5 things to watch this weekend – 24 to 26 November

Joaquin plays Bonaparte, Bradley plays Bernstein, and ghost stories old and new bring a seasonal chill. What are you watching this weekend?

Napoleon (2023)

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

Mirroring the accomplishments of the man himself, Napoleon has inspired heroic filmmaking and epic cinematic defeat alike – from Abel Gance’s monumental, five-and-a-half hour silent classic to Stanley Kubrick’s abortive attempt to mount his own biopic. Now Ridley Scott has thrown his three-cornered hat into the ring, returning to some of the same Napoleonic battlegrounds that featured in his 1977 debut The Duellists. But amid the staggering recreations of Austerlitz, the French retreat from Moscow, and Waterloo, it’s the saucy bedroom (and breakfast table) encounters between Joaquin Phoenix’s primally grunting Boner-parte and Vanessa Kirby’s patient, comely Josephine that really put the lead in Ridley’s account.

Maestro (2023)

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

With Napoleonic confidence, Bradley Cooper writes, directs and stars in this full-blooded biopic of the great American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. Following Bernstein’s career from his sensational early breakthrough at Carnegie Hall – stepping in at the last minute, aged 25, to conduct the New York Philharmonic – Maestro follows the artistic beats of an illustrious life in music, culminating in an extraordinary recreation of Bernstein’s famous 1973 performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony at Ely Cathedral. But the dramatic meat comes from its account of the turbulent married life between Lennie (Cooper) and his wife Felicia (Carey Mulligan, devastatingly good).

Ghost Stories for Christmas Volume 2

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Stigma (1977)

The second half of the BBC’s original 1970s run of Ghost Stories for Christmas are collected on this new Blu-ray set. Fireside tales intended to send shivers down the spines of viewers huddled around their television sets in late December, these short films have proven enormously influential on subsequent genre filmmakers. Shot on film and in regional locations, they each seem to have absorbed a palpable sense of chilly atmosphere and woebegotten fortune. There are two M.R. James stories in this batch and one by Charles Dickens (the terrific The Signalman), but series originals including 1977’s Stigma – a contemporary parable about a family who disturb a stone circle next to their new home – prove every bit as haunting.

The Eternal Daughter (2022)

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

The foggy chill of a good Ghost Story for Christmas also emanates from this new film from Joanna Hogg. Shot on 16mm in and around Soughton Hall in Wales, it sees a middle-aged filmmaker and her ageing mother, Julie and Rosalind (both played by Tilda Swinton), arrive for a stay at a country hotel in the run up to Christmas only to find it eerily deserted of other guests. Many moons ago, the place used to be their family home, and over their lonely stay mother and daughter grapple with memories and other ghosts alike. The Eternal Daughter sees The Souvenir director confidently step on to genre territory while cleverly sculpting it around her abiding interest in the family ties that bind.

3 Faces (2018)

Where’s it on? BBC4, Saturday, 22:40

Jafar Panahi has achieved international fame as the filmmaker banned from filmmaking by the Iranian authorities, yet who has found wily ways to turn out a number of major features since, regardless. This 2018 film takes the form of a quizzical road trip around the north-west of Iran and the border with Azerbaijan. In the front seats are Panahi himself and actor Behnaz Jafari, playing versions of themselves. They’ve set out to find a young would-be actor who has sent Jafari a distressing, suicidal video message. Their odyssey brings them into contact with a rural world of custom and tradition, with Panahi’s wise social critique and some funny business with a foreskin peppering their way.

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