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* SCREENING ROOM

Exploring a Troubled Landscape

'Contemporary Films From Vietnam' series continues at UCLA.

March 12, 1998|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The cinematheque's "Recent Spanish Cinema" series continues Friday at Raleigh at 7 p.m. with Jaime de Armin~an's 1971 "My Dearest Senorita," a wry comedy starring Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez as a small-town, middle-aged spinster who at last confronts her transsexuality. Jose Luis Borau, who plays a doctor, produced the 1971 film and wrote it with De Armin~an. It will be followed at 9:15 p.m. by Gerardo Vera's deliciously outrageous "La Celestina," a lusty romantic tragedy of the Renaissance seething with passion and flowery speeches. The story involves a naive young nobleman encouraged by his crafty manservant into appealing to a witch, Celestina (Terele Pavez), to cast a spell on a beautiful maiden (Penelope Cruz), so that she will love him. Vera's actors keep straight faces amid emotional extravagance and rampant villainy, and Pavez's witch emerges not as a figure of evil so much as a mature woman who knows human nature all too well--but not well enough to temper her own greed. With Maribel Verdu and other outstanding young actors. A decade after the sublime "Spirit of the Beehive" Victor Erice in 1983 made the equally mesmerizing "El Sur" (The South), in which we again view the world through the eyes of a child. In this instance she's an imaginative girl (played by Sonsoles Aranguren at age 8; Iciar Bollan at 13) growing up in the '50s in the Northwestern provinces and whose resigned father (veteran Italian actor Omero Antonutti) fought on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War. She keeps hearing about "the South," this mysterious, elusive locale yet never seems to get to go there. "El Sur" is suffused with a yearning for a lost paradise--and a subsequent lost innocence. "El Sur" screens Saturday at 7:15 p.m. and will be followed at 9 p.m. with a Jose Luis Borau double feature, "Double-Edged Murder," a 1964 film noir, and "B. Must Die," a 1973 political thriller starring Darren McGavin and Stepahne Audran. (213) 466-FILM.

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The 1981 "Mandala," screening Saturday at 7 p.m. at UC Irvine as part of an ongoing Korean film series, remains one of preeminent filmmaker Im Kwon-Taek's most controversial and important pictures. In the film a young itinerant monk, Pobun (Ahn Sung-Kee), is transformed by his encounter with a wayward older monk, Jisan (Chun Mu-Song), who's striving for spiritual enlightenment despite being given to heavy bouts of boozing and wenching. It's not that Pobun is tempted to emulate Jisan but that he's confounded by the possibility that a libertine, having thrown over traditional Buddhist practices and rituals, could nevertheless be sincere in his quest and have even acquired some hard-won wisdom along the way. For ticket and parking information: (714) 824-7418; for festival information: (714) 824-1992.

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This weekend the outstanding "Post-Colonial Classics of the Korean Cinema" series will be held at the Korean Cultural Center, 5505 Wilshire Blvd., instead of UC Irvine. It will present at 7 p.m. the 1993 Im Kwon-Taek masterpiece "Soponje," Korea's biggest box-office hit of all time. First screened at the Center in June, 1994, it is a stark tale about a hard-drinking, hard-driving master of the plaintive pansori music who wanders the countryside with his two foster children. As painful as it is profound, it reveals the virtually limitless sacrifices an art form can demand of its practitioners. (714) 824-7418.

Note: San Francisco experimental filmmaker Ernie Gehr will present "For Daniel," composed of home movies he shot of his infant son, at Filmforum Sunday at 7 p.m. at LACE, 6522 Hollywood Blvd. (213) 526-2911.

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