Filmex begins its second week today, off to a decent start, at least in terms of what's being shown.
What you think of its choices so far depends upon how demanding you feel; we have had only a scattering of gems, but what has been good has been very good indeed: Michael Apted's "28-Up," the American "Streetwise" (a British one will be shown today, just to muddle things slightly), "The Young Visiters," "Onimasa," "Blue Money" and "The Holy Innocents" among them. There have been one or two truly lamentable films and, again, the sense of too much programmed simply to fill out a catalogue, but there are times when half a dozen offbeat films of integrity can seem like an oasis.
How they are being screened may be another matter. The Mann theaters seem badly in need of new lamps in their projectors; Krzysztof Zanussi's postwar Poland was supposed to be dark but not impenetrable, as witness the difference between the press and the public screenings of "The Year of the Quiet Sun," and the platter projection system makes it impossible to start a film that has broken at any point except its very beginning, which is enough to make you howl in the aisles.
To continue our handicapping of the next week, here is our critics' selection of the films press-screened so far. Capsule reviews of today's screening are on Page 3.
Friday: "Far From Poland," Jill Godmilow's penetrating questioning of just what is truth in documentary film making. Godmilow uses her experience covering the Gdansk shipyard workers strike--and her being refused a visa when she wanted to return to film the flowering of Solidarity--as the springboard for a thoughtful and cohesive work.
Paul Morrisey's "Mixed Blood," a New York youth drug-gang opus, is a perverse combination of abrupt brutal violence and savage black comedy that blends perfectly.
Wonderful little "Deadhead Miles," by Vernon Zimmerman from a Terrence Malick script, is a notably eccentric road movie made in 1971 with Alan Arkin and Paul Benedict. Called "unreleaseable," it was shelved, but it is more than worth your time for its salty, jubilant view of the rough underbelly of America. (It may also make you yearn even more for the return to the screen of the singular grace of Malick.)
Saturday: In "Light Physical Injuries" director Gyorgy Szomjas creates a menage a trois where all the scars are internal. It's a vibrant combination of tragic and comic elements in modern-day Hungary, executed with precision by a superb trio of performers (including Karoly Eperjes, a young leading man who is a best bet to go on to world-class attention). This is also the day to see the Academy Award-nominated short and feature-length documentaries, which include "The Times of Harvey Milk," one of the must-sees. ("The Times of Harvey Milk" will also receive a special screening on Friday at the Variety Arts Theater. The 8 p.m. screening will be hosted by actresses Linda Lavin and Michelle Lee, with proceeds going to the film makers (who will be present) and the Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Artists. Information: 851-3771.)
Sunday: "Yanco," a landmark debut film from Mexico in 1960 for director Sevando Gonzales and cinematographer Alex Phillips Jr. (then 19), this lyrical fable of a young boy and an aging violinist is told almost purely through images, music and natural sounds. Though a touch sentimental/melodramatic, it is haunting.
"The Homefront" looks at the war at home (1941-45) with some affection and with all the warts displayed.
"Alice Adams," part of the George Stevens tribute, is the Booth Tarkington novel to perfection (if you forgive a happy ending), and classic Katharine Hepburn.
Monday: Classics (and Academy Award) day--"Seventh Heaven"; the amazing F. W. Murnau "Sunrise" (both part of the Janet Gaynor tribute) and the rediscovery of Mikio Naruse's "Late Chrysanthemums."
Tuesday: "La Triche," is Yannick Bellon's film noir triangle with subtle and wrenching consequences as Victor Lanoux, as a middle-aged Bordeaux cop, falls hard for musician Xavier Delluc. Anny Duperey (the original Woman in Red) is Lanoux's perplexed, angry wife.
Especially urgent right now, Frank Christopher's "In the Name of the People," an Academy Award nominee, is clear, forceful and informative as it documents the lives of the peasantry in El Salvador.
"Silent Pioneers," a document on senior members of the gay community, is warm, witty and genuinely touching. "The Sleep of Reason," from West Germany, is about the mental breakdown of a crusading gynecologist, a woman whose husband leaves her to side with the enemy, a corrupt pharmacologist. Long, slow, very intense, visually beautiful in the way '60s Antonioni was beautiful, it is fascinating.
Wednesday: "Boy Meets Girl" is Leos Carax's debut film of ideas and ambiguities to challenge, dismay and delight, as he combines romance and intrigue in an offbeat journey through the dark side of Paris.
"When the Raven Flies" is a Viking saga from Iceland that is as much inspired by spaghetti Westerns as by Nordic legends--a jolting, vivid tale of revenge played with all stops pulled out.
"The South" may be the best new film of the festival, a Chekhovian story by Victor Erice ("Spirit of the Beehive") about memory, childhood, romantic illusion. Called "a landmark in the history of Spanish cinema," it may be just that.
Sean O'Mordha's "Samuel Beckett, Silence to Silence," done in a spare, precise style appropriate to the writer's work, is untraditional, devoted and absolutely sure in its attack. Jack McGowran and Billie Whitelaw are among the actors who appear in play and story fragments.
Thursday: Grueling, compassionate, beautiful, "Memories of Prison," an adaptation of an autobiographical novel of an intellectual imprisoned for years without a trial, is a major work by leading Cinema Nuovo director Nelson Pereira dos Santos in which Brazil's prisons become a metaphor for the country itself.
Be wary of substitutions or the non-press-screened film. And be sure to save time for the 15 1/2-hour "Heimat," the massive West German feature, not press-screened at this writing, but from its debut in Berlin said to be a masterly accomplishment. "Heimat" will play this Saturday and Sunday at the Four Star.
Kevin Thomas, Michael Wilmington and Leonard Klady contributed to this article.