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THE ORANGE SCREEN

Spike Lee's Big Score

'She's Gotta Have It,' a sex comedy screening today in Orange, made his career.

March 05, 1998|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Spike Lee's career got going in a big way in 1986 with the release of "She's Gotta Have It." The movie followed his initial feature effort, "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads," a New York University film school project, and brought the filmmaker critical attention, most of it gushing. The sex comedy screens tonight at 7:30 at Chapman University's Argyros Forum, Room 208, 333 N. Glassell St., Orange. Free. (714) 997-6765.

"She's Gotta Have It," part of the "Black on Black: Recent Black Independent Cinema" series, involves Nola (played by Tracy Camila Johns), a sassy woman with three lovers. There are Mars (Lee), a joker; Greer (John Canada Terrell), a self-loving actor; and Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks), a mature, stable type. What they've gotta have is Nola. What she's gotta have is sex--and lots of it.

As Nola romps with all of the above, we see Lee's skill at turning simple situations into streetwise comic opera. Shooting mostly from Nola's point of view, he seems to delight in her quest for sexual power, but "She's Gotta Have It" ultimately becomes a kicky lesson in bedroom equality. The language is hip and playful, and the grainy black-and-white imagery has a loose quality. Even when Lee fails to pull everything together, as in an out-of-place rape scene, the movie looks fresh, even today.

Also screening in Orange County:

* "Murder and murder" (1992), 7:30 p.m. today as part of the continuing "Out on Screen: Queer Film and Video" series at the UC Irvine Film and Video Center, Humanities Building, Room 100 (on West Peltason Road) on campus. $4-$6. (714) 824-7418.

Yvonne Rainer's film centers on two lesbians--one in her 50s, the other in her 60s--whose life together is threatened when breast cancer is diagnosed in one of them.

* Satyajit Ray's "Pather Panchali" (1955), 7 and 9 p.m., Friday, UC Irvine Student Center, Crystal Cove Auditorium, Pereira Drive and West Peltason Road. $2.50-$4.50. (714) 824-5588. The film, the first in Ray's "Apu" trilogy, focuses on the early days of the young Apu and his family in a poor Bengali village.

* UC Irvine's "Post-Colonial Classics of the Korean Cinema" continues Saturday in the 100 Humanities Instruction Building at 4:30 p.m. with the U.S. premiere of Yun Yong-gyu's exquisite 50-year-old "Home Is Where the Heart Is," a humanist masterpiece comparable to the finest Japanese classics. It has a timeless theme, much cherished in the Asian cinema: that of sacrificial mother love.

A 12-year-old boy, left at a remote Buddhist temple by his mother when he was only 3, longs only for her return. In the meantime, a rich young widow from Seoul, mourning the loss of her son, becomes eager to adopt the boy. Other complications ensue, but the temple's head priest emerges as a kind of stern, judgmental tyrant. "Home Is Where the Heart Is," with its remarkable portrayals and compassionate vision, emerges as a triumph of the spirit.

It's followed at 7:30 p.m. by "Our Twisted Hero" (1992), 7:30 p.m. "Our Twisted Hero," based on a novella by Yi Mun-yoi, focuses on a fifth-grade student who uses cunning and intimidation to become his class' president. Festival information: (714) 824-1992; tickets and parking: (714) 824-7418.

* The Port Theatre continues its series on Academy Award winners tonight with "On the Waterfront" (1954) at 5:30 and 9:50 p.m. and "From Here to Eternity" (1953) at 7:30 p.m. at 2905 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar. $4.50-$6. (714) 673-6260.

"West Side Story" (1961) will screen at 7:20 p.m. Friday and Saturday, plus a Saturday matinee at 2:15 p.m.; "Midnight Cowboy" (1969), at 5:15 and 10:15 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, plus a 12:15 p.m. Saturday matinee; "Ben Hur" (1959) will screen Sunday and Monday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

*

In L.A. and beyond:

In 1989 the UCLA Film Archive presented a series of six outstanding films from Vietnam, whose cinema had not been seen in the U.S. since the Vietnam War. The films were seen not only here but at various cities all over North America.

Now the archive and the Vietnam Cinema Assn. are launching "Contemporary Films From Vietnam," a collection easily as impressive as the first, and one that will also tour. They are accomplished works dealing with real-life issues in the best tradition of the Asian cinema. It is composed of eight films, screening this weekend and next.

Highlighting the series is the work of Dang Nhat Minh, regarded as Vietnam's finest filmmaker. His "Hanoi--Winter 1946" opens the series Friday at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a discussion with Dang and other directors whose work is represented in the series. Its focal point is Lam (Ngo Quang Hai), a young interpreter for Ho Chi Minh (Nguyen Tien Hoi), and it covers the period when the French, in the wake of World War II, have reasserted their sovereignty over Vietnam.

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