Free films on TV 8/5/21 to 14/5/21


When we showed Tyrannosaur (2011) at CFS in 2013/14, it felt like a sudden incursion of broken Britain into the genteel surroundings of the Bacon Theatre. The film itself is an extreme example of one strand of our native cinema, with its focus on the harshest aspects of life in our country’s disregarded regions and districts: what would later be seen as Brexit Britain. 

Peter Mullan (Joe) is an isolated, loveless widower who spends his days in the pub or the bookie’s and is full of unexplained rage. He introduces himself to us by kicking his dog to death. Bruised after a confrontation with some Asian lads, he meets Hannah (Olivia Colman), volunteering in a charity shop, and insults her when she offers to pray for him. She is living in an owner-occupied home near Joe’s dirty Northern council estate, but it emerges that her comfort is an illusion. Life with her controlling and sadistic husband (Eddie Marsan) is beyond hellish. In time, Joe and Hannah become close, or as close as Mullan’s character will allow. Writer-director Paddy Considine, who starred in the earlier underclass dramas of Shane Meadows, described his bracingly bleak film as a love story. 

Tyrannosaur features animal cruelty and extreme misogynistic violence, both on and off-screen. Colman soaks it up, in a career-making performance that startled audiences who had only seen her in sitcom. When we showed it, there were walk-outs, and something new: letters suggesting that in future we issue “trigger-warnings” before certain films in case the events on screen harmed women in the audience who had experienced abuse. Indeed, one member suggested we should have provided some sort of post-film helpline. Those of us who selected the film were surprised by the expectation that we would warn adults (no CFS member is under 18) that their mental health might be endangered by a well-publicised and serious piece of art that they they were not obliged to see. You live and learn. 

The film may have less visceral impact on television, but it is not one you are likely to forget. Tyrannosaur can be seen on Film4 on Thursday (13/5) at 01:25. 

World Cinema

On Saturday (8/5) at 23:20, Film4 has Buried (2010). Ryan Reynolds plays a civilian truck-driver working with US forces in Iraq, who is buried alive by terrorists and held there for ransom. A powerfully claustrophobic exercise, told on one set and through phone calls, it is directed by Rodrigo Cortés, an admirer of Hitchcock. 

On Monday (10/5) at 01:20, Film4 has Brand New Testament (2015). We showed this in 2016/17 to a warm reception. It’s a surreal, episodic comedy in which God torments human beings from a scruffy hi-rise flat in Brussels while his 10-year-old daughter finds six disciples to help her create a more palatable religion before the end of the world. With game Catherine Deneuve and a gorilla. At 23:40, Film4 has Capernaum (2018), which we showed just before the start of the pandemic. A gut-wrenching account of a Lebanese child’s life in the slums of Beirut, it proved the third most-popular film we have shown in 25 years. 

Stephen’s Picks

On Saturday (8/5) at 21:00, Talking Pictures has Blood Relatives (1977), a mystery by Claude Chabrol, the French crime master, with Donald Sutherland on the trail of a child-murderer. Based on an Ed McBain 87th Precinct police procedural, but with New York replaced by Montreal for tax reasons. At 23:20, BBC2 has Cold in July (2014), an indie neo-noir thriller set in a well-realised 1980s Texas. A man shoots a burglar, is reluctantly hailed as a hero, then encounters an ex-con father (Sam Shepard) out for revenge. 

On Friday (14/5) at 21:00, Talking Pictures has Death Line (1972), an ingenious low-budget horror about commuters snatched and despatched in the tunnels of the London Underground. Its American title, Raw Meat, might clue you in on the gruesome plot line. Donald Pleasance, having the time of his life, is the investigating detective.  

Other modern films of interest

On Saturday (8/5) at 22:00, BBC2 has When We Were Kings (1996). An Oscar-winning documentary about the 1974 Ali-Frazier boxing match in Zaire, with 32-year-old Ali hoping to reclaim his rightful title in front of an African crowd. Deals with much more than fisticuffs, although you do see quite a lot of the fight. 

