Boiling Point (2021)
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide and digital platforms including BFI Player
Films shot entirely in a single take fall into two categories: those that do the work, and those that cheat with hidden cuts. This nail-biting restaurant kitchen drama falls determinedly into the former category, its formal gambit echoing the rambunctious, non-stop thrills and spills of a service industry shift. Shot in a working restaurant in just 48 hours, and wrapping production a mere five days before the pandemic ground UK production to a halt, the film was expanded from director Philip Barantini’s BIFA-nominated short of the same name. There’s little sense of a gimmick at play here: as Barantini sets his plates spinning in real time, we wait for the personal and professional obstructions of an always-worth-the-price-of-a-ticket Stephen Graham to send them crashing to the ground.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)
Where’s it on? Channel 4, Saturday, 11am
After a run of ‘serious’ fare, Steven Spielberg returned to full-blown showman mode with this big-budget take on everyone’s favourite Belgian reporter. Embracing the elastic possibilities of motion-capture technology, this barnstorming adventure about a hunt for nautical treasure sees the director’s peerless visual imagination take impossible flight. Where live-action filmmaking faces the physical limitations of, well, physics, the 3D virtual space – and virtual camera – finds no such gravitational obstructions. The original concept was for two films: the first directed by Spielberg, with Peter Jackson on production duties; the second with their roles reversed. We’re still waiting on Jackson’s sequel, but who can blame him for wondering how to top this?
The 400 Blows (1959)
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
Back in cinemas as part of our two-month François Truffaut season, this stone-cold classic is one of the most celebrated directorial debuts in all of cinema. Now gloriously restored in 4K, The 400 Blows was one of the opening shots of the French New Wave, a semi-autobiographical introduction to Truffaut’s cinematic alter ego, the petty pilferer Antoine Doinel. Future nouvelle vague icon Jean-Pierre Léaud was just 14 years old when he answered the newspaper casting call that led to one of the most significant actor-director partnerships in European filmmaking, playing Doinel for the first time in a film that would bear four sequels. The final freeze-frame captures its young protagonist between a troubled past and an uncertain future, in a shot so famous that had Truffaut made nothing else, his seat at the high table of cinema’s Valhalla would be well assured.
Katalin Varga (2009)
Where’s it on? MUBI
How’s this for a synopsis to whet the appetite? “Set in an institute devoted to culinary and alimentary performance, a collective finds themselves embroiled in power struggles, artistic vendettas and gastrointestinal disorders.” While we all wait with bated breath for Peter Strickland’s Flux Gourmet to drop some time this year, there’s a chance to catch his feature debut, Katalin Varga, via MUBI this weekend, as part of a series of first films from international auteurs. Unable to get the film made in the UK, Strickland upped sticks to Romania for this female-driven tale of vengeance. The singular British filmmaker’s dedication to complex soundscapes that would flourish so brilliantly with the likes of Berberian Sound Studio (2012) and The Duke of Burgundy (2014) is in full evidence straight out the gate, as Strickland fashions a lean, mean neo-western of startlingly intensity and promise.
How the West Was Won (1962)
Where’s it on? BBC Two, Sunday, 2pm
Star-studded bonanzas don’t come much more star-studded than in “the mightiest adventure ever filmed,” as its contemporary advertising had it. Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, James Stewart, John Wayne… the cast list rolls on and on like wagon wheels rolling west. How the West Was Won is the epic of oater epics, told in five chapters by three directors: Henry Hathaway, George Marshall and John Ford. One of only two films ever to be shot in Cinerama, a three-strip process designed to be shown on a gargantuan curved screen, it makes for extraordinary spectacle. Ford’s exquisitely elegiac section ‘The Civil War’ is the obvious standout, though most viewers will likely be more charitable to the other bits than Ford scholar Tag Gallagher, who described them as “so much bad disco momentarily ceasing for the St Matthew’s Passion of [Ford’s] final funereal chorus”.
Originally published: 7 January 2022