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THE ORANGE SCREEN

Now Playing: Politics

In Irvine, film treatments of the Polish Solidarity movement, Israeli conflicts.

June 04, 1998|JAN HERMAN and KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

With summer nearly upon us and movie fare turning lighter, if not brighter, special screenings have dwindled in number this week--as might be expected. But they've also sailed into somewhat deeper political waters than usual.

Andrzej Wajda's "Man of Iron" (1980), both an undisguised paean to the Solidarity movement and a revisionist look at Polish repression, screens tonight at 7:30 as the next-to-last film in the Look at Revolution series. At the UC Irvine Film and Video Center in the Humanities Instructional Building, Room 100 (West Peltason Road, near Pereira Drive), Irvine. $4-$6. (949) 824-7418.

The picture combines documentary footage of the Gdansk shipyard strike led by Lech Walesa (who makes a brief appearance as himself) and a fictional story about a mediocre radio producer ordered to prepare a report on the 1980 worker revolt that "exposes" the striking ship workers as counter-revolutionaries funded possibly by the CIA.

"Man of Iron," which won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, is a sequel to Wajda's "Man of Marble" (1977), about a film student who investigates the life of a forgotten and discredited bricklayer once named a Hero of the State during the 1950s. In the sequel, the radio producer meets the film student, who is now married to the bricklayer's son, the man of iron of the title and the chief dissident of the uprising.

Taken together, British critic and film scholar David Robinson has noted, "Marble" and "Iron" represent an epic piece of filmmaking bearing witness to the radical idea that filmmakers can participate in revolutionary events as "an instrument of history."

Also in Irvine, the UCI Film Society screens a trio of short political Israeli films, "Echoes of Conflict," made between 1986 and 1989, Friday at 7 and 9 p.m. in the Crystal Cove Auditorium of the UCI Student Center (on Pereira Drive, near West Peltason Road). $2.50-$4.50. (949) 824-5588.

The first, "In Night Movie," tells of an Israeli soldier handcuffed to a young Arab while they are stranded in nighttime Tel Aviv. The second, "Don't Get Involved," is a psychological thriller about an Argentine activist who suspects he is going to be persecuted for his past political actions. The third, "The Cage," is about a Tel Aviv bartender who is called up for military service during a Palestinian uprising.

Lightening up, the Fran Drescher comedy "The Beautician and the Beast" (1997) screens Friday, outdoors at dusk, at the Newport Dunes resort, 1131 Backbay Drive, Newport Beach. Free, parking $6. (949) 729-3863.

Drescher (of TV's "The Nanny") plays a beauty school instructor who is "talky, sexy, inappropriate and smart," Times reviewer Kevin Thomas has noted. "And until director Ken Kwapis allows sentimental seriousness to overtake the humor, so is the movie."

Also screening Saturday at Newport Dunes, same time: "Rocket Man" (1997), one of Disney's lesser efforts, about a nerdy genius who has designed the operating system for the spaceship Pathfinder. Free, parking $6. (949) 729-3863.

In L.A. and Beyond

Leslie Neale and her husband's (and former Doors drummer John Densmore) hourlong, incisive and important "Road to Return" summons the barrage of statistics common to other documentaries advocating prison reform. But it goes further to demonstrate forcefully that it's cost-effective to rehabilitate convicts rather than building more penal institutions designed simply to mete out punishment.

Too many American prisons, "Road to Return" suggests, treat prisoners with no respect and then turn them loose with no skills to enter the work force and then expect them to respect the law, society and themselves.

To show a better way, the filmmakers focus on New Orleans' Project Return, a 90-day program designed to equip ex-cons to break the cycle of a life of crime and become law-abiding, self-sustaining citizens. Project Return was created by Tulane professor Dr. Bob Roberts and Nelson Marks, an ex-convict, and it involves group therapy and job training and placement. It costs about $4,000 per individual, far less expensive than the cost of sending a con back to prison. Roberts says that out of 600 graduates of Project Return only 32 are back in prison when "statistically 450 should be."

Without being heavy-handed or preachy, "Road to Return," narrated by Tim Robbins, makes the case that if most people had an opportunity to get sufficient education to get a job to support themselves and their families, they wouldn't turn to crime in the first place--and they wouldn't return to crime if in prison they had the chance to get counseling and job training.

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