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Films of the week: Producer’s acts expose the flaws in his existence


Father of My Children

10pm BBC4

(Mia Hansen-Love, 2009) Focused on a struggling indie film producer (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) and his neglect of his family, Mia Hansen-Love's slow-burner seems to be about very little until it's revealed, with a startling mid-film twist, to be about a great deal – and all without breaking a sweat. What emerges is a drama no less moving for its modest restraint: a film about how life must go on, even after it has changed as fast as a shot. ****

The Adventures of Robin Hood

2.35pm Channel 5

(Michael Curtiz & William Keighley, 1938) If this rapier-swish romp doesn't buckle your swash, get out of the woods. Rocking the green tights with gusto, Errol Flynn grandstands gloriously as he tackles Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains' effete baddies. Scoring is brisk, dialogue ripe, back-up (Olivia de Havilland, Eugene Pallette) lively: why couldn't Ridley Scott's plod through the glen have been this much fun? ****

The Third Man

Film4 2.45pm

(Carol Reed, 1949) Against a fractured post-war Vienna backdrop, Carol Reed and Graham Greene crafted a Brit-noir of great collaborative cohesion. Orson Welles overshadows it as Harry Lime, friend to Joseph Cotten's pulp "scribbler" Holly Williams, visiting Vienna to find Lime first dead, then alive. Taut pacing and a jaunty-sad score usher us through the moral murk and inky shadows, the contrasting parts all crisply aligned. *****

Shadow of a Doubt

5.10pm Film4

(Alfred Hitchcock, 1943) Or, Dracula in America. Full of doubles, Hitchcock's small-town thriller sees the darkness without as a mirror of the darkness within. Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) arrives at his family's Cali home like a fantasy summoned by his bored niece Charlie (Teresa Wright): he's a serial killer, so what's up in her head? With devious wit and droll suspense, Hitch subverts middle America from within here. *****

The Messenger

11.30am Sky Movies Indie

(Oren Moverman, 2009) The Hurt Locker was loud, but Oren Moverman's response to the Middle East conflicts is equally vital in its quiet compassion. The "bromance" between Casualty Notification officers Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson provides a functional frame, but it's Harrelson's intimacy with a bereaved mother (Samantha Morton) that brings heart and complexity to this character study of war's walking wounded. ****

All That Heaven Allows

11.40am More4

(Douglas Sirk, 1955) After Magnificent Obsession, Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson (both above) reunited with Douglas Sirk for the melodrama of a coupling between a posh widow and her gardener. As her kids sniff at the love, Sirk loads the delirious visuals with ironic depth-charges, armed to decimate middlebrow morals. Wyman's imprisoning reflection in a television screen numbers among the many indelible images. bbbbb

Black Swan

6.35pm & 12.05am Sky Movies Indie

(Darren Aronofsky, 2010) Darren Aronofsky's bonkers transformation movie is only nominally about Swan Lake. Centred on a magnetic spin from Natalie Portman as the "sweet girl" driven mad by playing both White and Black Swans, this ripe, bracing schlocker hoists a cracked mirror to Hollywood's record with young dreams. Winona Ryder's agit-cameo enriches the meta-narrative. ****