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Erotic Tales

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Produced for the German TV series "Erotic Tales" (1994-2002), these short films will be screened from Friday, March 19, through Saturday, March 27, at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton. Tickets are $9, $5 for Facets members; for more information call 773-281-4114. All films will be screened in 35-millimeter prints. The full festival schedule follows.

FRIDAY, MARCH 19

Program 1

Per Reader critic Ronnie Scheib, "Susan Seidelman's witty, highly original The Dutch Master (1994) is an object lesson in the power of art, doing the escapism of historical romance novels one better. A dental hygienist, on the eve of her marriage to a policeman, wanders into the Metropolitan Museum of Art and into a world--a group of young men and women in a painting by 17th-century artist Pieter de Hooch--that calls out for her to join in. A definite change of pace, Mani Kaul's The Cloud Door (1994, in Hindi with subtitles) is a sensual dream poem about a nubile young woman immured in a palace and her beloved parrot that continuously spouts erotic verses in a singularly unerotic voice and, as resident deus ex machina, provides her with a suitably ragged but handsome lover." And of the third short on this program Jonathan Rosenbaum writes, "Ken Russell's characteristically over-the-top sketch The Insatiable Mrs. Kirsch (1994) involves a tourist's crazed erotic fantasies about a woman staying at his hotel--a rare instance of the director's enjoying a healthy laugh at the expense of his own puritanical hysteria." 79 min. (7:00)

Program 2

Wet (1994) is Bob Rafelson's disarmingly gentle tale of exploitation and voyeurism, as a young woman slips one over on the manager of a luxury bathroom fixtures shop who's desperate for a sale (it's been a long, dry season). Allowing the cautiously acquiescent salesman only the amount of fantasy he can comfortably handle as she "tries out" a top-of-the-line bathtub, the sexy customer redefines and tames the old male fears of being taken for a ride. Also on the program: Melvin Van Peebles's Vroom, Vrooom, Vroooom (1994) and Paul Cox's Australian Touch Me (1994). 78 min. (Ronnie Scheib) (9:00)

SATURDAY, MARCH 20

Program 3

Three films: from Italy, Cinzia Torrini's Sweeties (1995); from the UK, Nicolas Roeg's Hotel Paradise (1995); and from Poland, Janusz Majewski's Devilish Education (1995). 86 min. (3:00)

Program 4

Detlev Buck's German film Elephants Never Forget (1996) has all the trappings of kinky erotica: a dwarf, an elephant, and a gorgeous accident victim whose randy husband drools at the sight of her nurse. Yet Buck's relish for the visual (who'd have thought elephant hide could be so sensual?) and sharp use of Edvard Grieg's music keep this from devolving into camp or sleaze. At the other end of the spectrum is Jos Stelling's hilariously uncomfortable The Waiting Room (1996), about a bland middle-aged businessman (Gene Bervoets) in a train station who tries to flirt with every woman in sight. Bervoets recalls the great silent comedians with his wordless performance, a portrait of vanity and shattered hopes. The more predictable Sambolico (1996), a Brazilian-Finnish coproduction by Mika Kaurismaki, follows a Finnish conductor on an erotic evening in Rio de Janeiro. 84 min. (Hank Sartin) (5:00)

Program 3

See above listing for this date. (7:00)

Program 4

See above listing for this date. (9:00)

SUNDAY, MARCH 21

Program 5

This program is all over the map, from the trash aesthetic of Rosa von Praunheim's cannibalism tale Can I Be Your Bratwurst, Please? (1999) to the artful nastiness of Markus Fischer's Swiss The Red Garter (1999, in German with subtitles), an erotic tango between a rapist and his victim. Von Praunheim's deliberate awkwardness wears thin pretty fast, even with porn star Jeff Stryker on hand, but days later I'm still unsettled by the Fischer film, which recalls Michael Haneke or Francois Ozon in its chilly approach to sex. Also on the program is Giorgi Shengelaya's forgettable Georgian Grapes (1999), in Georgian with subtitles. 87 min. (Hank Sartin) (3:00)

