A MAN IN UNIFORM
A young actor lands a part in a melodramatic TV show, and his fictional role as a rough-and-ready cop starts to affect his real-life personality in unexpected ways. There's nothing unusual about the notion of an unstable man being knocked off balance by a new situation, a new uniform, and a new cluster of personal fantasies. Canadian filmmaker David Wellington chooses to follow up some of the least interesting implications of his protagonist's odd obsession. The movie takes some provocative turns, though, and Tom McManus is convincing as the main character. Brigitte Bako is excellent as an actress who becomes his reluctant new friend. (Not rated)
SPANKING THE MONKEY -- A college student wrestles with the demands of his dysfunctional parents, who are suffocating in their possessiveness and heedless of his social and emotional needs. The film deals responsibly with such highly charged issues as adolescent sexuality and incest, bringing sensitivity and compassion to material that might have produced mere sensationalism. Directed by first-time filmmaker David O. Russell. (Not rated)
PAUL BOWLES: THE COMPLETE OUTSIDER
This capably made documentary focuses on author, musician, and sociocultural rebel Paul Bowles, whose best-known novel, ''The Sheltering Sky,'' reflects a longtime fascination with northern Africa, where he still lives and works. The movie was written and directed by Catherine Warnow and Regina Weinreich (an authority on the Beat Generation writers, who were strongly influenced by Bowles's iconoclastic career). Bowles himself provides much of the film's key material, but other figures contribute as well, r anging from Beat poet Allen Ginsberg to contemporary composer Ned Rorem. Bit by bit the filmmakers assemble a mosaic that's as engrossing, disturbing, and ultimately elusive as its subject.