Anatomy of a Fall (2023)
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
With its title gesturing back to Otto Preminger’s top-of-its-class courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder (1959), this riveting new French film from Justine Triet hinges on a man dropping to his death from the top floor of an Alpine chalet. Did he jump or was he pushed? In a performance of unwavering ambiguity and steely reserve, Toni Erdmann star Sandra Hüller plays the wife accused of his murder, who will see her troubled marriage raked over by the prosecution. Amid wide acclaim and a Palme d’Or, one naysaying critic has likened Triet’s film to an airport novel given an arthouse polish, but Hüller’s masterclass buttresses Anatomy of a Fall with layers of nuance and doubt.
King & Country (1964)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms
Another legal confrontation is the core of this British film from 1964, though the scales are tipped heavily against the defendant. Made by American director Joseph Losey in the gap between The Servant (1963) and Modesty Blaise (1966), it stars Tom Courtenay as the First World War soldier charged with desertion. Dirk Bogarde is the officer defending his case by emphasising the doomed man’s mental health. He delivers an extraordinary closing argument, despite his clear disdain for the pointlessness of the proceedings. When a dog’s back is broken, you just shoot it, he says, you don’t stand around talking about it. Losey’s bleak and claustrophobic drama takes place entirely within a small network of muddy trenches and bunkers, and amid the infernal drip-drip-drip of unending rain.
One False Move (1991)
Where’s it on? 4K UHD and Blu-ray
Carl Franklin’s gripping neo-noir sees criminals Ray (Billy Bob Thornton), Pluto (Michael Beach) and Fantasia (Cynda Williams) going on the lam after a bloody night of drug-related murder in Los Angeles. The scene travels east as the trio heads to Arkansas to sell their haul, with LAPD detectives and local copper Bill Paxton hot on their trail. Franklin’s tense, brutal thriller was initially deemed worth only a straight-to-video release, before gathering acclaim led to a turn in cinemas and now, in 2023, its canonisation via a 4K UHD and Blu-ray from Criterion. It’s one of the great American crime films of the 1990s.
Black God, White Devil (1964)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
Black God, White Devil is Glauber Rocha’s explosive landmark of Cinema Novo, Brazil’s new wave. Modernist, yet told with the blunt force of a folktale, it’s the story of an outlaw hiding out in the unforgiving landscapes of Brazil’s backcountry, the sertão. Having killed the boss who tried to cheat him, he becomes a wandering figure and a thorn in the side of the ruling elite, something like Robin Hood or Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name. Along with Antonio das Mortes (1969) and the truly visionary The Age of the Earth (1980), this is one of those fiery, confrontational works with which Rocha sought to liberate cinema from Western models and hack out a distinct path for Brazilian film.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Where’s it on? BBC2, Saturday, 14.50
Franklin J. Schaffner’s sci-fi classic is ideal Saturday afternoon viewing, even if a TV broadcast raises the possibility that new viewers could tune in near the end and have the great twist spoiled for them. Charlton Heston plays one of the astronauts who awakens from deep hibernation barely aged but now living in the year 3978. After their spacecraft crashlands, they find themselves on an unfamiliar planet where apes rule and human beings are right at the bottom of the caste system. Endlessly appealing, despite so many sequels, remakes and reboots, Planet of the Apes is big enough on ideas about evolution and humankind’s destiny to count as the pulpier sibling to that other great ape-featuring sci-fi landmark of 1968, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
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