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New Foreign Releases Run Steamy Hot or Icy Cold

January 15, 1998|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The latest crop of foreign films to pop up on video runs the gamut from the sublimely wonderful to the ridiculously awful.

"Love Play" (First Run, $30) can best be described as jaw-droppingly inept. Advertised as the "Lost Film of Jean Seberg," this 1965 turkey should have been left undiscovered.

Directed by Seberg's ex-husband, Francois Moreuil, "Love Play" finds the actress playing an American high school student in Paris who discovers her own sexuality when she begins an affair with her womanizing neighbor (the unappealing Christian Marquand).

Also new from First Run is the atrocious "Daniella by Night" ($30), Elke Sommer's last French film before she came to America. Considered hot stuff in 1962, this so-called erotic flick finds Elke playing a model who goes to Rome and soon finds herself involved in a murderous spy plot. Elke was described by Playboy as "filmdom's friskiest frisk" because of her very tame nude scene. The best thing about it--and the only thing that may keep you awake--is Charles Aznavour's mesmerizing score.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's Jean-Pierre Melville's 1967 classic "Le Samourai" (New York), which is le magnifique! This near-perfect film noir features a riveting performance from French superstar Alain Delon, who plays a cool, expressionless hired killer. Though he has an airtight alibi for a successful hit, Delon ends up making a big mistake when he falls for a woman (Cathy Rosier) who betrays him. Atmospheric with just a modicum of dialogue, "Le Samourai" is one of the best gangster films ever made. Francois Perier ("Orpheus") also stars as the police detective out to get Delon.

Delon also gives a good performance in the uneven 1977 release "Mr. Klein" (First Run, $30). Directed by blacklisted American director Joseph Losey, the World War II suspense thriller tells the story of a ruthless French Catholic art dealer whose life is turned upside down when he discovers another Mr. Klein, a Jew, is using his identity to cover anti-Nazi resistance activities. Jeanne Moreau is also featured.

For fans of Portuguese cinema, there's "The Jew" (First Run), director Jom Tob Azulay's tale of Antonio de Silva, a popular Portuguese playwright who lived during the Inquisition.

Fox Lorber's latest imports include Federico Fellini's "Orchestra Rehearsal," from 1979. This minor Fellini drama uses an orchestral rehearsal as a microcosm for the breakdown of Italian society. It's reported that Fellini was inspired to make the film because of the assassination of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro.

Andre Techine's ("Wild Reeds") "My Favorite Season" is a marvelous, sophisticated drama sparked by wonderful performances of Catherine Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil. They play estranged children of an elderly mother who are reunited after three years and forced to deal with their turbulent relationship. Released in the U.S. in 1996, "My Favorite Season" also stars Chiara Mastroianni, Deneuve's daughter by Marcello Mastroianni, as--who else?--her daughter.

Chiara Mastroianni also stars in Fox Lorber's "Diary of a Seducer," due for release Jan. 27. However, "Diary of a Seducer" is a muddled mess of a romantic comedy about a book that has a mysterious aphrodisiac power over its readers. A rather bloated, tired Jean-Pierre Leaud, who was so marvelous as Francois Truffaut's cinematic alter ego in "The 400 Blows," "Stolen Kisses" and "Bed and Board," has a small part as one of the bizarre men Mastroianni encounters.

Also set for Jan. 27 from Fox Lorber is "Nico Icon," a compelling German-French documentary that chronicles Christa Paffgen's journey from German model and actress to pop icon, singer and muse of Andy Warhol to middle-age junkie.

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