FILM OF THE WEEK: The Wild Bunch
Saturday August 30, ITV4, 10:55pm
If you fancy an uncompromising action movie this weekend, two immediate options include schlepping to the cinema to see the latest outing of Sylvester Stallone’s ever-diminishing Expendables franchise, or staying home on the sofa to catch director Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 masterpiece. Both feature a band of increasingly grizzled mercenaries, closing in on retirement but still handy with a firearm and a fist. In a classic shootout, though, Sly and his muscled meatheads would likely stand little chance against the wily old veterans of The Wild Bunch.
Of course, Peckinpah’s film is far from the exercise in empty gunplay that every one of The Expendables represents. Certainly, it’s about violence – and brutal, bloody violence at that. But it’s also a requiem for the myth of masculinity in America’s Old West where, to quote Pike, leader of The Wild Bunch’s outlaws: “You side with a man, you stay with him, and if you can’t do that you’re like some animal.”
Operating in the early twentieth century, Pike and his gang are effectively men out of time, clinging to an (im)moral code in a world where technology has made everything – killing included – more impersonal. Nowhere is this symbolised more than the machine gun the group steals for a corrupt Mexican general, precipitating what remains the most shocking slaughter ever seen on screen. The Wild Bunch would go on to influence generations of new directors, from Scorsese to Tarantino. Stallone, unfortunately, cannot count himself among them.
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
The Science of Sleep
Sunday (night) September 1, BBC Two, 12am
If Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was director Michel Gondry’s critical triumph, then The Science of Sleep was his difficult second album (let’s conveniently forget it’s actually his third film). Both are unconventional love stories, but while the former was far from orthodox, the latter, with a narrative that blends the reality of consciousness with the fantasy of dreams, might be too whimsical for some. A sprinkle of Spotless Mind screenwriter Charlie Kaufmann’s could have helped, but Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg make for utterly charming leads and the film still offers more imagination and delight than most.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Tuesday September 2, Film4, 1:35am
A word of warning: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a film for which the category of ‘avant-garde’ may seem a little too conservative. In fact, even labelling it a ‘film’ seems wrong – it’s much more an ambient experience. If you can overcome any prejudice against a work that incorporates themes of memory, reincarnation, transformation and death, and explores them all at languid pace alien to most modern cinema, this could be the most enlightening, transcendental encounter you ever have whilst sat in front of the television.
Rust and Bone
Tuesday September 2, Film4, 11:10pm
Another alternative love story, in the wrong hands Rust and Bone could have drowned in its own melodrama. As it is, its tale of the fragile affection/lust between a killer whale trainer whose life is turned upside down by a workplace accident and an itinerant worker with dreams of becoming a mixed martial arts fighter overcomes any implausibility to offer something much more profound. This is undoubtedly helped by the presence of Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts (who combines red-blooded force and placid sensitivity to a tee) under the taught yet tender direction of A Prophet’s Jacques Audiard.
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