Free films on TV


Valerian is a medicinal herb that eases stress, lets you sleep and gives you sweet dreams. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) is Luc Besson’s phantasmagorical vision of the 28th century. Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his reluctant love-object Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are human police officers charged with maintaining peace throughout a Galaxy in which telepathy, time travel, teleportation and transitioning are all routine. The City is a floating community packed with alien life, descending from the Earth’s 1975 Apollo-Soyuz space station. As Valerian and Laureline struggle with their commitment issues, universal harmony gives way to discord. The film holds the record as the most expensive in both European and independent movie history, but the cash is on the screen. Featuring Britain’s Clive Owen as a nasty human imperialist – surprise, surprise – and Rihanna as a “shapeshifting Glamopod entertainer”, it has the strengths and weaknesses of its French comic-book source. Makes the Ring Cycle look like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is on Sunday (14/3) at 23:00 on Channel 4. 

World Cinema

On Saturday (13/3) at 22:40, ITV4 has A Fistful of Dynamite (1971). Sergio Leone couldn’t speak English. Clint couldn’t speak Italian. The Mexicans were played by Gypsies. That’s the magic of cinema. (Also on Tuesday at 23:15).

On Sunday (14/3) at 02:00, BBC2 has Clouds of Sils Maria (2014). Auteur Olivier Assayas and Juliette Binoche explore illusion in art and life. Assayas got his start by helping Papa write Maigret scripts. At 22:00, BBC4 has I Got Life! (2017). A waitress, on the brink of becoming someone’s grand-mère, discovers it is never to late to love.

On Wednesday (17/3) at 00:05, Talking Pictures has Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). Herzog’s version of the story, made in German and English. Which will Talking Pictures opt for?

On Thursday (18/3) at 01:35, Film4 has Wild Tales (2014). A sequence of satirical shorts by Argentinian disciples of Almodòvar. Black, with liberal splashes of crimson. Outrageously popular at CFS in 2016.

On Friday (19/3) at 23:25, Film4 has Blade of the Immortal (2017). An eternal female samurai goes in search of revenge. From a manga.

Stephen’s Picks

On Saturday (13/3) at 20:20, Talking Pictures has All About Eve (1950). The eyes have it. (Also on Wednesday at 21:05). At 23:20, BBC2 has Whiplash (2014). Beat out that rhythm on a skull.

On Wednesday (17/3) at 21:00, Film4 has Misery (1990). Sado-masochistic exchanges between a great writer and his ideal reader. At 23:40, 5 Star has Scream (1996). With Courteney Cox, before she became poster-girl for Botox. Good for her. 

On Friday (19/3) at 01:20, Film4 has Dance with a Stranger (1985). Historical drama. We used to hang women, and not just in art galleries.

Other modern films of interest

On Saturday (13/3) at 21:45, BBC2 has Billie: In Search of Billie Holiday (2019), not Billie Eilish. To tell the truth, Lady Day had it a lot easier. At 22:00, Channel 4 has Peterloo (2018). Mike Leigh misfire.

On Monday (15/3) at 01:30, Film4 has And When Did You Last See Your Father? (2007). From Blake Morrison’s self-excoriating memoir. At 22:00, BBC4 has Dark Secrets of a Trillion Dollar Island: Garenne (2020). How amateur sleuths unearthed Hell in one of our loveliest Tax Havens. Documentary.

On Tuesday (16/3) at 01:35, Film4 has August Osage County (2013). A small family film, with Meryl and Julia. At 21:00, Sky Arts has My Rembrandt (2019). Sorry, Amsterdam, he’s everybody’s Rembrandt. At 22:00, BBC4 has Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan (2020). Perfect teeth for the business he’s in.

On Thursday (18/3) at 21:00, BBC4 has My Feral Heart (2016). Disempowering feature about boy with Down’s Syndrome.

On Friday (19/3) at 23:20, BBC2 has Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars (2014). On the Hollywood tour-bus.


On Sunday (14/3) at 17:30, Channel 5 has Battle of Britain (1969). Spielberg’s Star Wars dog-fights, but with real aeroplanes, pilots and propellors. Local interest.

On Monday (15/3) at 12:25, Talking Pictures has I Was a Fireman (1943). Humphrey Jennings Blitz doco classic.

On Friday (19/3) at 01:50, Talking Pictures has Next of Kin (1942). Welsh Wizard Mervyn Johns on the dangers of gossip. Who can you trust?

John Morrish, Stephen Ilott, Finn Candy-Waters

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