Happy New Year Dear Luminaries Magazine readers. There has never been a better time to curl up on the sofa or get out and about and support our film institutes, celebrated and up-and-coming directors and independent cinemas and revel in the greatest films ever made. Are you ready to watch films that explore, disrupt and celebrate the human condition in all its unfathomable complexity?
Elvis from the point of view of Priscilla, obsession, Brideshead gone bad in the sexually incontinent and silly Saltburn to black comedy, the avant-garde, love across the class divide and the restless quest for news and celebrity flim flam are just a few of the subjects that filmmakers explore on the big and small screen. So here, without further ado and for your watching and listening pleasure is my full Luminaries Review of the must-see films, drama and radio for the New Year and to make January a breeze as we head into another year of restless, exciting arts and entertainment that never sleeps.
I've been burning the candle for you! Let's go!
Powell and Pressburger - Maestros of the Avant-Garde
Time is running out for a feast of avant-garde British film. If you are in London this New Year's weekend, hot foot it over to The South Bank to celebrate the British filmmakers extraordinaire, Powell and Pressburger, and their film masterpiece, the hypnotic dark fairytale, The Red Shoes. If you are prone to passions and obsessions, look out.
You could also catch the duo's masterpieces on BBC iPlayer and ITV. My personal favourite is the 1947 film - A Matter of Life and Death - a stunningly audacious film, for its time, wickedly clever and provocative and designed to burnish troubled relations between the UK and the US during WW2.
The film stars David Niven as a brilliant WW2 fighter pilot and scholar and Kim Hunter as an American radio operator who would go on to play Brando's wife in A Streetcar Named Desire, opposite Vivien Leigh. Hunter is wonderful in both roles and she is well-matched with Niven as a brilliant young man whose life hangs by a thread. Hunter brings a vivid, girl-next-door, realism to her performances. In this film, she nails the WW2 can-do spirit of heroism and chutzpah and the story fizzes with wit, glamour, bravery, passion, intellectual curiosity and one hell of a battle to live. Can love triumph amid war? Watch the film and find out.
A Matter of Life and Death is a visual and intellectual feast, with the contrast between a sybaritic, technicolour earthly Eden and a stark, monochrome world in the afterlife. For news on the Powell and Pressburger Unbound, go to the BFI Website for nationwide screenings and events.
For my pick of BFI jewels this month. Watch Elizabeth Taylor in one of her kookiest and most profoundly misunderstood roles when she heads to Rome shortly after filing for divorce from Richard Burton in The Driver's Seat; Love Life, Koji Fukada's subtle portrait of a marriage that is undermined by tragedy and family dynamics; The Eight Mountains - winner of the Cannes Jury Prize 2022 and a meditation on friendship and discovery set amid the Italian landscape and La Reine Margot - with Isabelle Adjani and Daniel Auteuil in a terrifying, ill-fated, political alliance in Patrice Chereau's bloody, historical epic riven by internecine plots, perverse passions and familial loathing centred around the events during of the St Valentine's Day Massacre of 1572.
Hollywood Female Greats
For more incendiary roles for women watch Now Voyager starring Bette Davies who undergoes a brilliant metamorphosis from abused child and ugly duckling on the verge of a nervous breakdown to dazzling social belle who reinvents how to have the man and the daughter she deserves and becomes the role model she never had.
Then make way for Ginger Rogers without Fred in her Girl Power Oscar-winning tour de force, Kitty Foyle. Hold the front page! Rogers shows how great she is in a dramatic role that celebrates the rise of the independent working woman, the immigrants who built America and what she wants from life. This fearless, slice-of-life film is dominated by its leading lady and takes a scalpel to the pampered mainlining elites versus the hardworking middle classes with a dash of 'Judas Priest' Irish humour and cynicism. As Kitty, Rogers is brave, whip-smart, and full of life. She leads the charge for a real-life fashion mania for the uniform of the white-collar working girl from 1940 to 2024 - with the Peter Pan collar dresses that are everywhere again this season from Comme des Garcons to Alessandra Rich, Tory Burch and Miu Miu.
