FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

THE INNER CIRCLE A young Moscow citizen gets hired as Stalin's personal movie projectionist, and his acquaintance with the Soviet dictator has unexpected effects on his private life, including his marriage. Although the movie is far too long, Tom Hulce's energy keeps it hopping, and the moody cinematography by Ennio Guarnieri is splendid. Directed by Russian emigre Andrei Konchalovsky with his usual punch, which is sometimes hard-hitting and sometimes just ham-fisted. The latter quality is most troubling during some scenes involving children who appear frightened by the filmmaking process. (Rated PG-13) THE SECOND CIRCLE Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov, a gifted prot of the late Andrei Tarkovsky, directed this austere drama about a man preparing the burial of his father. Rarely has so much visual and emotional power been generated through such deliberately limited means; the film is extreme in its rigor, its sobriety, and its sublimity. (Not rated) TALKING TO STRANGERS A somewhat mysterious young man has a series of small-scale urban adventures, and we see them in daringly long shots photographed with camera work that's as ingenious as it is peripatetic. Chicago filmmaker Rob Tregenza directed this stylistically fascinating comedy-drama; too bad weak acting makes it less effective than it might have been. (Not rated)

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