Five things to watch this weekend – 29 November-1 December

Twenty years on, an anniversary re-release gives another chance to decide: where does Eyes Wide Shut rank in the Kubrick canon?

Samuel Wigley

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Is there a film by a great director with so unsettled a reputation as Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut? Even two decades after its release, you’re as likely to come across die-hards claiming it as his finest film as viewers who consider it an embarrassment on the great man’s CV. Perhaps this week’s 20th anniversary reissue on the big screen will prompt some kind of levelling. It’s perfectly timed for the festive season as Kubrick’s final film is indeed a perverse kind of Christmas movie, as Tom Cruise’s New York doctor embarks upon a nocturnal odyssey through a wintry, behind-closed-doors Manhattan, in a tailspin after his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) reveals a secret sexual fantasy. Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s 1920s novella Dream Story, this slippery, seductive and gorgeously filmed last testament is being screened around the country with a new short documentary, Never Just a Dream, in which Katharina Kubrick and producer Jan Harlan remember the production.

Knives Out (2019)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Whodunnits used to be mainstays at the pictures, but in recent decades the genre has become more associated with cosy armchair fodder on the small screen. Back in this galaxy after Star Wars: The Last Jedi, however, director Rian Johnson has done the cinema’s most thumpingly entertaining Cluedo-style murder mystery in years. Revolving around the murder of 85-year-old crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) at his country estate, Knives Out is a film that revels in the joys of a fiendishly constructed plot, quick-witted dialogues and a rogue’s gallery of supporting turns from the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon and Toni Collette. Not least, we get Daniel Craig hamming it up with a deep southern drawl as private investigator Benoit Blanc – the cherry on the cake of a production in which the fun that everyone’s having on screen proves deliciously infectious.

Atlantics (2019)

Where’s it on? Netflix and selected cinemas

Out simultaneously on Netflix and in selected cinemas, Mati Diop’s feature debut Atlantics has just been voted the seventh best film of the year in the annual Sight & Sound critics’ poll so it could hardly have landed at a more opportune time. Known for her role in Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum (2008) and her own succession of distinctive short films (one of which – 2009’s Atlantiques – contains the seed of this feature), Diop won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes festival, where she also made history as the first black female director to have work in competition. Yet these firsts and garlands shouldn’t distract from the film itself, which is a sensual and allusive sideways glance at the migrant crisis – one that’s crisply of-the-moment while simultaneously riffing on Homer’s Odyssey and, by stealth, turning into a zombie movie of sorts midway. Mame Bineta Sane plays Dakar’s modern-day Penelope, eagerly awaiting the return of her boyfriend, who has set out to sea in search of a brighter future.

Godzilla: The Showa Era Films 1954-1975

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Here’s a release that fulfils every possible definition of massive. Celebrating their 1000th US spine number (and now being unleashed in the UK too), the venerable DVD label Criterion has put together a box of the complete set of the original phase of Godzilla movies. From 1954’s earth-shaking original to 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla, this 15-film collection charts the evolution of Japan’s most iconic monster from nuclear-era city-smasher to his friendlier later incarnations, when he helps defend humanity against an all-coming cast of giant foes. Although a bells-and-whistles set like this seems geared towards the aficionado, first-time viewers of the original Godzilla may be surprised to discover that Ishiro Honda’s film is a richer and more emotionally affecting experience than its reputation as camp fun might suggest. The set also includes the intriguing 1956 American re-edit, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, starring Raymond Burr a year before he got the Perry Mason gig. 

The Halfway House (1944)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

The Halfway House (1944)

For lovers of vintage British cinema, Basil Dearden’s enigmatic fantasy The Halfway House is a good one to add to the watchpile. Made by Ealing Studios before their famous run of comedies, it features various familiar character actors of the era playing a disparate group of travellers who seek shelter from a storm at an inn in the Welsh countryside where real-life father and daughter Mervyn and Glynis Johns play the mysterious hosts. If this description suggests a Psycho-like set-up, in fact the secret of the inn is gentler and more otherworldly. The newspapers have old dates on them and there are no recent names in the visitors’ book, and the guests are soon experiencing a series of supernatural happenings while their own past histories each come under scrutiny. Dearden’s film was part of a wave of unusual, fantasy-tinged films that came out of Britain in the war years, as the nation grappled with loss and uncertainty.

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