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Foreign-film buffs know his name and his work. But the majority of filmgoers don't.

Kino on Video could change that with the release of four films from French film director Bertrand Tavernier.

The former film critic and teacher is one of today's finest directors. He's a master of the understated, quietly powerful film, the kind that refuses to build to a deafening crescendo to make a point. Where many films talk down to the audience, broadcasting messages in block letters, Tavernier's films talk to us as equals.

Best of all is Tavernier's ability to bring his characters to life. Be his protagonist a painter ("A Sunday in the Country"), a lonely father ("The Clockmaker") or a WWI soldier ("Capitaine Conan"), Tavernier takes a detailed approach to crafting his characters, almost in the same manner as a novelist does.

Here are reviews of three of the four films Kino is releasing. "L.627" was not available for screening.

"A Sunday in the Country: Tavernier brings an Impressionist painting to life in this rich and lovely meditation on life, set on the brink of World War I. An elderly painter (Louis Ducreux) is visited by his two very different children, and reflects on his life, his regrets and even learns something new about himself. A great film that says big things in little ways. "The Clockmaker": A father's worst nightmare becomes reality when he finds out his son is wanted for murder. Tavernier fave Philippe Noiret stars as a quiet, law-abiding "clockmaker," a man whose world and beliefs are challenged. Noiret is splendid, subtly showing the growing desperation of a father wondering what he did wrong.

"Capitaine Conan": An unorthodox but highly regarded WWI captain (Philippe Torreton) finds it difficult to leave his battle days behind. He and the 50 soldiers he commanded engage in violent acts and behavior in a world where peace, not bloodshed, is allowed. Beautifully directed, acted and photographed, with an ending that is as haunting as it is subtle.

Although some stores stock these titles, they might be hard to find. You can order any of these tapes by calling Kino at 800-562-3330.

-- Randy Myers/Knight Ridder
U.S. MARSHALS PG-13, 1998, 131 minutes, Warner.

Here we go again. "We got a fugitive," says U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) whom we last saw chasing Dr. Richard Kimble in "The Fugitive." This time, the escapee is a tow-truck driver (Wesley Snipes), who is apparently guilty of murder but who believes this whole deal is, you guessed it, a conspiracy. Yes, this is another case of Hollywood sequel mongering, but though this film doesn't have the classy quality of its predecessor, it goes down very easily. And Jones, as always, plays himself to the hilt. Contains violence and profanity.

-- Desson Howe/Washington Post
PAPERBACK ROMANCE R, 1997, 89 minutes, Orion.

In this pleasant Australian romantic comedy, Sophie (Gia Carides of "Strictly Ballroom") is a polio-stricken romantic novelist who talks aloud while writing erotic books in a corner of her local library. When handsome jeweler Eddie (Anthony LaPaglia), unaware of her condition, asks her out, Sophie declines, fearing his offer will be rescinded if he learns the truth. But she spies on him anyway, breaking her leg in a hilarious accident trying to avoid detection. Allowing Eddie to think she had a skiing accident, she takes him up on that date. But Sophie isn't the only one hiding the truth. It's not an original plot, or even a very plausible one, but it's certainly a pleasant way to spend an evening. Contains nudity, sexual situations, sexually explicit drawings and erotic stories read aloud.

-- Suzanne Tobin/Washington Post


(1) Jerry Springer -- Too Hot for TV! (Real Entertainment). (2) The Black Caldron (Disney-Buena Vista). (3) Grease: 20th Anniversary Edition (Paramount). (4) Spice World (Columbia-TriStar). (5) As Good as It Gets (Columbia-TriStar). (6) Austin Powers (New Line). (7) Backstreet Boys: All Access Video (Jive/Zombie). (8) Jerry Springer: The Best of . . . (Real Entertainment). (9) The Spirit of Mickey (Disney-Buena Vista). (10) Image of an Assassination (MPI).

(1) U.S. Marshals (Warner). (2) Good Will Hunting (Miramax-Buena Vista). (3) Sphere (Warner). (4) Jackie Brown (Miramax-Buena Vista). (5) The Wedding Singer (New Line-Warner). (6) Wag the Dog (New-Line Warner). (7) Dark City (New Line-Warner). (8) Hard Rain (Paramount). (9) The Rainmaker (Paramount). (10) Great Expectations (Fox).

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