Five things to watch this weekend – 5-7 July

A weekend of clown meat and simian time travelling, as we pick out five 90s bangers.

Peter Hill

Delicatessen (1991)

Where’s it on? BFI Player

Delicatessen (1991)

Delicatessen (1991)

Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro opened the decade – and signalled their arrival — with something jet-black and gleeful, a post-apocalyptic comedy that knows why you should never eat clown meat: because it tastes funny. Louison (Dominique Pinon) is that clown, lured into a job as a butcher’s boy, unaware that his boss wants him on the menu. That is until Julie, the butcher’s daughter, falls for him and plans their escape. Darius Khondji’s camera and Marc Caro’s design deserve a mention too, but it is Pinon, the dented cherub, who pleases deepest.

Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Where’s it on? Arrow Video

Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Twelve Monkeys (1995)

We are profoundly in love with pandemics. A cultural evergreen with real-life relevance, it is thematic catnip. Terry Gilliam dived in with the story of a lab-grown plague and a man (Bruce Willis) propelled through time to report it. The director’s world was rarely sharper, drawn from Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), amplified by superb production design and top-drawer cameos from the likes of David Morse and Christopher Plummer. Brad Pitt also shines, beating Gilliam’s personal choice Jeff Bridges to a vital role as the imbalanced trust-funder at the heart of the wipeout. A TV spin-off, made by SyFy channel, followed 20 years later.

Breakdown (1997)

Where’s it on? Amazon Prime

Breakdown (1997)

Breakdown (1997)

Like that other unsettler of roadside abduction, The Vanishing (1988), Jonathan Mostow’s thriller passed audiences by. It deserves fresh praise online. The plot is simple: a couple hit the hard shoulder to be rescued by a trucker whose Samaritan act hides darker intent. Kurt Russell was a great choice for the husband turned hunter, while J.T. Walsh aces his role as the trucker. He died shortly after filming, and was remembered at the 1998 Academy Awards when Jack Nicholson in part dedicated his Oscar to the late actor’s memory. While the stunts impress, Breakdown is notable for conviction and character beyond the genre’s norms.

Beau Travail (1999)

Where’s it on? Artificial Eye DVD

Beau Travail (1999)

Beau Travail (1999)

Long before High Life, Claire Denis was zoning in on isolation and exile in this 1999 drama. Featuring Denis Levant as Galoup, it was based on a need “to share what’s troubling me,” according to Denis. In this case it’s a sense of repressed solitude, framed by the monotonous routines and crushing formality of military life. Two influences are obvious: Jean-Luc Godard (Michel Subor plays Bruno Forestier, as he did in 1963’s Le Petit Soldat) and Herman Melville, whose poems were reportedly given to the cast in lieu of a script, and whose unfinished story Billy Budd provided the template.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Where’s it on?  Prince Charles Cinema

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Twenty years ago next week, the bell rang. It was Nigel with the brie, and a vitamin shot for a genre that would go on to produce Mean Girls (2004) and Booksmart (2019). There’s an infectious rhythm to it, reworking The Taming of the Shrew with Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger and unashamed zeal. “The movie has the artistic integrity of a Pop Tart,” said the BFI’s reviewer in 1999, but that might be missing the point. 10 Things was not meant for a Palme d’Or but as a renewable remembrance of what it was to slip the chains and trespass the party.

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