The Woman in Black (1989)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
While the slim novel by Susan Hill achieved popular success on release in 1983, it was in its afterlife of adaptations across multiple media that The Woman in Black cemented its position as one of the most enduring modern classics in the gothic fiction canon. With numerous radio adaptations bearing its name, a phenomenally successful London stage production – the second longest running in West End history – and a solid 2012 film starring Daniel Radcliffe, made under the newly resurrected Hammer Studios banner, it’s safe to say you can pick your poison when it comes to gnawing your nails through Hill’s chills.
The multimedia buffet gets a whole lot richer this week as the most effective adaptation surfaces on Blu-ray in a stunning restoration, following decades out of circulation. First broadcast at Christmas in 1989 (and only once repeated since), this ITV production bears the pedigree of a screenplay by Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale. Television stalwart Herbert Wise’s remarkable use of off-screen sound gets the nerves jangling early, as we follow a young London probate lawyer to the isolated estate he’s due to administrate. The dreadful atmosphere doesn’t let up, but fans of The Woman in Black’s other incarnations will be holding their breath for a particular moment… suffice to say it doesn’t disappoint.
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
The title of Australian filmmaker Shannon Murphy’s debut feature comes from a quirk described by the 16-year-old Milla (Eliza Scanlen), a cancer patient still holding on to one of her baby teeth. It’s the kind of moment that should set alarm bells ringing, that we’re in for a dime-a-dozen teen drama that’s more invested in a screenwriter’s loaded metaphorical gambit than the hard work of manifesting a character’s inner truth via less ready-to-eat means.
In truth, it’s a throwaway moment, and Murphy, working from a screenplay by Rita Kalnejais (adapting her own play), proves committed to undercutting apparent genre tropes with wit and, in the case of Scanlen’s remarkable performance, a defiant dignity. It makes for an affecting study in the implications of a grief impending, with strong support from Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn as the parents stumbling through their own marital rupture and a terrific Toby Wallace as Milla’s newfound junkie flame, Moses. It’s less assured when it moves away from Milla’s subjectivity, perhaps, but it’s refreshing to find a teen weepie that really earns its tears.
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
Month after month, you can always rely on the team at Second Run to unearth a little-seen gem from corners of the globe underrepresented on the home video market. Their August release is the fiction feature debut of Slovakian filmmaker Martin Sulik, a psychosexual drama with more than a few early-Polanski vibes about it in which a young man (Gejza Benko) becomes the third wheel in the political and sexual complexities of an older couple’s tempestuous relationship.
Released immediately after the fall of the Slovak Socialist Republic, the film charts the regime’s devastating effects on personal relationships under the 10-year period of ‘normalisation’. It’s a striking debut; formally and structurally rigorous, and elliptically designed to keep its central trio at arm’s length, foregrounding their alienation and rendering the film’s title cruelly ironic. It all comes to a head in a fourth act that fuses the personal and political, laying bare the couple’s complicity in the depersonalising moral degradation of the regime.
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
If all goes to plan, in less than a fortnight audiences in the UK will finally be able to lay their eyes on Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s much-hyped and much-delayed palindromic action wotsit. Yet, this being 2020, and with Nolan’s film elevated to the level of messianic saviour of the seventh art, it’d be foolhardy to rule out such prohibiting factors as swarms of locusts or plagues of pestilent boils pushing its release back further for ‘select territories’.
In preparation for the coming of Tenet on 26 August, cinemas are getting their warm-up act on, engaged in a gentle stretch of awards season reruns, fan favourites and – most interestingly – some smaller independent fare allowed the run of the building without any blockbuster bullies to elbow them out of the way. Naturally, Nolan’s 2010 behemoth Inception falls into the middle category, easing IMAX projectors back into action and whetting fan appetites for his latest conceptual roly-poly. If you haven’t seen Inception, this IMAX re-release is a must, affording it the country’s biggest screens for its images to tower over its ideas.
Infinite Football (2018)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
With The Whistlers, the latest from Romanian New Wave figurehead Corneliu Porumboiu, newly available on DVD following a VoD release back in May, here’s a chance to catch a smaller-scale effort from a couple of years back on BFI Player. Porumboiu shares his documentary stage with his pal Laurentiu Ginghina, a low-level bureaucrat obsessed with rewriting the rules of football. The film begins with Ginghina describing an injury he suffered on the pitch, not “the fault of those around me nor my fault, it was the fault of imposed rules, norms, which weren’t the best”. He takes to a whiteboard to talk his mate through his proposed changes, the same he sent to various football clubs and UK sports lawyers.
If the 10 minutes or so spent at the board may go over the head of those not versed in the legislature of the beautiful game, Porumboiu’s broader scheme soon comes into play as he chews the fat with his friend about his job, which largely seems to consist of opening letters and passing the important ones on to his seniors. It’s a droll and tender portrait of a bored dreamer; a poetic ode to the personal obsessions that help us get through even the dreariest of days.