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A young woman turns her flair for pop music into a songwriting career that carries her from the sock-hopping '50s through the psychedelic '60s and beyond, complete with changing styles in everything from hairdos to backup groups. The picture was written and directed by Allison Anders, who hasn't yet learned to tell a seamless story but never wavers from her commitment to chronicling the lives of women in our time. Illeana Douglas is deliciously watchable at the head of a cast that also includes Matt Dillon, John Turturro, Eric Stoltz, and Bridget Fonda. (R; MCA Universal Home Video)

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LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN - A shy young woman (Joan Fontaine) has a crush on a loose-living musician (Louis Jourdan) who scarcely acknowledges she's alive. After years of yearning, she sends him a letter that reveals her love and details the ways their lives have intertwined despite his apathy and irresponsibility. This classic from 1948 is widely regarded as one of the rare Hollywood melodramas to tell its story from an authentically female perspective. Also noteworthy is the exquisite visual style of director Max Ophuls, justly renowned for his mastery of the moving camera. (Not rated; Republic Pictures)


Comedy and tragedy intermingle in this 1952 hit about a working-class couple (Judy Holliday and Aldo Ray) who aren't sure their marriage can prevail against financial and emotional pressures. Hollywood became more realistic in its treatment of family issues during the 1950s, seeking to lure audiences who didn't swallow the "Ozzie and Harriet" version of domesticity that TV was peddling. This movie has plenty of coy and superficial moments, but the story takes some unexpected twists and the acting is offbeat enough to build a surprising amount of dramatic momentum. The legendary team of Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin wrote the screenplay, which was directed by the great George Cukor, better known for pictures about characters living much higher on the social scale. Part of the Columbia Classics cassette series. (Not rated; Columbia TriStar Home Video)

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