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AUS­TRIAN-BORN ac­tress-turned-film­maker Feo Aladag was in­spired to write and di­rect the pow­er­ful 2008 cross-cul­tural drama When We Leave (Fri­day, 2.55pm, World Movies) af­ter she par­tic­i­pated in an Amnesty In­ter­na­tional cam­paign spot­light­ing vi­o­lence to­wards women. Lauded Ger­man-born ac­tress Si­bel Kekilli, who shot to star­dom in Fatih Akin’s tu­mul­tuous 2004 love story Head-On, brings a fierce in­ten­sity and de­ter­mi­na­tion to Umay, who is im­pris­oned in a love­less mar­riage in Is­tan­bul, yet de­ter­mined to make a bet­ter life for her­self and her five-year-old son. Flee­ing with the boy to her fam­ily in Berlin, she is dis­tressed to dis­cover her fam­ily sides with her hus­band, bound to tra­di­tion when it is eman­ci­pa­tion that she wants — and needs.

Once a whore, al­ways a whore,’’ Umay says both philo­soph­i­cally and iron­i­cally, but she’s far from re­signed to her fate.

It is not yet avail­able here on DVD, which au­to­mat­i­cally ren­ders co­me­dian-turned-writer and di­rec­tor Elaine May’s leg­endary, over-thetop 1987 com­edy Ishtar (Thurs­day, 6.35pm, M Com­edy) the lounge-room cin­ema event of the week. In­spired by the old Bob Hope/Bing Crosby

road’’ pic­tures of the 1940s, the film stars War­ren Beatty and Dustin Hoff­man as a naive and only marginally tal­ented pair of as­pir­ing song-and-dance men who be­come em­broiled in Mid­dle East pol­i­tics when their agent books them a ques­tion­able lounge gig in Morocco. The pro­duc­tion and edit­ing of the film were fraught with cost over­runs and ego clashes, with May shoot­ing far in ex­cess of the cov­er­age she needed and com­pet­ing with Beatty and Hoff­man for fi­nal cut. The fin­ished film re­flects that metic­u­lous­ness, and though au­di­ences who had waited five years for the stars to make new movies were ini­tially puz­zled, its scarcity and rep­u­ta­tion have ren­dered it a unique and, in the end, quite funny cult item.

The eter­nal Kirk Dou­glas, who turned 97 barely a month ago, is of­ten car­i­ca­tured for the in­ten­sity of his act­ing. There is no more quintessen­tial, or finer, ex­am­ple of this than his full-on por­trayal of Dutch painter Vin­cent van Gogh in di­rec­tor Vin­cente Min­nelli’s vivid and sat­is­fy­ing 1956 film bi­og­ra­phy Lust for Life (Wed­nes­day, 3.40am, TCM). In con­junc­tion with famed cin­e­matog­ra­pher Rus­sell Har­lan, Min­nelli de­vised a colour scheme that re­flected and en­hanced van Gogh’s own work (a strat­egy un­done by the un­sta­ble film stock they se­lected that has ren­dered sub­se­quent copies of the film pro­gres­sively more muted). And then there’s Dou­glas him­self, who at­tacks the role of the tor­tured artist with howl­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion. It is among the best Hol­ly­wood pic­tures ever about the con­flicts of the cre­ative process, earn­ing An­thony Quinn a sup­port­ing ac­tor Academy Award for his rel­a­tively brief but pun­gent turn as van Gogh’s sup­porter and critic, Paul Gau­guin.

Critic’s choice

(M) ★★★★✩ Thurs­day, 6.35pm, M Com­edy

(PG) ★★★★✩ Wed­nes­day, 3.40am, TCM

(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Fri­day, 2.55pm, World Movies

Ishtar

is an over-the-top com­edy

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