Free films on TV 27/3/21 to 2/4/21


Patricia Highsmith was a nasty woman, but her stories make compellingly twisty films. The American Friend (1977) is in the same vein as Strangers on a Train (1951). Jonathan Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz), a dying Swiss picture-framer, is inveigled into a murder plot by a sophisticated American criminal, Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper). Subsequent Ripley films (with Malkovich and Damon in the lead) tended towards the glamorous and playful. Wim Wenders set his version in gloomy Cold War Hamburg, Paris and Munich, and loaded it with Germanic dread. The American Friend (and rarely has that noun been so ambiguous) is a fast-moving dance of death, choreographed with verve, breathtakingly framed, and performed without Hollywood gloss. Lisa Kreuzer, Wenders’s then wife, plays Frau Zimmermann and she is heartbreaking. The film has the saturated colour and meaningful sound design of Seventies European cinema, as well as several nods to Hitchcock, but its concerns – greed, secrecy, power, love – could hardly be more topical. It can be seen on Film4 on Thursday (1/4/) at 01:05. 

World Cinema

On Saturday (27/3) at 23:40, BBC4 has Foxtrot (2017), an award-winning Israeli tragicomedy about a family mourning the loss of a young conscript son at a remote border post. Spoiler: he had some fun too. 

On Sunday (28/3) at 02:15, Channel 4 has Climax (2018). Gaspar Noé’s horror about the consequences of drinking acid-spiked sangria while dancing orgiastically in a remote school gymnasium. 

On Monday (29/3) at 01:50, Film4 has Border (2018), which we showed in 2019/20 to considerable bafflement. A troll-like frontier guard sniffs out criminality at a Scandinavian border. Then she discovers passion. A Nordic fairytale in contemporary uniform. At 21:00, BBC4 has Collective: Unravelling a Scandal (2019), a Storyville in which some dogged hacks investigate a hushed-up nightclub fire and discover endemic corruption in Romania’s national health service. It couldn’t happen here.

Stephen’s Picks

On Saturday (27/3) at 21:50, BBC4 has Rush (2013), Ron Howard’s high-octane drama about the rivalry between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. From a script by the prolific Peter Morgan, who gave us The Crown. 

On Monday (29/3) at 21:00, Sony Movies has Road to Perdition (2002). Sam Mendes casts Tom Hanks somewhat against type as a somewhat ruthless mob enforcer. Stylish and involving. 

On Wednesday (31/3) at 22:25, Channel 5 has Sense and Sensibility (1995). Irresistible Ang Lee period romcom, written by and starring Emma Thompson. Possibly the best Austen adaptation, and that’s saying something. Lee barely spoke a word of English.

On Thursday (1/4) at 21:00, BBC4 has The Third Man (1949). A Viennese whirl from Carol Reed, Graham Greene, Orson Welles and Anton Karas on zither. Karas was a lowly wine-bar entertainer when Reed discovered him and made him immortal.

Other modern films of interest

On Saturday (27/3) at 14:15, Film4 has Megamind (2010) (also on Tuesday at 15:00). Dreamworks supervillain animation with the voices of big Will Ferrell and spiky Tina Fey. At 21:00, Sky Arts has I Want My MTV (2019). Relive the 80s in the company of luminaries such as Tori Amos, Pat Benatar and Dr Dré. At 22:30, ITV4 has Crank (2006). Hunky Jason Statham is a killer who learns he will die if his heart rate drops. I hope I’m not giving too much away if I say it doesn’t. 

On Sunday (28/3) at 15:00, Sky Arts has Joe Cocker: Mad Dog with Soul (2017). The life and death of the Sheffield bluesman, who wowed the world at Woodstock and then retreated into a bottle.

On Monday (29/3) at 21:00, BBC2 has Finding Jack Charlton (2020). How the underappreciated big brother of Bobby Charlton found himself in Ireland and became one of the island’s legends. 

On Tuesday (30/3) at 00:10, BBC2 has The Damned United (2010). Football fiction, but rather more than that. The brief reign of Brian Clough at Leeds United, where the tragic manager (powerfully impersonated by Michael Sheen) discovered he couldn’t walk alone.

On Thursday (1/4) at 01:40, BBC4 has Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills? (2018). Mills was an early Sixties fairground slogger who rose to become a boxing superstar. Someone in his coterie of gangsters may, or may not, have laid him out permanently. Documentary. At 22:40, BBC4 has Brighton Rock (2010). Why are seaside towns so seedy? Sorry, W-S-M, but it’s true. At 23:15, Film4 has Four Lions (2009). Breathtaking farce about Islamic terrorists in the UK. Scarily funny.

On Friday (2/4) at 17:55, ITV2 has Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). The second film from Joanne Rowling’s unstoppable plot machine. With Toby Jones as Dobby. At 22:00, BBC2 has Colette (2018). Solid, somewhat racy, biopic. With coltish Keira Knightley and Dominic Wells as “Willy”, the husband who so exploited her. 


On Saturday (27/3) at 15:55, Talking Pictures has Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) (also on Monday at 10:30). Marilyn Monroe in her longed-for dramatic debut as a disturbed baby-sitter. It was her 19th film. Creepy Richard Widmark preys on her, as did the studios. At 18:25, from Talking Pictures again, An Inspector Calls (1954). With Alastair Sim as J.B. Priestley’s wraith-like detective. At 22:20, BBC1 has Fatal Attraction (1987). Michael Douglas learns that hell hath no fury like Glenn Close. Rabbit stew, anyone?

On Wednesday (31/3) at 21:00, Film4 has Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). The first Richard Curtis film, before he became a global brand, with Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell. Don’t they look young?

On Friday (2/4) at 17:45, BBC1 has The Sound of Music (1965). A sugar rush for Easter. And why not?

John Morrish, Stephen Ilott, Finn Candy-Waters