UNIVERSAL PICTURES has tentatively set February 14 as opening day in Washington for the highly controversial Brazil, directed by former Monty Python player Terry Gilliam. But no local movie house has been picked yet to show the film.

The $15 million film was set aside by the giant studio after executives there asked Gilliam for a shorter film with a happier ending. Gilliam refused to cut and edit the film and began holding private screenings, which is where most Los Angeles critics saw the movie. Three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association named "Brazil" the Best Picture of the Year, and Gilliam, Best Director. The critics also cited Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown and Gilliam for Best Screenplay.

Not surprisingly, Universal had a change of heart, ate some crow and opened the film in New York and in two Los Angeles theaters for a week beginning on Christmas Day. The one- week public screening in the United States qualifies the film to be nominated for an Academy Award. The studio also took out a full- page ad in Daily Variety to congratulate Gilliam and the other screenwriters, and is now promoting the R-rated film in newspaper advertisements with: "It's all about flights of fantasy. And the nightmare of reality. Terrorist bombings. And late night shopping. True love. And creative plumbing. It's only a state of mind."

I am Eye, a loosely knit group formed to encourage filmmaking locally, will feature special guest Christian Christophe, an 85-year-old Parisian filmmaker, at its next meeting, on Monday at D.C. Space.

The group regularly meets at 8:30 on the first and third Monday evenings of the month in the back room of the nightclub at Seventh and E streets NW.

Christophe, an independent filmmaker in Paris since the '30s, now works in Super 8 and plans to screen seven short features, including his 101/2-minute Priority Please -- If There Is Any Left, a look at his city's bizarre driving behavior; At Chirico's, a humorous study of the history of robots; and Jouets d'Artiste, or "Toys of the Artist."

Normally, admission to the 75-seat lounge is $1 per person or free entrance for those who bring along a film. Monday's special Christophe screening will be $2 or a film.

The group began four years ago and shows mostly Super 8 and 16mm movies. With some advance notice, a 35mm projector can be obtained. I Am Eye has no dues, no rules, no regulations and no requirements, according to Pierre De Veaux, one of the group's earliest members. Movie makers can reach De Veaux in the evenings at 667-6498.

After a couple of weeks off for the holidays, the American History Museum's free "America on Film" series returns Wednesday at noon in Carmichael Auditorium with MGM's 103-minute The Long, Long Trailer. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, the 1954 film starred Lucille Ball and her then-husband Desi Arnaz, along with Keenan Wynn. It was written by the husband-and-wife team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich.

During subsequent weeks, the series will offer such Hollywood goodies as Frank Capra's wonderful It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, on January 15; and Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 four- star thriller, Psycho, with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh, on January 22.

On Wednesday, the Library of Congress will begin a three-month series "Acting It Many Ways: Shakespeare on Film and Television." Henry V, the 1944 production directed by and starring Laurence Olivier, kicks it off in the 87-seat Mary Pickford Theater at 7:30. The following Friday, it will be Cymbeline, a 1982 joint venture by the BBC and Time Life Films, directed by Elijah Moshinsky; it will be preceded by The Winter's Tale, a sometimes unintentionally funny silent Italian version filmed in 1913. The series' scheduled highlights are "Hamlet Week," January 13-17, featuring several versions of the play; a complete screening of the Lancastrian tetralogy February 3-7; and "Macbeth Week," March 17-21. Call 287-5677.

SHORT SUBJECTS -- The Air and Space Museum's "Comet Tales" series is back Friday evening at 7:30 in the Samuel Langley Theater with the 1951 space fiction flick, Flight to Mars . . .

The Biograph's "Down Under Festival" continues screening the Australian-style western Utu through Monday, and follows Tuesday through Thursday with the 1976 hit Don's Party and Tim, made in 1981 and based on the first novel by Colleen McCullough, who also wrote "The Thornbirds." "Tim" stars Mel Gibson, Piper Laurie and Alwyn Kurts . . .

The Renwick Gallery will screen a New Zealand short feature in conjunction with its "Treasures of the Land" exhibitionn Thursday. Children of the Mist is a look at the isolated Tuhoe people who live in the remote valleys of New Zealand's east coast. Showtimes are 11, 12:15 and 1:30. Call 357-2700 . . .

The Japanese Information and Culture Center at 917 19th Street NW resumes its free lunchtime video documentary series on Monday and Tuesday with The Useful Telephone and Shinkansen -- Japanese Super Express, starting at 12:30. On Thursday and next Friday see We Sell Everything -- Japanese Department Store and Inventive Young Minds. On Wednesday evening at 7 the center will screen the 17-minute Japan in Winter, along with the 29-minute The Theater Lives -- The Puppets of Kisawa Village . . .

Arlington County Library, 1015 N. Quincy St., continues its winter films for adults series on Tuesday at 7:30 with the 1942 Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Call 527-4777 . . .

The Martin Luther King Library's Children's and Young Adult Services Divisions will screen Oliver, the 1968 Oscar-winning musical, on Thursday at 4 in Room 316. Afterwards, at 6:30, Dr. Susan Willens will lecture on "Bleak House: The Book and the Television Program" in Room A-5. Call 727- 1186 . . .

The French Embassy film series resumes Thursday with Jules and Jim screening at 5:30 and 8. Tickets are $3 per film with a discount for series subscribers. The embassy is at 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW.

Acting classes begin Tuesday at 7:30 for a dozen young actors 13 to 17 years old at the Film Actor's Workshop in Rockville. Instructor Will Bellias, who also teaches film and theater at Montgomery Community College, Rockville Campus, suggests that students register for the eight-week on-camera introduction to film drama course by phone before Tuesday to reserve their spot in the weekly three-hour program. Cost is $140. Call 762- 1164.

Recently, Daily Variety advertised a "Ship Repair Yard in Baltimore Harbor Available for Demolition Site." It refers to the old Bethlehem Steel Ship Repair Yard at Key Highway, which closed in 1982 but is a "readymade multimillion-dollar location perfect for action and demolition scenes." A developer plans to build mid- 20-acre plus parcel that overlooks Baltimore Harbor just south and east of the posh Federal Hill section. If you're interested in using the site, call Bob Hyatt, 301/727-0124.