat All The President’s Men, Network and Taxi Driver to win the 1977 Best Picture Oscar.
On Sunday (11/4) at 21:00, 5Star has Braveheart (1995) (also on Friday at 21:00). Mel Gibson’s exciting Caledonian fairytale.
On Tuesday (13/4) at 23:10, Horror Channel has Re-Animator (1985). Medical student brings back the dead. A comic gore-fest.
On Wednesday (14/4) at 23:05, Film4 has Raging Bull (1980). Martin Scorsese’s prize-fighting tragedy, with
Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing of the action sequences is astonishing.
On Thursday (15/4) at 06:15, Talking Pictures has The Hasty Heart (1949). To quote the trailer, “Here comes a picture to thrill every woman’s heart – because it’s all about men!” WWII field-hospital romance with Ronald Reagan and Patricia Neal, who later had the misfortune to marry Roald Dahl. At 21:00, BBC4 has Topkapi (1964). Colourful Istanbul-set heist movie directed by Jules Dassin, with Melina Mercouri, Peter Ustinov, Maximilian Schell and Robert Morley. At 23:30, Talking Pictures has The Driver (1978). Ryan O’Neal, Bruce Dern, Isabelle Adjani and some of Walter Hill’s best car-chases.
On Friday (16/4) at 12:20, Talking Pictures has The Pickwick Papers (1952), a jolly Dickens adaptation with lots of austerity-era comedy faces. The first British film to be shown in the Soviet Union after WWII. The Russians have always loved Charles Dickens, whose humour somewhat resembles their own.