FREEZE FRAMES

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BABETTE'S FEAST - Touching, gently comic tale of a chef who leaves Paris for an isolated village on the Danish coast, where she finds herself living in a community that's dominated by members of an austere religious sect. After living among them for many years, she decides to show her affection by preparing a special meal, which her friends find tempting but all too worldly. Gabriel Axel wrote and directed the French-Danish production, which is based on a deftly constructed Isak Dinesen story. St'ephane Audran heads the superb cast. (Rated G) A GIRL FROM HUNAN - The first Chinese movie to be commercially released in the United States, this drama tells of a 16-year-old girl who gets pregnant by a local peasant. Because this breaks the law of her clan, it puts her life in peril. The story isn't very original, but it's poignantly told and sincerely acted. There's also exquisite photography of the Chinese countryside, where the tale takes place in the early part of this century. Directed by Xie Fei and ULan. (Not rated) THE HOUSE ON CARROLL STREET - In the politically repressive 1950s, a left-leaning young woman stumbles on a plot to smuggle Nazi war criminals into the United States. Kelly McGillis and Jeff Daniels make an attractive couple, and Mandy Patinkin is chilling as a bad guy who speaks in clich'es. The story doesn't build as much momentum as it might, though, and parts of the climax fall very flat. Directed by Peter Yates. (Rated PG) SWITCHING CHANNELS - A fast-talking editor and his ex-wife, a fast-talking reporter, pull romantic and professional tricks on each other while covering a controversial murder case. The story was fresh and the characters were original when they debuted in ``The Front Page'' years ago. They were still delightful in the brilliant ``His Girl Friday.'' The silly new version, which switches the action to a cable-TV news channel, is more strenuous than funny despite the best efforts of Burt Reynolds as the editor, Kathleen Turner as the reporter, and Christopher Reeve as her effete fianc'e. Earnestly but heavily directed by Ted Kotcheff. (Rated PG) VICE VERSA - A man and his young son exchange ages and places, thanks to a supernatural doodad. The plot gimmick was funnier in ``Like Father Like Son,'' and even ``Freaky Friday'' was more original. Brian Gilbert directed the warmed-over foolishness, which has nothing to recommend it but a small Swoosie Kurtz performance. (Rated PG) WHEN THE WIND BLOWS - Nuclear war is the unusual subject of this feature-length cartoon. The only characters are a middle-aged couple in an isolated home, doing their futile best to cope with the worst imaginable disaster. The screenplay is pungent, poignant, and uncompromising; the animation is simple but peppered with unexpected visual touches. Peggy Ashcroft and John Mills supply the main voices, which have a ring of conviction even when the dialogue gets ragged on occasion. David Bowie wrote the title song. Directed by Jimmy T. Murakami. (Not rated) RATINGS: Films with ratings other than G may contain varying degrees of vulgar language, nudity, sex, and violence.

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