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SPECIAL SCREENINGS

A Coming Of Age In 'Amoureuses'

September 14, 1987|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

The late Jean Eustache's "Mes Petites Amoureuses" ("My Little Loves"), which screens Tuesday and Wednesday at the Nuart, was shown at the 1975 Filmex but sadly, was never released. Although austere and rigorous, it is a lot easier to take than Eustache's best-known film, the monumental, obsessive "The Mother and the Whore" (1973). Shot in beautiful color by Nestor Almendros, it is about a bright, self-possessed adolescent (Martin Loeb) coming of age with the insight and courage to resist, at least inwardly, the despair and boredom of his environment, which could so easily engulf him.

You don't have to have seen Ross McElwee's wry diary film "Sherman's March" to enjoy its two companion films, "Charlene" (1978) and "Backyard" (1976, 1984), which screen Thursday at the Nuart. "Backyard" is McElwee's detached, non-judgmental look at his own family, headed by his father, a wealthy Charlotte, N.C., surgeon. "Backyard" is the work of a young man who has returned home to see it with fresh eyes. What he discovers is a seemingly fixed world in which whites remain masters and blacks their loyal, unobtrusive servants. But as anyone who has ever spent time in the South knows, it's a place filled with contradictions. "Charleen," a portrait of a dynamic poet and teacher, is also set in Charlotte, but it depicts a racially integrated world in which this brassy, brilliant earth mother embraces people of all colors and ages. Pretty, plump Charleen Swansea can be all but overbearing in her sheer extrovertism but her eloquent self-awareness also reveals the aching vulnerability of a superior woman who has a hard time finding a man her equal. At 42 she concludes she's reached "that point where your age is aesthetically relevant" yet leaves us with an impression of indomitability. (231) 478-6379, 479-5269.

The Jewish Film Festival concludes Saturday at 8 p.m. in UCLA Melnitz with Pierre Sauvage's unforgettable "Weapons of the Spirit," which was one of the highlights of the AFI FilmFest, and Philo Bregstein's "Otto Klemperer's Long Journey Through His Times." A different kind of Holocaust documentary, "Weapons of the Spirit" is a thorough and heart-warming probe by Sauvage of how his birthplace, a small Christian village in South-Central France, came to give refuge to 5000 Jews--including the film maker's parents--during World War II. The answer lies in the community's enduring Huguenot heritage with its memories of religious persecution and the leadership of its courageous, ecumenical-spirited pastor. The film becomes a rare and stirring illustration of the power of religion to unite rather than divide people.

Even if you are not a music lover you can become absorbed in Philo Bregstein's documentary, "Otto Klemperer's Long Journey Through His Times," as an introduction to a remarkable and courageous man of strong and independent character who became one of the century's great conductors.

Bregstein, who also made the excellent, provocative documentary on Pier Paolo Pasolini, "Whoever Speaks the Truth Shall Die," taped but did not photograph Klemperer, who died in Switzerland in 1973 at 88, nor did he photograph most of the many others he interviewed. (With grants from German and Austrian TV, Bregstein was able to expand considerably his original 1974 film.) In place of talking heads, Bregstein provides us with stunning archival footage and stills that evoke the times and career of Klemperer, who was born in Breslau and forced to flee Germany with the advent of Hitler.

The portrait of Klemperer that emerges in his own words and those of others is of the professional rather than private man. He seems formidable--even his own clearly devoted daughter Lotte acknowledges his reputation for being dictatorial and unpleasant--yet possessed of a sense of humor.

He championed the compositions of Mahler, his mentor, and of his contemporaries Stravinsky and Schoenberg yet revered the classics. He became music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1933 till felled by a catastrophic accident in 1939 (which Bregstein downplays in its drastic, lingering consequences). After World War II he restored the luster to Budapest's opera company only to run afoul of the Communist Party for his modernist tastes. Returning to America at the height of the McCarthy era, he had his passport lifted. It has been observed that Klemperer was either fired or driven off every post he ever held until his last, with the New London Philharmonia. No wonder the man had that aristocratic survivor's wit so characteristic of the great German-speaking emigres. (213) 825-2581.

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