Making the Scene

BLUE SCREEN: Even in the highest reaches of art-house product, sex sells, and Kino Video, one of the best sources for new world cinema and distinguished revivals alike, has inaugurated a new series of films that rest on the border between art and eroticism, "Kino After Dark." The first three, released a few weeks ago, include an interesting failure, long out of print, and the video premiere of a courageous film from a great actress. The former, Bette Gordon's 1983 Variety, from the only original script by postmodern-porno-plagiarist Kathy Acker, is the story of a young woman who takes a job in the box office of a Times Square grindhouse and gradually becomes obsessed with the adult-cinema milieu. Despite a good performance from Sandy McLeod as the heroine and a few scenes that recall the intensity of Acker's prose, the film is a muddle.

For a more challenging look at a woman confronting her sexual identity, try A Winter Tan, a 1988 film based on the letters of Maryse Holder, a New York writer who took "a vacation from feminism," a long sojourn of sex and drinking in Mexico, and never came back. It sounds like -- and is -- a cross between Under the Volcano and Looking for Mr. Goodbar, but it's redeemed by the honest, uninhibited voice of Holder and, even more significantly, by the excellent performance of Jackie Burroughs, who wrote the script, co-directed the film in collective fashion with four others and dominates every scene with her jarring, almost frighteningly raw performance of a woman courting self-destruction.

The third release, Nick Broomfield's Dark Obsession, is an "erotic thriller" that, despite the presence of Gabriel Byrne and Amanda Donohoe, is every bit as banal as its title.

SHELF LIFE: Recent releases include, from the Artists Formerly Known as Soviet Cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky's The Mirror, Andrei Konchalovsky's Siberiade, Nikita Mikhalkov's Oblomov and Sergei Paradjanov's not-to-be-missed Color of Pomegranates, a brilliant, once-suppressed re-creation of the life and words of 17th-century Armenian poet Arutuiun Sayadian (all from Kino).

Also just out are Ken Loach's Carla's Song and newly restored editions of Bo Widerberg's romantic classic Elvira Madigan and Daniel Vigne's The Return of Martin Guerre (all from Fox Lorber); the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison (from A&E Home Video); and, for those who get nosebleeds watching Omnimax films in their natural environments, Everest (from Miramax Home Video).

Jonathan Demme's Beloved, James Ivory's A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, a "collector's edition" of Luis Valdez's La Bamba and, from Kino, two rediscovered relics for the '60s Anglophile, The Girl Getters and The Leather Boys, were released April 6. Also coming in April are a flood of New Wave classics, including six newly struck Francois Truffaut classics (with six more to follow in the summer) and the long-awaited video premiere of Jean Eustache's The Mother and the Whore. Watch for these in a future column.

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