5 things to watch this weekend – 17 to 19 January

Including peerless Hollywood romance, creepy English afternoons and backwoods adventure...

17 January 2020

By Sam Wigley

A Hidden Life (2019)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Already the third big war film to be released this new decade (following Jojo Rabbit and 1917), Terrence Malick’s towering 10th feature takes its title from a Middlemarch quote and its inspiration from the life of an Austrian farmer, Franz Jägerstätter, who defied the Nazis to become a conscientious objector during the Second World War. Although ignored by awards season, it’s getting a far wider release than any of Malick’s divisive recent run of experimental narratives, with many Malick apostates coming back on board to praise this monumental study of one man’s unbending faith and principle during wartime. Shot in Malick’s characteristically rapturous style, with regular camera operator Jörg Widmer now stepping up as DP, the story unravels in another of Malick’s earthly paradises, the Alpine village where Jägerstätter’s community live in bucolic calm until war breaks out and Hitler’s forces call upon the farmers to enlist.

Holiday (1938)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Holiday (1938)

Set over New Year and with a plot tackling the decisions we’re all forced to make about what’s most important to us in life, George Cukor’s 1938 Hollywood romance Holiday is ideal January fare. Teaming Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in the same astonishing year that they made Bringing Up Baby together, Holiday is the gentler and more melancholic of these two classics, with the screwball elements more screwed down. Welcomed into the heart of a supremely affluent Park Avenue family after his new fiancée reveals she’s a banker’s daughter, Grant plays the self-made man who begins to wonder if the more idiosyncratic attitudes of the elder sister aren’t more his speed. Based on a hit 1928 play by Philip Barry, this wise and immaculate film is out on Blu-ray from Criterion, with an earlier 1930 adaptation included as an extra.

Suntan (2016)

Where’s it on? Film 4, Monday, 1.05am

These dark January days have many of us starting to think about booking a summer holiday, so don’t let this bit of Film4 scheduling put you off. Argyris Papadimitropoulos’s disquieting Greek-island drama begins at Christmas time, as a middle-aged doctor arrives to settle into his new position at the clinic in an out-of-season resort. By summer, the town is heaving with sunseekers, and the lonely doctor – balding and overweight – finds himself bedazzled by the influx of the young and beautiful. After aiding a holidaymaker who comes off her quad bike, he gets woefully hung up on her grateful friendliness and youthful charm. Piercingly sad up until the point it turns sinister, Suntan is a character study guaranteed to make men of a certain age squirm, laying bare a mid-life crisis with cruel precision and insight.

Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

From the limpid heat of the Greek islands to grey old Britain, but with a predatory set-up that’s doubly sinister. In this enticingly titled Bryan Forbes drama from 1964, Richard Attenborough plays the hen-pecked husband of a clairvoyant who makes him the pawn in her plan to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy local couple. The idea is that she’ll subsequently win both publicity and the ransom money for using her powers to help the police find the missing girl, though the plan inevitably goes awry as the influence of the medium (theatre actor Kim Stanley) over Attenborough’s impressionable asthmatic Billy wavers. The action moves between the gloomy interiors of the couple’s Victorian home and the depressing country lanes where Billy carries out his squirrelly misdemeanours. Attenborough won a BAFTA for this indelible entry in his catalogue of on-screen creeps.

The Big Sky (1952)

Where’s it on? Sony Movies Action, Sunday, 7am

The Big Sky (1952)

Sony Movies Action have a Sunday morning slot for this woodsy pioneering tale directed by Howard Hawks. Far less well known than Hawks’ major westerns Red River (1948) and Rio Bravo (1959), it’s an epic adventure starring Kirk Douglas and Dewey Martin as two Kentuckian backwoodsmen who join a trading expedition up the Missouri river to sell furs to Blackfeet Indians. Myriad perils are encountered amid the hostile terrain, but as ever with Hawks it’s the camaraderie and larks between the two men that are pushed to the fore, meaning there’s plenty of time for romantic rivalries and the boozy hoedown of ‘Whiskey, Leave Me Alone’ too. Ace cinematographer Russell Harlan got one of his six Oscar nominations for his beautiful location work in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

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