5 things to watch this weekend – 30 June to 2 July

First up: the dangerous suburban fable that beat Lynch to it...

30 June 2023

By Sam Wigley

Smooth Talk (1985)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Smooth Talk (1985)
Criterion

Did David Lynch see this dark and dreamy drama before he cast Laura Dern in Blue Velvet (1986)? Fewer have seen Joyce Chopra’s 1985 coming-of-age movie, but in several ways – not just Dern’s presence – it pre-empts Lynch’s masterpiece, not least in its lurch between suburban homeliness and sudden fairytale danger. Based on a 1966 Joyce Carol Oates short story called ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’, it sees Dern playing a 15-year-old exploring her newfound sexuality in the burbs of Northern California. The late Treat Williams, who died this June, plays the rockabilly horndog who turns up on her doorstep one sultry afternoon…

Small, Slow but Steady (2022)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Set against the backdrop of the pandemic in suburban Tokyo, this engrossing, low-key boxing drama centres on the quiet determination of a young, deaf fighter plugging away at her career at a time of great financial uncertainty for the family-run gym where she practices. Eschewing the setback-strewn path to triumph trajectory of the tried and tested sports movie, Sho Miyake’s film instead focuses on the psychological, self-questioning aspects of wanting to compete, and the makeshift communities that local sports centres foster. It’s based on the memoirs of boxer Keiko Ogasawara.

Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Saturday, 9.30pm

Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

Essential Sam Fuller: ripped from a story in the Saturday Evening Post and directed as if in headline font. It’s a set-up about a boy who witnesses his dad being gunned down by mobsters and turns two-bit safecracker in order to get closer to the syndicate and eventually wreak his revenge. Cliff Robertson plays the grown-up avenger – one Tolly Devlin – with feet on both sides of the law, while Dolores Dorn is his money-running love interest, Cuddles. To all intents and purposes the classic noir era ended in 1959, but no one thought to tell Hal Mohr, the man behind Underworld U.S.A.’s newsprint images.

Hard Target (1993)

Where’s it on? 4K UHD and Blu-ray

Hard Target (1993)

Fresh off the plane to Hollywood, John Woo was the Hong Kong action auteur who’d made eyes pop out of the world’s collective heads with the ‘heroic bloodshed’ of movies like Hard Boiled (1992). Jean-Claude Van Damme, an import from Brussels, was the action star cresting in his own career of Stateside ass-kicking. The film they came together on was Hard Target – 30 years old now but still a stupendously good time in its story of a maverick Cajun seaman (Van Damme) helping a young woman seek out her father’s killer: a big game hunter who shoots homeless people for sport. 

Mother and Son (2022)

Where’s it on? Cinema nationwide

Léonor Serraille is the French writer-director who in 2017 brought us Jeune femme, a story about an aimless and broke thirtysomething woman trying to make a go of life in Paris. The theme of urban striving carries over to this new work, which centres a woman from Cote d’Ivoire who arrives in Paris with two young sons to start over. Told with the easy naturalism and nuance that French cinema can be relied on for, Serraille’s film has a three-part structure focusing on each of the trio in turn. Twenty years pass as the film dramatises the developing strains between mother and sons as they each try to find their way in the world. 

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