Preview: Films of the week

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The Independent Culture

Sun 10pm BBC2

Not sure whether to see itself as a TV drama or an old-fashioned movie, this Irish comedy had a brief cinema release and won prizes at the San Sebastian Film Festival. But it was clearly destined for life on television. It falls between genres, being essentially an American road movie dislocated to Ireland. Git (Peter McDonald) finds himself teamed up (on an assignment for a gangland boss) with Bunny (Brendan Gleeson, above with McDonald), a would-be hard man with an obscurely threatening line in table talk: "No guts, no blood pudding - I think you know what I mean ..." The mission goes wrong, of course, and they are soon in charge of the world's most talkative hostage. (1997)


Wed 11.30pm C4

Monsieur Arnaud is a retired judge who is writing his memoirs; Nelly is a typist who can help him put his notes in order and produce the manuscript. Claude Sautet's film sets up a typical older- man-younger-woman situation, then subtly undermines our expectations; the director is interested in unrealised possibilities and unspoken feelings. Michel Serrault plays the disappointed man with fine restraint and Emmanuelle Beart (above), who starred in Sautet's previous film, Un Coeur en hiver, is improbably convincing as the lively young woman slowly developing a real affection for her employer. Don't expect too much to happen: this is where you sit back and savour the quality of life. (1995)


Wed 11.50pm BBC1

Ira Levin's novel opens with a neat premise: an ambitious young couple (20 years later, they would be yuppies) rent a flat in an old brownstone building in New York. They are charmed by the place, less so by the busybodies next door; but the warning signs are deceptively slight and the sinister atmosphere slowly builds up. After Repulsion, this was material made for Roman Polanski, and Mia Farrow (above) is excellent as the young woman drawn into a satanic plot, in the course of which everyone who might help her either dies in mysterious circumstances or defects to the Devil. Much nastier than anything Hitchcock ever made, this is one of the great horror movies. (1968)


Fri 11pm BBC1

How do you get hold of a false passport? How do you smuggle a rifle through customs or past a police cordon? This kind of information (of no use to most of us) was what made Frederick Forsyth's novel so appealing; and attention to the same details carries Fred Zinnemann's film. Edward Fox (above) plays the ice-cold assassin, hired by the right-wing OAS to kill President de Gaulle and who always manages to keep one step ahead of the police. His professionalism and ingenuity are such that we rather want him to succeed; and the film takes it right down to the line. We may never need to test a rifle sight for an assassination, but it is somehow reassuring to know how it is done - just in case. (1973)


Sat 12.15am BBC1

By general consent, Philip Kaufman's version of Don Siegel's 1956 horror "classic" is one of the better Hollywood remakes. Donald Sutherland plays the San Fransisco public health inspector whose assistant (Brooke Adams) starts to notice changes in the behaviour of her friends. The original story was often interpreted as reflecting McCarthyite paranoia about the undermining of America by the creeping Communist menace. No such sub-text here. Jeff Goldblum got an early starring role as one of the victims and Kevin McCarthy, who played the lead in the 1956 film, makes a neat cameo appearance in a respectful tribute to Siegel's original. (1978)


Sat 12.20am BBC2

Karel Reisz arrived in Britain from Czechoslovakia just before the Second World War, fought with the RAF and became a leading figure in the Free Cinema movement of the 1950s, making the documentaries Momma Don't Allow (with Tony Richardson) and We Are The Lambeth Boys. The Gambler, from a highly literate script by James Toback, was his first film in America. It stars James Caan (above), in one of his best performances, as the university lecturer addicated to gambling who rationalises his situation by reference to Dostoyevsky. So begins a destructive downward spiral. Reisz went on to make The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) but, like Caan, never seems to have quite fulfilled his promise. (1974)

Satellite films

La Reine Margot (Mon 1.55am FilmFour) Classy if blood-spattered version of Dumas's novel about the 16th-century religious wars. (1994)

The Leopard (Tues 12m't SkyCinema) Luchino Visconti's epic film of aristocratic decline starred Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale; but what you remember is the scenery and set pieces. (1963)

Secrets and Lies (Tues 10pm FilmFour) Touching, quirky drama of family life, one of Mike Leigh's most successful and accessible films. (1995)

My Best Friend's Wedding (Thurs 8pm SkyPremier) Julia Roberts stars as the girl determined to stop Cameron Diaz from getting to the altar with her boyfriend. Bitchy comedy. (1997)

Crimes and Misdemeanours (Fri 10pm SkyCinema) Woody Allen's brilliant, complex meditation on guilt, with Martin Landau as the successful doctor who does away with his mistress to save his family. (1989)