TV film picks: Netflix, Bo Burnham, Christopher Nolan

John Mills takes the title role in this drama following explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s failed attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole in 1912. It shows how a mixture of extreme conditions, the pressure to beat a rival Norwegian team and some poor decisions would lead to tragedy. The film was made with the blessing of Scott’s widow – Mills wears the explorer’s own watch – and so it maybe it isn’t surprising that it doesn’t focus too closely on some of the subsequent criticisms of his leadership, instead concentrating on his bravery and the stiff-upper lips of his comrades. However, it’s still a stirring drama, with a great supporting cast that includes Derek Bond, James Robertson Justice and Kenneth More.

Tuesday

The Man In The White Suit, BBC Two, 2.50pm

Alec Guinness starred in some of the Ealing Studios’ finest comedies, including The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts And Coronets and this sharp satire. Guinness plays Sidney Stratton, a chemist who invents a new textile that repels dirt and never wears out, and then uses it to make the titular white suit. Unfortunately, Britain’s mill owners and trade unionists quickly realise that he could put them out of business, as no one will need to replace their old clothes, and try to suppress his discovery. Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker and Michael Gough are among the impressive supporting cast.

Wednesday

Memento, BBC Two, 11.15pm

The film which set director Christopher Nolan on the road to stardom is a fiendishly clever and ambitious thriller, starring Guy Pearce. He plays former insurance investigator Leonard Shelby, who suffers from a rare, untreatable form of memory loss, which prevents him remembering what happened 15 minutes ago. The condition has plagued Leonard since he discovered a masked assailant brutally assaulting his beautiful young wife (Jorja Fox) and he was knocked unconscious in the ensuing struggle. Ever since, Leonard has spent every waking minute in the pursuit of vengeance. For Leonard, the past is a vast blank canvas. The time has come to fill in the missing details. Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano provide solid support.

Film of the Week

Thursday

Wings Of Desire, Film 4, 11.15pm

All things considered – Aliens, Blue Velvet, The Shining etc. – this moody black and white film by German director Wim Wenders is arguably the greatest cinematic achievement of the 1980s. It spawned a sequel and a dreadful Hollywood remake, heavily influenced the video for REM’s iconic song Everybody Hurts, and won Wenders the Best Director award at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. Hilariously, the Academy didn’t even nominate it for an Oscar, but then what do they know?

Coming three years after Paris, Texas and following a trio of documentaries about cinema and film-making which had taken him to America, Japan and France, Wings Of Desire finds Wenders back in his homeland and keen to shine a light on West Berlin – a typically eclectic light, of course. Accordingly Bruno Ganz plays an angel who can read people’s minds, Colombo star Peter Falk plays himself playing a role in a war film, and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds play for an audience of Berlin hipsters under chandeliers in a once grand ballroom which has been turned into a coolly shabby rock venue. You have to wait until near the end for that scene, but it’s worth it.

Ganz is Damiel, an angel who watches over the citizens of the city, listens to their thoughts and can only be seen by children. He has an angel friend, Cassiel (Otto Sander), and together they stroll through the city, sit in luxurious American cars in showrooms, and talk about humanity: its frailties, its potential for joy, its propensity for carnage and self-destruction. When Damiel encounters lonely circus trapeze artist Marion (Solveig Dommartin), he decides to trade in his immortality so that he can finally experience what it feels like to be human.

It’s chewy but never pretentious, and the gorgeous cinematography – black and white for the most part, but with colour interludes – moves the viewer along at a stately pace. Imagine an emo version of Good Omens and you’re most of the way there.

Friday

The Lost Boys, BBC One, 10.35pm

A cash-strapped single mum (Dianne Wiest) takes her teenage sons, Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), to move in with their grandfather (Barnard Hughes) in Santa Carla, which has the unenviable distinction of being America’s murder capital. Sam is initially sceptical when two comic-obsessed brothers tell him the high death rate is down to vampires, but he’s forced to think again when his brother Michael falls in with a gang of rebellious teenagers who party all night, sleep all day and appear to have mysterious powers. This slick comedy horror is of the most engaging offerings from director Joel Schumacher. Kiefer Sutherland is a suitably charismatic vampire; Coreys Feldman and Haim provide decent laughs, and Hughes steals the film as the cantankerous grandfather.

And one to stream …

Bo Burnham – Inside, Netflix

At the tender age of 30, Bo Burnham has already been a YouTube star for a decade and a half, made three comedy specials for Netflix, directed a feature – the creditable Eighth Grade, with a soundtrack by Edinburgh-born composer Anna Meredith – and released a slew of albums and an anthology of poems. Words, songs and ideas tumble out of him endlessly, to be met by laughter, applause and critical acclaim coming in the other direction.

Burnham’s comedy sits where social media, youth, loneliness, sexuality, self-doubt and isolation intersect. Inside, which is basically a series of musical sketches, covers all of those bases. The big difference this time is that where the specials are often filmed in front of a live audience over the course of a day, Inside was written, filmed, scored, edited and produced by Burnham alone in a single room over the course of a year in lockdown. You can watch his hair grown long and his beard grow unkempt and, in one of Inside’s darkest moments, join him as the clock ticks down to midnight on the eve of his 30th birthday. What a way to spend it – isolated, with only a laptop to provide a link to the outside world.

The P-word – pandemic – isn’t mentioned once. It doesn’t need to be. Neither do the songs deal explicitly with the lockdown. Instead Burnham dives into politics, race and the finer points of inter-personal relationships in the digital age. White Woman’s Instagram is shot like a pop video and satirises those intensively-curated social media pages filled with images of sunsets and perfect flat whites. He has a song about sexting, shoots a reaction video to another song which turns into a series of reactions to the reactions, introduces us to Socko, a potty-mouthed sock puppet who rails against “neo-Con fascists”, and satirises corporates trying to act ‘woke’.

He has multiple musical instruments, a lighting rig he can operate remotely as he’s performing, a glitter ball, costumes, even a bed – this is the room in which he sleeps when it isn’t doubling as a film set. Undercutting the high octane performances are other moments: late-night confessionals to camera, scenes in which things go wrong, or long shots of Burnham sitting in silence, his face lit by his laptop light as he watches and re-watches the song we’ve just seen him perform. Saddest of all are the scenes where he performs stand-up to an empty room, sometimes adding his own laughter track. It’s all quite, quite brilliant.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992