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A weekly update of film releases

* THE ADVOCATE - In medieval France, when animals were sometimes put on trial for wrongdoing, a lawyer finds himself defending an unusual client in a proceeding that's by turns harrowing, exasperating, and ridiculous. The movie has lots of 15th-century atmosphere, fun to observe even when it's not very convincing, and the story is offbeat if not exactly compelling. Colin Firth and Donald Pleasence give solid performances, and Nicol Williamson is superb in a too-small role. Written and directed by Leslie Megahey, who uses his feature-film debut to trot out more graphic sexuality than his earlier radio and television work allowed. (Rated R)

* AUTUMN MOON - The story of this Hong Kong production centers on the unlikely friendship that develops between a teenage girl and a worldly Japanese tourist. Although sexually aggressive moments occasionally surface, the prevailing mood is both delicate and absorbing. Directed by Clara Law.

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(Not rated) * FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT: STOLEN PORTRAITS - The life and career of filmmaker Francois Truffaut, who helped start the Nouvelle Vague movement and directed many influential French movies before his untimely death about a decade ago. Directed by Serge Toubiana and Michel Pascal, the documentary is generously laced with excerpts from key Truffaut films, including ``Stolen Kisses'' and other pictures in a partly autobiographical series he made with actor Jean-Pierre Leaud. (Not rated) * WAGONS EAST - The late John Candy gave one of his last performances in this ungainly comedy-western about a group of pioneers who give up on the frontier and head back East to resume the settled lives they had before. There's little to praise in Peter Markle's handling of Matthew Carlson's heavy-handed screenplay; at least cinematographer Frank Tidy serves up some scenic shots along the way. (Rated PG)

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