Times Staff Writer

Move over, UCLA and USC (which have the most famous cinema departments in the country), and make room for Los Angeles City College, which has been teaching students how to make movies since 1969. (Loyola-Marymount has been coming along nicely, too, with its student work.)

Tonight at 8 LACC is presenting at the Directors Guild a benefit screening of some of its best work of the last two years. And what a winner this program is! There's not a bad film in the bunch, and most of them have it all over USC's recent offering of advanced and graduate work. Embracing animation, documentary and the narrative, the films abound in energy, grit and humor. These are films made by people in touch with themselves and the real world; there's nothing here of the ivory tower or the slick job meant to impress "the industry."

The longer narratives average around 20 minutes, which is an excellent test of the film makers' storytelling skills. Rupert A. Nadeau's "Redux" captures beautifully the plight of a young ex-con (well played by Dave Nieman) fresh out of prison with no one to turn to and no place to go; meanwhile, Doug Kastilahn is winning as a struggling young actor in Harry J. Abraham's amusing and compassionate "Audition."

The most sophisticated, well-produced and psychologically complex of the narratives is Timothy Glavin's "Toll Call," which tells of the unexpected and extraordinary impact a seemingly anonymous phone call has upon a young woman (Kathleen York) about to marry an upwardly mobile attorney (Robert Johnstreet). York and Johnstreet are talented and attractive; the cinematography (by Glavin's co-producer Michael B. Newmann) is as stylish as Nigel Hutton's exotic score. There's also a fine performance by Larry Moskowitz as a video game junkie in Kevin Tent's darkly humorous "Blistered Fingers," which suggests slyly how sexual is Moskowitz's obsession.

Jeff Land's documentary "Mad Dog Black Lady" probably could be more tightly structured, but this matters little considering his choice of a remarkable subject, poet Wanda Coleman, who so softly caresses the precisely chosen, richly descriptive words and phrases with which she expresses her rage over her experiences as a black woman in white America. How aptly her friend, poet Sylvia Rosen, describes Coleman as a "centered" artist; you will never forget Coleman. Another extraordinary black artist, actress-poet-film maker Saundra Sharp is represented with her very fine, very stylized "Back Inside Herself," a collage of words and images imploring, like a chant, black women to disassociate themselves with the images thrust upon them and to look within for self-discovery.

In their hilarious "The Good Life," Gary Levy and Dan Lewk recall the classic comedy of Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd in their brief tale of a young man (played by Lewk, a skilled comedian on either side of the camera) caught in an increasingly nightmarish predicament in a posh country club. There's more fun to be found in such animated entries as Wesley Archer's "Jac Mac and Rad Boy Go!," a new-wavish odyssey of a couple of punk teen-agers.

These and other films constitute the program, which will benefit LACC's cinema program and which runs about 150 minutes. Ticket information: (213) 466-3685.

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