5 things to watch this weekend – 1 to 3 March

Options include a precursor to Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, a meta-fictional story of missing daughters, and a whimsical glimpse of the old east London.

1 March 2024

By Sam Wigley

Red Island (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Memories of a French childhood in the newly independent Madagascar of the 1960s and 70s are rapturously conjured on screen by director Robin Campillo in Red Island. Drawing on his own upbringing on a French military base on the island, the director of the AIDS activism drama 120 BPM (2018) is the latest in the string of filmmakers dramatising their own origin story. This is a coming of age tale awash in tropical colour, a child’s curious glimpses of the adult world, and a gentle probing of the ironies of the immediate postcolonial era. It’s a picture of a fragile idyll, defined by an endless parade of beach parties, barbecues and family get-togethers. 

Allonsanfàn (1974)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray and to stream on BFI Player

Allonsanfàn (1974)

Sad news came on Thursday of the death of filmmaker Paolo Taviani at the age of 92, who with his late brother Vittorio won the Palme d’Or in 1977 for Padre Padrone and made a handful of the great Italian films of the past half century. The brothers’ work is the subject of a current retrospective at BFI Southbank, and a welcome Blu-ray edition of this early period drama from 1974 was released by Radiance on Monday. Starring Marcello Mastroianni as an aristocrat and former revolutionary trying to leave behind his radical past after the 1815 Restoration, the film anticipates Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975) as an ironic picaresque in Napoleonic Europe. The galloping Ennio Morricone score is a treat. 

Four Daughters (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

In Four Daughters, director Kaouther Ben Hania alights on an intriguing Brechtian device to tackle the topic of Islamic radicalisation at a heartbreakingly real, human level. Olfa Hamrouni is the Tunisian mother who made news in 2016 when she spoke publicly about the disappearance of her two eldest daughters, who had left to join ISIS. To dig into what happened, Four Daughters features interviews and re-enactments with Hamrouni herself and her youngest two daughters alongside actors playing the absent pair and celebrated Tunisian-Egyptian actor Hend Sabry also playing Hamrouni. Mixing reality and performance, it results in a fascinating hall-of-mirrors effect, recalling the meta-dramas of Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi.

Femme (2023)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Among the best of the crop of British directorial debuts that made waves last year, this tense London-set thriller from directors Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping was altogether overlooked by the BAFTAs, but got multiple nominations at last year’s British Independent Film Awards, including a win for best joint lead performance. Now arriving on disc, it features Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as the drag performer who, after re-encountering the thug who assaulted him on the street late one night (a brilliantly nuanced turn from George Mackay, both frightening and sympathetic), begins a relationship with him as part of a dangerous revenge scheme. 

A Kid for Two Farthings (1955)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms

A Kid for Two Farthings (1955)

The old east London of market stalls and jellied eels, and specifically the Jewish community around Petticoat Lane, is wonderfully evoked by this whimsical childhood tale from The Third Man (1949) director Carol Reed. At its centre is an imaginative young working-class lad called Joe who, after listening to the tall tales of the tailor living downstairs, acquires a pet goat and comes to believe it’s a wish-granting unicorn. Coming between The Fallen Idol (1948) and Oliver! (1968), you might call this the middle part of Reed’s London urchin trilogy. It’s certainly fanciful, but there’s real appeal in its bustling picture of old London life – rendered in Technicolor that glows off the screen. This was Reed’s first colour film.