5 things to watch this weekend – 11 to 13 August

A tomb-raiding treasure re-emerges thanks to Martin Scorsese, while an adult cinema is the setting for a 40-year-old feminist mystery.

11 August 2023

By Sam Wigley

Al-Momia (1969)

Where’s it on? The Film Foundation Restoration Screening Room from 12 to 14 August

Al-Momia (1969)

Also known by its evocative English title The Night of Counting the Years, this Egyptian classic is a tomb-raiding tale that assumes monumental dimensions. The plot sees a tribal clan robbing mummies from ancient pharaonic tombs to sell on the black market, but Shadi Abdel Salam’s film is no Indiana Jones adventure. Instead, borne along on an atmospheric score by Italian composer Mario Nascimbene, it becomes a spellbinding meditation on time, heritage and the persistence of the ancient past. Itself a rare and difficult to see objet d’art, Salam’s masterpiece has been restored by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation and is screening, along with Salam’s transportive Ancient Egypt short The Eloquent Peasant (1970), for 72 hours only in their online screening room from Saturday. 

Variety (1983)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide, including BFI Southbank

Variety (1983)

Bette Gordon’s enigmatic feminist anti-thriller inhabits a similar milieu to Taxi Driver (1976): a seedy, tatty New York of dive bars and porn cinemas. Its heroine, Christine (Sandy McLeod), is struggling to make ends meet when a friend tips her off that a local X-rated picturehouse is looking for a ticket-taker. Becoming fascinated with the venue’s seedy scene, she starts following a mysterious customer who she comes to believe has ties with the mafia. Now 40 years old, Variety is a classic of No Wave-era NYC indie cinema, contemporaneous to the early Jim Jarmusch films and involving the collaboration of a host of downtown luminaries: screenplay by Kathy Acker, music by John Lurie, Nan Goldin (who also appears in the cast) taking photos, and so on.

Young Soul Rebels (1991)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Young Soul Rebels (1991)

Isaac Julien’s 1991 film Young Soul Rebels takes us back to east London during the hot summer of 1977. Punk is happening. There are parties in the streets for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. In Dalston, young punks, soulboys and skinheads rub shoulders. Two pirate-radio DJs, Chris and Caz, are shocked by the homophobic murder of their friend. The Black community suspects the National Front’s involvement, yet it’s Chris who is hauled in by the police. Racism and urban unrest are in the air, but Julien’s film is also about friendship, attraction and the joys of dancing the night away. The soundtrack includes Funkadelic, Sylvester and The O’Jays.

Enter the Dragon (1973)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Enter the Dragon (1973)

Amid a rush of Bruce Lee activity, including a new Blu-ray box of his greatest hits, this week sees a 50th-anniversary return to cinemas for his biggest success of all. Enter the Dragon was Lee’s final completed project before his untimely death at the age of 32. It became the acme of the Lee cult, supercharged internationally by Warner Bros distribution, a score by Lalo Schrifin and the film’s shrewd fusion of kung fu, Bond movie and blaxploitation tropes. The plot sees a Shaolin Temple master being enlisted by British intelligence to investigate an unscrupulous crime lord while attending a martial arts tournament on his private island.

The Halfway House (1944)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Sunday, 6.30pm

The Halfway House (1944)

A disparate group of travellers seek shelter from a storm at an inn in the Welsh countryside in this wartime British fable. There are no recent names in the visitors’ book, the newspapers have old dates on them, and the guests are soon experiencing a series of supernatural happenings – even as their own past histories are dragged out of the shadows. Featuring an ensemble cast of familiar 1940s faces, Basil Dearden’s unusual film was part of a wave of fantasy-tinged releases that came out of Britain during the war years, as the nation grappled with loss and uncertainty. Although the synopsis might suggest a horror movie, in fact the secret of the inn is gentler and more otherworldly.

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