Where’s it on? All digital platforms including BFI Player
As Flare, our annual celebration of queer cinema, reaches its final weekend, BFI Player also sees the release of the new ode to queer romance from God’s Own Country director Francis Lee. Ammonite is a tale of illicit lesbian desire set on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast in the mid 19th century. Lee’s film brings together Kate Winslet as real-life paleontologist Mary Anning and Saorise Ronan as geologist Charlotte Murchison for a speculative romance. Stifled by her marriage, the sickly Murchison is in town to take the salty air when her head is turned by Winlset’s morose fossil hunter. The pair pursue a passionate affair that’s at odds with the repressive morality of the Victorian era. It’s a portrait of a paleontologist on fire, in many ways, although Ammonite goes its own intriguing way in the final stretches.
Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Sunday, 10pm
The pick of the films on TV this weekend is this 1963 Hollywood drama with two Oscar-winning performances to its name. Patricia Neal won best actress for her turn as Alma, the housekeeper on a family ranch in Texas who falls for cocksure rancher’s son Hud Bannon (Paul Newman) against her better judgement. Melvyn Douglas took best supporting actor as patriarch Homer Bannon. Martin Ritt’s film is a western of a kind. The men wear cowboy hats. But it’s set in the present day, and exudes the sense of an old way of life reaching the end of the trail. It’s based on a novel by Larry McMurtry, whose work later inspired acclaimed Texas tales The Last Picture Show (1971) and Terms of Endearment (1983). James Wong Howe’s black-and-white cinematography (also Oscar-winning) brings the tempestuous drama a poetic grandeur.
Where’s it on? Virtual cinemas and various digital platforms
This week’s most forbidding new release is the latest film from Cristi Puiu, who emerged as one of the major directors of the Romanian New Wave with The Death of Mr. Lazarescu back in 2005. Set entirely in a Transylvanian manor house and its snowy grounds at Christmas in the year 1900, Malmkrog looks nothing like his previous work. Fleshing out Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov’s 1915 text War and Christianity, Puiu’s film invites us to draw up a chair as we watch gathered aristocratic friends engage in a series of lengthy debates on war, religion, Russian identity and European culture. At 3 hours and 20 mins, it’s fair to say that Malmkrog won’t be for everyone. Its dense dialogues demand intense concentration. They barely stop apart from occasional interludes in which we observe servants going about their business. Puiu’s masterful staging brings plenty of rewards, though, and there’s something invigorating and brilliant about a film so aggressively out of step with prevailing trends.
Au revoir les enfants (1988)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
A trio of films by Louis Malle are added to BFI Player this weekend. Malle’s career coincided with the French New Wave, and the earliest of the three films is his classic Lift to the Scaffold (1958), that sultry thriller with Jeanne Moreau and a Miles Davis score. The other two are tales of young people in occupied France. 1974’s Lacombe Lucien sees a resentful teen in rural Normandy joining the Gestapo after he’s rejected by the Resistance. The heartbreaking Au revoir les enfants, meanwhile, is drawn from Malle’s own experiences growing up. The drama takes place in a Carmelite school in the French countryside and details the growing friendship between Julien (Gaspard Manesse) and a young Jewish boy hiding out in the school under an alias. Au revoir les enfants was Malle’s triumphant return to French filmmaking after more than a decade in the States. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and still looks like one of his best.
Man Marked for Death (also known as Twenty Years Later) (1984)
Where’s it on? Essay Film Festival
Streaming for free as part of this year’s Essay Film Festival, this Brazilian classic is a making-of documentary with a difference. In 1964, Eduardo Coutinho was making a drama called Man Marked for Death about the killing two years previously of peasant leader João Pedro Teixeira. He cast Teixeira’s widow and other family members as themselves. But the military coup that year forced him to abandon production. Two decades later, in this documentary of the same name (confusingly also known by the alternative title of Twenty Years Later), Coutinho went in search of the people and places who’d featured in his film, at a point when Brazil was now making steps towards democracy. So it’s a documentary about the making of a drama that starred real people as themselves. But it’s also one that counts the years in between, in order to trace the impact of a murder and a movie-that-might-have-been, and the evolution of a nation and its rural poor.