City Hall (2020)
Where’s it on? Online at the Glasgow Film Festival at 1pm on Friday and for 72 hours afterwards
Showing no signs of slowing down at 91, American documentary master Frederick Wiseman has kept up the astonishing work rate of a film every year or two since the late 1960s. Known for his epic surveys of institutions and communities, from Central Park to the National Gallery, his latest is a typically expansive and finely grained study of Boston’s city government. Pushing five hours in length, it’s the second longest film he’s ever made (only 1989’s formidable Near Death is longer). But it’s also the equal of anything he’s done in its accumulation of moments, meetings and details that, taken together, offer as lucid a record of the everyday workings of a democracy at this point in the 21st century as you could hope to see.
First Cow (2019)
Where’s it on? Online at the Glasgow Film Festival at 8.30pm on Friday and for 72 hours afterwards
British audiences have had to wait their turn to see this latest film from Kelly Reichardt, which premiered at Telluride back in the summer of 2019. Screening online at the Glasgow Film Festival this weekend ahead of its cinema release in late May, it’s another of her patiently observed stories of the Pacific Northwest, beginning with the discovery of two skeletons in modern-day Oregon before casting back 200 years to the 1820s. Like her previous pioneer tale Meek’s Cutoff (2010), First Cow is one of those rare frontier films that completely rides around the mythology of the western. Instead, Reichardt gives us a quizzical fable set at the dawn of capitalism, setting us down in the muddy encampment where an east coast cook and a Chinese immigrant hit on an unlikely recipe for success: “oily cakes” whose secret ingredient is milk pilfered from the only cow in the territory.
The Ipcress File (1965)
Where’s it on? BBC2, Saturday, 1pm
Following a documentary on the “stars who made 60s Britain swing”, BBC2 is giving us one of Michael Caine’s star-making turns in this Len Deighton-derived espionage thriller. Caine’s bachelor spy Harry Palmer was self-consciously offered to audiences by producer Harry Saltzman as an antidote to the cartoonish glamour of his own James Bond series, offering a grubbier and more downbeat depiction of the life of a spy, albeit one that – with Caine’s black-rimmed spectacles and woven overcoat – became a Cool Britannia icon all its own. Confined to a drab and paranoid London, the plot involves Palmer’s attempts to root out a traitor at the heart of British intelligence, in a grungy world of brainwashing, double-crossing and double agents that’s closer to John le Carré than Ian Fleming.
Restless Natives (1985)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray, DVD and digital
A parochial gem of Scottish cinema of the 1980s, Restless Natives has had a dusting down and restoration – its stunning Highlands backdrop now fairly popping off the screen. Cut from a similar cloth to Bill Forsyth favourites like Local Hero (1983) and, especially, Comfort and Joy (1984), it’s a chippy underdog tale in which two unemployed lads take to holding up coach loads of international tourists, armed with toy guns and joke-shop masks. Like modern-day Rob Roys, they soon become, well, local heroes, for distributing their loot around the neighbourhood. Michael Hoffman’s film drops short of the magic of Forsyth’s best, falling closer to the wide-eyed larks of an old Children’s Film Foundation adventure. But it’s an entertaining time capsule, with a score by Fife rockers Big Country and bit parts for Mel Smith, Bryan Forbes and Nanette Newman.
Il divo (2008)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
Before the breakout success of their dolce vita satire The Great Beauty (2013), director Paolo Sorrentino and actor Toni Servillo practiced their waltz through the debauched higher reaches of the Italian establishment in this riveting account of the machinations of Giulio Andreotti, notorious leader of the Christian Democracy party and seven-time prime minister. Exuding the corrupting influence of power, Servillo’s Andreotti shuffles around the corridors of government as a Nosferatu-like figure, embalmed in his own entitlement and treachery. Sorrentino’s film trips between a handful of key episodes during Andreotti’s reign, from electoral battles to his 1995 trial for collusion with the mafia. The director brings his trademark razzle-dazzle, shooting it like it’s GoodFellas (1990), with busy camerawork and amped-up soundtrack cues.