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Screening Room

A Poetic Outpouring

UCLA series spotlights Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui's subtly wrought films.

July 15, 1999|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Another outstanding documentary, made by "Paris Is a Woman's" Greta Schiller and writer Mark Gevisser, is "The Man Who Drove With Mandela" (DGA 1, Saturday at 4:30 p.m.), which calls attention to Cecil Williams, a dashing, esteemed Johannesburg theater director and anti-apartheid activist who helped smuggle an exiled Nelson Mandela back into Africa to continue his African National Congress organizing by posing as Williams' chauffeur. When they were arrested in August 1962, Williams, then 55, was released the next day while Mandela was facing life imprisonment. Corin Redgrave plays Williams in scenes of self-reflection drawn from this uncommonly courageous man's writings.

Scott King's ambitious and surreal "Treasure Island" (Village, Sunday at 4:30 p.m.) imagines two World War II cryptographers: the beefy, macho Sam (Nick Offerman) and the slim, sophisticated Frank (Lance Baker), stationed in San Francisco on the site of the 1939 World's Fair, who start believing a corpse for whom they are composing letters of disinformation for the enemy is coming alive. Sam is working through his latent homosexuality in three-way encounters involving his wife and a series of men while Frank indulges in two wives and a mistress. King means to skewer the sexual hypocrisy of the era as well as its racism, and he takes great pains to make his picture look authentic. It's too bad it doesn't have the brisk pace and lack of pretension that characterized Hollywood's wartime serials and films noir.

Jim Fall's crowd-pleasing romantic comedy "Trick" closes the festival Monday at 5 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. at the Egyptian. Christian Campbell stars as a boyish, self-absorbed New York wannabe Broadway composer who is astonished to discover there's mutual attraction between him and a likable, uncomplicated go-go dancer (John Paul Pitoc) with the requisite perfect body. Ironically, the considerable struggle the guys face in finding sufficient privacy to consume their lust causes them to get to know and care for each other. There's a standout performance from Tori Spelling as Campbell's best pal, as ambitious as he to make it as a star in musical comedy. (323) 960-2330.

*

Direct from Outfest '99, Jake West's "Razor Blade Smile" (Fridays and Saturdays at midnight at the Sunset 5) is a silly, gory, overly self-congratulatory vampire comedy in which Eileen Daly stars as a contemporary vampire, a hired killer in black rubber who is as likely to open fire with a submachine gun as she is to put the bite on you, which seems more than a little overkill. (323) 960-2330.

As writer, producer, director and star of "DWM" ("Divorced White Male"), which opens a one-week run Friday at the Monica 4-Plex (1332 2nd St., Santa Monica), Lou Volpe has made an appealing, well-made film about the dating hell of the recently divorced. When his wife up and leaves him and their four kids to experience life on her own, a devastated Al (Volpe) eventually tries his luck in the personals; meanwhile, so does a lovely young woman, Amy (Lauren Bailey), who has finally gotten up the courage to leave her abusive husband--but that's not how these two thoroughly likable people meet. This wry romantic comedy represents a highly personal accomplishment made on a shoestring budget. Unfortunately, it is marred by its presentation on a murky print with wobbly sound. (310) 394-9741.

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