Film on TV: July 13-19

StanwyckDouble Indemnity02.jpg
Double Indemnity, playing on Thursday the 16th on TCM at 9:00am

A lot of repeats this week, which admittedly makes writing this faster for me, which was nice this week. I’ll try to save enough time to pick out some more varied stuff next week. The films I’d most like to point out are the three Jean-Pierre Melville films Sundance is playing on Tuesday. If you’re interested in French film, crime film, film noir, or the New Wave, these are all three must-see’s.

Monday, July 13

6:15pm – IFC – American Splendor
Harvey Pekar is one of the more idiosyncratic graphic novelists there is (”comic book” doesn’t quite cover his very adult, neurotic art), and Paul Giamatti brings him to life perfectly. This is a favorite among Row Three writers, so check it out.
(repeats at 9:15am on the 14th)

9:30pm – TCM – White Heat
James Cagney in one of his most powerful roles as the slightly (okay, make that more-than-slightly) unbalanced criminal Cody Jarrett. Probably counts as one of the last truly great Warner crime films, too.

Tuesday, July 14

6:00am – IFC – Au revoir, les enfants
A new boy arrives at a French school and becomes close friends with one of the French boys. But it’s the early 1940s and the new boy turns out to be Jewish, and hiding from the Nazis. Louis Malle directs this achingly lovely portrait of schoolboy friendship in an uncertain time.
(repeats at 1:30pm and 6:05pm)

2:00pm – Sundance – Bob le flambeur
Sundance is running a three-film set of Jean-Pierre Melville films, starting with this noirish crime film about an aging gambler/thief who takes on one last job – knocking over a casino. Melville was the master of French crime films, and an important figure leading up to the New Wave – Godard name-checks this film in Breathless, mentioning Bob le flambeur (Bob the Gambler) as an associate of Michel’s.
(repeats at 12:30am on the 15th)

3:45pm – Sundance – Le doulos
I saw this Melville film a couple of months ago with it was first released on Criterion DVD, and pretty much loved it to death. Jean-Paul Belmondo brings his signature style to the film as a possible police informant working with another criminal on a jewel heist. These two men are played off each other in a sort of doubling motif – it’s often even difficult to tell which is which, due to careful cinematography and lighting work by Melville.
(repeats at 1:00pm on the 15th)

6:45pm – Sundance – Army of Shadows
This Melville film about the French Resistance during WWII wasn’t actually released in the US until 2006 (it was made in 1969), so getting to see it at all is something of a treat. I haven’t had the opportunity yet, but hoping to take it this time around.
(repeats at 4:15am on the 15th)

4:15am (15th) – IFC – Millions
Danny Boyle has a way of making very simple stories into something special, and this is no exception. A young British boy finds a bag with millions of pounds in it; the catch is that Britain is days away from switching to the euro, so the money will soon be worthless. The shifting ethical questions combined with a sometimes almost Pulp Fiction-esque style and a fascinating religious backdrop at the very least means an intriguing couple of hours.
(repeats at 8:30am and 1:05 on the 15th))

Wednesday, July 15

5:45pm – IFC – Moulin Rouge
Baz Lurhmann admittedly has a love-it-or-hate-it flamboyantly trippy aesthetic, especially in the informal Red Curtain trilogy which Moulin Rogue! closes. And sure, it’s over the top; sure, the story is fairly routine; sure, the acting is so-so. I love it to pieces anyway.
(repeats 12:40pm on the 16th)

8:00pm – Sundance – Volver
Pedro Almodovar deftly straddles the line between drama and comedy in one of his more accessible films. Two sisters return to their home at the death of their aunt, only to find their mother’s ghost – or is it a ghost? And as always in Almodovar’s films, there are related subplots aplenty. Penelope Cruz is incredible as the younger, fierier sister – she’s never been more moving than in her passionate rendition of the title song, nor funnier than when calmly cleaning up a murder scene. Must See

8:00pm – IFC – Fargo
Still one of the Coen Brothers’ best films, despite over a decade of mostly good films in the intervening years. Dark comedy is not an easy genre, and Fargo is the gold standard, blending shocking violence and a noir-ish crime story with comical inept criminals and a perfectly rendered performance from Frances McDormand. Must See
(repeats at 1:35am on the 16th)

