Recommended films on TV


David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007) is based on the true story of a serial killer who terrorised the San Francisco area in the late 60s and early 70s. After he had killed a man in a lovers’ lane, the killer sent encrypted letters to the San Francisco Chronicle, threatening to kill another 12 people unless the code was cracked and his identity published. Thereafter two newspapermen, a grizzled reporter and a tyro cartoonist took on the task of solving a crime where the police seemed clueless.

The film is an unusual hybrid of police procedural and newspaper drama, with excellent lead performances from Robert Downey Jr as the reporter and Jake Gyllenhaal as the cartoonist. Fincher, his producer, and his screenwriter spent many months interviewing people involved in the case, conscious of their responsibility in making posthumous accusations about a sequence of notorious crimes. The resulting film was too dark and nuanced to be a big commercial hit but achieved considerable critical success. In 2016, a critics’ poll conducted by the BBC ranked Zodiacas the 12thbest film of the 21stcentury. It is on BBC1 on Friday (11/9) at 22:45. It will not be on iPlayer.

Turning first to World Cinema, Channel 4 has Custody (2017), the powerful tug-of-love drama that CFS showed last October. That’s on Monday (7/9) at 00:00. Cosmos (2015) is a French-Portuguese drama that has nothing to do with space. Two young friends take a break at a weird guest-house where they are greeted by unsettling sights: dead birds hanging, strange signs on the ceiling and in the garden. The madness escalates. Described by one IMDB enthusiast as “an assault on the senses”. That’s also on Monday, on Film4 at 01:10. Later the same day, at 23:35, Film4 has Jallikattu (2019), an Indian drama about an escaped buffalo causing havoc in a village in Kerala. On Tuesday (8/9) at 23:45, and again on Thursday at the same time, ITV4 has Sergio Leone’s Western epic A Fistful of Dynamite (1971), with its wonderful Ennio Morricone score. Finally, on Thursday (10/9) at 23:30, Film4 has Paradox, a Chinese crime drama about organ smuggling in Thailand.

Apart from Zodiac, Stephen Ilott’s picks this week start with Went the Day Well (1942), Alberto Cavalcanti’s wartime drama about an English village occupied by German paratroopers in preparation for an invasion. That’s on Talking Pictures on Saturday (5/9) at 18:00. On Monday (7/9) and Tuesday (8/9), BBC2 has two unforgettable Powell and Pressburger films, both at 14:30 and both subsequently available on iPlayer. The first is A Matter of Life and Death (1946), in which David Niven’s crashed airman has to argue for his life in a celestial courtroom; the second is The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), in which we follow a superannuated general (Roger Livesey) back through 40 years to see him as a young and dashing officer. This was Emeric Pressburger’s favourite of his films; Winston Churchilll hated it. On Wednesday (9/9) at 21:00 on More 4, Stephen picks Bridge of Spies (2015), in which Tom Hanks plays an American lawyer who becomes involved in a Cold War prisoner exchange intended to bring the U2 pilot Gary Powers back to the West. Directed by Steven Spielberg, with Mark Rylance as a KGB agent.

There is a rich crop of English-language films on Saturday (5/9). They include Peter Strickland’s unhinged Berberian Sound Studios (2012), which you may want to give a miss if you didn’t like last week’s Duke of Burgundy. Toby Jones plays a sound engineer working on effects for Italian horror films. That’s on Film4 at 01:50. On the same channel at 16:35, there is Hail Caesar! (2016), which we showed in March: a joyous celebration of the golden years of Hollywood, from Westerns to musicals, with George Clooney. At 20:05, and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC1 is showing Invictus (2009), Clint Eastwood’s fact-based drama in which Nelson Mandela sets the post-apartheid South African rugby team the task of winning the World Cup. At 21:00, ITV2 has Shaun of the Dead (2004), the zombie comedy co-written by and starring Brockworth’s own Simon Pegg. Finally for Saturday, at 21:00, Sony Movies has Changeling (2008), in which Angelina Jolie plays a grief-stricken mother whose child is abducted, only for the police to hand her a replacement she insists is not the real thing.

On Wednesday (9/9) at 00:40, Film4 has American Hustle (2013), in which a couple of con-artists are recruited by the CIA to infiltrate a world of New Jersey casino operators and corrupt politicians.

As far as the Oldies go, 5 Star offers yet another chance to see Rain Man (1988), on Saturday (5/9) at 21:00 and repeated at the same time on Friday.

On Sunday (6/9) at 11:30 and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC2 has Odette (1950), the true story of a French woman who flew into occupied France to fight with the Resistance before being captured and tortured. With Anna Neagle, Trevor Howard, Marius Goring and Peter Ustinov. At 23:15 the same day, Film4 has East is East (1999), the BAFTA-winning comedy drama in which a Pakistani father struggles to deal with his rebellious Anglicised children.

The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) is on Talking Pictures on Monday (7/9) at 16:05. A department store owner goes undercover to root out some union organisers. One of them, Mary Jones, befriends him. Sadly not as racy as the title might suggest.

On Wednesday (9/9) at 11:00, Film4 has 3.10 to Yuma (1957), a Western in which Glenn Ford tries to put an outlaw leader on a train that leaves at that time, only for his gang to try and free him. At 12:00 the same day, Talking Pictures has Val Guest’s excellent The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), one of the best newspaper films, with real-life Daily Express editor Arthur Christiansen playing a version of himself. Then at 14:30 and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC2 has The Cruel Sea (1953), a wartime naval drama with a star-studded British cast.

Three interesting films on Thursday (10/9). At 14:30, BBC2 hasThe Caine Mutiny (1954), with Humphrey Bogart as Captain of a US warship, overthrown when he is thought to show signs of mental instability. Not on iPlayer. Then at 16:00 on Film4, we have A Night to Remember (1958), with Kenneth More as the Second Officer of the Titanic, and no shipboard romance at all. Finally, at 19:15, Talking Pictures has The Smallest Show on Earth (1957), a heartwarming British comedy about a young couple inheriting a tiny, rundown cinema. Shown by CFS in 2002.

On Friday (11/9) at 12:40, Film4 takes up the nautical theme with Sink the Bismark! (1960). Then at 14:30 and subsequently on iPlayer, BBC2 shows another seaborne war film, this time In Which We Serve (1942), written, co-directed by and starring Noël Coward. At 15:05, Sony Action has Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves (1990). Finally, at 16:20, Talking Pictures has The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950), in which two boarding schools, for boys and girls, are merged. With a wonderful British cast, including Margaret Rutherford, Alastair Sim, Richard Wattis and Joyce Grenfell.

Enjoy your week’s viewing.


John Morrish and Stephen Ilott