The Before trilogy (1995-2013)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
In the best trilogies the films don’t just continue on from one another, they complicate and enrich what’s gone before. In these Richard Linklater films, what goes before is two twentysomethings – Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American, and Céline (Julie Delpy), a Frenchwoman – meet in Vienna, spend 24 hours walking and talking, then part, agreeing to meet up again in six months. Before Sunset (2004) rejoins the same characters in Paris nine years later, while Before Midnight (2013) finds them married, on holiday in Greece, and their relationship straining. While other franchises often keep their characters at a static age, in denial about the passing years, the subject of Linklater’s trio becomes the passing years themselves, and how relationships and perspectives shift and alter over time. Criterion have released them all in a Blu-ray box set, which is a suitably momentous treatment for this most special of romantic epics.
Vampir Cuadecuc (1971)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
If your film features a cloaked Christopher Lee at large in lamplit streets and a shadowy castle, where doors open mysteriously and bats fly past windows, it seems obvious that the movie in question must be a horror film. But what if you filmed the filming of that film? Is the documentary detail of these cold castle sets and fog clinging to the forest floor any less frightful because what we’re watching is a making-of? Filmed during production of Jess Franco’s Count Dracula (1970), this experimental meta-feature from Spain’s Pere Portabella must count among the most intriguing making-ofs ever made. Unfurling in monochrome and mute silence apart from the occasional threatening drone, it compiles an abstract flow of sepulchral images captured during the shoot that are arguably creepier and more oneiric for being surreally detached from any story. Available from Second Run DVD but now added to BFI Player too, it plays like a Transylvanian edition of Andy Warhol’s silent screen tests.
The Shallows (2016)
Where’s it on? Film4, Saturday, 9pm
Horror of a more straightforward variety comes courtesy of Film4 this weekend. There are no gothic atmospherics in The Shallows, just visceral, pulse-pounding fear. Jaume Collet-Serra’s film might look like a trashy excuse to put a bikini-clad Blake Lively in jeopardy for 85 minutes, but this terrifically tense and entertaining single-location thriller succeeds magnificently on its own lean, no-nonsense terms. Lively plays the surfer whose visit to a secluded beach in Baja California becomes a sustained fight for survival after she becomes prey for a great white shark. In Jaws, no swimmer survives more than a few moments; here, Collet-Serra remorselessly stretches out the peril, as Lively’s Nancy must use all her wiles and reserves of stamina to endure. Collet-Serra has become a cult name among genre fans, and The Shallows is exhibit A in the case for the defence.
The Fall (2019)
Where’s it on? BBC iPlayer / BBC2, Saturday 2.05am
Just a fortnight ago in this series I was wondering when the next Jonathan Glazer project would land, it being more than six years since Under the Skin premiered. As it turns out, we only had to wait a week. Like Beyoncé or Radiohead (for whom Glazer once shot a music video) dropping a surprise album, last weekend a new Glazer work was shown with no advance fanfare, both on BBC2 and to an audience at BFI Southbank. Admittedly, The Fall is only five minutes long, but it makes a big impression – not least, you imagine, on the poor souls who had just tuned in to watch Live at the Apollo. A wordless nightmare in which a mob lynches a masked man in a dark forest, it conjures some of Under the Skin’s eerie dread – with new music from Mica Levi to boot. You can find it on iPlayer, though those wags at BBC2 are also giving it another airing in the early hours on Saturday.
Time without Pity (1957)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
America’s loss was the UK’s gain when blacklisted director Joseph Losey was exiled here in the wake of the McCarthy witch-hunts in the 1950s. What followed was one of the great runs in British cinema, with films such as The Servant (1963) and Accident (1967) going for the jugular in their incisive examinations of class and power on these shores. Far less well known, Time without Pity is an urgent, against-the-clock thriller that was his first feature credited under his own name in Britain. Michael Redgrave plays the dipsomaniac father desperately trying to clear his son’s name – and save him from the hangman – after the latter is falsely convicted of a woman’s murder. Who done it is not Losey’s interest; that’s all revealed in the startling opening attack scene, as brusque and rattling as anything Sam Fuller did. Instead, in dynamic, shifting frames by ace cameraman Freddie Francis, Losey digs into his protagonist’s fraying psyche, with Redgrave perspiring affectingly in a cast that also includes Peter Cushing, Ann Todd, Leo McKern and future ‘Miss Moneypenny’ Lois Maxwell.