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FREEZE FRAMES

The Monitor Movie Guide

By David Sterritt and Staff Panel / April 14, 1995



APRIL 14, 1995

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Movies that contain violence, sexual situations, nudity, and profanity are denoted V, S, N, and P respectively. Evaluations do not constitute a Monitor endorsement. Further guidance is supplied by full reviews on the Arts pages.

EVALUATION SYMBOLS

David Sterritt Staff Panel Meaning

O\ O\ Don't bother

u q Poor

uu qq Fair

uuu qqq Good

uuuu qqqq Excellent

7 1 Half rating point

New Releases

BLESSING

uu Sincere, modestly crafted tale of a young woman's effort to shake off the emotional pressures of life on her family's farm. Written and directed by Paul Zehrer, a promising new filmmaker. (Not rated) V P

CLEAN, SHAVEN

uuu A schizophrenic man searches frantically for a young daughter who has been removed from his care. Written and directed by newcomer Lodge H. Kerrigan, this extraordinary debut film combines innovative cinematics with unmistakable compassion for its tormented protagonist; its nonstop intensity may be too unsettling for many spectators, however. (Not rated) V P S

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO

uu David Lean pulled out all the melodramatic stops in his film version of Boris Pasternak's novel about love and death in revolutionary Russia, but there's enough spark in the main performances to compensate for the top-heavy style. Robert Bolt wrote the ponderous screenplay and Freddie Young did the sumptuous cinematography. Restored to its full length of nearly 3-1/2 hours for its 30th-anniversary rerelease. (PG-13) S V

FUN

uuu Desperate for some excitement in their humdrum lives, two teenage girls commit an appalling crime. Swinging between interviews with the main characters and flashbacks to their day of violence, Rafal Zelinsky's drama etches a chilling portrait of American society as a spiritual wasteland that's unwilling or unable to cultivate the vast potential of its youngest members. Produced about the same time as ''Heavenly Creatures,'' which it resembles in many ways. (Not rated) S V P

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

uuu Also known as ''Stairway to Heaven,'' this 1946 fantasy has its climax in a heavenly courtroom where David Niven asks to be spared a wartime death so his love for Kim Hunter can blossom over the years. Written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who never created a more widely loved picture. (PG) V

PATHER PANCHALI

uuu The first film by Indian director Satyajit Ray explores the life of a poor rural family with wit, understatement, and a gracefulness rarely found in today's hectic movie world. Originally released in 1955, and known as ''Song of the Little Road'' in its English-subtitled version. Ravi Shankar composed the superb music. (Not rated)

RED FIRECRACKER, GREEN FIRECRACKER

u In rural China, a young woman renounces her femininity in order to rule her family's fireworks business with an iron hand, but this arrangement is threatened by an artist who falls in love with her. The story makes a good metaphor for conflicts between selfhood and tradition, but director He Ping shows a weakness for melodramatic excess that outweighs the film's assets of colorful cinematography and earnest acting. (Not rated) S V

ROB ROY

uu Sir Walter Scott's novel is turned inside-out by Michael Caton-Jones's movie, which transforms the title character from an elusive rogue into a conventional hero who swaggers across the screen from beginning to end. Liam Neeson plays him with conviction, and Tim Roth makes an uncommonly hissable villain. The adventure goes on too long, though, and wallows in nasty details that would have made Scott shudder. (R) S V P

qq1 Predictable plot, violent (sword slayings and brutal rape scene).

Currently in Release

AMATEUR

u A man with no memory of his past, a nun entering the secular world after 17 years of seclusion, and an actress of very dubious morality are the main characters of Hal Hartley's offbeat drama, which explores complicated issues of identity and sexual politics, but remains too schematic to gain the emotional impact it sorely needs. (R) S N V P

BALLET