What TV’s on at the BFI in January 2015?

It’s time for our regular look at the TV that the BFI is showing, this time in January 2015. And it’s very much a month of foreign TV, for a change. Kind of.

As well as a preview of Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude, starring the likes of Stanley Tucci and Sofie Gråbøl and filmed in Iceland, there’s a season of Eric Rohmer’s French TV documentaries and a season of British TV dramatisations of American plays, starring the likes of Eartha Kitt, John Malkovich and Eli Wallach. But just for a bit of variety, there’s a couple of plays starring Maggie Smith.

Sun 4 Jan 15:20 NFT2/Fri 9 Jan 18:20 NFT2*
Eric Rohmer’s TV documentaries: Programme 1
TRT 91min

Perceval ou le conte du Graal (1964, 23min) examines different interpretations of a medieval epic he himself would adapt years later. Entretien sur Pascal (1964, 21min) focuses on the philosopher discussed in My Night with Maud. Made long before the rise of British psychogeography, Metamorphoses du paysage (1964, 22min) looks at the transformative effects of the Industrial Revolution on the French landscape. And Les Cabinets de physique (1964) concerns ideas and experimentation in 18th-century science.
* Introduced by Geoff Andrew

Wed 7 Jan 18:00 NFT3
Sunday Night Theatre: Mrs Patterson
BBC 1956. Dir Anthony Pelissier. With Neville Crabbe, Evelyn Dove, Eartha Kitt, Elisabeth Welch. 75min. 35mm
Eartha Kitt is captivating as Teddy, a poor, black teenager who aspires to live the life of her mother’s white employer, in this BBC production of her 1954 Broadway stage success. In an era when plays on British TV were almost exclusively by white authors, this play, by African-American painter-playwright Charles Sebree and Greer Johnson, was a rarity. Great songs from Kitt and Welch characterise the fantasy sequences arising from Teddy’s rich imagination.
+ Panel Discussion and Q&A
Our panel, including Arts producer John Wyver of the Screen Plays initiative, will explore the whole rich subject of these great American plays and their UK TV productions
Check bfi.org.uk for final panel confirmation

Sun 11 Jan 18:10 NFT3/Wed 14 Jan 20:30 NFT3
Screen Two: Memento Mori
BBC 1992. Dir Jack Clayton. With Maggie Smith, Stephanie Cole, Thora Hird, Zoë Wanamaker. 95min

Jack Clayton’s long-cherished project, about a group of elderly people pestered by the phone calls of an anonymous angel of mortality, is a technically perfect, beautifully cast adaptation of a richly macabre Muriel Spark novel. Smith’s Mabel Pettigrew is a younger, manipulative blackmailer in one of her tautest and funniest performances.

Sun 11 Jan 16:20 NFT3
Television World Theatre: Strange Interlude
BBC 1958. Dir John Jacobs. With Diane Cilento, David Knight, William Sylvester, Noel Willman. 180min
Eugene O’Neill’s 1928 Pulitzerwinning drama is a masterpiece of American theatre, notable for its epic scale and extensive use of interior monologue. In this experimental BBC production, the final broadcast of the adventurous 1958 Television World Theatre series, characters’ inner thoughts are given as real-time voiceover as we explore the loves and losses of Nina (a superb Cilento).
Introduced by writer, producer and historian John Wyver

Mon 12 Jan/Fri 16 Jan
Eric Rohmer’s TV documentaries: Programme 2
TRT 81min

Les Caractères de La Bruyère (1965, 22min) revisits the work of the moralist Jean de la Bruyère, whose controversial portraits of Louis XIV’s court are recreated with a cast including Patrick Bauchau, Jean Douchet et al. With Don Quichotte de Cervantes (1965, 24min), Rohmer examines how Quixote and Sancho Panza have been represented in the visual arts, treating them as if they were real historical figures. In L’Homme et les images (1967, 35min), Rohmer discusses – with René Clair, Jean Rouch and Jean-Luc Godard – the nature and purpose of cinema and its relationship to reality and the other arts.

Tue 13 Jan 18:20 NFT1
Laurence Olivier Presents: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Granada-ITV 1976. Dir Robert Moore. With Laurence Olivier, Robert Wagner, Natalie Wood. 115min
This is a sumptuous production of Tennessee Williams’ 1955 Pulitzerwinning play of a wealthy, Deep-South family in crisis. Focusing on the unhappy marriage of the alcoholic Brick (Wagner) and his wife Maggie (Wood), it embraces the gradual revelation of disappointment and deceit that ricochets through the entire family, all gathered to celebrate the birthday of Big Daddy (Olivier).
Introduced by Amanda Wrigley

Thu 15 Jan 18:30 NFT3
Performance: Suddenly, Last Summer
BBC 1993. Dir Richard Eyre. With Maggie Smith, Rob Lowe, Natasha Richardson, Richard E Grant. 83min
Smith’s first American heroine is Tennessee Williams’ bereaved and bewitching southern matriarch Mrs Venable, a role wrested from Katharine Hepburn’s 1959 movie version. Eyre’s hothouse movie faithfully follows the play’s one-act structure and restricts the horror to the dialogue, and to Richardson’s brilliant performance as the infatuated cousin of a poet who comes to a grisly end.

