Films of the week: Subtle suspense and romance in a perfect package

 

Saturday

Notorious

2.05pm BBC2

(Alfred Hitchcock, 1946) One of Alfred Hitchcock's absolute best: an ingenious, perverse, masterfully crafted romantic thriller in which Cary Grant recruits alcoholic Ingrid Bergman to seduce the leader of a German spy ring in Rio (Claude Rains), but then falls in love with her himself. It has things and cast members in common with Casablanca, then, but it is a far more complex and rewarding story. *****

Sunday

Martha Marcy May Marlene

8.35am & 6pm Sky Movies Select

(Sean Durkin, 2011) This US indie film cuts between a damaged young woman's involvement with an agrarian sex cult, and the days after she has made her escape, when she is living with her estranged sister but still behaving erratically. Contrasting various forms of indoctrination and socialisation, it is an intense, unnerving psychological drama, focused by Elizabeth Olsen's magnetic central performance. ****

Monday

Samson & Delilah

2am Film4

(Warwick Thornton, 2009) This film about life for a pair of destitute teenagers from a stultifying one-truck Aboriginal settlement in the desert surrounding Alice Springs was acclaimed as an important alarm call in its own country. One of the kids is habitually high on solvents and it has an appropriately vivid but woozy ambience. It is bleak but also poetic. Marissa Gibson and Rowan McNamara star. ****

Tuesday

The Aviator

11.05pm BBC1

(Martin Scorsese, 2004) A lavish and fast-moving biopic of the pioneering aviator and movie mogul Howard Hughes during his glory years in the Twenties to the Forties, before his neuroses entirely get the better of him and he becomes an eccentric recluse. Leonardo DiCaprio has the requisite charisma and intensity, and Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for her supporting role as Katharine Hepburn. ****

Wednesday

Michael Clayton

11.05pm BBC1

(Tony Gilroy, 2007) The directorial debut of the man who scripted the Jason Bourne movies is a classy and mature legal thriller with a satisfyingly knotty plot and nicely shaded moral complexities. George Clooney is excellent as a corporate law firm's steely bagman undergoing a crisis of conscience; Tilda Swinton's villain earned her an Oscar; Tom Wilkinson and Sydney Pollack are great, too. ****

Thursday

The Odd Couple

6pm Sky Movies Greats

(Gene Saks, 1968) As well as this screen version, Neil Simon's 1965 Broadway play about a pair of mismatched middle-aged divorcees sharing an apartment also begat a sequel, three television series – including a cartoon version with a cat and a dog – and, indirectly, around half of all sitcoms. The film has Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon at the top of their game, though, and has rarely been matched. ****

Friday

Jalsaghar

12.55am Channel 4

(Satyajit Ray, 1958) Satyajit Ray's elegant, evocative and considered character study is about an aristocratic land-owner (Chhabi Biswas) who lives with his servants amid the faded glamour of a crumbling mansion in Bengal, like Charles Foster Kane in his Xanadu. Or perhaps, refusing to recognise the changes in Indian society, or the onset of his own irrelevance, he is more like King Lear. *****

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