THE GREEN ROOM -- K.B Cerberus.

Henry James must be spinning in his grave. The hero of his sensitive story "The Altar of the Dead," a quiet man whose romantic bereavement leads him to memorialize all his dead friends out of pity for their neglect by others, has been turned by Francois Truffaut into a creepy necrophiliac. Social climbing in the graveyard, he even counts James himself among "his" dead.

James, who was no mean psychologist, thought it motivation enough that his otherwise ordinary hero feel more eloquently than most the disappearance of people for whom he had cared in life. As he grows older and his losses multiply, he decides to symbolize by burning a candle for each in a church altar. "He knew his candles apart, up to the colour of the flame, and would still have known them had their positions all been changed."

In "The Green Room," which Truffaut wrote with Jean Gruault, this refusal of the soul to accept the finality of death is not thought to be enough. The hero, played by Truffaut, is only interested in dead people. He has a job writing obituaries and his hobby is collecting slides of war atrocities. The way he tells his candles apart is by keeping a gaudy altar papered with photographs of the celebrated dead whom he claims to have known. It seems to be an attempt to rival the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. How, for instance, did Oscar Wilde get there? Are we to believe that this drab man used to trade quips with Wilde, making his death a personal loss? No, it's just Truffaut indulging in some preposterous name-dropping.

Never mind what Truffaut has done to the delicate suggestion of a bond James' hero feels with a dereaved woman who frequents his altar, and the rupture that results from their disagreement about memorializing the unworthy dead, as well as the worthy. All you need to know about the taste level of "The Green Room" is that its hero commissions a life-size wax doll of his dead wife to take home, but then orders it chopped up because it isn't sufficiently life-like.

This is exactly what Truffaut has done to Henry James. On the pretense of venerating James, he has made a vulgar image that really looks nothing like the original, but has the audacity to try to replace it.