5 things to watch this weekend – 22 to 24 September

Stop Making Sense is back, an odd couple bond during drives to Belfast, and a Romanian auteur probes racial tensions in Transylvania.

22 September 2023

By Sam Wigley

Stop Making Sense (1984)

Where’s it on? IMAX cinemas, including BFI IMAX

Back in cinemas for its 40th anniversary, Jonathan Demme’s all-conquering concert film captures Talking Heads at the tail end of their best period, but at the peak of their stagecraft. Spliced together from a series of live shows at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater in December 1983, it starts small – with David Byrne walking on to an empty stage with a tape recorder – but gradually fills out to carnival proportions. The lineup expands, banger follows banger, Byrne wears that suit, and Demme’s cameras ignore the Pantages audience in order not to miss a moment of the band’s twitchy nerd-funk.

R.M.N. (2022)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Since winning the Palme d’Or in 2007 with the Ceaușescu-era abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu has made a succession of scalding dramas continuing to scrutinise the heart and soul of contemporary Romanian society. R.M.N. presents one of his largest canvases, juggling multiple characters as it documents the racial tensions that boil to the surface in a Transylvanian village after the local bakery employs Sri Lankan workers. Laying bare deep fractures in modern Europe, it culminates in a bravura sequence in which Mungiu captures a virulent town hall debate in one fixed-frame, 15-minute shot.

Moulin Rouge (1952)

Where’s it on? BBC2, Saturday, 1pm

Moulin Rouge (1952)

Made for the British company Romulus Films (along with his 1951 adventure The African Queen), John Huston’s Technicolor bohemian rhapsody Moulin Rouge is a portrait of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the belle époque. Featuring José Ferrer as the absinthe-quaffing post-impressionist, its dazzling recreation of the eponymous nightclub – all glinting lights and reflective surfaces – is a triumph, contributing to a vision of late 19th-century Paris that won deserved Oscars for its costumes and art direction. If Huston’s storytelling feels a trifle laggardly at times, we get plenty of bonuses along the way, including early pre-Hammer roles for both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee – the latter as Seurat. 

Ballywalter (2022)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

A young, prickly taxi driver and a troubled wannabe stand-up comedian forge a connection in this comic drama set around the Northern Irish coastal village of Ballywalter. Comedian Patrick Kielty plays the comic with skeletons in the closet, the root of the driving ban that means he requires the services of cabby Eileen (Seána Kerslake) to ferry him to and from his comedy classes in Belfast. Eileen herself is a university drop-out who’s still living at home with her mum, and the two faltering souls slowly get to know each other over the drives, each prompting the other to raise their game. This is a debut for stage, TV and short film director Prasanna Puwanarajah, with some very amusing stand-up scenes.

The Long Farewell (1971)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

The Long Farewell (1971)

The Long Farewell turns on a mother’s disappointment that her son has decided he wants to live with his father. It’s a complicated moment of conflicting loyalties and bruising turbulence, which Ukrainian director Kira Muratova renders in crisp, light-filled black-and-white images and precise editing – the beginnings of a spiky visual style that’s slowly made Muratova one of eastern Europe’s most celebrated female filmmakers. The Long Farewell ran into trouble with Soviet authorities and only emerged in the late 1980s, at the time of Perestroika. Indeed, Muratova’s films in general have not been easy to see. But two restorations come to Blu-ray this week, also including her 1967 film Brief Encounters.

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