THE Italian film industry has started to wake up from a Hollywood-induced slumber.
After futile attempts to match the calculated audience-pleasers from the big American studios, Italian filmmakers have returned to their roots, producing a new crop of surprisingly accessible films.
While the home-grown films make few concessions to international appeal, they are also clearly influenced by Hollywood's kinetic storytellers: These titles owe more to America's Oliver Stone and Barry Levinson than to Italy's Bernardo Bertolucci and Federico Fellini.
The result is an unusual hybrid combining the best of both worlds - entertainment with a sophisticated European edge. The new works include:
* Ricky Tognazzi's ``La Scorta,'' a compelling, fact-based account of Sicilian escorts protecting a headstrong prosecutor from Mafia assassins.
* ``Flight of the Innocent,'' which follows a young southern Italian boy in the middle of a violent kidnapping war. Director Carlo Carlei's 1993 release is available on MGM-UA Home Video on June 15, and Carlei is so hot he's making a new film for MGM called ``Fluke.''
* ``A Pure Formality,'' a new drama shot in Rome about a murder investigation. Directed by Giuseppe Tornatorre, whose ``Cinema Paradiso'' was a hit in the United States, the film is scheduled for a late fall release from Sony Pictures Classics.
* Nanni Moretti's bittersweet autobiographical story of a man on a scooter, ``Dear Diary,'' which won the best director award at the just-concluded 47th Cannes Film Festival.
* ``Little Buddha,'' by Mr. Bertolucci, a story about an American boy who Tibetan Buddhist monks believe to be the reincarnation of a beloved leader from their religious community.
Although the films are largely different in style and story, together they are slowly reversing a trend in which Italian movies were becoming a vague blip in world cinema.