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Monthly Movie Guide

The following summaries of current, widely shown films are provided to help readers plan what to see. Inclusion of a movie does not imply Monitor endorsement. Further description is often supplied in articles on the arts-entertainment pages. The Movie Guide appears on the third Thursday of each month. AMOR BANDIDO - Cautionary but visually explicit thriller, with overtones of social realism, about a policeman's daughter who gets sexually and emotionally involved with a psychopathic killer. Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Bruno Barretto. (Not rated; contains sex and violence.) BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ - The sleazy milieu suits the cheap lives and petty aspirations of the characters, whose experiences revolve around a small-time thug named Franz, but brilliant performances and ingenious directing make this 15-hour epic a monumental capstone for the career of prodigious West German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. (Not rated; contains occasional bursts of violence and sexual activity.) BEST FRIENDS - Two pals get married, visit each other's parents, pass through an emotional crisis, and emerge better marriage partners (and friends) than ever in this intelligent, sometimes hilarious comedy. Directed by Norman Jewison. (Rated PG; contains some vulgar language and sexual references.) BOLWEISER - The late West German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder is up to his old bourgeoisie-baiting tricks in this sultry drama about a trusting man betrayed by his voluptuous wife. Also known as ''The Stationmaster's Wife.'' (Not rated; contains sexual material.) CHOSEN, THE - In a Jewish section of Brooklyn during the 1940s, a young man gradually grows away from his family's Hasidic way of life, and his father (a powerful rabbi) has trouble accepting the change. Contains the surface, but only bits and pieces of the substance, of the fine Chaim Potok novel on which it is based. Directed by Jeremy Paul Kagan. COME BACK TO THE 5 AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN - Near the Texas town where ''Giant'' was filmed, members of a fan club mark the 20th anniversary of James Dean's death, and we learn something lurid about almost everyone. Sensitively directed by Robert Altman from an uneven and sometimes sensationalistic script by Ed Graczyk. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and sexual discussion.) COUP DE TORCHON - ''Clean Slate'' is the English-language title of this savage French satire on colonial attitudes, which are embodied by a dull-witted French policeman who loses his mind while trying to impose law and order on a sleepy African town. Directed by Bertrand Tavernier, with much more energy than is found in most of his earlier films. (Not rated; contains vulgar language and nudity.) CREEPSHOW - Like the old ''horror comics'' it mimics, this heavily written and directed black comedy includes several fantastic yarns, ranging from the intermittently suspenseful to the merely gross. Directed by George A. Romero, the trivial film is from from a script by Stephen King. (Rated R; contains violence and vulgar language.) DARK CRYSTAL, THE - The story is old hat, but the visual style is imaginative in this lavish fantasy about an elf-like ''gelfling'' who must find and repair a mysterious crystal to rid his world of evil rulers. Directed by Muppet-masters Jim Henson and Frank Oz, using complicated puppet techniques instead of human actors. (Rated PG; contains cartoonlike violence.) DIVA - Fast and furious thriller about a young music fan who secretly records a performance by his favorite prima donna, a gaggle of cops and robbers who think his tape holds criminal evidence, and some crazed capitalists who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the real opera recording. Directed by French newcomer Jean-Claude Beineix with lots of style, it avoids sensationalism except for a little nudity and some violence near the end. EATING RAOUL - Cannibalistic comedy about a bourgeois couple who are more shocked by sex than by murder. Directed by Paul Bartel. (Rated R; contains cartoonish sex and violence, and vulgar language.) E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL - Lost on the planet Earth, a friendly spaceman becomes the secret pal of a little boy, who can't believe his own good fortune. A grade-school version of ''Close Encounters of the Third Kind,'' directed by Steven Spielberg with lots of wit in the first half, but too much artificial emotion in the long climax, which leads to a resolution right out of ''Peter Pan.'' (Rated PG; contains a little vulgar language and a sci-fi medical sequence.) FITZCARRALDO - An obsessive music lover tries to strike it rich in South America so he can realize his dream of building an opera house in the jungles of Peru. Directed by West German filmmaker Werner Herzog, who neatly pulls off the great physical stunts at the heart of the film, but neglects the flow and logic of the movie as a whole. (Rated PG; contains a bit of violence and a character who runs a brothel.) FIVE DAYS ONE SUMMER - Sean Connery plays a middle-aged Scottish doctor who appears to be having a happy vacation in the Swiss Alps with his young wife but is actually caught in a relationship fraught with strains and secrets. Directed by Fred Zinnemann with consistent taste and artistry despite some touchy subject matter. (Rated PG; contains an unconventional sexual relationship.) GANDHI - Dignified but flat biography of the great Indian leader, giving more facts than insight. Directed by Richard Attenborough. (Rated PG; contains occasional scenes of historical violence.) KISS ME GOODBYE - Terribly written, flatly made, unevenly performed comedy about a woman and her fiance who are haunted by the ghost of her late husband. Directed by Robert Mulligan, who is capable of much better work, from a screenplay based on the overrated Brazilian film ''Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.'' (Rated PG; contains some vulgar language and a bit of sexual innuendo.) 