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SCREENING ROOM

'Dirigible': A Quirky Tale From Uruguay

November 14, 1994|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pablo Dotta's "The Dirigible," Uruguay's first 35mm feature in 30 years, screens tonight at 9 in the AFI's eighth Americas Film Festival, which runs through Thursday at the Monica 4-Plex. It's a quirky political fable that luckily is as engaging as it is elliptical.

Its point of departure is the highly public suicide by pistol of an Uruguayan president of the '30s in the face of a coup d'etat; why, Dotta wonders, didn't any of the news photographers on hand capture the actual moment?

We cut to the present, with the arrival in Montevideo of a ravishingly beautiful young woman (Laura Schneider) who claims at a press conference to have interviewed a famous Uruguayan writer upon his return from political exile but can't prove it because her article has apparently been stolen. Swiftly, she and her handsome translator (Marcelo Bouquet) are caught up in a surreal adventure, the point of which, it has been suggested, is to comment on Uruguay's "lack of a collective national memory."

At the beginning of Fernando Lopes' strikingly moody and mysterious "The Edge of the Horizon" (Thursday at 6:45 p.m.) a middle-aged pathologist (Claude Brasseur) becomes obsessed with the fact that the corpse of a young man, shot down at the city's seamy waterfront, resembles his younger self. Gradually, he's overcome by tragic memories and a desire to establish the dead man's identity. Although Lopes makes clear that he views the past as a snare, he keeps us guessing as to whether he has caught us up in a thriller that's supernatural, psychological or criminal--or a combination of all three.

Information: Monica 4-Plex, (310) 394-9741; AFI, (213) 856-7077.

Epic Romance: As part of the ongoing "Hello Hong Kong" festival in Santa Monica, three films will screen Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Monica 4-Plex. Tony Au's "Au Revoir, Mon Amour" (Tuesday) is a classic Hollywood woman's picture of the '40s, a sweeping, thoroughly captivating epic romance set in Shanghai during the World War II Japanese Occupation.

Anita Mui stars as a beautiful nightclub singer in love with a resistance fighter (Tony Leung), who re-enters her life after a five-year absence only days before Pearl Harbor, but with Shanghai's fall he's forced into hiding, setting off bombs to embarrass the Japanese military. Circumstances propel her into the arms of a handsome Japanese security official (Hidekazu Akai) who adores her. These emotional entanglements unravel amid constant danger and much action.

Au sets off this old-fashioned--but sure-fire--heart-tugging escapist fare with dynamic visual panache, evoking a shadowy, intrigue-laden Shanghai of its fabled, glaorous pst.

"Dragon Inn" (Wednesday) is Raymond Lee's lively, witty remake of one of revered director King Hu's most delightful films, in which Maggie Cheung stars as the lusty, earthy proprietress of a bandit hide-out who combats a group of the Emperor's eunuchs, poised to grab control of all China.

"Saviour of the Soul '91" (Thursday) is a surreal, go-for-broke pastiche of all the Hong Kong genres that sometimes defies comprehension but is never less than entertaining. In a "Blade Runner" future, the Silver Fox (Aaron Kwok), a swordsman, seeks to avenge the death of a partner and to win the love of another (Anita Mui) through a thicket of bizarre twists and turns.

Information: (310) 394-9741.

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