Citizen Kane (1941)
Where’s it on? BBC iPlayer; BBC2, Saturday, 3.15pm
In a relatively rare boon for licence-fee-paying lovers of classic Hollywood cinema, the BBC has added a treasure trove of 23 films from RKO Pictures to its library on iPlayer, where they’ll stay for “over a year”. The haul includes at least half a dozen titles that every film lover should see: the 1933 original King Kong, two A-grade John Ford westerns (1949’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and 1950’s Wagon Master), a string of Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, and the astonishing Robert Mitchum noir Angel Face (1952). That’s not forgetting – ignominiously listed on iPlayer as ‘1 episode’ – Orson Welles’ baroque story of power and the press, Citizen Kane (1941). Welles’ film is also being broadcast on BBC2 this Saturday afternoon, giving you belt and braces to finally catch the long-time greatest film of all time if you haven’t seen it all already. The RKO selection also includes his equally essential follow-up, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).
Women Make Film: A New Road Movie through Cinema (2018)
If 23 Hollywood classics doesn’t give you lockdown logjam enough, you also need to make space for Mark Cousins’ colossal new ‘road movie through cinema’, Women Make Film. A companion piece to his 2011 odyssey The Story of Film, this 14-hour documentary is a monumental act of recovery and celebration of female filmmakers – some well-known, many undeservedly obscure – across many decades and borders. Narrated by the likes of Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda, Sharmila Tagore and Thandie Newton, it aims not to tell a linear history but to provide a film school via scenes from countless great and forgotten films. It’s difficult to imagine a viewer that wouldn’t experience Women Make Film as one discovery after another, the effect of watching it being like stumbling on a rumoured new continent. Fourteen hours might sound daunting, but it’s having a staggered touchdown on BFI Player in weekly chunks of around 170 mins, and each of those parts is itself divided up into addictively digestible chapters.
The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice (1952)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray/DVD and digital download
Of his many wonderful later films, this marital drama from Yasujiro Ozu has been more difficult to see for most UK viewers, having missed out on the BFI’s cycle of Blu-ray releases in the early 2010s. This week, that wrong is righted with a new Blu-ray and digital release, and The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice is revealed to be every bit as delicious as that evocative title. It centres on a wife who has grown dissatisfied with her salaryman husband and his homely, unglamorous ways: his preference for third-class rail travel and unsophisticated taste for pouring tea over his rice. These are lives lived together in which aspects have started to chafe, and – like Mikio Naruse’s Repast of the previous year – Ozu’s film seems to have pre-empted the advances of Roberto Rossellini’s 1954 film Journey to Italy in its very grown-up depiction of a flatlining marriage. It’s a customarily quiet drama from Ozu, and all of the pleasures of his unique style are here in spades.
Destry Rides Again (1939)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
1939 is often given as the year the western gained critical respectability, thanks to John Ford’s landmark Stagecoach. But it was also the time of this high-water mark of the comedy western – a rip-snortingly entertaining send-up of the cowboy movie that also delivers spitoon-fuls of action and suspense. Riffing on the homely decency that was becoming his trademark – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington had been in cinemas just two months prior – James Stewart plays the pacifist new sheriff who arrives as an unlikely saviour to clean up the unruly pioneer town of Bottleneck. Marlene Dietrich is Frenchy, the barroom singer in league with her crooked saloon-boss beau. She gets an immortal moment singing ‘See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have’, having fun with the glamourpuss image she’d nurtured throughout her 1930s films with Josef von Sternberg.
Miami Vice (2006)
Where’s it on? Netflix
A nice little handful of new titles added to Netflix today include The Blues Brothers, Children of Men, Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Gus van Sant’s fascinating remake of Hitch’s Psycho. The current hot spell is also good timing for the addition of Michael Mann’s big-screen version of Miami Vice, the second of Mann’s forays into digital filmmaking, which have seen his recent work become increasingly divisive. Starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx in the roles of Crockett and Tubbs – popularised by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas in Mann’s cult 80s TV series – Miami Vice radically disperses the original’s pulp pleasures across a pulsating nightscape in which the din of a nightclub, the nocturnal hum of a roadside or the way the digital photography captures lights bleeding into darkness prove as enveloping as any plot. Ramp up the volume on a humid night and it feels like one of the great American films of the 2000s.