New Order (2020)
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
The divide between haves and have nots is a recurring theme in modern Latin American cinema, but it’s rarely been so explosively expressed as in this divisive new film from Mexican provocateur Michel Franco. New Order charts a total breakdown in society, beginning at an elite wedding party where the 1% carouse amid a wrenching unease that something eruptive is about to happen. Soon armed protestors are overrunning the family home, waging revolution and rounding up the guests for violent retribution. Franco’s film became a cause célèbre on the festival circuit last year, but ran into controversy on home soil for its depiction of marauding, dark-skinned revolutionaries. Controversy is something a film like this goes looking for, though, and New Order is waiting to make anyone’s weekend that bit more uncomfortable.
To Joy (1950)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
Whiplash, Ingmar Bergman-style, this tale of the pursuit of musical excellence – and the emotional damage it can wreak – is one of a trio of the Swedish auteur’s earliest films that are finding their way onto BFI Player this week. The prolific young director was a dozen or so films into his career before he began to break the international scene, and his apprentice films have been comparatively neglected. Watching To Joy, however, leaves no doubt of the increasing confidence of a fledgling genius. Taking its title from the ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven’s 9th symphony, it’s the story of two orchestra violinists, Stig and Marta, whose marriage can’t bear the strain of Stig’s overweening ego and ambition. Including several of those wrenching dark-night-of-the-soul conversations that Bergman does better than anyone, the film opens with tragedy then circles back to survey the rot.
Open Range (2003)
Where’s is on? Blu-ray, also Amazon Prime
Glancing back over the notable westerns of the 21st century, most of them fit neatly into categories of pastiche or self-seriousness. So a shining exception is this third (and so far final) film from Kevin Costner as director. Starring Costner and Robert Duvall as two cattlemen on the open range in Montana, whose ‘free ranging’ raises the ire of a local land baron, it could instead be pigeon-holed simply as old-fashioned – except there’s real beauty and dynamism to Costner’s direction here; the way he frames landscapes and shoots action. His debut, Dances with Wolves (1990), got much more notice, but Open Range should be the one he’s remembered for. It’s amiable but muscular, and stunningly shot by J. Michael Muro, who did Steadicam on Dances with Wolves and here made his debut as director of photography.
Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945)
Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Sunday, 10am
If the name Ealing Studios evokes cosy comedies for you, then here’s a film about a Victorian poisoner in which the atmosphere of cruelty fairly curdles off the screen. Pink string and sealing wax is how pharmacists used to wrap dangerous concoctions, and they give a memorable title to this standalone debut feature from Robert Hamer. Hamer was the darkest of Ealing’s stalwarts: he contributed the creepy haunted mirror episode to their seminal portmanteau horror film Dead of Night (1945) and is most famous for the multiple-murder comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). His debut is set in Brighton in the year 1900, where the drama negotiates the different class tiers represented by Mervyn Johns’ patriarch’s suffocatingly bourgeois home and the bustling pub over which Googie Withers’ landlady presides.
The Other Side of Hope (2017)
Where’s it on? BBC2, Monday, 12.05am
A possible influence on Ben Sharrock’s Limbo (currently in cinemas) in its unusually deadpan treatment of immigrant experience, The Other Side of Hope gets a timely airing on TV this weekend. This is the final film to date by the brilliant Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, whose idiosyncratic style is present and correct in this story of a Helsinki restaurateur who befriends a Syrian refugee newly arrived in Finland. It’s a fable both very much of our modern world and at 90 degrees to it, Kaurismaki’s colour palettes, front-on framings and languidly expressed optimism as stylised in their very different way as a Wes Anderson film. It’s a fine thing to see subtitled fare like this showing up on the BBC, and this is a great diving in point to get a taste for Kaurismaki and then gorge on the rest.