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By Paul K. Rowe

Reading Period is upon us without warning. Ever wonder why the films during the Depression employed huge chorus lines, gaudy costumes and wealthy characters? Now you know--to provide an escape from reality. There are a few choice diversions this coming weekend for recalcitrant scholars fleeing Chem 20 or the Ides of March.

The Graduate will be filling Science Center B with Dustin Hoffman fans for a delightful time-trip through the sixties. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Hoffman is brilliant as the shy, bumbling, confused Benjamin who finds himself involved with a married woman, and then (not much of a surprise, considering Katherine Ross is in the film) with her daughter. My favorite scene is Hoffman floating at the bottom of his parents' swimming pool in his brand new scuba outfit contemplating the absurdity of life. Or something like that. The ending is straight out of storybook land, but with Simon and Garfunkel singing, Hoffman and Bancroft acting and one of the better comic scripts around. Plastics.

Another Mike Nichols film is Catch 22, an adaptation of Joseph Heller's apocalyptic novel. But how could anyone ever transfer the lunacy of Major Major Major Major, Yossarian, Colonel Cathcart and the Watergate figure of all time, Milo Minderbinder to the screen? Nichols tries, and fails. With Alan Arkin.

For those who want to study and not realize it, at Dunster House a series of films on economics continues. Sound suspicious? It is, having something or other to do with Economics 1025a. On January 20, at 8 p.m. The Double Day, a film about women in South America and Work, a short on work, will be showing in the Dunster Dining Hall. Bluebooks optional.

Between Time and Timbuktu, at Off The Wall, should attract Kurt Vonnegut fans. The film was written by Vonnegut, incorporating much of his fiction, and made by WBGH. It features Bob and Ray, Bill Hickey and Kevin McCarthy. Vonnegut is slick, commercial and unfunny but there's no accounting for taste. Off The Wall is at 861 Main Street in Cambridge.

Shades of the Great Gatsby, Cleopatra and other plucked turkeys. Stanley Kubrick's much heralded turkey, ah, film is now in Boston at the Cinema 57: Barry Lyndon. First, throw away all the reviews you've seen of it, except this one and Paul K. Rowe's on page two today, which I haven't read but which he assures me is penetrating and uplifting. Most of them (the reviews) seem to deflect off Barry Lyndon like poorly aimed arrows. Kubrick evokes 18th century Europe with a historians' eye for detail in his cinematographic version of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel. He succeeds in transporting the viewer to the aristocratic world of the 1760s and stuns us with his well-designed shots of landscapes. But Dinah, the acting! Ryan O'Neal proves three things: first, only one O'Neal can act and her name starts with a T; second, looking pretty is not reserved for leading ladies; and finally O'Neal couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. Ollie Barrett lives. Marisa Berenson has four lines in the movie. No more need be said. The supporting actors are excellent, Leon Vitali stealing the show with a arch portrayal of O'Neal's step-son Lord Bullingdon, and Murray Melvin providing a pale and fading Reverend Runt.

As for the story of Barry Lyndon. The reviewers will tell you O'Neal is a rogueish Lyndon. He seemed to me to be the type of guy who gets hit by the Second Avenue Subway while trying to rape a Tactical Force policeman in drag. Kubrick also ignores a potentially exciting view of the 1760s--the Hogarthian underside of English society. All told, the carefully composed landscapes and Kubrick's use of a new German lens to film in candlelight just save this film from being potboiler par excellance. That Kubrick's visuals can overcome such poor acting is a credit to his skill with the camera, but certainly not to his powers as a director. Jeff Flanders

Hiroshima Mon Amour. A "you are there" look at August 8, 1945, in Peace Square. Sort of a mixture of War Games and Last Year at Marienbad--a wordless, one-night love affair takes place against the background of documentary footage of Hiroshima. Resnais is not being profound or fascinating in a verbal way, but the film has deep pull, like a strong undertow. It will always be "One million degrees in Peace Square."

Stavisky. More beautiful than Barry Lyndon considerably shorter. Thirties tale of a high-living swindler, with nice Trotsky bits thrown in.

Return of the Tall Blond Man. God-awful as the original was, well, god-good.

The Hindenburg. As Frank Rich said, if someone spent $15 million to produce this film someone else made off with a haul. The characterizations are so brief as to be virtually non-existent, and George C. Scott hardly has any Scottish lines, much less scenes. The last twenty minutes of disaster footage are okay, but not fantastic. The famous live broadcast by a radio newsman captures the essence of the film in around 30 seconds.

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