Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio to Cow: the seven best films to watch on TV this week

The multi Oscar-winning director serves up a wonderfully dark take on the puppet boy who wants to live, while the life of a dairy cow is turned into a moving and beautiful documentary

Pick of the week

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio

This stop-motion animated version of the fable is co-directed by Mark Gustafson, known for Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox, so attention to detail is guaranteed, with Del Toro providing the fantasy and wonder. Gregory Mann plays the wooden boy on a perilous quest to be human, while David Bradley (Geppetto), Ewan McGregor (Cricket) and Cate Blanchett (Spazzatura) are just a few of the famous names lending their voices. The recent (mostly) live-action version starring Tom Hanks was typical schmaltzy Disney fare; Del Toro’s vision is far darker.
Friday 9 December, Netflix

* * *


Luma the cow.
Luma the cow. Photograph: PR

This moving observational documentary from Andrea Arnold (American Honey, Wuthering Heights) gets up close and personal with a dairy cow called Luma – following her giving birth, having her calf taken from her, being milked, giving birth, etc. Up-the-nostril cameras tail her and her offspring in and out of sheds, pens and fields to offer a sense of the restricted existence of farm animals – and perhaps pause for thought when you buy your next litre of milk. It’s far from a campaigning film, though, even if it’s easy to ascribe emotions – grief, pain, anger, joy – to Luma and her separated calf; moments of beauty and humour add shading to a portrait of a life spent in the service of humans.
Sunday 4 December, 10.30pm, BBC Two

* * *

The Glass Key

Margaret Hayes and Alan Ladd in The Glass Key.
Margaret Hayes and Alan Ladd in The Glass Key. Photograph: Alamy

Alan Ladd makes for a reliably insouciant hero in Stuart Heisler’s punchy 1942 adaptation of the Dashiell Hammett crime novel. He’s the right-hand man to a corrupt political boss (Brian Donlevy) who is deciding which side to back in the election for governor. Throw in a murder and a candidate’s eligible daughter (Veronica Lake) and – in typical Hammett fashion – nothing turns out as expected. Ladd and Lake would go on to bigger things with the Raymond Chandler-scripted The Blue Dahlia; an earlier collaboration, This Gun for Hire, can be seen on Sunday at 9pm.
Saturday 3 December, 12.20pm, Sky Arts

* * *


Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic.
Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic. Photograph: Alamy

Coming up for 25 years since its release, the epic disaster movie whose vast success inspired James Cameron to launch a thousand Avatar films (well, five) remains a bravura blend of action and romance. Star-making turns from Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, as passengers on the ill-fated liner fighting class barriers and icebergs in the name of true love, bring necessary humanity to an exquisitely rendered succession of set-piece floodings, upendings and crowd stampedes. And you can ponder once again if there was room for Jack on that raft …
Saturday 3 December, 7pm, Channel 4

* * *

The Conversation

Gene Hackman in The Conversation.
Gene Hackman in The Conversation. Photograph: Publicity image from film company

The film Francis Ford Coppola shot between his first two Godfathers is a prime slice of 70s paranoia. Gene Hackman has rarely been better as Harry Caul, a San Francisco surveillance expert (“the best bugger on the west coast”), whose latest job listening in on a young couple (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest) leads him to suspect their lives are in danger from his client. But have his parabolic mics and reel-to-reel recorders captured the whole story? Coppola dials up the tension as Harry investigates further and starts to lose his grip.
Saturday 3 December, 1am, BBC Two

* * *

Mulholland Drive

Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive.
Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

Naive actor Betty (Naomi Watts) arrives in the “dream place” – Hollywood – hoping to make it big in the movies. Then she meets glamorous amnesiac Rita (Laura Harring) and their search for Rita’s identity turns that dream into a nightmare. A puzzle to immerse yourself in rather than solve, David Lynch’s mesmerising film noir takes the genre tropes – femme fatales, menacing mobsters – and either subverts them or injects them with his brand of surreal playfulness. Glorious, rug-pulling stuff.
Wednesday 7 December, 11.05pm, Film4

* * *

Long Weekend

John Hargreaves in Long Weekend.
John Hargreaves in Long Weekend. Photograph: Prod.DB/Alamy

Colin Eggleston’s largely forgotten but enjoyably nervy eco-horror, part of the Australian new wave of the 70s, is more in the Ozploitation vein than the hazy, ambiguous Peter Weir dramas that epitomised the movement. John Hargreaves and Briony Behets play a couple on a trip to a remote beach hoping to repair their strained marriage, but their blase despoliation of their environment – from running over a kangaroo to spraying insecticide – comes back to bite them. Think The Birds with added dugongs.
Friday 9 December, 11.30pm, Talking Pictures TV

• This article was amended on 7 December 2022. Pinocchio and Long Weekend start on Friday 9 December. An earlier version said Friday 8 December. And the “young couple” in The Conversation were played by Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest, not Harrison Ford.


Simon Wardell

The GuardianTramp

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