Nick Broomfield, a ballsy documentarian (Sarah Palin: You Betcha! Whitney: Can I Be Me, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer) has a personal stake in his latest work Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love. His real-life role in the doc gives him insights into the main players we wouldn’t otherwise learn. He had an affair Marianne Ihlen in Hydra in the early sixties, while she was involved with Leonard Cohen whose song So Long, Marianne became a hippy era love anthem. Cohen was shooting to international superstardom at the time, enjoying his many groupies and having a baby with Suzanne Verdal in Montreal. He split the year between Hydra and Montreal as his drug and alcohol addictions worsened. Broomfield follows Cohen to a Buddhist monastery where he lived in servitude for five years, bankruptcy, battles with depression, rejuvenation and to his death in 2016, the same year Marianne died. Broomfield’s front row seat portrait of life on Hydra is an eye opener – a hedonistic playground for the rich that he says held Cohen in its sway. This insider look at a time and place does not flatter Cohen or the sixties hippy lifestyle, and it’s rather depressing at times.
I didn’t expect to be blown away by a documentary on sailing, but there it is. Alex Holmes’ Maiden did just that. Jones’ subject, skipper Tracy Edwards is 26 years old, living in England and dreaming of racing around the world on a sailboat. But it’s the ‘80’s and sailing is a males-only universe. Edwards manages to get work as a ship’s cook for a misogynist crew then forges her own destiny, gathering an all-female crew, buys and restores a second-hand boat she calls Maiden to compete in the Whitbread Round the World. Thousands of potential sponsors turn her down but King Hussein of Jordan believes in her and they’re off! The race itself is absolutely hair-raising, high life and death drama set against profoundly unforgiving elements. Edwards says “the ocean’s always trying to kill you, it doesn’t take a break.” And same with the media. One columnist called the Maiden “a tinful of tarts”. Highs and lows a scriptwriter could never imagine create a brilliantly satisfying, uplifting experience. Edwards’ journey for her crew and for all aspiring women, will bring you to tears and exultation. Don’t care much for sports? Don’t worry – this is as entertaining as it gets.
Turner Classic Movies celebrates the 80th anniversary of the greatest year in moviemaking history, ladies and gentlemen, 1939! Hollywood’s Golden Year films air all month on Fridays with not 39 but 40 films from the “crown jewel” Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr. Chips and the other crowd-pleasers to lesser-known gems like WWII film Idiot’s Delight, Gunga Din, a Bette David trilogy of Dark Victory, The Old Maid and Juarez. Henry Fonda in Young Lincoln, Cary Grant in Only Angels Have Wings, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and more. Catch Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Boyer, Jimmy Stewart, Joan Crawford and Shirley Temple at their best. Kenneth Branagh narrates the documentary 1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year. 365 films were released with weekly ticket sales of $80M. We haven’t seen a year come close to this output, excellence and profit. IMHO, 2007 was a splendid year, but it pales in comparison.
LONDON KILLS, Series 2 launches Monday on Acorn as one of its original series and it’s a doozy. Hugo Speer, Sharon Small and Bailey Patrick star in an intense continuation of a case from Season 1 concerning Amber Saunders the suspected serial killer and the disappearance of the Detective Inspector’s wife. The body of a young man, long-buried is discovered, identified only by his belt buckle. His roommates from decades before are brought in for questioning. And shockingly his sister’s getting texts from her late brother. Mix in the failure of the Chief’s daughter to show up at college. Excellent series woven tighter than a drum, given added strength by the performances of its leads. Watch and don’t forget to breathe.
Netflix debuts the crime thriller Point Blank starring Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo, the toughest of film and TV tough guys. Mackie’s a hospital nurse whose wife is about to give birth when he’s caught in a deadly trap. Gangster Grillo’s in custody in hospital, shackled to his bed, suspected of killing a respected local DA. His younger brother and crime partner kidnaps Mackie’s wife and says she’ll be released if Mackie gets his brother out of the hospital, free and clear. Marca Gay Harden, the detective investigating the brothers turns out to be one bad dude. What’s at stake is a flash drive containing volumes of evidence against high-level police and legal officers that could bring Cincinnati down. Mackie’s on the run as his wife goes in labour, handcuffed inside an abandoned warehouse. This strange brutal and short film features a weird collection of 70’s and 80’s TV theme music that may drive you over the edge. Not good.
CBC Gem debuts the Danish intelligence thriller Greyzone which plays on fears of terror threats in Europe and the militarisation of high tech. Officers have been tipped off that a truck headed from Denmark to Sweden is suspect, local police board the truck and discover a fully armed nuclear warhead. Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (Game of Thrones, Borgen, Vinyl) is head of development at a high-tech company which has accelerated military capabilities and applications for drones and after she speaks at a product launch, a journalist asks for an interview.
At home, she video messages her young son in France with his father, but the child has been left alone in a hotel room. The journalist asks to do the interview at his flat where he drugs and kidnaps her and forces her to transfer sensitive material from her boss’ computer or lose the boy. The series has a distinctly European feel about it, cool, spare, low-key. Its slow to start as much time is given to exposition, setting the complicated story but by the end of episode two, its gotcha!
Speaking of the CBC, families of five residing permanently in Canada are invited to apply to compete in the first Canadian version of Family Feud at www.cbc.ca/familyfeud taping in the fall in Toronto in front of a live studio audience. Applicants are asked to provide a 3-5-minute video to showcase the family vibe. Family Feud is one of television’s longest-running and top-rated game shows (1976) and is watched in 71 countries and territories. Catch it on CBC Gem this fall.
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