CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD R, 1986, 119 minutes, Paramount Home Video, $79.95

Marlee Matlin's passionate, Oscar-winning performance is the focus of this picture post card-pretty romance by first-time feature director Randa Haines. Costar William Hurt translates Matlin's sign-language performance for hearing audiences (it's written deftly into the script) and the videocassette is also close-captioned for hearing-impaired viewers. Matlin, a talent search winner, portrays an angry deaf woman who refuses to talk; instead she churns the air around her into a tempest of feeling with the fury of her silent speech. Hurt received an Oscar nomination for his role as a speech teacher who falls in love with this stubborn beauty. The indefatigable do-gooder breaks through her wall of silence, but finally, as with other couples, communication becomes a problem. And "Children," adapted from the deaf-rights stage drama, becomes a metaphor for misunderstanding. Rita Kempley THE MOSQUITO COAST PG, 1986, 117 minutes, Warner Home Video, $89.95

Harrison Ford plays a voluble visionary inventor who moves his blond and bushy-tailed family to Central America. Objective: to escape the sewer of fast food and fast life in their native United States. Helen Mirren is positively beatific as Mother, a mythological nurturer to her husband and kids, including name kid River Phoenix. Using native materials, spare parts and sheer genius, the family builds a jungle Eden that is finally destroyed by the unnatural stuff they've introduced into the environment. This tale of paving over paradise in the '80s is scripted by Paul Schrader from a novel by Paul Theroux. Peter Weir, reunited with Ford after "Witness," directs this curious tragicomic nature epic, a noble experiment that never lives up to expectations, given its superlative cast and crew. -- Rita Kempley MONTEREY POP Unrated, 1968, 72 minutes, Sony VHS, $29.95

It'll be 20 years ago next Tuesday that the Monterey International Pop Festival took place in California. Not only was it the first such festival, granddaddy to Woodstock and Altamont but D.A. Pennebaker's film, released a year later, was the first to capture the energy of and spread the word about such emerging psychedelic bands as the Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe and the Fish. Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company make a raw but strong showing, but the scene stealers are the then virtually unknown Who (suddenly known when Pete Townshend and Keith Moon smash their guitar and drum kit at the end of "My Generation") and, in its stunning American debut, the Jimi Hendrix Experience (Jimi sets his guitar on fire before smashing it after a feedback-drenched "Wild Thing"). Also appearing are the Mamas and the Papas, the Animals and, in a time when music was not racially or stylistically segregated, Hugh Masekela, Ravi Shankar and Otis Redding (breaking through for the first time to a white audience). Despite a remixed, digital Dolby sound track, much of the music will sound terrible to today's sophisticated ears, but the crowd shots are an eloquent testimony to the innocence of that Summer of Love. Richard Harrington THE LEFT-HANDED GUN Unrated, 1958, B&W, 102 minutes, Warner Home Video, $19.98

Directed by Arthur Penn, this is one of the best of the modern, psychological westerns -- lean, violent and clear-eyed about the American West. It's about the life of William Bonney, a k a Billy the Kid, and, in the role, the young Paul Newman is strikingly, touchingly physical. His ;illy, which takes off from Leslie Stevens' adaptation of a television play by Gore Vidal, is a '50s-style antihero -- a mixed-up kid -- and a bit of psychopath. Newman hasn't quite got his feet underneath him yet as an actor, but there's an explosiveness and unpredictability in his performance here. He has real lightning flashes of brilliance. And Penn's realistic treatment of violence shows the same unsettling tough-mindedness that he later brought to "Bonnie and Clyde." Hal Hinson THE COLOR OF MONEY R, 1986, 119 minutes, Touchstone Home Video, $89.95

This Martin Scorsese film, starring Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, picks up on the character of Fast Eddie Felson 26 years after he beat Minnesota Fats in Robert Rossen's 1961 film "The Hustler." Being in poolrooms and bars seems to stimulate Scorsese's eye, and his camera work here has a dervishy energy. But it didn't seem to do anything for his brain. For all its flash -- and a great performance by Newman -- the movie is a disappointment. The themes of youth versus age, of flash-in-the-pan talent versus longevity and experience, were sunk deep into the original, and are still there, ripe for picking, in the sequel. But instead of harvesting them, Scorsese and his screenwriter Richard Price have fallen back into a position of empty affirmation. And Newman's "I'm back" at the film's end is an exclamation of cynicism, of defeat, not triumph. -- Hal Hinson