Where’s it on? BFI Player
This gripping Romanian doc details the grim fallout from the fire at Bucharest’s Colectiv nightclub in 2015, which led to the largest loss of lives on Romanian soil this century after audience members became trapped inside. The incident – shown in brief video footage in the opening moments – is horrific, but Alexander Nanau’s film moves on quickly to focus on the work of a reporting team from the sports paper Gazeta Sporturilor investigating why an even greater number of casualties died in hospital afterwards. What they uncover is healthcare fraud going to the top of government – a widespread cost-cutting measure involving diluted disinfectant that has potentially fatal consequences for patients even as it lines high-ranking pockets. Collective unravels as a real-life procedural in the manner of Spotlight (2015), before changing focus to follow at close quarters the arrival of a new health minister as he attempts to get a handle on the toxic system he’s inherited. Shot in vérité style, with no narration, Nanau’s sickening but compulsively watchable film must rank among the year’s finest documentaries.
The Apartment (1960)
When’s it on? BBC2, Sunday, 15:10
A Sunday afternoon in late November is a fine time to stumble on or revisit this sour-sweet comedy from Billy Wilder. Set over the Christmas period, it stars Jack Lemmon as an office drone in a New York insurance company who attempts to curry favour with the boss by lending out his apartment for the latter to carry out his extra-marital shenanigans. The last black-and-white film of the classic era to win the Oscar for best picture, The Apartment followed directly after Some Like It Hot (1959) in Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond’s hot streak of stingingly cynical romantic comedies. It boasts as memorable a last line as its predecessor’s “Nobody’s perfect”, this time delivered by Shirley MacLaine’s no-nonsense elevator operator Fran Kubelik. As festive films go, this is an unusually bitter and despairing proposition, steeped in the atomising loneliness of life and work in a big city, yet its status as an all-time classic comedy looks unshakeable by now.
Play for Today Volume 1
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
BBC’s long-running Play for Today strand represents a goldmine of British screen drama, with more than 300 stories broadcast during the 1970s and early 80s. Yet only a select few of the most celebrated examples have been widely available until now. This new Blu-ray box-set brings together 7 plays that give a good example of the scope and quality of the series at its best. Mixing studio and location filming, the finest of them deliver a bracing sense of what grown-up telly was like at the time, engaging with politics, race, relationships, British identity and many more issues besides. Of particular note here is 1977’s A Photograph, a canonical folk horror playing on the clash of rural and urban cultures as it delves into the mystery of a photograph sent to a smug arts journalist. 1970’s The Lie is a brittle examination of marital breakdown based on an Ingmar Bergman play; the bawdy Shakespeare or Bust (1973) follows a group of miner friends on a canal trip to Stratford-upon-Avon; and 1975’s A Passage to England – directed by the future helmer of The Long Good Friday (1980), John Mackenzie – knottily engages with the subject of immigration as an Indian family in Amsterdam strike a deal with a British skipper to take them to England.
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
It’s silly season for fans of Japan’s kaiju monster movies right now, with suitably gigantic sets collecting various Godzilla and Gamera cycles emerging on Blu-ray from labels like Criterion and Arrow. More modest in dimensions, this week’s release of 1961’s Mothra on Eureka’s Masters of Cinema imprint is no less welcome. Directed by Ishiro Honda, the safe pair of hands behind the original 1954 Godzilla movie, this was the debut flight for the friendlier face of Toho’s golden-era monster menagerie: a humongous caterpillar larvae, no less capable of leaving trails of destruction in her path, but with distinctly maternal instincts too. Honda’s film follows the model of King Kong (1933) in centring on an expedition to a tropical island – in this case a nuclear test site – where the discovery and entrapment of 2 fairy-sized young women awakens the wrath of their moth guardian, who follows the expedition back to Tokyo on a rampant recovery mission. Writ large across the brightly coloured Tohoscope frame, Mothra’s mix of fantasy, sci-fi and monster mayhem is irresistible. Eureka are also releasing a separate Honda double bill this week, with a set teaming 1958’s The H-Man and 1959’s Battle in Outer Space.
Where’s it on? BBC1, Sunday, 21:00
Steve McQueen’s 5-film anthology series Small Axe continues on BBC1 this weekend with a knight’s move away from the real-life rage and racial injustices of the opening instalment, Mangrove. Rapturous in its foregrounding of music, romance and pleasure, Lovers Rock is a fictional tale set amid the West Indian community in Ladbroke Grove in the early 1980s. The 69-minute running time is taken up almost entirely by the house party where a young couple meet and fall for each other amid an ecstatic crowd getting down to a shifting soundtrack of reggae, dub and soul. In what might be the best house party sequence in British film, McQueen’s director of photography, Shabier Kirchner, closely attends the writhing bodies and sweaty euphoria, which peaks during a spin of Janet Kay’s 1979 hit ‘Silly Games’ that McQueen ekes out into an extended sequence of total joy.