The Green Knight (2021)
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide and Amazon Prime
The Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight gets a solemn but visually stunning big-screen treatment courtesy of David Lowery, the writer-director behind A Ghost Story (2017) and The Old Man & the Gun (2018). Dev Patel plays the round-table nobleman who must travel through a land of magic and danger in order to keep a potentially deadly date with the mysterious Green Knight. His picaresque adventures take in a talking fox, a ghostly lakeside encounter and what may be mainstream Arthurian cinema’s first money shot. Lowery has said he was inspired by 1980s fantasy films like Excalibur (1981) and Willow (1985), while tonally the film steers a course somewhere between illuminated manuscript and 70s folk-rock album.
Johnny Guitar (1954)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
A black sheep among 1950s westerns in its feverish tone, its lurid colours and its topsy-turvy vision of gender roles in the old west, Johnny Guitar got no respect in its time, but was one of those bargain-basement Hollywood genre films that became highly praised by French critics. François Truffaut called it the “Beauty and the Beast of westerns”, going so far as to say that rejecting Nicholas Ray’s film was rejecting cinema itself. Getting a Blu-ray edition this week courtesy of Eureka, there’s still nothing quite like it. The tale of a town turning on Joan Crawford’s saloon-keeper Vienna, it smuggles both sexual neuroses and a critique of McCarthyism into a vision of small-town Arizona so stylised that you feel like you’re dreaming it. Utterly essential.
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
This inspired debut feature from France centres on a teenager living in Paris’s Cité Gagarine housing project who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Like the block itself, young Youri (Alséni Bathily) was named after the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who we see visiting the site in real archive footage in the opening moments of Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh’s film. He was always going to have space on the brain, but now the apartments are due for demolition and Youri begins a mission to save his mothership, reality merging with wide-eyed, cosmic fantasy. From Stranger Things to Midnight Special, Spielbergian wonder is an abused flavour. But in its documentation of an actual building in the days before its destruction, Gagarine manages to keep its feet on the ground even as it soars up to the stars.
Escape from New York (1981)
Where’s it on? Film4, Saturday, 11.25pm
Like Spielberg, John Carpenter is one of those divinities of 1970s and 80s genre cinema whose work is a touchstone for every new generation of geek auteurs. Coming in the middle of that unimpeachable run that also included the likes of Halloween (1978) and The Thing (1982), Escape from New York is his creative fusion of dystopian sci-fi and the jailbreak movie. It forecast a violent 1997 in which the island of Manhattan has become a maximum-security prison. Kurt Russell is the eye-patch-wearing inmate Snake Plissken, who is promised a pardon if he can rescue the American president, whose hijacked aircraft has crash-landed downtown. We also get a rogue’s gallery of supporting toughs including Lee Van Cleef, Isaac Hayes, Ernest Borgnine and Donald Pleasence. Forty years on, it still looks like an irresistible Saturday night.
Where’s it on? BFI Player
Just added to BFI Player on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, Gallivant is the first feature by that intriguing artist and wanderer Andrew Kötting. It’s an adventure and travelogue that found Kötting accompanying his 85-year-old grandmother and his seven-year-old daughter Eden, who has the rare genetic disorder Joubert’s Syndrome, on a clockwise tour around the British coastline. Neither of his companions have a long life expectancy (though, happily, Eden continues to defy the odds), so the unique trip is undercut with a sense of mortality. Yet it’s the vitality that registers, both in the growing closeness between Eden and her great grandmother and in Kötting’s freewheeling survey of British people, places and folk traditions. 1996 was the year of Trainspotting, Brassed Off and Secrets & Lies, but it was Gallivant that flew the flame for British cinema’s more idiosyncratic potential.