Program 6

Directed by Bernd Heiber, The Night Nurse (2000, in German with subtitles) couldn't be more predictable, but Franziska Petri is steamy in the title role. A policeman, unable to sleep because of a toothache, agrees to guard a prisoner who's being treated in a sweltering hospital ward, and once Petri arrives on duty, nude under her thin uniform, the cop's tooth isn't the only thing throbbing. Hal Hartley (Henry Fool) directed Kimono (2000), a beautifully shot but mystifying pantomime about a Japanese bride who gets expelled from her husband's car, fights her way through a thick forest, and finds solace in a deserted and dilapidated house. Dream a Little Dream of Me (1999, in Greek with subtitles), directed by Antonis Kokkinos, features a strong performance by Lazaros Andreou as a middle-aged architect whose impending marriage is threatened by his troubling dreams of a cool blond. 81 min. (JJ) (5:00)

Program 5

See above listing for this date. (7:00)

Program 6

See above listing for this date. (9:00)

MONDAY, MARCH 22

Program 7

Three films: from Iceland by way of Australia, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson's On Top Down Under (2002); from the Netherlands, Jos Stelling's The Gas Station (1999); and from the U.S., Amos Kollek's Angela (2000). 83 min. (7:00)

Program 8

Susan Streitland's moralistic The Summer of My Deflowering (2000) is like one of those well-intentioned teen films (e.g., The Sure Thing) about randy kids eager to lose their virginity who learn that sex should be an act of love. Far more interesting, if not especially erotic, is Petr Zelenka's Powers (2000), a subtitled Czech film about a magician who develops genuine supernatural powers and can't get rid of them; there's some sex, but Zelenka seems more concerned with the idea of fate. By contrast, Why Don't We Do It in the Road? (2000) tries to generate erotic heat with its treatment of public sex between two artists, but its weird mix of slick production values and hipster grittiness left me cold. 85 min. (Hank Sartin) (9:00)

TUESDAY, MARCH 23

Program 9

Dito Tsintsadze's An Erotic Tale (2002) wasn't available for preview, but the other two episodes on this program are both largely comic. In Porn.com (2002), writer-director Bob Rafelson (Five Easy Pieces) plays a fictionalized version of himself--a once promising filmmaker whose career has petered out. Attending a retrospective of his work in Berlin, he agrees to direct a low-budget porn feature about Hitler, a hopelessly stale gag that's partly redeemed by Rafelson's stone-faced performance. Justin Leonard Stauber directed the highly annoying Did You Ever... (2002), in which an attractive young woman, driving through the California desert in her convertible, picks up a handsome hitchhiker; the two play cute for a while before sharing a roll in the sand. 84 min. (JJ) (7:00)

Program 10

Bernd Heiber's Nr. 23 (2003, in German with subtitles) exploits a classic erotic premise (a gorgeous woman alone in a house, a hunky young man seeking shelter from the storm); deliberately coy about showing the male organ, it also gets you thinking about which body parts are considered "erotic" and which "obscene." Jos Stelling's The Gallery (2003), a wordless comedy about a businessman in a mall and his grandiose sexual fantasies, is witty but runs out of steam. The dud of this program is Amos Kollek's Music, a cliched confusion of reality and daydream. 84 min. (Hank Sartin) (9:00)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24

Program 1

See listing for Friday, March 19. (7:00)

Program 2

See listing for Friday, March 19. (9:00)

THURSDAY, MARCH 25

Program 7

See listing for Monday, March 22. (7:00)

Program 8

See listing for Monday, March 22. (9:00)

SATURDAY, MARCH 27

Program 9

See listing for Tuesday, March 23. (1:00)

Program 10

See listing for Tuesday, March 23. (3:00)

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