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Foreign Films Fan Their Own Global Warming

September 18, 1997|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's a great month for foreign film buffs. In fact, the foreign film shelves at video stores should be teeming with several recent noteworthy releases.

New from Boulevard Films is the charming 1991 Czech comedy-drama "Elementary School," written and directed by Jan Sverak, who won an Oscar this year for "Kolya" (Miramax).

This nostalgia-tinged Oscar-nominated best foreign film focuses on the lives of young boys living in post-World War II Czechoslovakia, just before the Communists arrive. As with "Kolya," Sverak elicits natural, endearing performances from his young cast. Unfortunately, the subtitles are very difficult to read.

Boulevard's other new release is the taut 1993 Italian political thriller "La Scorta." Directed by Ricky Tognazzi, the fact-based "La Scorta" stars Claudia Amendola ("Nostromo") and Enrico Lo Verso.

Clocking in at just over an hour, the 1963 Polish import "The Passenger" (Hen's Tooth, $25) focuses on a former Nazi death camp overseer who spots someone who may or may not have been one of her prisoners at Auschwitz. Director Andrej Munk died in a car crash and his colleagues completed this unique project.

Columbia TriStar is offering six restored films from the great Indian director Satyajit Ray ($20 each): "Charulata--The Lonely Wife," "Two Daughters--Teen Kanya," "Jalsaghar--The Music Room," "Devi--The Goddess," "The Big City--Mahanagar" and "The Middleman--Jana Aranya."

Dirk Bogarde gives a memorable performance as a bisexual attorney in the landmark 1961 British thriller "Victim" (Home Vision, $30), which has been digitally remastered. One of the first films to openly deal with homosexuality, "Victim" was made when British law still outlawed "homosexual acts." Presented in the letterbox format.

Also newly restored from Home Vision are two of French director Alain Resnais' classics: his 1956 film on the Holocaust, "Night and Fog" ($20), and his 1959 romance "Hiroshima, Mon Amour."

Harvey Keitel stars in "Ulysses' Gaze" (Fox Lorber), the winner of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize. Directed by renowned Greek director Theo Angelopoulos, the complex, demanding drama, which is both in Greek and English, finds Keitel as an American director who returns to his home near the Albanian border on a quest to find three lost reels of film made in the early days of cinema by two Greek brothers. Keitel gives one of his best performances. Just as in the "Bad Lieutenant" and "The Piano," Keitel goes the full monty in this film.

From New Yorker Films is Robert Bresson's legendary 1959 French film, "Pickpocket." Loosely based on "Crime and Punishment," the drama focuses on a lonely man who drifts into crime only to find redemption through love.

Columbia TriStar's latest foreign release is the restored and remastered version of Vittorio DeSica's haunting 1971 Oscar-winning drama, "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis." Dominique Sanda and Helmut Berger star in this powerful story of a rich Italian family trying to cope with the growing tide of fascism and anti-Semitism in the early 1940s. A gem.

For fans of the late Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, Fox Lorber is releasing his 1993 Cannes award-winner, "Nostalghia," the first film he made outside of Russia. Erland Josephson stars in this deliberately paced Italian drama about an expatriate Russian poet on a research mission in Italy who encounters a local mystic.

Kino is offering Tarkovsky's last film, 1986's "The Sacrifice" ($30), and is re-releasing the 1988 documentary "Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky" ($30).

Also new from Kino are "Paradjanov: A Requiem" ($30), a documentary on the late experimental Russian filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov, plus two of his films ($30 each): "Ashik Kerib" and "The Legend of Suram Fortress."

Coming Tuesday from Hen's Tooth is the 1964 Italian comedy "Seduced and Abandoned" ($25), directed by Pietro Germi of "Divorce--Italian Style" fame. However, you better brush up on your Italian before seeing this classic because the subtitles are dreadful.

Additional foreign film titles include: "Magic Hunter" (First Run), "UTU" (Kino) and "Zero Kelvin" (Kino).

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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Last week's Top 5 rentals: "The Devil's Own," "Dante's Peak," "Murder at 1600," "Absolute Power" and "Jungle 2 Jungle."

Last week's Top 5 sellers: "Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition," "The First Wives Club," "Mary Poppins," "Pooh's Grand Adventure--The Search for Christopher Robin" and "Phenomenon."

What's New

In stores this week:

"The Saint" (Paramount), action-thriller starring Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue.

"Sleeping Beauty" (Disney, $27), restored limited edition of the 1959 animated classic includes a booklet and "making of" featurette.

"Drunks" (BMG), drama starring Richard Lewis and Faye Dunaway.

"Mandela" (PolyGram), Oscar-nominated documentary on the South African leader.

"The Daytrippers" (Columbia TriStar), comedy-drama starring Parker Posey and Anne Meara.

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