What's Next on the Cinema Horizon

Article excerpt

IF you want to track the latest trends in American commercial film, watch the Academy Awards ceremony Monday night.

But if you're curious about new directions in serious cinema around the world, look at the lineup for this year's New Directors/New Films festival. It runs March 20-April 5 at the Museum of Modern Art here, which has sponsored this series every spring since 1971, in partnership with the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

What does the program reveal about current tendencies among promising young filmmakers? The festival's own literature highlights two patterns:

* An interest in "defiant acts" and "rebellion" against various conditions and conventions. These include the seeming limitations of old age in "Children of Nature" from Iceland; physical illness in "The Living End" from the United States; social oppression in "Five Girls and a Rope" from Taiwan; and political repression in "Lovers" from Spain and "Adorable Lies" from Cuba.

* Continuing vitality on the American independent scene, which has contributed six non-studio productions - five narrative features and a documentary - to the lineup.

From conversations with programmers of the festival, I can add a couple of further indications regarding contemporary trends. One is an increasing amount of attention by filmmakers to homosexual-related issues, including but not limited to the challenges posed by AIDS.

Also notable is a new creativity among American producers of independent films. Producers generally receive less public attention than directors and performers, especially when they don't operate within the Hollywood studios. But the most gifted of them are mastering fresh techniques for getting innovative movies into production outside the mainstream, and bringing them before wide audiences when they're completed.

Besides giving clues to broad trends, New Directors/New Films has an excellent track record for introducing pictures that go on to success in regular movie theaters. What films may make the biggest splashes this year - commercially, critically, or both? Some of the contenders:

Proof, from Australia, directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse. This extremely dark comedy, which has won numerous Australian Film Institute Awards, centers on a skeptical and sardonic blind man who has developed a love-hate relationship with the art of photography. …