5 things to watch this weekend – 18 to 20 August

Provocation, perversity and all-round trouble-making: a handful of weekend viewing recommendations.

18 August 2023

By Sam Wigley

The Idiots (1998)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

The Idiots (1998)
Curzon

In the week when Lars von Trier made headlines (again) for posting a video callout for a new girlfriend and muse, along comes a 25th anniversary release for the Danish firestarter’s most confrontational offering. The Idiots is a film that prods at the boundaries of social behaviour as it follows a commune of Danes who make mischief by pretending to be developmentally disabled in public places. It was a suitably abrasive opening salvo for von Trier and the back-to-basics Dogme 95 movement, though it has earned its place in film history for something that wasn’t mentioned in the Dogme manifesto: it was among the earliest films to be shot on digital camcorders.

Love Affair or The Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (1967)

Where’s it on? Klassiki

Love Affair or The Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (1967)

Von Trier might have got a kick out of this gleefully subversive love story in which a couple’s happy honeymoon period is intercut with both morgue scenes following the discovery of a woman’s body and direct-to-camera commentary from criminologists and sexologists. Pick of the week on the streaming service Klassiki, this 1967 film from Yugoslavia unspools in that crisp, puzzle-piece New Wave style and still looks fresh, radical and disturbing – especially in these more puritanical times. The director is Dušan Makavejev, the free-spirited genius behind the kaleidoscopic erotic essay-film WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971). 

The Living End (1992)

Where’s it on? BFI Player

The Living End (1991)

Two gay men, a hustler and a film critic, take to the road after one of them kills a homophobic cop. Both of them are HIV positive, and they flee LA to a soundtrack of industrial and post-punk, fuelled by attitude and a nihilistic fatalism. Their slogan: ‘Fuck the world’. Terse, minimal, corrosive, this early indie from Gregg Araki was seen as a ‘queer Thelma & Louise’ and bound up with the 1990s New Queer Cinema movement. Araki’s films would steadily get more polished and friendlier to the touch, but the effrontery and arch, Godardian cool of The Living End still rattle the windows. The title comes from a Jesus and Mary Chain song.

Serpico (1973)

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

Serpico (1973)

Part of the early 1970s wave of gritty cop dramas that also brought us Dirty Harry and The French Connection (both 1971), Sidney Lumet’s 50-year-old classic sees Al Pacino step into the shoes of unorthodox real-life NYPD detective Frank Serpico. A recent graduate from police academy, Serpico soon finds his ramshackle plainclothes style is as out of place as his integrity in a force mired in bribes, corruption and cynicism. Coming between the first two Godfather films, Lumet’s whistleblower drama is a grungier showcase for an early-career Pacino at his most intense and idiosyncratic.

The English Surgeon (2007)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

The English Surgeon (2007)

Celebrated British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh is the subject of this absorbing documentary. It was made for the BBC’s Storyville strand but got a world premiere at the 2007 London Film Festival, and now receives a Blu-ray courtesy of Second Run. Geoffrey Smith’s film follows Marsh to Ukraine, where he started to lend his services in training, operating and organising equipment after being shocked by the state of the medical system there. We sit in on agonisingly difficult discussions and procedures, as Marsh strives to make the best of straitened circumstances to go about what he calls the “fierce joy of operating”.

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