Film on TV: July 2-8

[Every week I do a column at Row Three detailing the notable films playing on TV during the upcoming week. I will choose my top five six (this week) recommendations from that list to specifically highlight here. Click through to see the full list.]

Mildred Pierce

Thursday at 10:15am on TCM
In quite probably Joan Crawford’s best role (only perhaps excepting her catty “other woman” in The Women), she plays a woman trying to work her way up in the world from lowly waitress to entrepreneur, all the while dealing with her shrew of a daughter. Melodrama isn’t a particularly prized genre these days, but films like Mildred Pierce show how good melodramas can be with the right confluence of studio style, director, and star.
1945 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Ann Blyth, Eve Arden.

Ace in the Hole

Thursday at 8:00pm on TCM
Billy Wilder is known for his cynical streak, and this is pretty much Exhibit A. Kirk Douglas is a reporter, sent to middle-of-nowhere New Mexico after disgracing his paper, who gets wind of a cave-in trapping a lone miner. He pounces on the story, but manipulates everything to create the biggest media circus he can, with little thought of the trapped man’s safety. It’s an indictment both of media self-focus and of those who like to watch it, and aside from the safe ending, it’s lost none of its biting power.
1951 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur.

The Man from Laramie

Friday at 8:00pm on TCM
One of several westerns that James Stewart and Anthony Mann made together, and this one is one of the most solid; in this one, Stewart is a wagon train leader who gets pulled into a territorial feud against his will when one side torches his wagons. These westerns begin to show the dark side of the west, where the hero is only a hero because it’s expedient for him, or because he has some personal gain to get out of it.
1955 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O’Donnell.

Repulsion

Late Friday/Early Saturday 4:15am on TCM
Psychological horror of the best kind, with Roman Polanski directing Catherine Deneuve in the role of a repressed young woman whose fantasies come out to play in very destructive ways when she’s left alone in her sister’s apartment for a few days. Her terror of men and sexuality leads to hallucinations of grasping hands reaching through the walls in one of the movie’s more famous scenes. Deneuve is basically batshit crazy here, and beautifully so.
1965 UK. Director: Roman Polanski. Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser.

The Thin Man

Sunday at 2:15pm on TCM
If there’s such a genre as “goofy yet sophisticated comedy-mystery,” The Thin Man is the apex of it. William Powell and Myrna Loy starred in thirteen films together, but never did their chemistry sparkle quite so much as here, in their first of six outings as husband-and-wife detectives Nick and Nora Charles. In between cocktails and marital moments, they investigate the disappearance of the titular thin man (later in the series, “thin man” erroneously became associated with Nick). There’s so much to love about this film – the great dialogue, hilarious supporting characters (only a few of which go too far over the top), and honestly, most of all, the amazing portrayal of a solid, loving marriage in the midst of so much chaos.
1934 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan.

Band of Outsiders

Late Sunday/Early Monday at 2:00am on TCM
This relatively unassuming film about a trio of young people wandering Paris, taking English classes, talking in cafes, and oh yeah, planning to steal some money from the girl’s employer, is currently sitting pretty in fourth place on my all-time favorite film list. Its combination of dispassionate narrative with far-more-complex-than-they-seem relationships and motivatations hits my sweet spot, made Godard one of my favorite directors, and got me obsessed with the New Wave. Not bad.
1964 France. Director: Jean-Luc Godard. Starring: Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur.