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Provocative Duo of Jeremy Irons Films

August 27, 1993|BARBARA SALTZMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the onslaught of big films coming to the big screen, smaller ones often come and go without getting the attention they deserve. When available on laser, they can be appreciated for their inventiveness, originality and meticulousness.

The 1992 "Waterland" featuring Jeremy Irons and Ethan Hawke is one such movie, heralded by some but missed by many. The Image release ($40), letterboxed in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, includes the film's theatrical trailer and promotional TV commercials as well as a short behind-the-scenes "featurette."

"Waterland" tells the story of a history teacher confronting a roomful of bored students and his past simultaneously. It moves brilliantly between the past and present, the United States and England and home and school. Its careful intercutting and editing are worth seeing more than once and the intricate story points can be reviewed easily and effectively on this laser disc because of the carefully placed 20 chapter stops.

The film takes on provocative issues barely hinted at in publicity and the liner notes but carefully addressed in the Peter Prince screenplay, directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal. Irons, one of the premier actors of the decade, intelligently discusses what intrigued him about the film in the short documentary on its making offered at the end.

Louis Malle's 1992 "Damage," featuring another intense performance by Irons, comes to laser in a director's cut, which threatened to earn it an NC-17 rating in theatrical release. The Criterion release ($50, CLV, one disc) includes an analog track narrated by the director that helps define the provocative film and place it in context with Malle's body of work.

The controversial movie, which co-stars Juliette Binoche and Miranda Richardson, set off a small firestorm around its release; the audio track helps put that in context by having the director explain his very personal vision of the film. The disc also includes a video interview with Malle in which he discusses his imposing 40-year career, beginning with his early work with Jacques Cousteau, and continuing through such diverse works as "Pretty Baby," "Atlantic City" and "Au Revoir les Enfants."

Other recent films released unrated on laser also contain footage excluded from their theatrical runs because they were too provocative for the R rating. Mike Figgis' "Liebestraum" (MGM/UA, $35) is an atmospheric triumph, a cross between an idyll and a hallucination. The film, dealing with parental and carnal love, murder, deception and a splendid, even mystical cast-iron building that is being torn down, features Kevin Anderson, Pamela Gidley and a brave Kim Novak, who spends most of the film resembling a living corpse. The expanded material not specified on the laser-edition notes features erotic scenes that add to the intensity, but could easily be figured out. This love-murder mystery is an especially haunting experience in surround-sound.

Other provocative laser releases include Lizzie Borden's "Love Crimes," featuring Sean Young and Patrick Bergin. The HBO video release ($35), like "Damage," is also unrated. It does not include any supplementary material or even any specified chapter stops.

"Body of Evidence" (MGM/UA, $35), the highly charged Madonna erotic thriller, is also available on laser in an unrated version. The extended sex scenes should appeal to anyone who could sit through this clinker the first time or who wants every scrap of visual evidence documenting Madonna's career.

The R-rated theatrical version of "Final Analysis," the Richard Gere-Kim Basinger erotic suspense tale, is available from Warner Home Video in a letterboxed edition ($40). This psychological thriller plays better on the small screen, where the demands of plot and character fit right into the average television fare.

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