VIDEOSCAN

A selection of current releases DEATH OF A SALESMAN (1986. Directed by Volker Schl"ondorff. Karl-Lorimar Home Video) - This production of Arthur Miller's classic play had plenty of impact on the Broadway stage, and its video version lends the performances an intimacy that makes them even more powerful. In theory, Dustin Hoffman is too young to play Willy Loman, who embodies middle-aged America on the skids. But he carries the role with an energy and ingenuity that soar above literal-minded quibbles. The performance that gains most from its TV translation is that of Kate Reid, who becomes the guiding spirit of Miller's drama as well as Willy's household. John Malkovich is more relaxed than he was on stage, and Stephen Lang complements him almost perfectly as Willy's other son. Charles Durning rounds out the cast as a long-suffering neighbor. Schl"ondorff, a gifted member of West Germany's influential ``new cinema'' movement, has difficulty making smooth transitions into some of the flashbacks. Otherwise he shows a flair for video that few filmmakers have surpassed. In all, this is a superb example of small-screen artistry. -David Sterritt THE SCARLET LETTER (1972. Directed by Wim Wenders. Pacific Arts Video) - Wenders, an important West German filmmaker, has been fascinated by the United States for a long time. He directed this adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's timeless novel before he developed the eye for documentary-like realism that has marked many of his more recent fictions. The action is extravagantly performed in lonely-looking locations that would suit a Sergio Leone western. A wretched music score nearly swamps Wenders's stagy but sincere melodramatics, which have been lushly photographed by Robby M"uller. Senta Berger heads the cast.

-D.S. SOFT SELF-PORTRAIT OF SALVADOR DALI (1980. Directed by Jean-Christophe Averty. Pacific Arts Video) - Made for French television and narrated by Orson Welles, this documentary visits the great Surrealist painter at his villa and knocks itself out being as ostentatious and outrageous as its subject. It puts on a frenzied show, but isn't very revealing about Dali or his controversial work. -D.S. STREETFIGHT (1968. Directed by Ralph Bakshi. Academy Home Entertainment) - Ralph Bakshi wrote and directed this nasty satire, originally known as ``Coonskin,'' as part of his self-appointed crusade to show that animation can handle subjects and styles outside the wholesome Walt Disney mold. Unfortunately, he tended to prove his point by going to opposite extremes of aggressive ugliness, especially when treating violence and sexuality. This lurid fable, about a black Brer Rabbit in modern-day Harlem, exploits racist attitudes more often than it exposes and deflates them. The mix of live-action and cartoon images is clumsier than in the equally dark ``Heavy Traffic,'' and the sensitivity of Bakshi's soaring ``American Pop'' is nowhere to be found. -D.S. Recent films now on video ISHTAR (1987. Comedy directed by Elaine May. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, and Isabel Adjani. RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video.) OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (1987. Comedy directed by Arthur Hiller. Starring Bette Midler and Shelley Long. Touchstone Home Video.)

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