Stay-at-Home Seven - November 13 to 19

Films to watch on telly this week

by Amber Wilkinson

The Conversation
The Conversation

The Conversation, 11.15pm, BBC2, Monday, November 13

Francis Ford Coppola was enjoying a purple patch when he made this gripping psychological thriller between his Oscar-winning Godfathers - and it’s worth remembering that in addition to winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 1975 for Godfather II, he was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay for this, losing out to Chinatown. The Conversation’s subject of surveillance is ever-green, while its anti-hero Harry Caul (Gene Hackman, at the top of his game here as a haunted surveillance expert whose troubled conscience drives the film) is also one for the ages. From the opening slow zoom sequence on the conversation of the title to the sound design from Walter Murch and the jazz-inflected score from David Shire, the craft is classy all round. Look out for Harrison Ford in an early role as a slimeball and a small and uncredited but noticeable appearance by Robert Duvall.

Utama, 1.50am, Film4, Tuesday

Alejandro Loayza Grisi marries the wide open spaces of the Bolivian Highlands to an intimate story of ageing love and generational tensions in his exquisitely shot meditative drama Utama. While never losing his focus on Quechua llama shepherd Virginio, his wife Sisa (played by real-life husband and wife José Calcina and Luisa Quispe) and their grandson Clever (Santos Choque), he gracefully tackles the theme of climate change and its impact on remote communities without oversentimentality. The film went on after its Sundance Film Festival premiere to win a slew of awards and was also nominated for a Best Iberoamerican Film Goya, losing out to Argentina, 1985.

Bad Times At The El Royale, 11.20pm, Film4, Tuesday, November 14

If you like the Knives Out films then definitely check out Drew Goddard's puzzle box of a thriller, which absolutely nails the same sort of mystery appeal as a satisfying Agatha Christie. A group of seven strangers arrive at a rundown hotel with a dark past. The hotel is carved in two between California and Nevada and the action also unfolds across more than one time period - and some unexpected spaces. As secrets begin to be revealed the surprises keep coming and if the scripting is occasionally on the baggy side, you can only forgive Goddard for feeling that he didn't want to lose a minute with this cast, which includes Cynthia Erivo, Jeff Bridges and John Hamm and Chris Hemsworth. Erivo also gets to show off her excellent singing skills with a beautiful rendition of Unchained Melody.

The Little Shop Of Horrors, 3am, Talking Pictures TV, Wednesday, November 15

Though audiences are more likely to be familiar with this story in its colourful, musical, Rick Moranis-starring adaptation, this black and white earlier incarnation of the tale of a man (Jonathan Haze) and his blood-thirsty plant has charms of its own. Among its selling points is Jack Nicholson, in one of his earliest roles, as the maniacal dentist - played in the later version by Steve Martin. More sinister in tone and darker in its treatment of its quasi-Mephistophelean pact themes than its successor, if not quite as polished, Roger Corman's film also stands the test of time.

Drive My Car, 10.50pm, Film4, Wednesday, November 15

Jennie Kermode writes: Working class driver Misaki helps actor and stage director Yûsuke to navigate more than just the streets of her remote Japanese island in Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's Drive My Car, which won Best International Feature Film at the 2022 Oscars. As he struggles with the disappearance of his equally famous wife and his resultant sense of purposelessness and loss of control, Chekov's Uncle Vanye looms large within his consciousness, and he skilfully exploits a brash young actor with a crush on his wife in order to avoid having to take on the title role himself, which could force him to confront aspect of his own personality that he's desperately trying to deny. It's a film about interiors both material and personal, and though it's sometimes a bit stagey, Hamaguchi makes good cinematic use of the island setting, which proves to be more complex than Yûsuke anticipated. The dryness of the script is alleviated by the emotional depth which Hidetoshi Nishijima brings to the leading role. it's an unabashedly literary film from a director who continues to experiment and produce some of the finest works in present day Japanese cinema.

All The President's Men, 10.30pm, BBC4, Thursday, November 16

If you ask anyone to name a film about journalists, Alan J Pakula's take on how Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) broke the story of the Watergate scandal is likely to top the list - and with good reason. This gripping film was made in close collaboration with Woodward and Bernstein and really gets down to the nitty-gritty of piecing together the puzzle behind the story. While Redford and Hoffman need no introduction, the strength of the cast runs wide and deep, also including great turns from the likes of Ned Beatty, Jane Alexander and Hal Halbrook. An adult treatment of an adult subject that celebrates the less glamorous side of reporting.

A Fistful Of Dollars, 10.15pm, ITV4, Thursday, November 16

Like The Conversation, this is one of those films that’s worth revisiting no matter how many times you've seen them before. Sergio Leone's first part of his Dollars Trilogy might have borrowed the plot from Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, but the Italian director had no problem putting his own stylish stamp on it, with his soon-to-be trademark meaty facial close-ups and impressive set-pieces. The script is pared back in favour of action - with Clint Eastwood reportedly fighting for ever fewer lines - as Eastwood's Man With No Name goes about the business of dispatching two feuding families. All this, plus, of course, that iconic score from Ennio Morricone, which will now probably lodge itself as an earworm with you for the rest of the day.

You’ll need to pop over to Facebook to watch our short of the week this week. Afshin Roshanbakht and Vahid Jafari’s stop-motion Lima about a son’s struggle to keep the memory of his father alive.

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