9:45pm – IFC – Trainspotting
Days in the lives of Scottish heroin addicts. Sounds like a downer, and I won’t say it’s not, but it’s also brilliant and searing. Danny Boyle seems to always be able to take stories that could be routine and make them into something special.
(repeats at 3:15am on the 16th)

Thursday, July 16

9:00am – TCM – Double Indemnity
Quite probably the most definitive film noir film in existence (vying only with The Big Sleep in my head, anyway) has insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) being seduced by bored housewife Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) and convinced by her to help murder her husband for the insurance money. Wilder’s crackling dialogue and Stanwyck’s perfectly tuned mixture of calculation and innocence can hardly be beat. Must See

8:00pm – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.

Friday, July 17

8:00am – Sundance – Ran
Sundance is confusing me with their listings right here. I’m pretty sure this is going to be Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business. Their description on their website site is for a completely other film, though. So let’s just call this a hearty recommendation if it turns out to be Kurosawa’s film.

4:45pm – TCM – Love Me or Leave Me
One of Doris Day’s better roles places her as a singer in an abusive relationship with gangster/career supporter James Cagney. She’s tough yet vulnerable, and her rendition of the title song is suberb.

3:30am (18th) – Sundance – The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
One of the major films in Romania’s current cinematic resurgence – emphasis on realism, slow pacing, and in this case, the failures of the Romanian health care system, which shunts poor Mr. Lazarescu around from hospital to hospital as he gets sicker and sicker. I wasn’t as captivated by this as I was by 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days by a longshot, but if you’re interested in Romanian film, you oughta see it. If you didn’t like 4 Months, though, you almost certainly won’t like this. ;)

3:45am (18th) – TCM – Blow-Up
In Michelangelo Antonioni’s first (only?) English-language film, a photographer captures an image in the background of a shot that may or may not be a murder. Sounds like a detective film, but it’s far more abstract and distancing than detective stories can usually afford to be. Full of sixties-ness. Must See

Saturday, July 18

8:00pm – IFC – Mad Max
The first entry in the post-apocalyptic punk-action series that made Mel Gibson a star.

8:00pm – TCM – Tom Jones
The book Tom Jones, written in the late 1700s by Henry Fielding, is usually considered one of the earliest novels, and part of its charm is the way it pastiches earlier literary forms as it tells its story of a rakish young English nobleman and his adventures with women. Though the film version can’t really claim the same place in cinematic history that the novel does in literary history, it’s still quite enjoyable, and manages to convey a similar playfulness by pastiching earlier filmmaking styles – which never fails to earn it a spot in texts on adaptation.

5:00am (19th) – TCM – Fanny and Alexander
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve DVR’d this Bergman film and never managed to watch it before my DVR deleted it for space. :/ Maybe this will be the time I break that cycle?

Sunday, July 19

4:15pm – TCM – Lassie Come Home
Family classic that has every kid wanting a collie at some point in their lives. Hint: Get a border collie. Regular collies are quite high-strung.

6:15pm – IFC – Maria Full of Grace
Once in a while a film comes out of nowhere and floors me – this quiet little film about a group of South American women who agree to smuggle drugs into the United States by swallowing packets of cocaine did just that. Everything in the film is perfectly balanced, no element overwhelms anything else, and it all comes together with great empathy, but without sentimentality.

8:00pm – TCM – An American in Paris
Expat artist Gene Kelly in Paris, meets Leslie Caron, woos her away from rival Georges Guetarey, all set to Gershwin music and directed with panache by Vincente Minnelli. All that plus Kelly’s ground-breaking fifteen-plus-minute ballet to the title piece. Must See

12:00M – IFC – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Yes, this is still the only Wes Anderson film I haven’t seen. Because though I did record it last week when it was on, I haven’t had time to watch it yet.

12:15am (20th) – TCM – Broken Blossoms
A few years after D.W. Griffith’s controversial Birth of a Nation and epic Intolerance, he made this much smaller, much quieter film about a Chinese man (the non-Chinese Richard Barthelmess – and no, Griffith has not quite got over the racism that plagued Birth of a Nation) who becomes enamored with a young girl (Lillian Gish) whose father abuses her. It’s a really simple yet beautiful story, and shows Griffith at his sentimental best.