48 HOURS - Violence is the raison d'etre of this technically sharp but thoroughly nasty thriller about a cop and a crook who join forces to catch a psychopath. Directed by Walter Hill with his usual slam-bang competence. (Rated R; contains vulgar language, sexual innuendo, and mayhem.) LEAP INTO THE VOID - Ambitious but gnarled drama about an emotionally disturbed woman and the people around her. Directed by Marco Bellocchio. (Not rated; contains nudity and some scatological detail.) LIGHT AHEAD, THE - Revival of an earnest but dull 1930s Yiddish-language drama about romance in a Russian Jewish village. Directed by the ingenious Edgar G. Ulmer, not at his best. Also known as ''Fishke der Krumer.'' (Not rated.) MISSIONARY, THE - Hilarity battles bad taste to a standoff in this British comedy about a clergyman assigned to save ''fallen women.'' Directed by Richard Loncraine from a screenplay by star Michael Palin. (Rated R; contains much sexual innuendo.) MUDDY RIVER - Muted, sharply filmed drama about working-class life in Japan shortly after World War II, as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy. Inventively directed by Kohei Oguri. (Not rated; contains occasional sexual references and a scene in which live shellfish are set on fire.) MY FAVORITE YEAR - Sharp jokes and clever sight gags rub elbows with cheap humor and low slapstick in this comedy about a dissolute movie star preparing to appear on a 1950s TV show. Directed by Richard Benjamin. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language, drunkenness, and a bit of sexual innuendo.) OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, AN - Except for its realistically rotten language and sexual activity, this is a surprisingly old-fashioned military drama about a young man dragged into maturity by a tough-but-kindly drill sergeant. The training and growing-up scenes are very effective. But the movie also wants to be a love story, and here it sinks into trite and sometimes distasteful formulas. Directed by Taylor Hackford. (Rated R; contains vulgar language and nudity.) ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR, THE - A world-famous conductor returns to his native Poland in Andrzej Wajda's earnest but languid drama starring a Polish-dubbed John Gielgud. (Not rated.) PETER PAN - Reissue of the classic Disney cartoon about a boy who won't grow up. Still a charmer. (Rated G.) SMITHEREENS - As deliriously tacky as its subject and milieu, Susan Seidelman's funk-punk comedy dogs the trail of a New York new-waver who's determined to invade the rock scene. (Not rated; contains vulgar language.) SOPHIE'S CHOICE - Harrowing but humanistic drama, set in 1947, about a young writer who gets involved with a non-Semitic survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp and her brilliant but unstable Jewish boyfriend. Written and directed by Alan J. Pakula, who eliminates much of the sensationalism and sexual detail of the original novel by William Styron. (Rated R; contains vulgar language, sexual innuendo, and Nazi war crimes.) STARSTRUCK - Noisy, messy, energetic musical about a young woman determined to make a splash on the Australian pop-music scene. Directed by Gillian Armstrong in a manic style that's worlds away from the restraint of her last picture, ''My Brilliant Career.'' (Not rated; contains nudity.) STILL OF THE NIGHT - A psychiatrist gets involved with an enigmatic woman who may have murdered one of his patients. Directed by Robert Benton with visual elegance and comparative restraint, considering the harrowing subject matter, but far too dependent on tricks borrowed from Alfred Hitchcock classics. (Rated PG; contains some violence and a moment of nudity.) TEX - Sensitive, moving, intelligent drama of a teen-age boy who wants to grow up but isn't sure how to go about it. The plot, adapted from S. E. Hinton's popular novel, follows the title character through several adventures, touching on difficult topics including drugs and tentative sex but maintaining a tasteful and responsible attitude in every scene. Directed with tact and insight by newcomer Tim Hunter for Walt Disney productions. (Rated PG; contains some violence and mildly vulgar language.) THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON - Five men lurch uncomfortably into middle age, sustained by nothing more substantial than memories of a great year on their high-school basketball team. Written and directed by Jason Miller, who has extended the scope of his successful Broadway play without adding to its skimpy insights. (Rated R; contains vulgar language.) TOOTSIE - An out-of-work actor becomes a star by masquerading as a woman in this reasonably funny comedy featuring a complex performance by Dustin Hoffman. Directed by Sydney Pollack. (Rated PG; contains some vulgar language and sexual innuendo.) TOY, THE - Botched comedy about a spoiled little boy who is offered any toy he wants, and insists on ''owning'' a human being. The director, Richard Donner, aims for high comedy and social commentary, and completely misses the mark on both. (Rated PG; contains vulgar language.) TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER - Jerry-built comedy including new footage, scenes filmed but never used in previous Pink Panther movies, and excerpts from ''A Shot in the Dark'' and other PP classics, all strung together by a plot about a reporter tracing the career of the klutzy Inspector Clouseau, as played by the late Peter Sellers. Directed by Blake Edwards. (Rated PG; contains occasional vulgarity and a bit of nudity.) VERDICT, THE - Paul Newman gives what may be the performance of his career as a down-and-out lawyer who risks what's left of his practice to take a courageous stand on a difficult cas. Sensitively directed by Sidney Lumet from a screenplay by David Mamet that is flawed only by some bumpy spots near the beginning and end. (Rated R; contains some vulgar language and a few medical details.) VERONIKA VOSS - Glowingly filmed but often sordid ''Sunset Boulevard'' type melodrama about a faded movie star in the clutches of a doctor (symbolizing the worst aspects of captialism) who artificially eases her Angst. Directed by Ranier Werner Fassibinder, as the centerpeice of his trilogy on postwar economic life in West Germany, shortly before his untimely passing last June. (Rated R; contains references to sex and drugs.) VORTEX -- Strongly styled though slow-moving melodrama about a woman private eye ferreting out corporate skulduggery. Directed with their usual ''punk'' inflections by Scott B and Beth B, in their first 16-mm effort after several years of vigorous super-8 work. (Not rated; contains vulgar language, sexual innuendo, and some violence.) WINTER OF OUR DREAMS - Muted drama about a yound book dealer who meets a prostitute while investigating the death of an old friend from his Vietnam-war-protest days. Sensitively directed by Australian filmmaker John Duigan, despite the occasionally rough subject matter. (Not rated; contains some nudity and vulgar language.)

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