5 things to watch this weekend – 12 to 14 January

Steam, furious jumping and a triple helping of spaghetti – what are you watching this weekend?

12 January 2024

By Sam Wigley

Poor Things (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Fresh from big wins at the Golden Globes this week, Poor Things is Yorgos Lanthimos’s careening steampunk adventure in the company of Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), a suicide victim resurrected by eccentric surgeon Godwin ‘God’ Baxter (Willem Dafoe) in a medical school in Victorian London. Falling in with a rakish lawyer (Mark Ruffalo), she sets out as an innocent abroad on a frantic odyssey through Europe, discovering the joys of existence, the rampant fun of ‘furious jumping’ and the liberating potency of determining her own path. The source for all this is the 1992 novel by the late Scottish author Alasdair Gray. Lanthimos has brought it to the screen with a glee and grandness of conception that’s difficult to resist.

Gilda (1946)

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

Gilda (1946)

In Buenos Aires, an American drifter, Johnny (Glenn Ford), has made trouble for himself by cheating at craps, but he’s rescued by casino owner Ballin Mundson (George Macready) who offers him work as a kind of protégé or stooge. Only thing is that Ballin’s ravishing wife Gilda (Rita Hayworth) used to be Johnny’s lover, and their sexual heat hasn’t exactly gone away. This is a film noir of warped erotic energy in which the pent-up perversity seems to have suffused into the abstracted production design – a nest of grids and shadows. In its most famous sequence, Hayworth sings ‘Put the Blame on Mame’, seductively peeling off her long black gloves and flinging her hair back with abandon in what passes for a 1940s striptease.

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (2023)

Where’s it on? Digital platforms including BFI Player

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (2023)

Stripping off is all part of the centuries-old Estonian custom of the smoke sauna, and this beautifully crafted documentary immerses us in the steam and intimacy. Sweating it out in a cabin in the woods, and occasionally venturing out for a bracing plunge in a nearby ice pool, the gathered women chat and share memories, holding forth on a range of frank subjects, including beauty ideals, motherhood, abortion, dick pics and – in a harrowing anecdote towards the end of the film – rape. There’s a cleansing, confessional quality to it all, rooted in a sense of healing and primal ritual. It makes for perfect, let’s-start-things-over January viewing.

The Long Hot Summer (1958)

Where’s it on? BBC2, Saturday, 1:15pm

The Long, Hot Summer (1958)

There’s steam in a warmer climate in this Deep South drama, adapted from stories by William Faulkner. Newly married celebrity couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward play trouble-making drifter Ben Quick and schoolteacher Clara, the daughter of imposing local patriarch Will Varner (Orson Welles). Barn burner Quick may be, but Varner pushes Clara into his arms, seeing him as a more suitable heir to his land than the softie Clara’s been seeing for years. The future director of Hud (1963) and The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965), Martin Ritt keeps a sweaty grip on this sultry drama’s tortuous emotions, even when the lid threatens to fly off. Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury also feature.

Cult Spaghetti Westerns: Django, Keoma and A Bullet for the General (1966/1976/1967)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Django (1966)

Three key spaghetti westerns are brought together in this new box set, which also includes a lengthy extra featuring Quentin Tarantino waxing lyrical about the genre. Sergio Corbucci’s Django (1966) – a touchstone for Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) – may be the most famous non-Leone spaghetti offering, Franco Nero’s drifting gunslinger explosively intervening in a border-country feud between Mexican revolutionaries and a band of ex-Confederates. A Bullet for the General is a tale of guerrillas, hired killers and train-robbery set against the backdrop of the Mexican revolution, while Keoma is a late-in-the-cycle entry from 1976 featuring Nero, again, as the mixed-race soldier returning home from the American civil war to find his hometown under the yoke of a vicious gang.