Behind the Candelabra, Madagascar, What Women Want, Spartacus, Papillon: films on TV today

Matt tinkles Michael's ivories, an away day at the zoo, I'm Spartacus, Mel gets in touch with his feminine side, and Steve floats like a butterfly: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today

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BARRY NORMAN:  FILM OF THE DAY 
Behind the Candelabra ★★★★
PREMIERE  9.00-10.50pm BBC2 

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Although it was shown at the Cannes film festival and had a cinema release in Britain, Steven Soderbergh’s film was made for American TV and thus not eligible for Oscar nominations. That’s a shame because Michael Douglas (as Liberace) and Matt Damon (as Scott Thorson, Liberace’s younger lover) would certainly have been in the frame for acting awards. Based on Thorson’s memoir it tells of the love affair between the two men that began in 1977, when Thorson was 18, and lasted into the 1980s. Throughout, the dominant partner is Liberace, who comes across as a slightly paranoid figure who believes himself to be exploited by everyone but who can be both generous and mean-spirited. As the relationship develops, not always smoothly, the pianist tries to turn his lover into a version of his own younger self. The film is fascinating, as glossy and flamboyant as Liberace and very well played, especially by Douglas, who is always just camp enough.


Madagascar ★★★
4.25-5.45pm BBC1 

Central Park zoo animals take off for Africa to go native in a gag-filled, good-looking animated comedy. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen rustle up the funny voices.


What Women Want ★★★★
6.00-8.00pm BBC2 

A bang on the head gives Mel Gibson the ability to hear women’s thoughts – it’s not always as beneficial as it sounds.


Spartacus ★★★★★
4.10-8.00pm ITV4 

Kirk Douglas famously finds that he is not alone when he takes on the might of Rome in Stanley Kubrick’s much-lauded historical epic.


Papillon ★★★★
11.00pm-1.25am BBC4 

Steve McQueen stars in this true story of a man sent to the notorious Devil’s Island prison who won’t give up in his attempts to escape. Fine support comes from Dustin Hoffman as a fellow prisoner.


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