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SCREENING ROOM

'PATHS' Winds Through Four Short Tales

August 01, 1994|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

EZTV will present at the RESOLUTION Gallery, 6518 Hollywood Blvd., on Wednesday at 8 p.m. "PATHS Paved and Unpaved," a 72-minute program of four shorts, two made by directors trained in film school and two by self-taught filmmakers.

Jeremy Haft, who directed "Late for Lunch" with Jonathan Wilson from a script by Jonathan Schwartz, and Umberto Autore, who directed "Bob and Arlene" from a script by Mickey Finn, are recent film school graduates. Their work is considerably more cinematic than "Un Incontro" (An Encounter), written and directed by Silvanus Slaughter, and "Don't Call Me," written and directed by Paul Bojack. Both Slaughter and Bojack have been playwrights.

"Late for Lunch," a fine effort in all aspects, is a deft vignette chronicling an increasingly rotten day in the life of a young Manhattan freight-elevator operator (well-played by Johnny Van Arnam).

"Bob and Arlene" is a sweet and funny account of how the wistful Arlene (Theda Reale) goes about seducing her big, beefy plumber (Kevin Blackton, a sly comedian).

"Un Incontro" is a rather tedious tale of games of sex and power between a man (Eric Kohner) and a woman (Honey Lauren) in a Century City office, while "Don't Call Me" finds a young man's self-deception in his pursuit of a woman taking a curious turn; there's not much shape to this episode, but there's a striking portrayal by Natalie Brunt of a no-nonsense, self-respecting prostitute. (213) 466-6232.

The UCLA Film Archive's ongoing "John Ford's Century" at the Melnitz Theater this week provides a rare opportunity to see all three films in Ford's fabled Cavalry Trilogy--"Fort Apache" (1948), "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949) and "Rio Grande" (1950).

Based upon stories by James Warner Bellah, all of them are masterful, enduring achievements, classic Westerns filmed in Ford's beloved Monument Valley. They have superbly staged battle sequences, an endearing swatch of rowdy Irish humor and sentimentality, and eloquently express Ford's enduring concern with gallant behavior and human dignity.

Ford views the men of the U.S. cavalry with proud affection but with respect for their perennial Native American adversaries as well. In this regard "Fort Apache" (Sunday at 7 p.m.) has for contemporary audiences by far the most impact, for it is the film among the three that projects a truly tragic vision of the plight and fate of Native Americans.

In one of his rare unsympathetic roles, Henry Fonda is chillingly effective as the snobbish, newly appointed commander of a fort in Arizona Territory, where in a display of foolish, arrogant and naked racism he provokes a needless battle between his men and a native tribe. Disagreeing with him mightily--but hopelessly outranked--is John Wayne's decent, sensible Capt. Kirby York.

York reappears in "Rio Grande" (screening after "Fort Apache") as an older, tougher man but with his sense of humor intact. Lt. Col. York, now a commander himself, is in short order, first confronted with the son (Claude Jarman Jr.) he never knew, who has by a stroke of fate ended up in York's regiment, and shortly thereafter by his long-estranged wife (Maureen O'Hara), hellbent upon taking her son home before he becomes caught up in the hard yet seductive life of the cavalry. With O'Hara, as fiery as her red hair, Ford found the perfect foil for Wayne, and "Rio Grande" is above all a domestic drama resolved through a confrontation with the Apaches.

It has always been difficult to understand why Wayne had to wait for his "True Grit" Oscar to be fully acknowledged as a great screen actor, which started becoming evident 30 years earlier with Ford's "Stagecoach."

As splendid as he is in all three films of the trilogy, the elegiac "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (Thursday at 7:30 p.m.) provides him with one of the finest, richest roles of his career, playing a man 15 to 20 years older than his actual age as Capt. Nathan Brittles, an officer on the verge of reluctant retirement but determined to complete one final mission.

Wayne's Brittles is ever strong and tough but also endearingly mellow and reflective. Like Clint Eastwood, Wayne on the screen is such a larger-than-life icon that we never notice that he's giving a performance, which is what acting is all about. (310) 206-FILM.

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