A weekly update of video releases

* THE KISS OF DEATH - Behind that ominous title stands a muted, sometimes mournful comedy about the painfully slow-blooming romance of a shoe clerk and an undertaker's assistant. The release of several early works devised and directed by British filmmaker Mike Leigh is a hugely welcome development on the video scene. Since they were designed for broadcast on BBC television, they look right at home on the small screen. Made in 1977, this particular movie is not one of the most inspired in the series, stressing the personal foibles of its characters more than the incisive social satire that distinguishes Leigh's finest works. Its improvisatory acting is right on target, though, and its loose-limbed narrative makes a refreshing contrast with the slick storytelling that marks most Hollywood pictures. (Waterbearer Films)

* A LIFE IN THE THEATRE - Selected moments in the careers of two actors who work together in a repertory company: an up-and-comer with a bright future, and a veteran who's losing his youth, his grip, and maybe his will to live. David Mamet adapted this made-for-television movie from his original stage play. His parodies of second-rate theatrical scenes are often hilarious, and Matthew Broderick and Jack Lemmon speak his stylized dialogue with impressive skill. Still, the script is less pithy and pungent than Mamet's most inspired offerings. Directed by Gregory Mosher and photographed by the great Freddie Francis. (Turner Home Entertainment)

* LA SALAMANDRE - Two young writers develop a complex relationship with a somewhat mysterious woman while working on a TV script about an enigmatic incident in her past. Made in 1971 by Swiss director Alain Tanner, this amiable comedy-drama has all the liveliness and inventiveness that characterized the Nouvelle Vague movement in its formative years. Bulle Ogier gives a classic performance as the captivating central character. (New Yorker Video)

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