THURSDAY SCREENER: Three films that should be in your watchlist
With Bande à part, Jean-Luc Godard redefined what a gangster flick is. A playful tribute to the Hollywood pulp crime genre, the New Wave filmmaker playfully toyed with D W Griffith’s maxim that all you need to make a film is a girl and a gun. Two young Parisians (Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur) recruit the object of both their affection, Odile (Anna Karina) to help them commit a robbery; stealing a cache of loot hidden in a lodger’s room in her aunt’s house outside Paris.
Between love triangles, café dance routines and a famous sprint through the Louvre, there’s lots of humour and stylish verve to be enjoyed, and a showcase of Godardian sensibilities – such as discontinuities in the narrative, Godard’s own voice-over narration, handheld cameras, citations, credit graphics and sharp wit.
When Katie Jarvis was having a shouting match with her boyfriend on the platform of Tillbury Station, no-one would have thought – least of all her – that it would be an accidental audition for a major acting role. Prior to that, the then 15-year old Jarvis had zero acting experience, but after being overheard by Fish Tank‘s casting agent, Jarvis was snapped up for a role she executed like a seasoned pro.
In the resulting film, Jarvis plays Mia Williams, a volatile, hot-headed teen raised with her little sister on a council estate by an alcoholic mother (Kierston Wareing). In her bleak and lonely surroundings, street dancing provides the only form of escape – that is, until her mother brings home a new boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender). Connor is unlike anything else in Williams’ life, he’s kind, compassionate and interested in her, but from their first encounter their relationship threatens to extend beyond mere friendship.
Fish Tank is streaming on Netflix.
Adapted from the 1956 novel The Ballad of Cat Ballou by Roy Chanslor, this classic Western takes what was originally intended as a serious film and turns it into one of the Western comedies. Starring Lee Marvin in an Oscar-winning performance alongside Jane Fonda, the film centres on an unlikely partnership between the two. Marvin plays Kid Shelleen, a once-revered gunslinger who hit the bottle and now struggles to draw his revolver without finding his trousers round his ankles.
When Ballou (Fonda) uncovers a conspiracy to have her father’s ranch taken from her (after evading execution in the film’s opening scenes), she turns to the old drunk for protection, unaware of the extent to which his old powers have waned. Much hilarity ensues, especially after it becomes clear that Shelleen can only summon his old sharp-shooting prestige after a full bottle of whisky. Soundtracked by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye, who appear throughout the film as a kind of musical Greek chorus, Cat Ballou only improves with age.
Cat Ballou is streaming on Plex.