Fanny Lye Deliver’d (2019)
Where’s it on? Digital platforms including BFI Player
Like Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England of a few years back, this new film from occasional UK auteur Thomas Clay – his first feature in 10 years – is a throwback to the 1960s and 70s era of British films like Witchfinder General (1968) and Winstanley (1975) that attempted to grapple with the powerful political and religious forces that shaped 17th-century Britain. Fanny Lye Deliver’d is set on a remote Shropshire farm in 1657, where the simple lives of a puritan pair (Maxine Peake and Charles Dance) are unsettled by the discovery of a young couple hiding in their barn. Clay’s film becomes a kind of civil war-era home invasion drama after the stowaways take their hosts hostage. But they also represent a Trojan horse of modern ideas; their progressive philosophies having an earth-shaking impact on the eponymous Fanny. Atmospherically shot in a valley that’s permanently thick with mist, Fanny Lye Deliver’d is an inspired addition to the canon of films about our rural past.
Criss Cross (1949)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series has released two high-calibre classics from late 40s Hollywood this week. A Foreign Affair is a Billy Wilder comedy evocatively shot in the rubble of postwar Berlin and with a smoky, cynical turn from Marlene Dietrich as a cabaret singer. Even better is Criss Cross, a top-drawer film noir from one of the genre’s true masters, Robert Siodmak. In fact, Wilder and Siodmak had both worked together in Germany on the 1930 classic People on Sunday before fleeing the country during the rise of the Nazi party and finding sanctuary in Hollywood. Criss Cross begins with an archetypal noir opening: a helicopter shot over Los Angeles at night that leads us to a carpark. Here, headlights from a passing car illuminate two clandestine lovers – Burt Lancaster and Yvonne DeCarlo – caught in an illicit embrace between parked cars. Siodmak has delivered us into the thick of his nocturnal tale of infidelity, double-crossing and armoured-car robbery, and we’re hooked.
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Sunday, 3.20am
A year before they rampaged into cinema history with King Kong (1933), production team Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack were at work on the same jungle sets for this lean 62-minute thriller, which – like Kong – has left its own long trail of influence. From The Naked Prey (1966) to last year’s Bacurau, via the deadly island games of Battle Royale (2000), anything where humans hunt their own species like big game leads back to here. Itself based on a 1924 short story by Richard Connell, The Most Dangerous Game stars Joel McCrea as the huntsman who is shipwrecked off the coast of South America. Along with four other survivors – including Kong’s Fay Wray – he finds his way to the island chateau of a hunting mad Russian count called Zaroff, who welcomes the opportunity for a little target practice.
An Actor’s Revenge (1963)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
Kon Ichikawa is a difficult director to pin down. He has a good half dozen landmark films to his name, yet rarely tackled the same kind of project twice. In 1963 alone, he made the seaborne adventure Alone Across the Pacific, shot in the open air and totally contemporary in feel (it was inspired by yachtsman Kenichi Horie’s solo voyage over the Pacific the year before). But he also made this extremely bold, nearly operatic experiment in recreating the kabuki style on film – shot entirely on stylised sets, in a hermetically sealed recreation of 19th-century Edo. Ichikawa was remaking a 1935 film of the same name, with veteran star Kazuo Hasegawa (now in his 300th film) reprising his own lead role as the onnagata actor (men specialising in playing women’s roles) who exacts methodically just desserts on the men responsible for his parents’ deaths. Think of it as a kabuki-style Kill Bill (2003), delivered in eye-popping widescreen compositions.
Love Is Strange (2014)
Where’s it on? Film4, Sunday, 2.10am
4oD has a good selection of modern LGBTIQ+ titles on its books in Pride month, with the likes of Carol (2015), A Fantastic Woman (2017) and Call Me by Your Name (2018) all present and correct. Live on Film4 in the very early hours of Sunday, meanwhile, is a chance to catch up with – for this writer’s money – one of the most affecting gay-themed dramas of the last decade: the acutely-observed and almost unbearably moving Love Is Strange from Ira Sachs. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina star as the ageing New Yorker couple who are forced to sell the apartment they’ve lived in for years after Molina’s George loses his job. Sach’s drama subtly charts the strain on a besotted couple who are forced to couch-surf apart, his leads beautifully conveying the resilience of two characters squaring up to the indignity suddenly visited upon their 39-year relationship.