Culture Vulture: your guide to the week’s entertainment (18-24 March 2023)

Welcome to Culture Vulture which gives an alternative view on the week’s entertainment. Highlights this week include: Breaking Mississippi on BBC Radio 4 about the struggle for civil rights in that State, the politically charged film Official Secrets and the BBC documentary Inside Taiwan Selections are from Henry Falconer and Pat Harrington. Music is by Tim Bragg.

Saturday 18th of March 2023

Chocolat (2000 film) 6.35pm GREAT! movies

“Chocolat” is a 2000 film directed by Lasse Hallström and based on the novel of the same name by Joanne Harris. Set in a small French village in the 1950s, the film tells the story of Vianne Rocher (played by Juliette Binoche), a young single mother who arrives in town and opens a chocolate shop. The arrival of Vianne and her unconventional ways causes a stir among the conservative townspeople, particularly the mayor, Comte de Reynaud (played by Alfred Molina), who sees her as a threat to the town’s moral values.

One of the strengths of “Chocolat” is its cast. Juliette Binoche delivers a charming performance as Vianne, imbuing the character with a sense of warmth and whimsy that makes it easy to root for her. Alfred Molina is equally impressive as the stern and humorless Comte de Reynaud, who gradually comes to appreciate Vianne’s influence on the town. The supporting cast is also strong, including Judi Dench as a cantankerous but wise grandmother, and Johnny Depp as a mysterious and charismatic traveler who catches Vianne’s eye.

The film’s cinematography is another highlight, with beautiful shots of the French countryside and the mouth-watering chocolate creations on display in Vianne’s shop. The use of color is also noteworthy, with Vianne and her daughter dressed in bright, vibrant clothing that stands out against the muted tones of the rest of the town.

At its core, “Chocolat” is a story about the power of acceptance and the importance of being true to oneself. The film’s message is delivered with a light touch, never becoming preachy or heavy-handed. Instead, it invites the audience to embrace the joys of life and the simple pleasures that can bring people together.

“Chocolat” is a delightful and heartwarming film that is sure to leave viewers with a smile on their face. With its talented cast, beautiful cinematography, and charming story, it is a movie that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. Highly recommended

Edward the eigth: Britain`s Traitor King 7.45pm C4

“Edward VIII: Britain’s Traitor King” is a thought-provoking television program that tells the fascinating story of Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite, in 1936. The documentary is a well-researched and beautifully produced program that sheds light on the turbulent reign of Edward VIII and the impact of his actions on the British monarchy and the country as a whole.

The program provides a detailed account of Edward VIII’s early life, his relationship with Wallis Simpson, and his controversial decision to abdicate. It also delves into the political and social context of the time, with interviews with historians and experts providing valuable insights into the complex circumstances that led to the abdication crisis.

What sets this documentary apart from others on the same subject is the level of detail provided in the storytelling. The program takes viewers on a journey through Edward’s life, exploring his relationships with his family, his rise to the throne, and the events leading up to his abdication. The use of archival footage and historical re-enactments is particularly effective in bringing the story to life and immersing viewers in the era.

Aretha Franklin Duets 9.30pm BBC2

Elton John, Gloria Estefan, Smokey Robinson, PM Dawn, Bonni Rait and Rod Stewart share a stage with the Queen of Soul.

Sunday 19th of March 2023

Breaking Mississippi 9.45am and every day this week. BBC Radio 4

The inside story of James Meredith’s war against racial segregation in 1960s America – an explosive flashpoint in civil rights history that draws in both the KKK and JFK.

Shock and War: Iraq War 20 years on 1.45pm and every day this week. BBC Radio 4

Why did the US and UK really go to war in Iraq? And what is the legacy? The BBC’s security correspondent Gordon Corera speaks to those at the heart of the decision-making.

The Great Inflation 1923 8pm BBC Radio 4

1923 was the year of hyperinflation in Germany. Allan Little examines how the trauma which followed has shaped the economy and politics of Germany and beyond for 100 years.

