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SCREENING ROOM

'Sex, Drugs' Shows the Netherlands' Perspective

November 07, 1994|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although rambling and repetitive, Jonathan Blank's important, comprehensive documentary, "Sex, Drugs and Democracy" (Friday at the Nuart for one week) reveals how effectively the Netherland's progressive society works in regulating, rather than banning, drugs and prostitution, and in providing civil rights for one and all.

Apparently, Holland's history as a small country of pragmatic traders has made for its unusually enlightened views. (310) 478-6379.

Far less effective, Victor Ginzburg's "The Restless Garden" (Friday at the Sunset 5 for one week), ostensibly surveys the crumbling Soviet Union's sexual revolution, but is mainly interested in presenting as many Russian beauties in the nude as possible; lots of arty dance sequences, one truly poignant moment when a breathtakingly gorgeous young woman talks in halting English of drifting into prostitution. (213) 848-3500.

The American Cinematheque's Eric Rohmer weekend retrospective at the Directors Guild commences Friday at 7:15 p.m. with his knockout first feature, "The Sign of Leo" (1959), perversely never released in the United States and actually more impressive and involving than such later prestige talkathons as "My Night at Maud's."

In a fable cleverly invoking the role of random fate and raising the question of whether we are our brother's keeper, irony compounds irony as a big, amiable American expatriate (burly Jess Hahn in a rare starring role) faces utter destitution as his French friends flee a sweltering Paris in August.

Also unfamiliar and equally outstanding, the astringent, acutely observant 1967 "La Collectionneuse" (Saturday at 5 p.m.) stars Patrick Bauchau (who will speak after the screening) in a superb portrayal of a classically French erotic gamesman, a snobbish aesthete who condescends to--but cannot quite dismiss--the self-possessed young woman (Haydee Politoff) his friend unexpectedly brings along on a St. Tropez vacation. For full schedule: (213) 466-FILM.

The American Film Institute's eighth Americas Film Festival commences an 11-day run Friday at the Monica 4-Plex with Sergio Cabrera's "The Strategy of the Snail," a wry, warm account of the residents of an old Bogota apartment house fighting off a demolition order. The film, which screens at 6:45 and 9:15, became one of the most popular in Colombia's history and is that country's official entry into the Oscars.

An opening weekend standout is Adrian Rudomin's riveting, rigorous "Land of Darkness," (Saturday at 4 p.m.), a 75-minute USC student production starring John Rocha in a powerhouse portrayal of a young, idealistic priest mistakenly forced into the federal army during the Mexican Revolution, plunging him into a bitter and astonishing spiritual odyssey. (310) 394-9741.

In conjunction with "Zine Scream '94," a celebration of the self-publishing scene, Filmforum has come up with an appropriately outlandish program, screening at Hollywood Moguls tonight at 8, of short films, some of which are mainly an obscure blur, some merely tedious but others lots of fun. Perhaps the most accessible is Momita SenGupta's mischievous "Androgynous," about the honeymoon adventures of a cross-dressing couple--she's a Sharon Stone type who dresses like a tough guy, he's a black man who wears dresses and makeup.

Greta Snyder's rightly disturbing "Our Gay Brothers" is a collage, mainly of old found footage, celebrating women in all their variety--and also gay men, suggesting an alliance between the two--while on the soundtrack we hear a group of gays discuss female sexuality in the crudest terms possible.

With "The Leash Men" Kurt Keppler reworks clips of men fishing to skewer deftly their sport while Michael Gitlin, using random snippets of dialogue and eerie visuals, evokes a highly contemporary aura of paranoia. Michael Le Haie and Jonathan Stein's "Critizen" is an affectionate portrait of San Francisco's Sean Bosker, a young intellectual prankster, who among other activities, has the courage to go to Fisherman's Wharf buck naked and ask the tourists, "Seen any good sights?"

Weirdest, most imaginative of all is Michael Collins' "This Is a Dead Boy," which intentionally or otherwise plays like a spoof of a Dennis Cooper novel in which the King of Bad News slays a boy, yanks out the kid's left eye, which goes on to have a life of its own. (213) 466-4143. For information about "Zine Scream '94," (213) 936-3039.

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