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SCREENING ROOM

Filmforum Brings Powerful 'I Can't Sleep' to the Nuart

December 09, 1996|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Thanks to Filmforum, Claire Denis' "I Can't Sleep," one of the best films to play L.A. all year, will at least get two screenings, Saturday and Sunday at noon at the Nuart.

Denis, who made a notable debut several years ago with the anti-colonial "Chocolat," has created a taut, elegant, acutely observant study of several intersecting lives in contemporary Paris, where a beautiful, aspiring actress (Katerina Golubeva) arrives from Lithuania.

Through her great aunt she manages to find shelter at a small hotel run by a warm, caring older woman (legendary singer-entertainer Line Renaud), where a handsome young gay man (Richard Courcet) also resides.

"I Can't Sleep" becomes a story of surviving in an often cold, alienating Paris, not only on the part of the actress and the gay man but also his brother (Alex Descas), a musician and carpenter who longs only to return to Martinique--a prospect dreaded by the young Parisian (Beatrice Dalle) who has borne him a child.

As these people go about their daily struggles we hear news reports in the media of a series of murders of elderly women--and "I Can't Sleep" emerges as a powerful, unsettling comment on the illusion of security in all its aspects--emotional, financial and physical--in the modern world.

Information: (310) 478-6379.

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Mizrahi's Gem: The 13th annual Israel Film Festival, being staged through Dec. 24 at the Monica 4-Plex, has its launch Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with the U.S. premiere of Moshe Mizrahi's exquisite "Women," starring his wife and frequent collaborator, Michal Bat-Adam.

Both will be present to receive a special tribute for their distinguished careers, which include such films as the Oscar nominees "I Love You, Rosa" (1973) and "The House on Chelouche Street" (1975). Mizrahi is best known for his Oscar-winning "Madame Rosa" (1978), starring Simone Signoret.

"Women" is based on a story by Yehuda Burla and set in a beautifully evoked turn-of-the-century Palestine; Bat-Adam has never been better--or had a more challenging role--as a devoted wife to an esteemed Sephardic rabbi (Amos Lavi).

They have an idyllic marriage, but that the wife has not borne any children in 14 years finally drives her to express her great love for her husband by insisting he take a young second wife so that she may bear him a son. The rabbi is not enthusiastic, but his wife is firm in her resolve--only to discover how difficult it can be to live with the consequences of so self-sacrificing a gesture.

"Women" captures a religious way of life in all its traditions and rituals and is one of Mizrahi and Bat-Adam's finest efforts.

Among the many films screening during the festival's first week is Yeud Levanon's "119 Bullets + Three" (Saturday at 6 p.m.), a terse, disturbing documentary on Israel's religious extremists who have settled in the occupied territories of the West Bank.

Levanon was inspired to make his film when in 1994 Dr. Baruch Goldstein fired 119 bullets in Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs, where Muslims were praying, killing 39 people.

Levanon was editing his film when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by extremist law student Yigal Amir in November, 1995, an event he immediately incorporated, giving his film a tragic and ever-more frightening dimension.

The extremists Levanon talks to are calm, intellectual types who believe God is on their side. The most chilling remark is made by one of the extremists' children: "Goldstein is a saint because he killed Arabs; Amir is not because he killed a Jew."

Full schedule and information: (213) 966-4166.

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Anniversary: The American Cinematheque's Alternative Screen series marks its first anniversary Thursday with an 8 p.m. screening at Raleigh Studios of Paul Budnitz's wryly amusing yet compassionate "93 Million Miles From the Sun," in which four desperate young people (well-played by Dylan Kussman, Dena Martinez, Aaron Davidman and Leith M. Burke), all at the end of their tethers, wander through the night in San Francisco's vibrant old Mission District.

Budnitz's acute sense of the visual and the aural make this journey fresh and distinctive.

Information: (213) 466-FILM.

Of Note: The American Cinematheque's tribute to Vincent Sherman continues Friday at Raleigh at 7 p.m. with the Joan Crawford starring "The Damned Don't Cry" (1950), which will be followed with a discussion with Sherman, and "Old Acquaintance" (1943), staring Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins.

Information: (213) 466-FILM.

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