Calm With Horses (2019 film) 11.50pm Film4

“Calm With Horses” is a gritty and intense 2019 film directed by Nick Rowland and based on a short story by Colin Barrett. Set in rural Ireland, the film tells the story of ex-boxer Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong (played by Cosmo Jarvis), who works as an enforcer for a local drug dealer named Dympna (played by Barry Keoghan). As he struggles to balance his loyalty to Dympna with his desire to provide for his young son, Jack, Arm finds himself caught in a dangerous web of violence and betrayal.

One of the strengths of “Calm With Horses” is its cast. Cosmo Jarvis delivers a powerful performance as Arm, conveying the character’s inner turmoil and vulnerability with nuance and depth. Barry Keoghan is equally impressive as Dympna, a charismatic but unpredictable figure who exerts a powerful hold over Arm. Niamh Algar is also noteworthy as Ursula, a nurse who forms a connection with Arm and Jack.

The film’s cinematography is another highlight, with beautiful shots of the rugged Irish landscape and the bleak, claustrophobic interiors of the local pubs and drug dens. The use of light and shadow is particularly effective in conveying the film’s dark and moody atmosphere.

At its core, “Calm With Horses” is a film about the corrosive effects of violence and the desperate measures that people will take to protect those they love. The film’s themes are delivered with an unflinching honesty that is both powerful and unsettling.

However, “Calm With Horses” is not for the faint of heart. The film contains scenes of brutal violence and intense psychological trauma that may be difficult to watch for some viewers. While these elements serve to heighten the film’s tension and realism, they may be too much for some audiences.

Monday 20th of March 2023

1945: The Savage Peace 9.45pm PBS America

This documentary explores the little-known aftermath of World War II in Eastern Europe. The film examines the brutal and chaotic period of ethnic cleansing, mass rape, and revenge killings that followed the end of the war, revealing the devastating consequences of this forgotten chapter of history. With powerful archival footage and eyewitness accounts, “1945: The Savage Peace” is a gripping and informative exploration of a pivotal moment in world history.

Philomena (2013 film) 11.45pm BBC1

“Philomena” is a heart-wrenching 2013 film directed by Stephen Frears and based on the true story of Philomena Lee (played by Judi Dench), an Irish woman who spent decades searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption as a teenager. The film follows Philomena as she teams up with journalist Martin Sixsmith (played by Steve Coogan) to uncover the truth about what happened to her son and the nuns who took him away from her.

One of the strengths of “Philomena” is its cast. Judi Dench delivers a powerhouse performance as Philomena, capturing the character’s quiet strength and resilience in the face of adversity. Steve Coogan is also impressive as Martin, adding a touch of humor and cynicism to the film’s otherwise somber tone.

The film’s cinematography is another highlight, with beautiful shots of the Irish countryside and the grandeur of Washington, D.C. where Philomena and Martin eventually travel to uncover the truth about her son. The use of flashbacks to Philomena’s past is also effective, helping to flesh out her character and add depth to the film’s emotional core.

At its core, “Philomena” is a film about the enduring power of love and the devastating effects of institutional abuse. The film’s themes are delivered with a quiet but devastating intensity that is both poignant and thought-provoking.

However, “Philomena” is not without its flaws. Some viewers may find the film’s pacing slow, and the film’s handling of the Catholic Church’s role in Philomena’s ordeal may feel heavy-handed to some.

“Philomena” is a moving and thought-provoking film that showcases the talents of its cast and crew. While it may not be for everyone, it is a must-see for those who appreciate emotional and socially conscious cinema.

Tuesday 21st of March 2023

Official Secrets (2019 film) 10.40pm BBC1

“Official Secrets” is an intense and politically charged film directed by Gavin Hood, which focuses on the true story of Katharine Gun (portrayed by Keira Knightley), a British intelligence specialist who leaks a memo to the press revealing a U.S. plot to spy on United Nations diplomats in the lead-up to the Iraq War. The movie delves into the consequences of her actions and the implications of a government that prioritizes national security above all else.

