Films of the week: De Niro stops at nothing to be crowned king

 

Wednesday

The King of Comedy

9pm Film4

(Martin Scorsese, 1983) Rupert Pupkin, an ambitious but untalented stand-up comic, is every bit as intensely creepy, sad and unpredictable as the characters Robert De Niro (below) and Martin Scorsese had created in their four previous collaborations. And it's a terrific performance, of course, but the revelation was Jerry Lewis, playing it straight as the television talk-show host whom Pupkin kidnaps. Sandra Bernhard also stars. *****

Saturday

Gosford Park

10pm BBC2

(Robert Altman, 2001) Robert Altman's vivacious country-house murder mystery is as much Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs as it is Agatha Christie; a witty dissection of the mores of both the English upper-classes between the wars and those of their serving staff. The cast includes every famous British actor who was working at the time, and they all look to be having a spiffing good time. Maggie Smith (above) stars. ****

Sunday

Howl

11.30pm BBC2

(Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, 2010) "Sir, poetry cannot be directly translated into prose. That is why it is poetry," explains a witness during the 1957 obscenity trial of Alan Ginsberg's beat poem Howl. Nevertheless, this is a bold and largely successful effort to transpose the poem to the screen, using a mixture of animation, jazz music, court transcripts and a re-enactment of its first performance starring James Franco as Ginsberg. ****

Monday

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

7pm Sky Movies Classics

(Martin Ritt, 1965) In contrast to the Bond film Thunderball and Michael Caine's The Ipcress File, which were rel-eased in the same year, this dour, realist John Le Carré adaptation presented Cold War espionage as a corrupting, morally compromised and grubby business, and the spies themselves as "seedy, squalid bastards". Richard Burton (above) is brilliant as a brooding double agent in East Berlin. *****

Tuesday

Donnie Darko

10.15am & 6.10pm Sky Movies Indie

(Richard Kelly, 2001) An opaque, dreamily weird cult film set in an Eighties, John-Hughes-by-way-of-David-Lynch US suburb, involving time-travel or alternate universes and a 6ft rabbit called Frank. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Donnie, the likeable but slightly disturbed new kid at school, and there are memorable roles, too, for Patrick Swayze and the film's producer, Drew Barrymore. ****

Thursday

Carlos – Part One

10.45pm Film4

(Olivier Assayas, 2010) Originally made for French television, Olivier Assayas's trilogy of films about the Venezuelan pro-Palestine terrorist Carlos the Jackal – revealed as a monomaniacal, psychotic, vain and sleazy revolutionary poseur – play like a stylish and exhilarating political thriller, but with the rare depth and texture of a television miniseries. Part two follows at 12.50am; Part three is on tomorrow. Edgar Ramirez (above) stars. ****

Friday

The Silence of Lorna

12.55am BBC2

(Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 2008) Lorna (Arta Dobroshi, above, with Jeremie Renier) is a young Albanian who has married a Belgian junkie for his citizenship and is preparing to marry a mobster for his money. The former documentary makers the Dardenne brothers produce powerful dramas about everyday hopes and routines, as well as the end results of economic desperation. Their fourth is intriguingly elliptical. ****

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