Free films on TV 5/6/21 to 11/6/21


Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People (2002) is a vivid action-painting depicting the rise and fall of the ‘Madchester’ scene of the 1980s: Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and all-conquering dance music. 

In this imaginative, funny and scabrous version of events, everything started when fortyish Granada TV reporter Tony Wilson and a handful of curious locals witnessed the city’s only Sex Pistols gig and realised that depressed, run-down Manchester could also harness that kind of energy: dangerous, uncontrollable, and eager to be released.

Brilliantly played by Steve Coogan, Wilson was a Cambridge-educated, intellectually promiscuous Alan Partridge on a mission: to liberate himself and his city from provincial respectability with scant regard for the costs, financial and personal. Packed with now-famous faces, ingeniously scripted by Frank Cottrell Boyce from his own memories of the scene, and directed by Winterbottom with typically idiosyncratic flair, the film is a version of Paradise Lost. In Factory Records and the Hacienda Club, Wilson created a scruffy Eden, where everything was permitted, a hundred flowers bloomed and everything was beautiful, in its own way. Unfortunately, drugs were what gave his young outsiders their self-belief, and with them came hard men with guns. Game over. 

But there was a sequel. Exported around the world, the lifestyle, the fashion, the graphic design and the unavoidable dance music made Manchester the most fashionable place on the planet. The unstable energy of Tony Wilson and his protegés brought back life to its deserted warehouses, redundant factories and empty shops. Sadly, there hasn’t been a Cheltenham scene since the 1940s. It’s not that kind of place. 

24 Hour Party People is on Channel 4 on Sunday (6/6) at 00:45. 

World Cinema

On Monday (7/6) at 01:55, Channel 4 has Tale of Tales (2015). Another chance to see Matteo Garrone’s mad fairy-tale collection. With Toby Jones, Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel and many more. 

On Tuesday (8/6) at 01:15, Film4 has A Taxi Driver (2017). Another chance to see Hun Jang’s story of a reluctant cabbie caught up in the nasty but little-remembered South Korean uprising of 1980. 

On Wednesday (9/6) at 02:20, Channel 4 has Pinki Elli? (2020). An Indian mother comes home from work to find her daughter and the maid missing. Directed by Prithvi Konanur, who made the award-winning Railway Children (not that one).

On Thursday (10/6) at 13:05, Great! Action (a new channel to me) has Seven Dollars on the Red (1966), a spaghetti Western directed by Alberto Cardone.

On Friday (11/6) at 02:15, Channel 4 has Good Newwz (2019), a cheerful Bollywood comedy about a mix-up in a fertility clinic. At 09:00, Great! Action (I probably should try to find it) has Dynamite Joe (1966), described on IMDB as a “Macaroni Western starred by acceptable actors from Spaghetti,” whatever that means.    

Stephen’s picks

Tomorrow (5/6) at 14:25, 5 Star has Charlie’s Angels (2000). The first movie version, with Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu. Harmless fun. 

On Sunday (6/6) at 15:35, Paramount has My Darling Clementine (1946). The John Ford classic, with Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp. Ford claimed to have met the famous gunslinger in the silent movie days when he turned up on set to hang out with his old cowboy pals. 

On Monday (7/6) at 00:10, Channel 4 has Funny Cow (2017). Reliable Maxine Peake plays an abused female stand-up in the hard-drinking, chain-smoking, all-white clubs of 1980s Yorkshire. With an all-star cast of British character actors and comedians, and dreary music by Sheffield superstar Richard Hawley.

On Tuesday (8/6) at 16:25, Film4 has Stalag 17 (1953). Billy Wilder’s comedy-drama about Americans making themselves comfortable in a POW camp. Oh what a lovely war. 

On Thursday (10/6) at 01:00, Sky Arts has Laurel & Hardy: Their Lives and Magic (2011). Entertaining 90-minute documentary about the comedy duo, made for German TV, with a generous selection of clips, plus previously unseen colour footage and some private stills. 

Other modern films of interest

On Wednesday (9/6) at 00:20, Sky Arts has There Are No Fakes (2019). Intriguing Canadian documentary about a rock musician who buys what he believes is a work by Norval Morrisseau, an indigenous artist also known as Copper Thunderbird, only to discover the existence of a factory using child labour to churn out forgeries. 

On Thursday (10/6) at 21:00, Film4 has Days of the Bagnold Summer (2019). Sweet coming-of-age comedy directed by Simon Bird of The Inbetweeners, starring Earl Cave, son of the famous Nick, and with music by Belle and Sebastian. Shown at last year’s CIFF. At 22:45, Film4 has Frances Ha (2012). Greta Gerwig is Frances, a professional dancer who can’t dance, trapped in an intense but non-sexual relationship with a female book editor. Privileged kidults leading unlikely lives in a monochrome New York, with director Noah Baumbach channelling the nouvelle vague. A misfire as a comedy, but determined to charm.  


On Sunday (6/6) at 15:15, Channel 5 has The King and I (1956). Irresistible Rodgers & Hammerstein romance, with Yul Brynner as the King of Siam (a role he played 4,000 times on stage), in love with governess Deborah Kerr. Apparently still banned in Thailand, where the monarchy is not to be taken lightly. 

On Wednesday (9/6) at 10:30, Talking Pictures has The October Man (1947). Psychological thriller, with a man just released from an asylum (John Mills) accused of killing the young woman next door. Expressionist cinematography by Erwin Hillier, who had worked with Fritz Lang and F. W. Murnau in pre-war Germany. 

On Thursday (10/6) at 21:00, BBC4 has A Town Like Alice (1956). A group of women and children become refugees after the Japanese invade Malaya in 1941. One woman, played by Virginia McKenna, is befriended by an Australian soldier (Peter Finch), and after the war she travels to Alice Springs to try and find him.    

On Friday (11/6) at 02:05, Film4 has Another Country (1984). Lightly fictionalised account of the spy Guy Burgess (Rupert Everett, called Guy Bennett here) during his awful years at Eton College, where he is an outcast on account of his homosexuality. He forms common cause with Tommy Judd (Colin Firth), a dedicated Marxist, which will shape his future. At 16:15, Film4 has We’re No Angels (1955). Michael Curtiz comedy with three likeable convicts (Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray) holed up with a merchant’s family while trying to escape from Devil’s Island. 

Don’t forget, there is still time to rent many of the films in this year’s Cheltenham International Film Festival online.

John Morrish, Stephen Ilott, Finn Candy-Waters