All about Eve (1950)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Saturday, 8.35pm

All about Eve (1950)

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy weekend. This deliciously barbed multiple-Oscar-winner is getting a welcome Saturday night airing on Talking Pictures TV. Bette Davis got her greatest role as ageing Broadway star Margo Channing, the queen bee of the theatre world whose glorious reign becomes threatened by an understudy – the eponymous Eve – who wants some of that success for herself. Anne Baxter is the conniving Eve, while George Sanders is sharp-tongued theatre critic Addison DeWitt, who alone is able to see straight through Eve’s charm offensive. At the dawn of the 1950s, this was the epitome of Hollywood’s idea of smart entertainment. Its Broadway satire trumped even that year’s great picture-business satire Sunset Blvd to the best picture Oscar. Joseph L. Mankiewicz won both best director and best screenplay too – and you only have to listen to a few minutes of All about Eve’s dialogue to understand why.

Nashville (1975)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Critic Pauline Kael once called Nashville “an orgy for movie-lovers”, and that’s still a useful phrase for getting at the unique sense of exhilaration this kaleidoscopic Robert Altman epic provides. The high-water mark of his astonishing 1970s run, it corrals 24 major characters – singers, songwriters, wannabes, politicians, a journalist – as it takes us through a hectic few days in the country music capital. The stars are assembling to celebrate 200 years of the USA as a republic: “We must be doing something right to last 200 years,” as Henry Gibson’s lion of the Grand Ole Opry sings in the giddying opening sequence. But something is rotten in the state of Tennessee, and across 160 minutes Joan Tewkesbury’s acid script and the restlessly explorative camera take the measure of an uneasy America defined by fathom-deep faultlines. Keeping track of Altman’s bustling caravan of a film as it moves across the screen – giving us a cameo here, a song there, some overheard gossip over there – is one of the cinema’s greatest pleasures.

PTU (2003)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Like Akira Kurosawa’s great Japanese noir Stray Dog (1949), Johnnie To’s PTU centres on a cop who’s lost his gun and his efforts to find it across a humid city. The setting is downtown Hong Kong in the dead of night. To’s film opens with an altercation between the cop and a gang of triads in a late-night restaurant, which is when the gun goes missing. Members of a PTU (Police Tactical Unit) step in to help locate the firearm, their efforts taking us through a vividly filmed world of arcades, warehouses and police cordons as the secret nocturnal interplay of law and lawlessness is laid before us. The city is eerily quiet, and To makes fantastic use of pockets of street light to illuminate the action. There’s something of Michael Mann’s taste for the illicit shadow life of a metropolis. PTU is just one of four films that the ultra-prolific To is credited as director on from 2003 alone, and it led to five To-produced spin-offs known as the Tactical Unit series. 

Salaam Bombay! (1988)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray, iTunes and Amazon Prime

Mira Nair’s fiction-feature debut, Salaam Bombay! grew out of her documentary work and a desire to portray the hardscrabble existence of children living on the streets of Mumbai (then still Bombay). Krishna, a young lad from a village near Bangalore, has a debt to pay to his family but arrives in Bombay by train to find streets far from paved with gold. Nair’s film sees him taking up company with the pimps, prostitutes and drug pushers operating out of the city’s slums, on a grim treadmill with little hope of rising upwards. The dividing line between Bollywood escapism and India’s social-realist tradition – alluded to throughout Salaam Bombay! in the various film posters and advertising hoardings we see – has often been overplayed. As far back as 1954’s Boot Polish, a Raj Kapoor-produced mega-production, Bollywood itself had form for dramatising the destitute poverty facing kids in the big city. But there’s no question that Nair’s film brought an urgent and humane new voice to Indian cinema.

Supernova (2020)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Now finally getting its delayed turn in cinemas, Supernova is the wrenchingly sad story of a gay couple, Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci), facing up to Tusker’s diagnosis with early on-set dementia. They’re on an RV trip through the rugged scenery of the Lake District, which makes this male two-hander a little reminiscent of the original The Trip (2010), with dementia instead of posh dinners. Director Harry Macqueen shoots Wordsworth country with an eye for light shifting over landscapes – there are outlooks on view here that take your breath away. But no less remarkable are the finely turned performances from Firth and Tucci, as two long-term lovers struggling to come to terms with upcoming loss. Much of the action takes place at Sam’s sister’s gorgeous farmhouse, and there’s a dinner-table speech from Tusker – but spoken by Sam – that’s heartbreaking to watch. It’s difficult to remember either actor being better.