WASHINGTON — THE sixth annual European Community Film Festival - the most ambitious yet - is underway in the United States, with 20 films from 12 nations. The movies range from the British satire ``The Tall Guy,'' which includes a musical takeoff on ``The Elephant Man,'' to the Netherlands thriller ``The Vanishing,'' about a terrorist kidnapping, filmed in Hitchcock style.
This year, the festival has become more of a nationwide festival, with stops in four cities, says its program director, Eddie Cockrell, of the American Film Institute. The festival event opened this past weekend at the AFI Theater here in Washington, where it runs through June 26.
A miniversion of the festival was screened in New York June 6-9. A shortened version will be presented June 23-29 at the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif., and the full version will appear at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis July 1-29.
The festival represents all 12 nations of the European Community. It includes films from France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Britain, Luxembourg, Denmark, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and West Germany.
Multinational productions from Italy/France/Germany, France/Switzerland, Denmark/Sweden, and Belgium/France are also included.
Mr. Cockrell says, ``Some of the films that are higher-profile movies include the new Jeff Goldblum comedy `The Tall Guy,' in which he plays a longsuffering American actor in London. It was directed by a very funny, gentle man making his directorial debut: Mel Smith, from the British show `Not the Nine O'Clock News,' modeled on `That Was the Week That Was.' It's anarchic British humor, a send-up of British theater.''
In a much more serious vein is another film Cockrell puts at the top of his list: British director Derek Jarman's ``War Requiem,'' a visualization of composer Benjamin Britten's oratorio written in 1962.
Four of the films in the festival have French roots: Cockrell cites the American premi`eres of what he calls ``two splendid new French movies. One is director Suzanne Schiffman's second film, ``Paperback Woman,'' starring Jean-Pierre L'eaud as the conniving head of a publishing house. The other is one of Cockrell's personal favorites, Jacques Rivette's ``The Band of Four,'' a comedy-drama about four girls studying in a dramatic conservatory in France. The two other Gallic films are Jean Charles Tacchella's ``Travelling Avant,'' about a group of young men obsessed with filmmaking; and ``Five Days in June,'' composer Michel Legrand's autobiographical memoir about adventures he and his mother had during the Normandy invasion of World War II.
Thrillers, like the Dutch ``The Vanishing,'' are much in evidence this year. From Luxembourg comes director Andy Bausch's ``Troublemaker,'' about two juvenile delinquents who plot a robbery in prison; and from West Germany, director Petra Haffter's ``The Kiss of the Tiger,'' starring Beate Jensen as a a German au pair girl who falls in love with a serial killer of women.
The festival also includes several entries directly from the recent Cannes film festival.