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AFI FESTIVAL : A 'Great Day' With Some Great Films

June 29, 1992|Michael Wilmington

Following are The Times' recommendations for today's schedule of the American Film Institute International Film Festival, with commentary by the film-reviewing staff. All screenings, except where noted, are at Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica. Information: (213) 466-1767.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

"THE GREAT DAY ON THE BEACH"(Denmark; Stellan Olsson; 1 and 6:15 p.m.). For some reason, Scandinavians seem to excel at both period pieces and portrayals of childhood. This Danish film from a Swedish director, based on a well-known Danish memoir-novel, is, delightfully, both. Narrator Gustav Adolf recalls the pivotal sixth summer of his life in 1936 Copenhagen. As the veils of illusion are stripped from the boy's eyes, as he sees the harsh truths of his parents' drunken working-class life, Olsson wryly conjures up dreams that are vanishing: of flying, sunny days, love and heroes. This movie is robust and tender, gorgeous and unsparing; full of humor, ribaldry, pain and irony. The blustering father (Erik Clausen) is wonderful, the beach scene a classic. Audiences should adore it. (Michael Wilmington)

"BROTHER'S KEEPER"(United States; Joe Berlinger/Bruce Sinofsky; 1:30 and 6:45 p.m.). A compelling and thoughtful documentary, involving a suspenseful real-life courtroom drama in which an Upstate New York farmer, shy and simple, is tried for the death of his brother (who may have died from natural causes) after retracting an earlier murder confession. It is a touching account of how a rural community rallies around this man--who had lived in squalor with his three brothers, all unkempt, barely literate bachelors--and of how our system of justice can work. (Kevin Thomas)

"GROWN-UPS"(Britain, 1980; Mike Leigh; 1:45 and 7 p.m.). Newlyweds move into their first home and have to put up not only with the wife's unyieldingly ditsy sister but also with the fact that their next-door-neighbor was their former teacher. One of British director Mike Leigh's best films, notable for its shifting sympathies and deceptive melding of hilarity and pathos. (Kenneth Turan)

"THE STRANGER"(India; Satyajit Ray; 4:15 and 9:30 p.m.). Satyajit Ray's last film, completed shortly before his death, has the serene clarity of many last works by major filmmakers: "Gertrud," "Seven Women," "The Dead." Faced with illness and mortality, Ray strips his themes to the bone; focusing on faces and interior scenes, he reveals his ideas with luminous directness. This tale of a mysterious "uncle," who shows up after many years' absence and throws a bourgeois household into turmoil, lets him examine the nature of family ties, economic structures, perception and compassion. Is the uncle con artist or benefactor, charmer or liar? And can people, with all their precautions, ever really connect? Simply, lucently, without a trace of self-consciousness, Ray speaks to all this from his heart. His last gift is a precious one. (M.W.)

RECOMMENDED:

"LABYRINTH"(Germany; Jaromil Jires; 4 and 9:15 p.m.). Maximilian Schell, playing himself, investigates the life and influences of Franz Kafka--the Jewish writer, whose darkly comic evocations of paranoia prefigured the terrors of an entire century. Director Jaromil Jires--whose Milan Kundera-scripted "The Joke" was one of the Czech New Wave gems--has a jeweler's eye and he surrounds the virtuoso Schell with crystalline nightmares, evocations of the Holocaust-to-come Kafka perhaps sensed. (M.W.) CRITIC'S CHOICE: A discussion with La Opinion's Harriet Robbins.

Others: "On Earth as It Is in Heaven" (Belgium; Marion Hansel; 1:15 and 6:45 p.m.). All the world's fetuses decide not to be born; pregnant journalist Carmen Maura discovers their plan. Despite good intentions, this crazy premise, taken with odd sobriety, fails as social comment and horror story. (M.W.); "Another Hope" (Argentina; Mercedes Frutos; 3:30 and 8:45 p.m.). Unscreened. Cautionary terror tale about vanishing factory workers, by a debuting woman writer-director; "Moondance" (United States; Martin Aguilar; 3:45 and 9 p.m.). Unscreened. Indie about two couples clashing in a mountain cabin; "Roe Vs. Wade" (United States, 1989; Gregory Hoblit; AFI Goodson, 7 p.m.). The acclaimed TV docudrama on 1973's controversial Supreme Court abortion case.

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