Five things to watch this weekend – 27-29 September

It’s in the trees! It’s coming! And it’s on TV this weekend…

Samuel Wigley

Night of the Demon (1957)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Friday, 23:50

Night of the Demon (1957)

Night of the Demon (1957)

Witching hour brings a welcome Friday night broadcast of one of the jewels in the crown of British horror: Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon. Famously sampled by Kate Bush at the start of ‘Hounds of Love’ (“It’s in the trees! It’s coming!”), this spooky marvel based on an M.R James story has Dana Andrews as the American rationalist who travels to England to investigate a series of strange deaths linked to a Satanic cult. Tourneur cut his teeth in Hollywood making a string of legendary low-budget horrors for producer Val Lewton (notably Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie) and delivers the same gift for hinted-at horrors and thick atmospherics here – though this time, after intervention by producer Hal E. Chester, we do get to see the titular beast.

The Koker trilogy (1987-94)

Where’s it on? Criterion Blu-ray

And Life Goes On (1992)

And Life Goes On (1992)

Abbas Kiarostami’s great, Russian-doll trilogy of interlinking films set around the village of Koker, near the Caspian Sea in Iran, has been tricky to see for years, but now gets its just desserts as a ravishing package on Blu-ray from Criterion. Although Kiarostami didn’t consider the films a trilogy himself, they certainly open up out of each other. 1987’s Where Is the Friend’s House? charts the efforts of a young school boy to return an exercise book to his classmate in the neighbouring village. 1992’s And Life Goes On follows a filmmaker and his son searching for the cast of the first film after an earthquake devastated the region in 1990. And 1994’s Through the Olive Trees is a kind of making-of about the second film in which we follow a romance between two cast members. Dissolving the barrier between fact and fiction, movie and reality, these quizzical masterpieces remain essential viewing for any cinephile.

Things to Come (2016)

Where’s it on? Film4, Monday, 01:10

Following her dance music epic Eden (2014), French director Mia Hansen-Løve chose a much quieter register for this intimate character study (showing on Film4 this weekend) of a philosophy teacher whose certainties in life are rocked when her school-teacher husband announces he’s leaving her for another woman. Meanwhile, her elderly mother has fallen ill, and her grown-up children are fleeing the nest; time is moving on and Nathalie’s anchors are shifting. Such a character study depends on the actor in the driving seat, and as Nathalie, Hansen-Løve’s film boasts one of the best, with Isabelle Huppert masterfully essaying both steely resilience and vulnerability. The French title of the film simply means ‘The Future’, and Things to Come is an exquisite drama about the very human challenge of facing what’s next.

They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)

Where’s it on? Indicator Blu-ray

They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)

They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)

Brazilian Alberto Cavalcanti had his fingerprints on some of the best British films of the 40s, notably the Graham Greene adaptation Went the Day Well? (1942), a segment of the definitive horror anthology Dead of Night (1945) and this gem of British noir. New on Blu-ray from Indicator, They Made Me a Fugitive belongs with a cycle of ‘spiv’ films that emerged from the UK in the late 40s, focusing on the chancers and black marketeers who populated postwar Europe. As such, Cavalcanti’s film has been put in the shadows by the likes of The Third Man (1949) but it deserves a far wider audience. Trevor Howard plays the former airman who finds himself unemployed after the war. Falling in with black marketeer Narcy, he is subsequently framed for killing a policeman, and Cavalcanti’s broodingly shot thriller follows his escape from HMP Dartmoor and the manhunt that ensues as he attempts to clear his name. 

Orphée (1950)

Where’s it on? BFI Player

There’s a bit near the end of this modern-day retelling of the myth of Orpheus when our poet hero is asked to describe what a poet is. Someone who isn’t a writer but writes anyway, he responds. That’s a bit like how Jean Cocteau approached filmmaking. He made a small handful of now classic films, but rather than thinking of him as a director, you might say he was a poet who made films anyway. Set within the café-centred bohemian Paris of the postwar period, a time when a tortured poet could still earn fame and a modest fortune, Orphée features the lion-like actor Jean Marais (who also played the beast in Cocteau’s version of Beauty and the Beast) as the beatnik wordsmith who must descend into the underworld in search of his deceased lover. A milestone in fantasy film, Orphée arrives on BFI Player following a nationwide re-release.

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