Thu 15 Jan 20:15 NFT1
TV Preview: Fortitude + Q&A
2014 Sky Atlantic-50 Fathoms-Tiger Aspect. Dir Sam Miller. With Sofie Gråbøl, Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon, Richard Dormer. Eps 1 & 2, TRT 104min
Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston, Sofie Gråbøl, Richard Dormer, Jessica Raine, Luke Treadaway, Nicholas Pinnock and Johnny Harris star in Sky’s most ambitious drama to date, created and written by Simon Donald. Although surrounded by the savage beauty of the Arctic landscape, Fortitude is one of the safest towns on earth. There has never been a violent crime there. Until now. In such a close-knit community a murder touches everyone and the unsettling, mysterious horror of this crime threatens the future of the town itself. Be the first to experience this new 12-part series, and join writer Simon Donald and members of this stellar cast for a Q&A.
Please check bfi.org.uk for full panel confirmation

Sat 18 Jan 18:20 NFT2 /Fri 23 Jan 20:40 NFT2
Eric Rohmer’s TV documentaries: Programme 3
TRT 83min

Though deeply interested in and highly knowledgeable about all the arts, Rohmer always held cinema in particular esteem. He had written criticism and theory, and, as with Godard, some of his work in film and TV constituted a kind of critical engagement with film history. In Post-face à L’Atalante (1968, 17min) he discusses Jean Vigo’s classic with François Truffaut, and in Louis Lumière (1968, 66min) he celebrates the work of the great pioneer, in discussion with Jean Renoir and Henri Langlois, whose recent dismissal as director of the Cinémathèque Française led to the civil unrest of May ‘68.

Tue 20 Jan 19:40 NFT3
The Crucible
BBC 1981. Dir Don Taylor. With Sarah Berger, Lynn Dearth, Michael N Harbour, Denis Quilley. 170min
Arthur Miller’s 1953 play on the 17th-century Salem witchcraft trials also famously served as powerful commentary on contemporary McCarthyism in America. In this accomplished and stylish studio production by Don Taylor for the BBC, Berger and Harbour give strong performances as former lovers who are now at odds amid their community’s devastating battle between truth and belief.
Introduced by Amanda Wrigley

Tue 27 Jan 18:00 NFT3
Rocket to the Moon
Ch4-PBS 1986. Dir John Jacobs. With Connie Booth, Judy Davis, John Malkovich, Eli Wallach. 125min
In this television production of Clifford Odets’ 1938 witty, thoughtful play, Davis is pitch-perfect as Cleo, the naïve but spirited young woman for whom the dentist Ben (Malkovich) falls one steamy New York summer. The focus of this intense production gradually shifts from Ben’s mid-life crisis to Cleo’s self-realisation, and is punctuated with telling glimpses of Depression-era America.
Introduced by writer, producer and historian John Wyver

Wed 28 Jan 18:20 NFT2/Sat 31 Jan 20:30 NFT2
Eric Rohmer’s TV documentaries: Programme 4
TRT 101min
Rohmer’s interest in literature is well known, and in Les Contemplations de Victor Hugo (1966, 20min) he considers the influence of the sea and the Jersey landscape on the writer’s work (unsurprising, perhaps, given the coastal settings of many Rohmer films.) In Stéphane Mallarmé (1968, 27min) he explores the work of the poet, who died 70 years previously, by staging an interview with him (as played by an actor.) Rohmer’s enduring interest in architecture and the environment underpins both Entretien sur le béton (1969, 29min) and Victor Hugo architecte (1969, 25min), Rohmer’s second film about one of his favourite writers.

Thu 29 Jan 18:10 NFT3
Once in a Lifetime
BBC-WNET 1988. Dir Robin Midgley. With Niall Buggy, David Suchet, Kristoffer Tabori, Zoë Wanamaker. 105min
George S Kaufman and Moss Hart’s 1930 Broadway comedy romps delightfully and with enormous energy through the blunders and misadventures of three out-of-work vaudeville performers (Wanamaker, Buggy and Tabori) who try their luck in Hollywood. Setting themselves up as elocution experts for the ‘talkies,’ they’re taken on by a movie mogul (Suchet) and, at first, can do no wrong. A wonderful satire on Hollywood’s golden age.
Introduced by Amanda Wrigley

Champions’ priority booking: December 1 11.30am
Members’ priority booking opens: December 2 11.30am
Public booking opens: December 9 11.30am

Prices (excluding gift aid)
£8.95 (members)
£6.65 (member concs)
£10.45 (non-members)
£8.15 (non-members concs)
Under 16s £6.00

Prices (including gift aid and voluntary contribution)
£10 (members)
£7.50 (member concs)
£11.50 (non-members)
£9 (non-members concs)

All shows are £6 on Tuesdays. Conc prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.
As always, visit the BFI web site for more details.