BECAUSE MEN make most movies, few women come of age on film: One "Sixteen Candles" for every hundred "Porky's" and every fifty "Gregory's Girls." This weekend is the exception as three filmmakers -- Eric Rohmer in "Full Moon in Paris," Maurice Pialat in "A Nos Amours" and Marisa Silver in "Old Enough" -- study young women in transition.
Rohmer and Pialat are established French directors, while Silver, the 24-year-old daughter of director Joan Micklin Silver, is debuting here. Not surprisingly, all three films are realistic, artsy and relatively low- budget. Surprisingly, all three also deal with heroines who would gain independence through sexuality.
Girls, however, are more apt to have fun when another girl is behind the camera. "Old Enough," which Silver made with her sister Dina as producer, opens "Women Make Movies IV," the Women in Film and Video festival at the American Film Institute.
Two Manhattan adolescents come of age in the Silvers' intimate, if contrived, cross- cultural drama, a good first film. Sarah Boyd plays 11-year-old Lonnie, a plank-flat preppy puppy who skips summer camp to befriend a lusty, working-class neighbor. And Rainbow Harvest costars as the street-wise, 14-year- old Karen who introduces the younger girl to lipstick, the ritual unguent of womanhood.
Karen's older brother, however, changes the balance of power in Lonnie's favor after giving her a first kiss. Afterward the two girls are on a more equal footing as they explore the provocative behavior of the manicurist upstairs, a prelude to their own awakening sexuality.
"Old Enough," for youth and by youth, treats its subjects with more respect than the average American teen film, with its requisite gang of pimply boys peeping at girls in their underwear. And it treats men -- sensual costar Neill Barry -- as sex objects for a change, but gently.
Eric Rohmer is no stranger to the boudoirs or the lingerie of young French females. He's the ultimate voyeur in "Full Moon in Paris," fourth in his series of "Comedies and Proverbs," as he confines us to the small world of his latest indefatigable heroine, Louise (the late Pascale Ogier in a charming performance).
Like the protagonists of "Pauline at the Beach" and "Le Beau Mariage," Louise is self-absorbed, eccentric and headstrong. She is involved with three men at once -- a live- in lover in the suburbs; a possessive friend in Paris; and a musician with whom she has a brief affair. To experience loneliness, she takes an apartment on her own, but quickly retreats from her new freedom when a quickie affair sends her running home.
Rohmer's work, with its dense dialogue, is poetic enough but best left to those who speak French fluently. The plot, consisting of long, deep conversations, is minimal, and the set is grey and stark. The film is not meant to be seen, but heard.
"A Nos Amours," which shared the C,esar for "Best Picture" in 1983, has so much plot it's cluttered. Sometimes it seems the projectionist has gotten the reels on backwards.
The dialogue is frequently dithering and often insipid, featuring the French preoccupation with love and its meaning: "There's no trifling with love"; or "You always want the people you love dead"; or "You think you're in love, but you just want to be loved."
It's turgid, tedious and sometimes so culturally alien that it seems almost incoherent. Unless of course, you are a Conehead.
It concerns the difficult adolescence of a 15-year-old named Suzanne, who, like French girls everywhere, is provocative in the way she pouts, pushes her hair off her forehead and writhes rather than walks. Sandrine Bonnaire, who also captured a C,esar as Most Promising Actress of 1983, plays Suzanne, an empty young woman who tries to outline herself in the arms of many men.
Her promiscuity, in part an escape from a home life resembling "God's Little Acre," gives her the illusion of independence. But Suzanne is never free, never really breaks away even as she escapes to California with still another man.
Idiosyncratic, off-the-wall and ragged though they may be, these three little works might be the growing pains that mean films about women are coming of age. A NOS AMOURS (R) -- In French with subtitles at the Circle West End Theater. FULL MOON IN PARIS (Unrated) -- In French with subtitles at the K.B. Janus. OLD ENOUGH (Unrated) -- At the American Film Institute. Two shows only.