5 things to watch this weekend – 8 to 10 December

A Team GB Olympian makes her directorial debut, Moira Shearer dances to live, and the undead walk in Cornwall. What are you watching this weekend?

8 December 2023

By Sam Wigley

Trenque Lauquen (2022)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide and Curzon Home Cinema

Six years in the making, Trenque Lauquen is an endlessly intriguing mystery drama from Argentina in which the labyrinthine story often seems to be multiplying, reshaping and reinventing itself in front of our eyes. At the top level it’s about the search for a missing woman – a botanist called Laura (played by Laura Paredes, who also co-wrote the film with director Laura Citarella). But over the film’s two feature-length parts (which are being released together in the UK), other intrigues and investigations take shape, as we also follow Laura’s own perambulations around the Pampas on the trail of a mystery that begins with love letters concealed in a library book and culminates with intimations of something beastly lurking in the lagoon.

The Red Shoes (1948)

The Red Shoes begins with the rush of music students and other audience members into their seats at the Covent Garden Opera House. They’re to see the new ballet by the Lermontov company, and the thrill and expectation of arriving for a performance has rarely been so evocatively conveyed on screen. It’s the great theme of this pantheon work by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger: the lure of art and the all-consuming passion required of the artist. Moira Shearer is the ingénue dancer groomed for greatness by Anton Walbrook’s fiery impresario Lermontov. “Why do you want to dance?” he asks her. Comes the response: “Why do you want to live?”

Bluebeard’s Castle (1963)

Where’s it on? BFI Player and on Blu-ray

While The Red Shoes remains among the most venerated of all British films, this later adventure in artifice and music from Michael Powell has barely been seen. A staging of Bartók’s opera of the same name made at a studio in Salzburg for German TV in 1963, it’s been in legal limbo for decades but has now finally emerged in a BFI and Film Foundation restoration. Featuring forceful performances from American bass-baritone Norman Foster as Bluebeard and the Uruguayan mezzo-soprano Ana Raquel Satre as the fourth wife slowly coming to the grisly realisation about what happened to her predecessors, the dark tale unfolds on stage sets of heightened artificiality. Expressionistic lighting filters and mercurial colours give this high-art fever dream a tang of giallo.

Earth Mama (2023)

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

Earth Mama is among the year’s most distinctive and deeply felt directorial debuts – a new kind of achievement for Savanah Leaf, the Olympic volleyball player who competed for Great Britain in 2012. Leaf’s film has some of the urgent, unvarnished spirit of Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) or Barbara Loden’s Wanda (1970) in its focus on a pregnant Bay Area single mum in recovery from drug abuse, Gia (a performance of affecting resolve and vulnerability by rapper Tia Nomore), who is fighting to regain custody of her two children in foster care. Quiet and soulful, the film is elevated by its beautifully tactile 16mm images, its tender closeups and the mesmeric use of ambient sound and music.

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Sunday, 02:00

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

With just two years to go before George A. Romero awakened the modern zombie movie with Night of the Living Dead (1968), Hammer delivered this cherishable but much more old-fashioned treatment of the walking dead. Shot back to back with the same year’s The Reptile by director John Gilling, using the same Cornish village set at Hammer’s Bray Studios, it’s a period story set in the middle of the 19th century. When André Morell’s Sir James Forbes arrives in the village, locals are dying off from a mysterious plague, and the local squire is using Haitian voodoo to summon the undead as a workforce for his dilapidated tin mines.

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