On Sunday (9/5) at 06:00, Sky Arts has Fabergé: A Life of Its Own (2014). An ambitious feature-length documentary about the Russian jewellery-making empire, from its origins in Imperial St Petersburg, through the horrors of the Revolution, and on to its current status as a tacky luxury brand. At 13:50, Channel 4 has The Devil Wears Prada (2006). Meryl Streep has a ball as Miranda Priestley, a comic caricature of Anna “Nuclear” Wintour, legendarily harsh editor of American Vogue. With Anne Hathaway as a shy intern learning to survive glossy media in its pomp. At 20:00, ITV has Spectre (2015), Sam Mendes’s second Daniel Craig Bond movie, following the acclaimed Skyfall. 

On Tuesday (11/5) at 02:15, Film4 has In Fear (2013). A young couple get lost while driving through some dark Irish woods (actually Devon) and are terrorised. Effective horror debut from Jeremy Lovering. The couple were not shown the whole script, so their alarm is often quite realistic. At 21:00, Sky Arts has Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend (2011). Esther Anderson was a Jamaican girl who came to London, modelled, danced on Ready Steady Go! and went on to act opposite Sidney Poitier and live with Marlon Brando. She also worked for Chris Blackwell’s Island records, managing Jamaican artists including The Wailers. This is a rough-hewn documentary about Marley’s early days, when she was his girlfriend, muse and manager, based on Super 8 and early video footage that disappeared for 30 years. A fascinating time and place in music history. 

On Wednesday (12/5) at 01:40, Film4 has Wild (2014). A dramatised version of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir about walking 1,100 miles alone up the rugged West Coast of America and confronting her traumatic recent past on the way. Reese Witherspoon bought the property as a star vehicle, brilliantly dragging her self out of a career slump. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee from a Nick Hornby screenplay. At 23:15, Film4 has Layer Cake (2004). Daniel Craig plays XXXX, a semi-respectable drug dealer who is dragged into chaotic gangster warfare. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, who produced Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000) for Guy Ritchie. Layer Cake, though stylised, is less larky and more menacing. 

On Friday (14/5) at 01:35, Film4 has Berlin Syndrome (2017). A rather good psychological thriller about an Australian tourist in Berlin who is held prisoner, indefinitely, by the nice young teacher with whom she has a one-night stand. At 23:20, BBC2 has Manchester by the Sea (2016), Kenneth Lonergan’s lauded New England domestic tragedy. Casey Affleck plays a janitor, dragged home to take charge of his dead brother’s teenage son, while nursing grief and guilt about a terrible disaster in his own earlier life. Intelligently told, thoughtfully acted and deliberately un-Hollywood. With a largely classical score, including Albinoni’s lovely but over-familiar Adagio in G minor. 


On Saturday (8/5) at 13:10, 5 Star has Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). Sentimental comedy-drama in and about the American South. With Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Jessica Tandy and Mary-Louise Parker in a welter of forbidden longings, murder and terminal cancer. 

On Sunday (9/5) at 10:15, BBC2 has A Farewell to Arms (1932), released only three years after Hemingway’s WWI novel. Starring Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes and Adolphe Menjou and directed by Frank Borzage, with more romance and less fatalism than the source material. Hemingway hated it, but it has become recognised as something of a classic. Borzage’s combat montage is said to have influenced Picasso’s Guernica. At 22:00, Talking Pictures has Prick Up Your Ears (1987) (also on Wednesday at 21:05), the biographical tragicomedy about Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell, aspiring dramatists and live-in-lovers in the closeted 1960s. Directed by Stephen Frears, featured artist at the forthcoming Cheltenham International Film Festival, with a sparkling script by Alan Bennett and strong lead performances by Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina, with support from Vanessa Redgrave, Wallace Shawn, Lindsay Duncan, Julie Walter, Frances Barber and others. A thoughtful British film about pre-legalisation homosexuality, class, mischief, theatre, murder and the provinces, not to mention the terrible unfairness of the Muses when it comes to handing out genius. Cotswolds patriarch Keith Allen was tipped to play Orton, but Oldman got the gig. 

On Thursday (13/5) at 21:00, Talking Pictures has Harry and Tonto (1974). Art Carney won the Best Actor Oscar for his role as 72-year-old Harry Coombes, a cranky ex-schoolteacher taking a mad road trip across America accompanied by his cat, Tonto. He was 15 years younger than the character, a role turned down by James Cagney, Laurence Olivier and Cary Grant. Episodic but intermittently very funny, in the loose, vaguely hippyish style favoured by director/co-writer Paul Mazursky, who began his career with the smash-hit Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1973).  

John Morrish, Stephen Ilott, Finn Candy-Waters