5 things to watch this weekend – 4 to 6 August

Four transgender sex workers tell tales of their industry, Sam Peckinpah goes to the Eastern Front, and a Lars von Trier tragedy returns to cinemas.

4 August 2023

By Sam Wigley

Kokomo City (2023)

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

Four Black transgender sex workers from New York and Georgia tell it like it is in D. Smith’s vividly frank and flavourful documentary. Candid tales of encounters with clients range from humorous to horrific as the women hold the screen with their matter-of-fact charisma and seen-it-all attitude. Filmed in high-contrast black and white, they tell a great story. A handful of trans-attracted men also have their say. Prior to her own transition, D. Smith was a Grammy-winning music producer. Her sensational filmmaking debut bears comparison with classic, plain-speaking LGBTQIA+ docs like Tongues Untied (1989) or Paris Is Burning (1990). 

Cross of Iron (1977)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Cross of Iron (1977)
StudioCanal

Sam Peckinpah traded in the Tex-Mex borderlands of his great westerns for the Eastern Front in this bleak and brutal Second World War drama, his only war film. Filmed in various locations across the Balkans, with the shooting schedule frequently torpedoed by Peckinpah’s taste for binging on the local plum spirit, it takes the measure of cowardice, bravery and endurance amid the officers of a battle-scarred German battalion on retreat from the Russian army. Maximilian Schell and James Coburn play a corporal and captain at loggerheads, as Peckinpah forsakes the Boys’ Own heroics of the era’s other big-budget war movies for a visceral study in psychology and defeat.

Paris Memories (2022)

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

Virginie Efira plays a TV journalist struggling to piece together her memory of events after being caught up in a terrorist incident in Paris in this thoughtful drama from French filmmaker Alice Winocour. Informed by her own brother’s experiences inside the Bataclan concert hall during the 2015 attack, Winocour’s film stages a fictional siege on a Paris restaurant – a terrifying scene. But it’s more concerned with the aftermath of the trauma, when Efira’s Mia grapples with amnesia and a sense of guilt about her own possible actions in the moment. She becomes fixated on tracking down the Senegalese chef – an undocumented worker – who she hid with. 

Pillow Talk (1959)

Where’s it on? BBC2, Sunday, 1.20pm

Pillow Talk (1959)

Mobile phones have put paid to the kind of romantic entanglements that ensue in this chirpy New York romcom teaming Doris Day and Rock Hudson. She’s an interior decorator. He’s an arrogant Broadway composer and playboy who lives in the neighbouring apartment. Because they share a phone line, she’s more aware of his compulsive womanising than she’d like to be. But when she lodges a complaint with the telephone company, he takes his revenge by posing as a Texas rancher in a bid to seduce her. It’s a convoluted path to true love, but it won the Oscar for best original screenplay and Pillow Talk became a huge hit, initiating a cycle of similarly glossy Day-Hudson romances.

Breaking the Waves (1996)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Breaking the Waves (1996)

One of the defining arthouse releases of the 1990s, Breaking the Waves was a turning point for Lars von Trier – made after he and Thomas Vinterberg had laid out their Dogme 95 manifesto, but when Lars was not yet quite ready to play entirely by its rules. Now rereleased in a 4K restoration, it’s also the first of his trilogy of studies of pure-hearted women in a cynical adult world, in this case framing Emily Watson – in her breakthrough performance – as the simple-spirited young bride of an oil rig worker who agrees to take other lovers after an accident leaves him paralysed. Conjuring a remote, churchgoing community in 1970s Scotland with grainy, handheld camerawork, von Trier mounts a forcefully intimate tragedy.

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