As admirably venturesome as the 1985 L.A. International Gay & Lesbian Film/Video Festival has been, its presentation of Karoly Makk's "Another Way" (Thursday, 9:30 p.m. at the Four Star) is a true instance of saving the best for the last. Not only is it one of Hungary's finest recent films (by one of its most distinguished directors), it's also virtually unique in the Eastern European cinema in its forthright treatment of homosexuality.
The relationship between sexual and political oppression in the uneasy aftermath of the thwarted 1956 uprising against the Soviets becomes tragically clear in this beautifully acted love story between a scrappy, outspoken young journalist (Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak) who dares to express her passion for a beautiful co-worker (Grazyna Szapolowska), who in turn struggles with every fiber of her being to deny that the attraction is mutual. Few Eastern European films have been so outspoken about sex, as well as politics, as this absorbing, finally devastating drama in which unsparing candor contrasts with the atmosphere of shadowy coziness so typical of Hungarian films.
West Germany's Lothar Lambert has a reputation for outrageousness, but his "Paso Doble" (9:30 p.m. Tuesday) strikes a deft balance between satire and compassion, allowing us to see his people in the round. Lambert has fun with an exceedingly bourgeois middle-aged couple in the throes of marital angst , which propels the mother (the Wagnerian Ulrike S.) into the arms of her Iranian masseur--and, much to his own shock, her burly, toupee-wearing husband (Albert Heins) into the arms of a Spanish waiter, whose key attraction is that he is mute. For all his throwaway style, Lambert has come through with a farce that is actually more classic than camp ("Paso Doble" is ripe for a Hollywood remake). For more program information, including Friday's video program at the American Film Institute and Saturday's seminars at UCLA, call (213) 650-7093.
The 1950s may have been Mikio Naruse's greatest decade, but few directors have ended their careers with a film more fitting to their personality than "Scattered Clouds" (Sunday, 7:30 p.m. at Melnitz Theater, UCLA). Made in 1967 when Naruse already knew that he was dying from the cancer that would claim his life two years later, "Scattered Clouds" culminates in a scene of parting suffused with emotion that is all the more overwhelming for being so controlled.
In lesser hands this story, about a woman (Yoko Tsukasa) who gradually falls in love with the man (Yuzo Kayama) who had accidentally killed her husband, could have been merely a tear-jerker, but for Naruse it becomes one of his characteristically detached yet compassionate observations of the workings of a fate that he regarded as more malevolent than benevolent. The feelings that Kayama and Tsukasa, both possessed of stubborn, proud natures, develop for each other are exquisitely expressed, and the film, written by Nobuo Yamada, is a celebration of the natural beauty of Hokkaido.
"Hit and Run" (screening Saturday after "Yearning"), also known as "Moment of Terror" (1966), is likewise impressive. The final collaboration between Naruse and his favorite actress, Hideko Takamine, it has a more political tone than is usual for Naruse because it was written by Takamine's husband, Zenzo Matsuyama, whose work is always strongly socially conscious (and often merely preachy). At once a taut, suspenseful entertainment and a protest against the unscrupulous practices of car manufacturers, it stars Takamine as the mother of a victim of a hit-and-run driver who becomes consumed with revenge.
"Yearning" (1964) may be the least of the Takamine-Naruse collaborations, with the star cast as a martyr type beloved by a younger man (Yuzo Kayama, very good). Matsuyama also wrote this film, providing a strong, ironic finish that does not, however, compensate for the triteness that has gone before. For more information on the Naruse retrospective, call (213) 825-2581 or 825-2953.