Films of the week: Mass murderers caught in the re-enactment in The Act of Killing

 

Tuesday

The Act of Killing

10pm Sky Atlantic (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)

In 1965, in the aftermath of a failed military coup, Indonesian death squads killed an estimated 500,000 "suspected communists". In this jaw-dropping documentary, the perpetrators are encouraged to make movies depicting their crimes. And thanks to this cunning act of psychological manipulation on the part of the film-makers, the killers' self-justifications begin to crumble. The re-enactments become acts of remembrance, and the past comes back to life as a surreal waking nightmare. A chilling but utterly fascinating and important film. *****

Saturday

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

3.15pm ITV (George Lucas, 1977)

The film that used to be called just plain Star Wars is by far the most satisfying and fun in the franchise: a spectacular and iconic space opera, knowingly modelled on kids' Saturday matinee adventure serials, about an orphaned teenager on a remote farm in a galaxy far, far away, who discovers magical powers and uses them to defeat an evil empire. *****

Sunday

About Elly

10.30pm BBC4 (Asghar Farhadi, 2009)

This earlier work by the Iranian director of the Oscar-winning 2011 film A Separation is about the web of lies and recriminations in which a group of old university friends entangle themselves after one of their party goes missing at the seaside and her honour is called into question. It's a slightly less universal drama than A Separation, but no less controlled or closely observed. ****

Monday

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

11.15am & 5pm Sky Movies Greats (George Roy Hill, 1969)

A light-hearted, much- loved Western caper with an anachronistically modish feel, about two real-life train robbers who are chased by a posse from Wyoming to Bolivia. William Goldman provides a witty, banter-filled script and Burt Bacharach provides a memorable pop interlude. ****

Wednesday

Lion's Den

11.10pm Film4 (Pablo Trapero, 2008)

This is an unsparing depiction of life in the section of a Buenos Aires women's prison in which the inmates who were pregnant when sentenced raise their young children together. Martina Gusman gives a remarkable performance as one such prisoner, seeming a completely different woman at the end of the film than she does at the beginning. It's gruelling, but not lacking in hope or humanity. ****

Thursday

The Kids Are All Right

9pm Film4 (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)

Julianne Moore and Annette Bening star as a well-off married couple whose teenage children establish contact with their sperm-donor father (Mark Ruffalo). On one level a very funny comedy of modern manners skewering a particular LA way of speaking, this sharply written film is also about ordinary, everyday family life. *****

Friday

Life of Pi

4.10pm 8pm Sky Movies Premiere (Ang Lee, 2012)

Putting the magic into magical- realism, Ang Lee's adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 Booker-winner is ablaze with sumptuous imagery, and dissolves distinctions between the rational and the fantastic by the simple trick of causing you not to believe your eyes. Daring you to believe in the impossible, it is about a young Catholic-Hindu and a Bengal tiger who spend a year adrift on the Pacific in a lifeboat. *****

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