Stay-At-Home Seven: September 13 to 19

TV and streaming picks for the week ahead

by Amber Wilkinson

Shakespeare In Love
Shakespeare In Love
Shakespeare In Love, 10.35pm, BBC4, Thursday, September 16 and then on iPlayer

John Madden's film caused considerable upset when it pipped Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan to the Academy Award back in 1999, with many feeling the visceral war drama should have taken home the statuette. But while it's tempting to think that serious drama should always trump more lightweight entertainment, there's plenty to recommend about this playful charmer, co-written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, which snagged seven Oscars in all, including two for stars Judi Dench and Gwyneth Paltrow. Set against a backdrop of Elizabethan England, we meet the bard (Joseph Fiennes) as he's grappling with writer's block - Romeo And Ethel, The Pirates Daughter, is proving surprisingly tricky - and who finds unexpected inspiration and romance with Paltrow's Violet De Lesseps. Essentially a farce with the trappings of a costume drama, the film has plenty of fun messing about with familiar Shakespearean themes and mixing them with anachronistic punchlines, while not forgetting to serve up a decent slice of romance on the side. Read our full review.

Maria By Callas, iPlayer, until October 25

Anne-Katrin Titze writes: Maria by Callas fashionably invites us into the world of a great artist. Jean Cocteau, Brigitte Bardot, Edward and Wallis, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, are among those seen coming to hear her sing. The film takes its time; Callas performs entire arias, we hear the applause and we also get a glimpse into what she calls the "saddest evening in her career" when in Rome in 1958, she walked out on a sold-out performance. Headlines, bronchitis, the press in an uproar, a terrified star "swamped with fear" - Tom Volf nimbly does not untangle the drama for us. As the title suggests, the documentary lets the famous opera singer speak for herself about her life, her career, her loves as Maria, the woman behind, or within, the star. Often you see the truth in her face, not in her words. Maria by Callas is a beautiful film that enchants without relying on duplicity and it might trigger questions such as these: How do you serve music with humility? Who really is Madame Butterfly? What happens when you have no childhood? When she died of a heart attack in 1977, she was rehearsing to perform again. She was 53 years old. Callas said she hoped to "transport you to another world" with her music. She still does.

The Beguiled, Wed BBC2 11.15pm

Jennie Kermode writes: A fresh adaptation of Thomas P Cullinan's novel rather than a remake of the 1971 Don Siegel film, this deceptively delicate slice of Southern Gothic made Sofia Coppola the second ever woman to win Best Director at Cannes, and where it does directly parallel Siegel's work, the difference in perspective, in shot choice and the way it's lensed, is startling. As Coppola has demonstrated previously with The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette, she has an astute understanding of the toughness that can underlie feminine trappings. The inhabitants of the girl's school which she presents to us here are resourceful and capable of ruthlessness when occasion requires it - they have had to be, to escape the danger represented by prowling soldiers during the US Civil War. When wounded soldier John McBurney (Colin Farrell) throws himself on their mercy, it may be his good looks that initially save him, but those same looks spark jealousy, and what might initially have seemed like a dream come true for him will ultimately become a nightmare. Coppola reunites here with Kirsten Dunst and also gets great performances from Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning.

Gunda, 10pm, BBC4, Wednesday, September 15

Anne-Katrin Titze writes: Gunda is an extraordinarily impactful, loving, and urgent film and the more people stumble upon it, because they are lured by a magnificent pig with the cutest piglets, shot in poised black and white, the better off they will be. We meet Gunda, it seems, while she is giving birth to her 13 piglets. The camera stays respectfully outside the small barn structure at first. A bit later we get very very close - one of the newborns is still wet - and we see what Gunda has to do to keep everything under control. We see them sleep, huddled together, and feed and play. Watching them makes you think of life and death and how absolutely wondrous it is that we are here. Piglets, hay, mud, the sky above, the earth below. Kossakovsky brings us to what it’s actually all about. And we play a part in it, daily, with our decisions for every meal. With the ongoing pandemic we know more than ever before about conditions at wet markets and processing plants all over the world, not far away at all, that deliver cheap meat and poultry, packaged up in plastic to make it least resemble a living soul with a face and a heart. It’s time to stop pretending. Gunda sends a most forceful message about gratitude, respect and humility and the horrors that humans unleash on the world everyday, every hour, becoming complicit in every meal where convenience is king. Read our full review.

The Graduate, 11.35pm, BBC1, Friday, September 17

It seems almost impossible to believe there was a time Dustin Hoffman was unknown to international audiences, but he was largely an off-Broadway star when he hit the big-time in Mike Nichols' sharp satire (which the star dropped out of Mel Brooks' [film id-10451]The Producers[/film] to take on - alongside Brooks' wife Anne Bancroft). He plays Benjamin, a nervy, virginal student who is seduced by his parents' predatory and desperately bored fortysomething friend Mrs Robinson (Bancroft). More than 50 years on, if anything, the deliciously black comedy about middle-class anxieties and intergenerational warfare bites even deeper now than it did then. Read our ~full review

Snowden, 1.05am, Film4, Wednesday, September 15

The real-life tale of the computer geek (Edward Snowden, played here with a quiet gravitas by Jospeh Gordon-Levitt) who found himself turning into a whistleblower on the run. Oliver Stone, who has always had an interest in secrecy at the heart of government, is the perfect director to take this on, turning the story into a gripping thriller, while still packaging a message about power and politics. The director lets events unfold from Snowden's perspective as he is increasingly forced to question his right-wing patriotic beliefs and if there's a little bit of grandstanding on the part of the director, this is still a hell of a story, well told. Read our full review.

Birds Of Passage, Channel 4, 1.50am, Friday, September 17

Don't be put off by the two-hour running time of this Colombian film, the time is put to good use by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra as they craft a gripping, decades-spanning crime clan epic packed with Shakespearean themes but also encompassing more modern ills, including capitalism and colonialism. The film charts one indigenous family's baby steps into the drugs trade before watching the decline of the clan as honour falls victim to profit. Beautifully shot (by Gallego) this marries its drug war themes to an ethnographic lament in beguiling fashion. Read our full review.

This week's short selection is Sarah Wickens' inventive and technically impressive What Light (Through Yonder Window Breaks), which sees a shaft of sunlight take on a life of its own.

What Light (Through Yonder Window Breaks) from Sarah Wickens on Vimeo.

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