Il buco (2021)
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
Plato’s allegory of the cave, its cave dwellers rapt by flickering shadows on the walls, seems to have predicted the cinema. With Michelangelo Frammartino’s Il buco, the chain comes full circle: here is a drama about a 1960s descent into the cave systems under the Calabrian countryside that holds us entranced. Frammartino is the Italian filmmaker behind 2010’s minimalist pastoral Le quattro volte – an arthouse highlight of its year. His return is a similarly languid evocation of rural Italy coupled with a subterranean anti-adventure that thrills in its procedural detail; its meditative exploration of caverns, tunnels and the magic of light exposing a concealed world. It’s one of the great cinematic experiences of the decade so far.
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
Like Frammartino, Lucile Hadžihalilović keeps us waiting between films. Eleven years passed between her surreal girls-school reverie Innocence (2004) and its follow-up, Evolution (2015). Happily, we’ve only had to wait another six for her third full-length feature. Earwig is adapted from a 2019 novella by Brian Catling, whose dark fairytale scenario might almost have been written with Hadžihalilović in mind. In a lonely apartment somewhere in Europe, a young girl is looked after by a fastidious male guardian. It’s his job to replace her dentures every day – the ones made of frozen saliva – while preparing her for a mysterious, potentially ominous future. With a loping, hypnotic theme played on ondes martenot, Hadžihalilović’s English-language debut is a mesmerising detour into the uncanny.
Where’s it on? Film4, Saturday, 9pm
On the subject of long waits between films, James Cameron is about to break the silence of 13 years with the release of his new Avatar film – his first movie since Avatar the first in 2009. Some have felt that wait more keenly than others perhaps, but Film4 is helping to bridge our anticipation with a Cameron double-bill this Saturday. First up is his watery action tragedy Titanic, now quarter of a century old but still one of the last generations-uniting movie mega-events. For all its state-of-the-art destruction, the movie’s teary love story and disaster-movie dynamics make it a notably old-fashioned last hurrah for classical filmmaking before Cameron upped-sticks for Pandora. Going further back and deeper underwater is The Abyss (12.50am), his 1989 sci-fi about a strange force 25,000 feet below sea level.
The Mark of Zorro (1940)
Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Saturday, 2.10pm
The best Zorro picture, and one of the great swashbucklers. Rouben Mamoulian’s film sees Tyrone Power as the returning son of a California nobleman who assumes dual identities to take on his homeland’s despotic new governor and his dastardly henchman (Basil Rathbone). He’s a fop one minute, a masked avenger the next. This 20th Century-Fox production takes us back to old California in the 1820s, when it was part of the Mexican empire, and scores were still best settled with a rapier duel. Power was a devil with a blade and is in dashing form in the role played by Douglas Fairbanks in the 1920 silent version and Antonio Banderas in the 1998 edition.
All My Friends Hate Me (2021)
The kind of cinema that likes to make us squirm is riding high at the moment. Ruben Östlund is the joker prince with his two Palme d’Or winners The Square (2017) and this year’s Triangle of Sadness. But now comes this supernova of unease from British comedy duo Totally Tom, who co-wrote the script and cast Tom Stourton himself as the do-gooder, Pete, who arrives at a birthday bash/uni reunion being held for him at his wealthy friend’s huge manor. Perhaps there’s a trace of Joanna Hogg’s Archipelago (2011) here, which set a comparable amount of squirm into orbit around another ‘gap-yar’ type (also played by a Tom; in that case, Hiddleston). But Andrew Gaynord’s film parts company by slowly creeping into psycho-drama territory, as Pete is forced to question every freighted moment with his assembled frenemies.