Films of the Week: Speechless, witty nod to a golden age

 

Saturday

The Artist

10am & 6.15pm Sky Movies Premiere

(Michel Hazanavicius, 2011) It was said that they don't make them like this any more, but The Artist is a good old-fashioned black-and-white silent film. It's a wittily self-aware Hollywood romance set around the time of the arrival of the talkies, and so joyous and luminously expressive that it momentarily makes one wonder if we didn't lose something in the transition. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo star. *****

Sunday

Vertigo

6.25pm ITV3

(Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) On the surface, Vertigo is a noir thriller about an acrophobic retired San Francisco cop (James Stewart) being made a patsy and falling in love with the mysterious blond woman (Kim Novak) whom he has been asked to tail. But nothing is at all what it seems in Hitchcock's most haunting and devious masterpiece, constructed and filmed with sublime artistry.  *****

Monday

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

11.10pm Film4

(Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011) The action, for want of a better word, in this crime drama occurs almost in real-time, and follows a group of existentially depressed men – a police chief; a prosecutor; their suspect – as they search the barren hillsides of Turkey for a dead body. The narrative is wilfully minimalist and prosaic, but droll too, and there's pleasure to be had in its gradual unfolding. Firat Tanis stars. ***

Tuesday

Big Fish

6.35pm Film4

(Tim Burton, 2003) Albert Finney plays a larger-than-life character and teller of tall tales, now confined to a hospital bed; Billy Crudup plays his estranged son; Ewan McGregor plays him as a younger man, enjoying picaresque adventures with witches and giants. A serio- comic drama about fathers and sons and the power of the imagination, Big Fish is perhaps Tim Burton's most grown-up film. ****

Wednesday

Black God, White Devil

1.10am Film4

(Glauber Rocha, 1964) This lively picaresque, written and directed by the then 25-year-old film critic and left-wing radical Glauber Rocha, heralded the arrival of Brazil's Cinema Novo movement of the Sixities and Seventies. It is the story of a ranch-hand during the depression of the Forties who kills his boss and embarks on a series of beguiling misadventures combining political allegory with folk tales. ****

Thursday

Tulpan

Tulpan 11am Film4

(Sergei Dvortsevoy, 2008) For a film set in as arid a landscape as the Kazakh steppe, this comedy about a nomadic shepherd's search for a wife has a surprising amount of vitality. A documentarian's first feature film, it has an ethnographic quality, and is full of the kind of detail about yurt-dwelling life that you just couldn't make up – but also a tender story, with very funny incongruities. Askhat Kuchinchirekov stars. ****

Friday

Witness

9pm More 4

(Peter Weir, 1985) A well-crafted, unhurried romance and thriller, in which Harrison Ford gives a skilful performance as a tough Philadelphia cop who is assigned to protect a young Amish witness to a murder, and over time comes to appreciate the simplicity and peacefulness of the Amish way of life. Especially after he falls in love with the boy's mother (Kelly McGillis). ****

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