The UCLA Film Archive's outstanding "New Italian Cinema" series starts Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Melnitz Theater with Francesca Archibugi's "Mignon Has Left" (1988).
Archibugi observes adults and children and their relationships with admirable sharpness, sensitivity and seriousness (though not without humor) as she reveals the impact of a haughty, sophisticated French teen-ager (Celine Beauvallet) upon her middle-class Roman relatives, particularly upon her self-absorbed, intellectual cousin Giorgio (Leonardo Ruta).
Indeed, it is Giorgio who is the film's central character and his coming-of-age its key story, but Archibugi's emphasis is as much on first love as it is on how deeply children are affected by the adults and their behavior. Stefania Sandrelli is splendid as Giovanni's adored, complex mother.
At times, the sheer intensity of Archibugi's sincerity becomes a trifle monotonous, but not even the slightest qualification is in order for Mario Brenta's "Maicol" (1988), screening Saturday evening. Although it also focuses on a mother-son relationship, it is a triumph of pure cinema as follows its forlorn young mother (Sabina Regazzi) and her bright-eyed 5-year-old Maicol (Simone Tessarolo, a remarkable actor) after they become separated one evening in Milan's subway system. The world of this Cannes prize-winner is relentlessly, chillingly contemporary--metallic, impersonal and alienating. Brenta is a real discovery who understands fully that images are more telling than words.
Sunday evening's 7:30 p.m. double feature commences with another stunner, Silbano Agosti's sensual, magical "Neighborhood" (1989), an episode film--a form at which Italians excel--in which several vignettes are linked by the neighborhood's shabby derelict and his story.
The first two are the best: The first is about a young woman falling in love with her rapist, a situation Agosti charges with ambiguity and also commentary on bourgeois concern for appearances at all costs; the second is a classic homosexual heartbreaker in which one of the lovers assures the other that his impending marriage "won't change a thing."
It will be followed by yet another winner, Giuseppe Bertolucci's exquisite "Love in Progress" (1989), a bemused contemplation of two beautiful students (Francesca Prandi, Stella Vordemann) who've gone to the country to study for their finals. They're interrupted briefly but amusingly by the arrival of the flashy, sexy girlfriend (Amanda Sandrelli, in a fine comic turn) of a man they both think they adore. Bertolucci really loves women, and his film is an homage to them so rapturous that its finish is surprising until you think about it. The series lineup has gone through several changes; for a revised schedule, call (213) 206-FILM, (213) 206-8013.
Abigail Child's "Is This What You Were Born For?," a film cycle nine years in the making, screens tonight at 8 at L.A.C.E. in a Filmforum presentation
Its seven separate films are composed of fragments of both original and found footage and sound tracks. Child develops a terrific sense of rhythm in assembling her bits and pieces, which adds up to a kind of collage of human activity and behavior. However, her method is so repetitive and intense that it is numbing to watch all seven films--the combined running time is approximately 75 minutes--in one sitting.
Some sequences are tedious, others captivating; in any event, it's hard to see in the cycle Child's own ambitious description of it as an investigation of "power and gender relations, locating our bodies in the social landscape through multi-layer analysis of movement and rhythm." Information: (213) 276-7452.
"Women of the Night" (1948) and "Osaka Elegy" (1936) open a one-week run Friday at the Little Tokyo Cinema. The final offering in a superb Kenji Mizoguchi retrospective, the first film is a bitter depiction of women struggling to survive through prostitution in postwar Japan and stars the incomparable Kinuyo Tanaka.
The second reveals the hypocrisy and rejection a young woman (Isuzu Yamada, who is stillacting) suffers in behalf of her family.
Information: (213) 687-7077.