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Cut & Wrapped this week: the Pussy Riot doc, new Michael Douglas and a Herzog classic

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NEW DOCUMENTARY OF THE WEEK: PUSSY RIOT – A PUNK PRAYER

The guerrilla punk performance in a Moscow cathedral by anti-Putin activists Pussy Riot last year, disseminated as viral video, outraged the Russian state – and landed several of its members in prison, convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. It also made their acid-bright balaclavas a symbol of globally recognised civic resistance and brought a firestorm of attention to human rights abuses in Russia, even while alienating many of their own people who remember all too well church persecution under Soviet rule. Opening Sheffield Doc/Fest next week and its several days of fresh doc goodness, this documentary by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin brings us into the centre of the trial of the feminist defendants. Screening on Wednesday 12 June in Sheffield.

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NEW FILM OF THE WEEK: BEHIND THE CANDELABRA

Michael Douglas and Matt Damon launch themselves fully into character for Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra, raising the film – said to be the director’s last – above standard-fare celeb biopics. Douglas plays pianist Liberace, the flamboyant showman who nearly kept the Austrian rhinestone business flush singlehandedly. Damon is the initially wide-eyed Scott Thorson, who became assistant and live-in lover to the much-older star after a backstage Las Vegas meeting, and whose tell-all memoir the film's based on. The couple’s descent into jaded venom is at turns funny, tender and grotesque. The real scene-stealer is a physically transformed Rob Lowe as malign plastic surgeon and pill-pusher Dr Jack Startz. Out in the UK on Friday 7 June.

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OLD FILM OF THE WEEK: AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD

Werner Herzog's '72 classic was the first of five notoriously volatile and batshit-crazy collaborations between the German director and actor Klaus Kinski, who here stars as Spanish soldier Lope de Aguirre, leading conquistadores down the Amazon in search of legendary city of gold El Dorado. Shot entirely on location in South America, the production of this ambitious arthouse adventure was typically fraught with drama - and gun-firing tantrums. The film was a heavy influence on another infamously grandiose, out-of-control production - Francis Ford Coppola's Nam epic Apocalypse Now. A restored version of Aguirre opens on Friday June 7 at London’s BFI Southbank.

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EVENT OF THE WEEK: TARKOVSKY’S SOLARIS 

Forget Soderbergh’s more Hollywood-palatable Solaris remake - Russian maestro Tarkovsky’s hypnotically atmospheric, '70s original is being screened in its full retro-cosmonaut glory by collective A Nos Amours. Adapted from Stanislaw Lem’s novel, the Soviet-era sci-fi sees a psychologist haunted by visitations from his dead wife while on a space-station hung with Old Masters paintings orbiting a fictional planet, as the whole crew grapple with mysterious confrontations with their pasts. Screening on Thursday 13 June at London’s Curzon Renoir.

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