Films of the Week: Unsettling events are anything but black and white



The White Ribbon

9pm BBC4

(Michael Haneke, 2009) Set in 1913 in a Protestant German village plagued by a series of perplexing and increasingly vicious crimes, Michael Haneke's monochrome Palme d'Or-winner is an aesthetically austere parable about repression and retaliatory violence. But, contrary to appearances, it is also a completely gripping, exceptionally vivid drama. And the contrary of appearances is what it's all about. Thibault Sérié stars. *****


The King of Comedy

1am 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 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. ****


Once Upon a Time in America

11.10pm Film4

(Sergio Leone, 1984) This is the restored, almost four-hour cut of Sergio Leone's final film, which spans five decades – though not at all chronologically – in the lives of immigrant Jewish-American gangsters played by Robert De Niro and James Woods. It is frequently misogynistic and unflinchingly brutal, but finally a mesmerising, sombre film about love, betrayal and death. ****



6am & 12.15am Sky Movies Premiere

(Kenneth Lonergan, 2011) In one of the unfortunately rare films to give a teenage girl anything much of interest to think about, Anna Paquin plays a complex, contradictory and credible middle-class New York high-school student struggling to process the moral and legal ramifications of a traffic accident that she witnessed, and the knowledge that adults don't really understand how the world works either. *****


The Ladykillers

12.25pm Channel 4

(Alexander Mackendrick, 1955) Ealing Studios' blackest comedy is a thoroughly delectable moral fable with a precision plot. Alec Guinness plays a criminal mastermind whose plans are inadvertently spoiled by his landlady, a terribly sweet and innocent old woman (Katie Johnson) whom he and his gang (including Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom) just don't seem able to bump off. Jack Warner also stars. *****


The Third Man

12.05pm Channel 4

(Carol Reed, 1949) Filmed at off-kilter angles and in expressive black-and-white amid the rubble and division of post-war Vienna, Carol Reed's superlative melancholy thriller, from Graham Greene's script, sees Joseph Cotten get in over his head as he looks into the death of his old school friend, Harry Lime. Leave it to Orson Welles to make one of the all-time great movie entrances. Alida Valli and Trevor Howard also star. *****


Pretty Woman

11.25pm BBC1

(Garry Marshall, 1990) Pretty Woman is a complete – and arguably pernicious – fairy tale, more Cinderella than Pygmalion, about a businessman who purchases and moulds a woman young enough to be his daughter. But it's also a Hollywood romantic fantasy to be swept along by, which has you rooting for these people because they are Richard Gere at his suavest and Julia Roberts at her most vivacious. ****