THE SERVANT (StudioCanal). This major 1963 film, a metaphor for British class-warfare, directed by Joseph Losey and scripted by Harold Pinter, is a key work, which arrived in the wake of the Profumo scandal. A young, indolent and effete aristocrat (James Fox) is seduced by his smarmy manservant (Dirk Bogarde), which leads to a reversal of roles. Bogarde, insolent and never more so than when he is being servile, gives one of his best performances. The highly stylised orgy finale owes a lot to the Italian cinema of the period.
DREAM HORSE (Warner Bros). When your life is going absolutely nowhere, what you need to cheer you up is hwyl, a Welsh word meaning “emotional motivation and energy”. Welsh working-class villagers, with little money to spare, form a syndicate to buy, breed and train a race horse to compete with the best and win. Toni Colette and Damian Lewis head a cast of Welsh actors. This modest, sincere little film, based on a true story, will capture many hearts and not only Welsh ones.
BLACK NARCISSUS (BBC iPlayer). Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1946 adaptation of Rummer Godden’s erotic novel. Sexually frustrated nuns in the Himalayas have a hysterical and melodramatic time converting a former palace harem into a convent and school. Two nuns (Deborah Kerr and Kathleen Byron) have a crush on a British agent (David Farrar). The Byron nun goes mad in scarlet and gets murderous in a big bell stand on the edge of a precipice. Filmed in England, though you would never guess it whilst watching the award-winning, ravishingly beautiful photography by Jack Cardiff and Alfred Junge’s art production.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (BBC iPlayer). Will falls in love with a stage-struck young woman, who has disguised herself as a man so she can get to work in an all-male theatre company. They have great sex and Will writes a memorable play. The screenplay is a rich and witty mixture of Shakespeare’s poetry and Tom Stoppard’s jokes and anachronisms. Theatregoers who know Romeo and Juliet will have a ball; cinemagoers who have never seen a play by Shakespeare will also have a great time. Joseph Fiennes is very likeable and totally believable. Gwyneth Paltrow is a charming muse. Judi Dench is Queen Elizabeth I; and her 8-minute cameo role won her an Oscar.
THE GRADUATE (BBC iPlayer). This 1967 blockbuster was popular because it portrayed every young man’s dream. A middle-aged woman (Anne Bancroft) seduces a 20-year-old graduate (Dustin Hoffman). Hoffman, in a memorable screen debut, is hilariously apprehensive and gauche. Bancroft, sexy, voracious, rapacious, doesn’t want conversation in the bedroom; she wants sex and she turns into a harpy when he falls in love with her daughter (Katharine Ross). Mike Nichols directs a witty script: the first half is satire; the second half is screwball comedy.
THREE MEN IN A BOAT (BBC 4). Jerome K Jerome’s 1889 comic travelogue novel was dramatized by Tom Stoppard for TV and directed by Stephen Frears in 1975. Tim Curry, Michael Palin and Stephen Moore are the three idle Victorian toffs who row their boat in the Thames from Kingston to Oxford. A poetic nostalgic impressionistic souffle; the humour is of the gentlest kind. Much of Jerome’s text is spoken in voice-over.