In the age of cultural packaging, when a self-respecting film will have its own T-shirts, soundtrack album (consisting of previously recorded songs in the order in which the film used them), television series and, of course, novelization, the newest item is the criminalization of the film.

The most spectacular example is the presidential assassination attempt adapted from the movie "Taxi Driver," but court defenses and sociological reports have long been making a connection between the "ideas" of film and television crimes and actual crimes. And the opening "In a scenario that could have been taken from a Hollywood script . . . "has become the new cliche of crime reporting."

In the case of "The Fan," the crime was released first. The filmmakers have included a disclaimer with their publicity material, noting that they began to make this picture about a fan who threatens the life of the star he adores nine months before John Lennon was killed by one of his fans, and that the novel, in this case, actually proceeded both.

Is this life imitating art, or art imitating life?.

Neither. There is no artistic art, or lifelife life involved, but a hall of mirrors in which the same trash goes back and forth. Whether it's portrayed in fake blook or real, there do not seem to be genuine emotions of any kind involved.

"The Fan" has Michael Biehn as a crazed young man -- the kind of whom one is told on his arrest that the neighbors thought he seemed nice and quiet -- attached to an aging actress, played by Lauren Bacall. An early clue that even this character is taken from old press cuttings is the reference to a photograph of this star sitting on Harry Truman's piano -- as in a famous picture of Bacall.

It is, nevertheless, a highly unflattering portrait of a tedious, self-important woman notably lacking in the talent that's supposed to redeem her. The threatened crime is not the only impending disaster of the climax of the film, when the opening of Bacall's musical, "Never Say Never," is depicted. An interesting sidelight is Maureen Stapleton as the star's secretary -- because Stapleton is always interesting, and because, in keeping with the personality-pages tone of the film, one cannot help thinking of the second-banana role she plays to the star in "The Little Foxes."

One might deplore the lack of original drama, if that did not seem an invitation to come up with new ideas that could be filmed, novelized and criminalized.

THE FAN -- Aspen Hill, AMC Carrollton, AMC Skyline, Jenifer, K-B Crystal, K-B Langley, Laurel Cinema, Roth's Parkway, Roth's Silver Spring East, Roth's Tysons Corner, Springfield Mall and Village Mall.