Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
Rereleases don’t come any more valuable than this 1968 classic of African cinema from Senegalese firebrand Ousmane Sembène. Debuting in a 4K restoration, this half-century-old parable about the lingering rot of colonialism is among Sembène’s most piercing satires. The set-up is like something out of a Preston Sturges movie or an Ealing comedy. In a village on the outskirts of Dakar, a vain, lazy and broke husband with two wives and seven children learns that his nephew, who has emigrated to Paris in search of work, has sent him a money order. News of his windfall quickly gets around – creditors, beggars and crooks all begin to circle – but when he tries to cash the money he finds a bureaucratic system stacked against him. He needs ID to claim the cash, and documentation he doesn’t have in order to get the ID. His efforts only accrue him more debts. This was Sembène’s second feature, his first in colour and his first in his native Wolof – a milestone for him and for cinema.
The Father (2020)
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
Among the last of the big awards season films to go on UK release, The Father saw this year’s Oscars and BAFTAs neatly aligned in giving Anthony Hopkins best actor and Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton best adapted screenplay for their revisioning of Zeller’s own 2012 play. It’s the juiciest thing Hopkins has had in ages, playing a man with progressing dementia whose constant state of confusion is made disorientingly relatable for the viewer by the way Zeller’s fractured drama plays out from his unreliable perspective. His daughter (Olivia Colman) is moving to Paris and trying to arrange a thick-skinned carer to look after her cantankerous dad, but the timescale of events and the identities of the people around him are shifting and uncertain. Sudden changes in the flat – the colour of the walls, the layout of the furniture – add subtle turns of the screw. While The Father’s origins as a stage play are inescapable, Zeller’s film is brutally effective and affecting as a study in mental disintegration.
Hell and High Water (1954)
Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Saturday, 4pm
Not to be confused with the 2016 modern western Hell or High Water, Hell and High Water is a Cold War thriller set largely below the waves. The 1950s saw a heyday for the submarine movie, and Samuel Fuller got in on the action with this early CinemaScope production, somewhat perversely using the new widescreen format to film mainly inside the submersible. With typical Fuller sensationalism, it all begins with a nuclear mushroom cloud behind the opening credits. A French scientist has disappeared, and there are suggestions he defected. A former US submarine commander (Richard Widmark) is lured to Tokyo after receiving a mysterious package of cash. Soon he’s agreeing to command an old Japanese submarine on a secret mission to investigate a nuclear plot by Communist China. Fuller’s first film in colour, Hell and High Water doesn’t have the careening energy of his best work, but its claustrophobic on-board tensions keep your interest until an explosive climax.
Meek’s Cutoff (2010)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
With indie behemoth A24 behind it, First Cow is bringing new audiences to the gentle, observational cinema of Kelly Reichardt. Fans of that exquisite frontier tale will want to circle back and discover her earlier Oregon origins story – Meek’s Cutoff, from 2010. Just added to BFI Player, it’s set on the Oregon High Desert in the year 1845, where the eponymous Meek is a guide leading a group of settlers through challenging terrain. Supplies are running low and the families are beginning to doubt whether Meek really knows the route. Like First Cow, Meek’s Cutoff is a western of sorts, but one that shifts the focus from cowboys to ordinary people – particularly, in this case, the women – trying to forge an existence in the old west. It’s shot in the boxy Academy ratio, which deglamorises those huge western landscapes. Heroics are kept out of frame too. Instead, we’re made to feel the danger, drudgery and isolation of pioneer life.
Where’s it on? Film4, Sunday, 1.50pm
Made at the dawn of the home computer era, WarGames made a star of the young Matthew Broderick as David Lightman, a teenage computer nerd who inadvertently sets wheels in motion for World War Three after hacking into government computer WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), thinking it’s a game. “Wouldn’t you prefer a nice game of chess?”, WOPR will ask David. No, David’s more interested in a program called Global Thermonuclear War, enthusiastically beginning to plan the destruction first of Las Vegas, then his hometown of Seattle – not realising his dabbling is having the gravest of real-world implications. The director is John Badham, riding high on a run that also included Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Short Circuit (1986). It was a huge box office success, leading to a console game for Atari and Commodore 64. It’s like an adolescent Dr. Strangelove, and remains ground zero for early-80s retro-chic nostalgia.