FILM OF THE WEEK: Insomnia
Saturday August 23, BBC Two, 11pm
Last week the world mourned the premature death of Robin Williams, an artist with an almost preternatural gift for the type of stream of conscious comedy that could transfix audiences large and small. Williams was a gifted actor too, leaving us unforgettable performances in films like Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and his Oscar-winning turn in Good Will Hunting. Less well known, but no less memorable, were the two films that saw him explore the darkest side of the human psyche: Mark Romanek’s One Hour Photo and Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia.
Insomnia, Nolan’s follow-up to Memento, is actually a remake of a Norwegian thriller of the same name – a move that many young directors of promise (as Nolan was back in 2002) might have shied away from. But in setting Al Pacino and Williams against one another in a game of psychological cat and mouse, alongside side excellent support from Hillary Swank and all framed by Wally Pfister’s superlative cinematography, Nolan achieved that rarest of feats: an English language remake that is equal to, if not better than, its source material.
Just like Memento, Insomnia features a flawed hero trying to regain a sense of order in his life, whilst simultaneously struggling with the malevolent force trying to pull him further into chaos. Pacino’s detective, sent to investigate the brutal murder of a teenage girl in an Alaskan town where the sun never sets, is that hero; Williams, the prime suspect, is the malevolence incarnate. As a double-bill with One Hour Photo, Insomnia will forever serve as an outstanding reminder of the latter’s extraordinarily multifaceted talent.
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
The Wizard of Oz
Saturday August 23, Channel 5, 3pm
Regularly acclaimed as one of the greatest films ever made, The Wizard of Oz was not a big box office hit when it was released in 1939, overshadowed by the far more successful Gone With The Wind. But while the latter is now seen as a relic of its time, The Wizard of Oz continues to capture the imagination of every generation that proceeds it. A marvel of song and set piece, it succeeds by asking children (and adults) to confront their fear of the unknown, then offering the comfort that they can always find the strength to overcome and embrace it.
Monday August 25, Film4, 1:20am
To celebrate the ongoing FrightFest film festival, this weekend Film4 is running a slew of horror films once bracketed in the mythical ‘video nasty’ section by our still mostly heinous red-top newspapers. Amongst the best of the bunch is Re-Animator, an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s tale of Herbert West, a sort of latterday Dr. Frankenstein, who invents a serum that can bring the dead back to life. Although outrageously gory, it maintains a deliciously camp sense of humour throughout, elevating it far above the status of mere exploitation movie.
Thursday August 28, Film4, 9pm
Yes, it’s another zombie movie. And no, Zombieland doesn’t do anything that we haven’t already seen in other films of the genre. What it does have, though, is the perfect mix of creative destruction and dark comedy, making Zombieland just about the most fun you can have whilst spending time in the presence of the undead. It also features possibly the best cameo appearance in a film ever that, if you’ve seen it, you absolutely must not spoil for those who haven’t.
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