Cary Grant Forever
I don't know how I would live without the sublime prospect of being able to watch Cary Grant the consummate Hollywood chameleon play a fantastic man/ suave bachelor cad; outrageously wicked newspaper editor (uncannily like my last magazine boss), whiz kid, puppy banker or a secret service agent, morning, noon and night, in an entire galaxy of golden age greats.
Cary Grant rules the intelligent escapism roost for the best selection of classic films and ITV's biopic on Cary - Archie - The Man Who Became Archie Leach. Archie is very well done, but it left me stone-cold and rushing back to the films to recover my Cary composure. Archie is just too bleak, negative and depressing. The drama demolishes Grant the star and portrays the man as an uptight, lonely control freak who eats junk food in bed and treats Dyan Cannon like a little girl. Cary would never do that. Don't mess with my fantastic man. I'll take the Hollywood reinvention any day of the week. Of course, if you are feeling brave, dive in.
The BBC, ITV and Amazon Prime are showing an exciting selection of his most enduring films including Charade, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday the thoughtful and rather magical Christmas film The Bishop's Wife and more riveting gems that you have to see including Cary as a boy wonder financier full of puppyish idealism in The Holiday, opposite Katherine Hepburn; the crazily intense, glam and marvellous Indiscreet, where Cary makes love to Ingrid Bergman against the backdrop of London's most iconic hotspots and the wicked satire on new versus old money in 1960 rom-com The Grass is Greener. Robert Mitchum shows how easy it is to steal an ice-cool aristocratic wife, played adeptly by Deborah Kerr, by seducing her with oily millions, £3,000 mink coats and by running off with her to the Savoy. (Would any woman be impervious to all that?) Cary is wonderfully cool and shows how an aristocrat with brains and chutzpah gets his wife back by fighting a duel and cheating to show how much he cares... and most importantly, that he has no intention of losing.
You can skip between the BBC iPlayer and ITV for the best selection - together with the best of independent cinema, plus highly anticipated new releases such as Sophia Coppola's Priscilla which examines the story of Elvis from the female perspective with Priscilla Presley herself onboard as co-writer for authenticity and to show what it was like to to go from schoolgirl to the consort of the King of Rock 'n' roll. Actor of the moment, Jacob Elordi, nails the magnetism of the young Elvis and Cailee Spaeny delivers a compelling portrait of youth, shell shock, vulnerability and big hair. Plus compelling TV drama including the long-awaited second series of The Newsreader captures the spirit of the eighties through the news topics of the day where nothing is ever off limits. Will the golden couple of Australian TV news stay together or go up in a puff of scandal, smoke or sudden opportunities? Hugh Lawries's star-studded adaptation of Agatha Christie's Why Don't They Ask Evans? looks fun along with Damian Lewis and Guy Pierce in A Spy Among Friends. For radio gems, don't miss Legend - The Life of Joni Mitchell explored through her poetic, polemic, and social comment songs on BBC Sounds.
The Sleeping Forecast
Fall asleep to the BBC's time-honoured and celebrated shipping forecast news and instrumental music to send you off to dreamland.
A you ready for a tale of contrasts? Listen to the gothic horror and suspense of Jane Austen's thrilling, edge-of-your-seat chiller Northanger Abbey and then immerse yourself in a compelling story of love, social structures, inequality and morality in Mansfield Park.
Take a two-hour musical voyage into serenity with Olafur Arnalds.
Desert Island Discs
Staying on the topic of amazing women, I am going to listen to director and actor Greta Gerwig sharing the soundtrack to her life; followed by NASA scientist, Dr Nicola Fox.
That's it for this Luminaries Review. Until next time. Alison Jane.
Copyright Alison Jane Reid/The Luminaries Magazine December 31st 2023. All Rights Reserved. No copying or reproduction whatsoever in any format without written permission.
The Luminaries Magazine Needs You! Become a supporter of slow, independent journalism and help us to thrive in 2024 and beyond.
Become a paid supporter here - Join The Luminaries Magazine as a Patron of journalism and the arts.