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Wondering what to watch this weekend? The middle of the month presents a busy time in theatres, presumably as distributors of more humble, mid-budget fare attempt to get their due recompense before another Marvel movie (Doctor Strange 2 next) inevitably sweeps in and absorbs the discourse as well as all available multiplex screens.
This week’s slate of new UK streaming releases similarly provides an alternative, most of all in director Joanna Hogg’s incredible follow-up to The Souvenir, The Souvenir Part II. Meanwhile, a number of films by darling of the Korean new wave Park Chan-wook are up for viewing, with his vastly influential Oldboy as well as earlier hit Joint Security Area both hitting BFI Player.
Read more: New on Disney+ in April
At the same time, those looking for gentler alternatives to the bloody violent and wild tonal shifts of Park’s work (or just hungry for more Hamlet-inspired fiction after The Northman) would do well to note that animated classic The Lion King has landed on BBC iPlayer.
Please note that a subscription may be required to watch.
The Souvenir: Part II - MUBI (pick of the week)
Following on from her critically acclaimed autofiction film The Souvenir, Joanna Hogg’s rather unexpected sequel The Souvenir Part II delves even deeper into the boundaries between art and self. It sees Honor Swinton Byrne’s Julia unpacking her tumultuous relationship with Tom Burke’s charismatic but manipulative character from The Souvenir, in a graduate film.
Read more: New on Netflix in April
There are a number of layers at work in Julia’s thesis film and the making of it both around her own position of privilege and her newfound choice in subject, but The Souvenir Part II is also simply a fascinating character study as well as a sort of memoir. One of the finest films of the last year, one that sadly flew under awards season radars for whatever reason — and once you see Richard Ayoade in this film, you’ll also be baffled as to why.
Also new on MUBI: Waltz With Bashir, Showgirls
JSA: Joint Security Area - BFI Player
Directed by internationally beloved Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, one of his earliest films Joint Security Area is also perhaps one of his most underrated. A dark comedy and thriller taking place in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, as a murder mystery unfolds along that precarious line.
There’s also a tragically sweet kinship at its core between a group of soldiers technically on opposite sides, their childlike earnestness tinged with a sense of tragic inevitability: of course this can never end well. While not quite as luridly stylish as something like The Handmaiden or even Oldboy, it has all of the delightful hallmarks of Park’s later works, as well as the unexpected but delightful swerves in both narrative and tone, such as a soldier tearfully sending away a puppy that he can’t keep, telling it to “watch out for landmines”.
Oldboy - BFI Player
Based on the Japanese manga of the same name, Park Chan-wook's Oldboy — a gateway to cult international cult cinema for many an adolescent cinephile — tells the story of Oh Dae-su, a man abducted and held prisoner for 15 years, released for reasons unknown. He then cuts a violent swathe across the country as he tries to piece together the mystery of his kidnapping, both who the culprit is, and why.
Though it’s remembered for its brutal, single-take hallway fight, the real draw of Oldboy is its grotesque, fable-like quality, like a contemporary fairytale shone through a completely morbid prism. Live octopus consumption, broken limbs and severed tongues all feature — viewer beware.
Also available on BFI Player: I Am Not a Witch, A Touch of Sin
The Lion King - BBC iPlayer
Looking for more of the same after watching new cinema release The Northman? Well, here’s another unexpected reworking of Hamlet / Amleth for you.
One of the centrepieces of the ‘Disney Renaissance’ era for the House of Mouse’s animated studios, this Oscar-winning animated classic from directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff (their feature debut!) tells the story of Simba, a lion prince cast out from his kingdom after his uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons in the camp voice role of a lifetime) murders his father and takes the throne.
Making new allies (and lovers) in his exile, Simba goes on a journey to end Scar’s tyranny. The combination of bright, vivid visual presentation with (relatively) more realistic framing and character animation (the animators had to study wildlife as the characters weren’t anthropomorphised), makes The Lion King a feast for the eyes, and perhaps a gentler half to a double bill of Hamlet-inspired stories.
Also on iPlayer: Official Secrets, The Imitation Game
Watch: Joanna Hogg talks The Souvenir Part II at Cannes