short takes (2)

* Him and Me, a new film by James Benning, has received its theatrical premiere at the Film Forum in New York. A real experimenter, Benning takes a sideways approach to storytelling: He splits his plot into bits and pieces, and interrupts these with digressions into the realm of pure film -- long shots of objects and places in which form and texture become more important than ''what happens next.''

There is a story to ''Him and Me,'' about a bereaved woman who remembers her past while dealing with a difficult period in her life. As fragmented and intermittent as this plot is, Benning manages to charge it with considerable emotion, while also indulging his fondness for still-life compositions and oddly composed frames with minimal bursts of action tucked into the sides and corners. He also plays some marvelous jokes on cinematic notions of time and place.

It's an engaging film, in its ornery way. But it never reaches the eccentric grandeur of Benning's recent ''Grand Opera,'' a study of the relationship between sound and image that manages to be thoroughly entertaining, and even suspenseful, while conducting its explorations. ''Him and Me'' is almost conventional by comparison, yet not quite as as single-minded nor as much fun.

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