IN a recent cover story, Time magazine rated Daniel Day-Lewis the best actor in the world — a view apparently shared by Steven Spielberg, who directed him in Lincoln. Though never a superstar or a household name, Day-Lewis has appeared in more first-rate films than any living actor I can think of, including some of the greatest — A Room with a View, Gandhi, The Crucible, The Age of Innocence, There Will be Blood. In 1989 he won a best actor Oscar for My Left Foot (Tuesday, 8.35pm, Fox Classics), Jim Sheridan’s film based on the bestselling autobiography of Christy Brown, the Irish-born artist and author crippled from birth by cerebral palsy. (The film’s title refers to the only limb over which Brown had any control; it was crucial to his ability to communicate.) Day-Lewis is heartrendingly good as the adult Christy, the ninth of 13 surviving children in a working-class Irish Catholic family. Charged with wit and unselfconscious humour, this intensely moving film never becomes maudlin or depressing.
Talking of best actors, Day-Lewis’s closest rival would have to be Robert De Niro, now appearing in Silver Linings Playbook. His work with Martin Scorsese across several decades, one of the most fruitful collaborations in cinema history, has yielded masterpieces such as Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Raging Bull. In The King of Comedy (Thursday, 6.30pm, M Drama/Romance) the two tried something different, with De Niro playing a plausible crackpot and con man called Rupert Pupkin who fancies himself the world’s greatest comic actor. Pupkin models himself on his hero, a funnyman talk-show host called Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), and ingratiates himself (temporarily) into Langford’s good books. Playing the creepy, demented, pathetic Pupkin was a complete character reversal for De Niro, who brought it off beautifully. A flop on its release in 1983, this chilling black comedy is now a classic.
It annoyed me that the Anthony Hopkins film Hitchcock contrives to give the impression that the main reason Hitch made Psycho was to counter the poor performances of Vertigo and North by Northwest. It’s true that Vertigo had mixed reactions on its release and flopped at the box office, but North by Northwest (Tuesday, 8.30pm, TCM) was a huge hit — one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous and successful films, the quintessential blend of thrills, suspense, mystery, romance and black humour, with Cary Grant in an archetypal role as a Madison Avenue advertising man caught up in an international plot. Gorgeously entertaining and a much lighter work than Spellbound (Saturday, 11.50pm, Fox Classics), Hitch’s dark psychological thriller with Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman, which is famous for a two-minute dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali. See them both.
(M) ★★★★✩ Tuesday, 8.35pm, Fox Classics
(M) ★★★★✩ Thursday, 6.30pm, M Drama/Romance
(PG) ★★★★★ Tuesday, 8.30pm, TCM