The film’s strength lies in its political subject matter, which offers a thought-provoking commentary on the importance of speaking truth to power and the moral dilemmas faced by those who seek to expose government wrongdoing. With a gritty and immersive visual style, the cinematography captures the tension and uncertainty of the story’s political climate, while archival footage and news reports from the time add a sense of realism and urgency to the film’s narrative.

Despite its impressive cast, which includes powerful performances from Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes, and Rhys Ifans, “Official Secrets” may not be for everyone. The film’s heavy reliance on dialogue and complex plot may require multiple viewings to fully appreciate. However, for those who appreciate politically charged and intellectually stimulating cinema, “Official Secrets” is a must-see film that delivers a timely and urgent message about the importance of accountability and transparency in government.

Wednesday 22nd of March 2023

Elle (2016 film) 12.50am Film 4

“Elle” is a daring and unsettling 2016 film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Isabelle Huppert as Michèle Leblanc, a successful businesswoman who is raped in her own home by an unknown assailant. The film follows Michèle’s unconventional response to the trauma, as she seeks revenge and navigates the complex relationships in her life.

One of the strengths of “Elle” is Isabelle Huppert’s stunning performance as Michèle. She brings an icy detachment to the character, conveying Michèle’s strength and vulnerability with equal intensity. Huppert’s performance is complemented by Verhoeven’s confident direction, which is unafraid to explore the film’s darker themes and push the boundaries of conventional storytelling.

The film’s cinematography is also impressive, with striking visuals that capture the film’s voyeuristic and unsettling tone. The use of dark humor and satire adds a layer of complexity to the film’s narrative, challenging viewers to consider the implications of their own perceptions and biases.

At its core, “Elle” is a film about power dynamics and the complex psychology of victimhood. The film’s themes are delivered with a subversive and uncompromising intensity that is both challenging and thought-provoking.

Thursday 23 March 2023

Inside Taiwan: Standing Up To China 9pm BBC2

Taiwan is at the heart of a struggle between two nuclear powers – China and the United States – and there are fears it will become the next global conflict. President Xi Jinping insists Taiwan is part of China and must re-unify with the motherland. But Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, says the island is already independent and must maintain its freedom and democracy.

Scandal: Jeffrey Archer and the Call Girl 9pm Channel 5

From his court action against The Daily Star after the newspaper accused him of paying off a prostitute who claimed to have slept with him, to his mayoral run, to his notorious trial for perjury and his eventual imprisonment, the scandals are endless.

Friday 24 March 2023

Stalin – Inside the Terror 11.05am, 4.30pm and 8.50pm PBS America”Stalin – Inside the Terror” is a gripping and deeply informative documentary that provides a chilling insight into one of the most brutal periods in Soviet history. The program delves into the psyche of Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953, and examines how his paranoid and ruthless tactics led to the deaths of millions of people.

The program is divided into several parts, each focusing on a different aspect of Stalin’s reign of terror. It examines the purges of the 1930s, the show trials of the 1940s, and the gulags, the notorious Soviet prison system where millions of people were sent to die. The documentary uses archival footage, interviews with historians, and re-enactments to bring the story to life and paint a vivid picture of the horror and suffering that occurred during this period.

What sets this documentary apart is its willingness to go beyond the surface-level portrayal of Stalin as a brutal dictator and explore the psychological and emotional factors that drove his actions. The program examines the impact of Stalin’s traumatic childhood and his relationship with his mother, as well as the paranoid delusions that led him to view anyone who opposed him as an enemy of the state. These insights into Stalin’s character and motivations make the program a fascinating and deeply disturbing study of one of the most infamous figures in world history.

However, it is important to note that the documentary can be difficult to watch at times due to the graphic nature of the violence and the harrowing testimonies of survivors. It is not a program for the faint of heart or those with a low tolerance for disturbing content. Additionally, while the documentary provides a comprehensive overview of Stalin’s reign of terror, it is not a substitute for a thorough understanding of Soviet history and the political and social context of the time.

“Stalin – Inside the Terror” is a powerful and enlightening documentary that offers a detailed and nuanced perspective on one of the darkest periods in Soviet history. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in the history of the Soviet Union or the psychology of authoritarianism.


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