FREEZE FRAMES

MAPANTSULA - Filmed on the sly in South Africa, this unusual drama looks at the evils of apartheid through the eyes of a man who's anything but heroic: a small-time crook who's forced by circumstances to take a stand on moral issues he's never thought about before. Directed, with an unfortunate lack of visual energy, by Oliver Schmitz. (Not rated) MYSTERY TRAIN - Jim Jarmusch likes to explore the American scene as it appears to outsiders. Here the setting is Memphis, Tenn., and the characters are two Japanese teenagers, an Italian woman, and an Englishman whose nickname is Elvis. The spirit of the real Elvis hovers over this quirky and atmospheric comedy-drama, which tells three stories that don't dovetail until the very end. One contains an explicit sexual encounter that opens up new emotional territory for Jarmusch, whose stance in most other scenes is as wry and deadpan as ever. (Rated R)

WAR REQUIEM - An expressive look at the sorrows of war. There is no conventional story, but the film is loosely based on the life and work of World War I ``trench poet'' Wilfred Owen, who once wrote, ``My subject is war and the pity of war, and the poetry is in the pity.'' In his last screen appearance, the late Laurence Olivier plays an old soldier whose remembrances spark the words and images of the movie. Directed by British filmmaker Derek Jarman, who has a special talent for nonnarrative cinema, although he fails to generate the excitement here that marked ``The Last of England,'' his most widely seen recent work. (Not rated)

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