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Tracking Future Winners

Watching movies gather momentum from one festival to another helps in sifting many entries. TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL

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THE Festival of Festivals, as this 15-year-old film event unmodestly calls itself, has taken its place with the world's major showcases - the Cannes, Berlin, and New York filmfests - for international cinema. The current edition, continuing through Saturday, includes no fewer than 215 full-length movies from 44 countries, not to mention 76 shorts and documentaries. Special programs range from an overview of Portuguese cinema to a retrospective on ``The Dawn of Sound'' and a series of avant-garde provocateurs.

How to sort through so much cinema? There's no sure way to see all the winners and dodge all the losers, especially with pictures that are fresh from the lab and haven't been publicly shown before. But one approach is to observe which movies have been gathering momentum from one festival to another, over the past few months - and which have been well-enough received to warrant imminent premi`eres in the United States, which remains the most important target (financially and critically) for most productions.

Toronto's ``gala'' presentations - screenings with extra fanfare, calling attention to particularly promising films - give noteworthy clues to what the movie world considers important just now. This year's most loudly trumpeted galas featured three films, spanning a fairly large portion of the cinematic spectrum.

Clint Eastwood's colorful ``White Hunter, Black heart'' from the US, is a Hollywood drama with a controversial edge; Jean-Paul Rappeneau's swashbuckling ``Cyrano de Bergerac,'' from France, energetically revisits a classic tale; and Ryszard Bugajski's stark ``The Interrogation,'' from Poland, reminds us why Eastern Europe has been in the news cinematically as well as politically in recent times. All these pictures have been wending their way through the festival circuit for several months, and the fact that all are prominently featured here is a sign of the respect they've earned from international observers. Taking advantage of this, at least two of them - the Eastwood and Bugajski films - are due in American theaters momentarily.

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