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VIDEOSCAN

December 23, 1987



A selection of new releases for sale or rental ALL MY SONS (1986. Directed by Jack O'Brien. MCA Home Video.) - James Whitmore plays the pivotal role in this ``American Playhouse'' production of Arthur Miller's drama, which focuses on a manufacturer who went to prison for selling defective airplane parts to the US military in World War II. Although the authorities have exonerated him, uncertainties about his role in the fraud have lingered, and these come rushing to the surface when his son decides to marry the daughter of an associate who's still in jail. The aging, cantankerous, ever-defensive protagonist recalls Willy Loman in ``Death of a Salesman,'' a deeper and more richly developed Miller play. Whitmore plays the old man with skill and authority, but the rest of the cast is uneven, and the story seems strained at times. Joan Allen and Michael Learned are among the supporting players. David Sterritt CELEBRATING BIRD: THE TRIUMPH OF CHARLIE PARKER (1987. Written and directed by Gary Giddins. Produced by Toby Byron. Narrated by Ted Ross. Sony Video) - This documentary, based on Giddins's book of the same title, is the first ever of bebop's greatest saxophonist. It's a vivid portrait, interspersed with musical segments and interviews with fellow musicians and family, including Jay McShann, Roy Haynes, jazz critic Leonard Feather, and Parker's former wives Rebecca Parker Davis and Chan Parker. The limited but excellent footage of Parker is skillfully meshed into a brief history of the jazz scene during Bird's lifetime. Film clips include Charles Mingus, Art Tatum, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, and others. Amy Duncan ROY ORBISON AND FRIENDS: A BLACK & WHITE NIGHT (1987. Directed by Tony Mitchell. Produced by Stephanie Bennett. HBO/Cinemax.) - The legendary singer/guitarist performs with his band and guest artists, including Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, J.D. Souther, and Tom Waits. Orbison, whose high, sweet tenor is still in great shape, sings and plays his compositions ``Crying,'' ``Only the Lonely,'' ``Ooby Dooby,'' ``In Dreams'' (from the movie ``Blue Velvet''), and others. There are a couple of duets with Springsteen, and some gentle, bluesy guitar ``battles.'' It will air on Cinemax on next month. Shot in black and white. - A.D. ZBIG RYBCZYNSKI: A COLLECTION (1974, 1975, etc. Directed by Zbigniew Rybczynski. Pacific Arts Video.) - Rybczynski is a major video artist and experimental filmmaker. He's also a trickster, a jokester, and a wizard when it comes to bending motion pictures into odd new shapes. This set of nine short productions is a fairly good introduction to his work, although none of it approaches the brilliance of ``Tango'' or ``Imagine,'' two of his best efforts. The title piece, ``Media,'' is a multiscreen juggling act that's a pure example of his witty minimalism. In the longer ``I Can't Stop!'' the camera becomes a juggernaut speeding through a varied landscape. ``Soup'' and ``Holiday'' are dour commentaries on romance and family life. ``The Way to Your Neighbor'' and ``My Window'' are simple exercises in tilting camera work. The more ambitious ``New Book'' divides the screen into nine equal parts, while ``The Discreet Charm of the Diplomacy'' pokes fun at diplomatic pretensions. In all, it's a diverse package, but rarely an exciting one. Note: It contains occasional sex and nudity. - D.S.

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