`The Dream Screen': on being female in the 20th century

``The Dream Screen'' is a good title for the new movie by Stephanie Beroes, a filmmaker who was active in Pittsburgh and San Francisco before moving to New York, and who doesn't mind showing in her work how deeply cinema touches her. The heroine of the picture is none other than Louise Brooks, the legendary silent-film star, seen in eloquent excerpts from ``Pandora's Box,'' her most celebrated vehicle. Other figures include a young woman who talks about her troubled father, and another who jots down notes on the Pandora legend while riding on a train.

Their activities are intercut with clips from ``Pandora's Box'' and comments on Brooks's eccentric movie career, some of them taken from her own memoirs.

The words and images of ``The Dream Screen'' don't follow a conventional storyline, and often they seem to have little in common. Yet sly connections are always present -- in the way, for example, that one woman's relationship with her father sadly echoes Brooks's relationship with G.W. Pabst, her mentor during the German phase of her career.

Through subtle editing and canny juxtapositions, filmmaker Beroes weaves these threads into a complex commentary on the thorny challenges and dubious rewards (as Brooks found out) of being female in the 20th century.

Just as impressive is Beroes's camera style, capturing contemporary figures in crisp black-and-white images that blend nicely with the 1929 ``Pandora'' shots. And her sensitivity to the resonance between sight and sound results in a superb opening sequence that combines train footage and Brooks histrionics with a just-right ballad by Etta James on the sound track.

Beroes will introduce a showing of ``The Dream Screen'' Friday night at New York's invaluable Collective for Living Cinema, which is now in a brand-new home at 41 White Street in the TriBeCa neighborhood. Its current season runs through Dec. 14 and includes new and old films from a variety of filmmakers and countries.

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