5 things to watch this weekend – 26 to 28 January

Crossing dimensions, slipping beyond. Beware the flashing lights.

26 January 2024

By Sam Wigley

Samsara (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Trailer for Samsara (2023)

Real surprises come along in the cinema too rarely, but this gong bath of a film from Spanish director Lois Patiño asks us for a leap of faith, and the rewards are uniquely transportive. It takes its title from the Buddhist conception of life cycles and reincarnation, and begins in a community of monks in Laos, where an elderly woman is dying. These scenes have the becalmed air of an Apichatpong Weerasethakul film, and Patiño is to work similar wonders to the Thai master in traversing the gossamer-thin divide between life and death. Read the warning about flashing lights, but then don’t read too much else about what happens next. It’s one of the young year’s essential cinema trips.

All of Us Strangers (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Trailer for All of Us Strangers (2023)

Andrew Haigh’s breakthrough film, the gay romance Weekend (2011), contained a scene in which one of the two lovers pretends to be the other’s father in order to enact a fantasy coming out that had never been possible. Among other things, this latest film is a haunting and visually gorgeous expansion of that idea, in which screenwriter Adam’s (Andrew Scott) affair with neighbour Harry (Paul Mescal), in their lonely high-rise apartment block, prompts a series of reveries in which Adam returns to the home he grew up in to come out to his parents (Jamie Bell and Claire Foy). The source is a 1987 novel called Strangers, previously adapted by the great Nobuhiko Obayashi. Haigh’s new version is deeply felt and lustrously sad.

Street Scene (1931)

Where’s it on? Prime Video

Street Scene (1931)

The famous opening of Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979) – New York skylines and Gershwin glissando – surely took its inspiration from the beginning of this marvellous King Vidor movie from the early days of sound cinema: shots of Manhattan skyscrapers backed by Alfred Newman’s splendid Rhapsody in Blue-inspired score. Otherwise taking place almost entirely on a giant set of a New York street, the film is a transfer of a 1929 stage success about the comings and goings and neighbourhood conversations outside an NYC apartment block during a hot day and night that ends in murder. The drama’s theatrical origins are never in doubt, but Vidor compensates with a still astonishing visual dynamism, including travelling shots to die for. It’s hidden treasure on Prime.

Dread Beat and Blood (1979)

Where’s it on? BFI Player

Dread Beat an’ Blood (1979)

The year before he made Babylon (1980), that essential portrait of Black London life and soundsystem culture, Italian director Franco Rosso gave us this documentary portrait of dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. Shot on grainy 16mm film, it provides a vivid time-capsule of life in Brixton in the late 1970s, coming steeped in many of the issues facing London’s Black population, including inequality, racism and police brutality. It bottles Johnson’s lucid activism, his spoken-word performances, his work in the recording studio. Funded by the Arts Council, this short feature has been added to BFI Player as part of the programme celebrating London’s infamous Scala cinema.

Sexy Beast (2000)

Where’s it on? Film4, Sunday, 23:20

Sexy Beast (2000)

With his new Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest due in cinemas next week, Film4 offers this chance to go back to the beginning of the film career of Jonathan Glazer. Glazer traded up his career as a renowned ad director (including the famous horses-in-the-waves spot for Guinness) to make this more-than-a-cut-above entry in the geezer gangster cycle that was the big flavour in British cinema at the time. Ray Winstone plays the tanned-to-leather crook who’s given it all up for a quiet life on the Costa del Sol. But out of the past comes Ben Kingsley’s screw-loose hardnut who wants him for a job back in London – and ‘no’ isn’t a word he knows. Twenty-four years on, Sexy Beast still does the business, but who’d have predicted the career that Glazer has mapped out for himself in only three features since?