FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

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* CLERKS - Stuck with boring shifts in the convenience store and video outlet where they work, two young slackers pass the time with idle chatter, visits from friends and strangers, and a hockey game on the roof. The first section, about an antismoking zealot who declares war on the tobacco counter, is hilarious. From there on, the picture sinks into a tedious series of shock-the-bourgeoisie skits, long on raunchy dialogue but short on clever ideas. Written and directed by newcomer Kevin Smith. (Rated R)

* FAUST - Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer, the most dedicated surrealist in cinema today, falls way below his usual high standard in this slipshod retelling of the Faust legend by means of puppetry and live action. (Not rated)

* IMMORTAL BELOVED - If you liked ``Amadeus'' you might not be charmed by this visit with Ludwig van Beethoven, a crankier and more troublesome character than Mozart and Salieri put together. Following a screenplay that brings ``Citizen Kane'' to mind, the movie starts with a mystery: Who is the enigmatic woman to whom the recently deceased Beethoven has left his worldly goods? Determined to settle the composer's affairs as completely and honestly as possible, his friend Anton Schindler delves into his past and interviews women who might provide the puzzle's missing piece; his investigations touch off flashbacks that recapitulate much of Beethoven's life and career. Bernard Rose has written and directed the picture with a florid touch that occasionally recalls Ken Russell's film-and-music hallucinations. The results are always excessive and sometimes quite aggravating, but they're weirdly appropriate to the subject of the story, an over-the-top artiste who seemed excessive and aggravating to many of his 19th-century cronies. Gary Oldman plays the hero with a suitable air of barely contained dementia, and Jeroen Krabbe is just right as his friend and executor. Isabella Rossellini and Valeria Golino are among the talented supporting players. (Rated R)

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