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Stendhal's 'Charterhouse': gorgeous, murky

''I want to join Napoleon's army,'' says our hero, Fabrizio, to a soldier near the front. ''Where are they?''

''They're fighting yonder near a little village,'' replies the soldier, pointing beyond the horizon.

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''What village is that?'' asks Fabrizio.

There is a pause - pregnant, of course, as all such pauses are. ''Waterloo,'' says the soldier meaningfully.

The Charterhouse of Parma (PBS, for six Mondays, 8-9 p.m., starting Oct. 25, check local listings)m is that kind of miniseries.

Based on Stendhal's classic novel about greed, warfare, imprisonment, love, and political intrigue, ''Charterhouse'' manages to make all of these things just a little bit more incomprehensible. Badly dubbed, the hard-to-follow story line becomes more and more incoherent as it moves back and forth between Italy and France.

But it is physically gorgeous. The locations, pageantry, costumes, interiors, almost make up for the unsynchronized lip movement, the complicated plot, the series of set pieces that make up the production.

''Charterhouse'' arrives in America for ''Great Performances'' with nearly perfect credentials. ''Charterhouse,'' written by three of Europe's top screenwriters, directed by Mauro Bolgnini and starring veteran actress Marthe Keller with newcomer Andrea Occhipinti, was produced by a European consortium - Telemunchen and ITF for France Region 3, RAI, ZDF and VARA.

If you plan to tune in to the six-hour miniseries, I suggested you read the Stendhal novel, which is available in paperback. Then you can turn on the TV set , lean back, and watch the flow of magnificent images without worrying about trying to follow the perplexing plot from the script.

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