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SPECIAL SCREENINGS

A Film Feast in Greek Retrospective

August 02, 1993|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UCLA Film Archive's splendid "CineMythology: A Retrospective of Greek Film" continues Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in UCLA's Melnitz Theater with Giorgos Korras' "The Deserter"(1988) and Nikos Perakis' "Loafing and Camouflage" (1984), also known more felicitously as "Of Colonels and Camouflage." The first, described as a comment on Greek society and homosexuality, was unavailable for preview, while the second is a robust service comedy with a sharp satirical edge, a welcome respite from the majority of the films, which have tended to be as bleak as they are impressive.

Nikos Kalogeropoulous stars as an army private stationed along Greece's remote and strife-ridden border with Bulgaria, who's thrilled to be transferred back to Athens but arrives not long before the army coup of April, 1967. A professional cameraman, he has been assigned to the army film unit, where he will photograph military activities and entertainment shows for the army's new TV channel.

Immediately, he's plunged into a comical "No Time for Sergeants" atmosphere. The pomposity of his commanding colonel and the inanities of the TV programming plus an atmosphere of pervasive, easily exploited anti-communist hysteria foreshadow the coming of the military regime that was so soon to rule Greece so oppressively for the next seven years. "Loafing and Camouflage," which has Kalogeropoulous and several of his pals attempting to make a soft-core porno flick on the side, is such a sure-fire combination of hilarity and political criticism that it's no wonder it became one of Greece's biggest box-office successes of the last decade.

Theo Angelopoulos' 1970 debut feature, "Reconstruction" (screening Thursday at 7:30 p.m.), remains among his most austere. It is a relentlessly grim tale about a man and woman, lovers residing in a bleak, dying village who murder the woman's husband upon his return from a long sojourn abroad.

For Angelopoulos, their fate becomes a way of commenting on the tragic consequences of the depopulation of the countryside and the plight of the emigrant worker. He also contrasts reality with the ways in which it is transformed by both journalism and the cinema as a reporter (played by Angelopoulos himself) probes the crime while the authorities, who are as obtuse as those in "Loafing and Camouflage," attempt to re-stage the murder on film.

Another outstanding offering, Pantelis Voulgaris' 1972 "The Engagement of Anna" (Saturday at 7:30 p.m.) is a supremely subtle, deceptively sunny film about how a well-off Athens family concludes that it's time to arrange a marriage for the demure, dutiful young woman (Anna Vayena) who has faultlessly served its elderly matriarch for 10 years. What seems such a gentle, loving study of a family--almost Renoiresque in its bemused compassion--gradually and impalpably turns into a devastating commentary on oppressiveness and hypocrisy of the class system.

When the Greek army retreated from Asia Minor in 1922, it left 1.5 million Greek and Armenian citizens at the mercy of the triumphant Turks. In his remarkable, grueling 1978 film "1922" (Sunday at 2 p.m.), Nikos Koundourous makes the all-consuming fear that engulfs the abandoned people in the port city of Smyrna so palpable you can almost taste it.

Banned for years for political reasons, "1922"--which also serves as an allegory for more recent events on Cyprus--has the visual splendor and ominous restlessness of Hungarian director Mikos Jancso's celebrated 1965 film "The Round-Up," which dealt with Austro-Hungarian troops, who in the midst of the Revolution of 1848, hounded a group of peasants relentlessly in their search for a partisan leader.

Screening Sunday at 7:30 p.m. is Theo Angelopoulos' widely acclaimed 231-minute 1975 "The Travelling Players," a monumental, stunning account of a theatrical company whose tour of the countryside becomes a journey through Greek history from the Metaxas dictatorship of 1939 to the re-establishment of the right-wing Papagos government of 1952. One of the few Greek films to be released in America in recent years. Information: (310) 206-FILM, 206-8013.

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