Red Line 7000 (1965)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Saturday, 12.20am

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Red Line 7000 (1965)

Critic Nick Pinkerton recently fired out the Twitter provocation that “for decades nearly the entire weight of the industrial American film criticism apparatus has been put into forcing people to pay attention to Sundance indies that no one will remember in a year when it should have been telling them to just chill and watch Red Line 7000.” With this year’s Sundance titles already starting to appear on these shores, and said Howard Hawks racing-car drama showing up on Talking Pictures TV this weekend, it’s a fine time to trial his theory. Hawks’ late-period movies have long played the role of a stress test for the auteur theory. Can a fishing movie involving a shot of a bear riding a motorbike (1964’s Man’s Favorite Sport?) be an autumnal masterpiece? Indeed it can. Red Line 7000 is the picture he made just after that, a flabbier return to the speedway thrills and off-track camaraderie of his 1932 The Crowd Roars – one that enabled the ageing Hawks to shoot reams of petrolhead action at a number of NASCAR sites. 

A Glitch in the Matrix (2021)

Where’s it on? BFI Player

The first of the films from this year’s virtual Sundance to see UK release is this chilling new documentary from Rodney Ascher. Ascher’s films have previously tackled viewers fixated on hidden meanings in The Shining in Room 236 (2012) and sleep paralysis in The Nightmare (2015) and he’s found another oddball pocket of human experience to tackle here: people who believe they’re living inside a computer simulation. The writings of Philip K. Dick showed the way into this line of thinking, with the 1999 movie The Matrix the moment when the idea went mainstream. Nothing we see is real. We’re only players inside a giant simulation, and the people we pass in the street but don’t interact with are non-player characters – unthinking decorations in our unfolding first-person game. Ascher assembles a number of interviewees who believe all this (they appear as avatars) alongside a clutch of experts who’ve tried to find the edges of simulation theory. It makes for brain-boggling viewing, but Ascher does well to ground the outlandishness with a sense of the humanity underpinning this search for meaning.

The Lady with the Dog (1960)

Where’s it on? Klassiki Online

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The Lady with the Dog (1960)

We trailed it in this series a few weeks ago, but the Kino Klassika Foundation’s new streaming service is up and running this week. Klassiki Online plugs a hole in the current streaming landscape in offering 60 vintage films from Russia, central Asia and the Caucasus, all of which are free to view during the service’s introductory period. Alongside landmarks like Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) and Sergei Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965), there are a host of rare classics of Soviet-era cinema, including works by Alexei German, Georgia’s Otar Iosseliani and animator Yuri Norstein. My first dive was this sublime 1960 version of the Chekhov short story, a tale of adultery that begins at the summer resort of Yalta before shifting to wintry Moscow, borne along on an undertow of aching regret: life doesn’t always take the route that might grant happiness. Iosif Kheifits’s film was made to commemorate Chekhov’s centenary, but transcends its state-commissioned origins with luminescent imagery and a real emotional delicacy.

A Man There Was (1917)

Where’s it on? Netflix

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A Man There Was (1917)

Not to be out-niched by Klassiki, however, Netflix has just added a selection (ok, smörgåsbord) of Scandinavian silent films – a strange little silo on a service that doesn’t usually offer much in terms of exploring cinema’s past. Ben Stiller, yes – Mauritz Stiller, not so much. There’s an argument to be made that Scandinavia’s cinema was the most mature in the world in the 1910s and early 1920s, and you can test the theory on Netflix in such precocious masterpieces as 1920’s The Parson’s Widow (a very funny comedy from a director not normally known for gags, Carl Theodor Dreyer), Stiller’s 16th-century romance Sir Arne’s Treasure (1919) and 2 films by Victor Sjöström: 1913’s Ingeborg Holm and 1917’s A Man There Was. In these films and others of the time, Sjöström was working with a narrative fluidity and rugged outdoor realism that was way out ahead of other national cinemas. Ingeborg Holm is a family drama that’s astonishingly sophisticated for 1913, while A Man There Was is a morality tale with a poetic feel for landscape, the sea and the will of the elements.

Yentl (1983)

Where’s it on? BBC2, Sunday, 2pm

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Yentl (1983)

We’re in the eastern parts of Europe again for this 1980s musical drama written, directed by and starring Barbra Streisand in her first film as director. It’s based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story ‘Yentl the Yeshiva Boy’ about a bookish Orthodox Jewish woman who circumvents the bar to her studying scripture by posing as a man. Mandy Patinkin plays her fellow scholar-in-training who gets entangled in a gender-confused love triangle with Yentl and his own beautiful bride-to-be (Amy Irving). Yentl should by rights be as insufferable as so many actor-turned-director vanity projects before and since, but Streisand’s sure grasp of big-picture storytelling and her glowing depiction of an idealised old Europe remain seductive nearly 40 years later. It’s a film you remember in warm shades of brown, illuminated by candles and gas lamps – the images captured by Brit David Watkin, who’d shot The Devils (1971) and Chariots of Fire (1981) among many others.