THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY II
PG, 1990, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video.
"The Gods Must Be Crazy II" is as sweetly disarming as the 1981 original by the Rousseau of the Kalahari, Jamie Uys. Here the writer-director takes a familiarly patronizing yet amiably primitive look at the world through the eyes of the elfin African Bushmen. N!Xau, who was Xi in "The Gods Must Be Crazy," returns as Xixo, which means "older than Xi" in the Khoisan click language. Assorted story lines come together as the ever resourceful Xixo searches for his adorable children -- Xisa (Nadies) and her 6-year-old brother (Eiros), who are exploring an enormous new animal (a truck full of tusks) when they are inadvertently carried off by poachers. Elsewhere in the scrub forest, a Unita scout (Treasure Tshabalala) and a Cuban serving in Angola (Erick Bowen) skirmish and a New York lawyer (Lena Farugia) and a game ranger (Hans Strydom) crash in their ultralight plane. Xixo sees the "heavy people" for the misguided lot they are -- killing elephants for ivory, fighting among themselves and inept without their fragile technologies. Ecologically aware and morally upstanding, Xixo is a hero for the times. -- Rita Kempley
IN THE SPIRIT
R, 1990, 94 minutes, Academy Home Entertainment, $89.95.
"In the Spirit," Sandra Seacat's disheveled comedy starring Elaine May and Marlo Thomas, has a loopy, out-of-nowhere sense of fun. Watching it, you feel as if you've been sucker-punched with a feather duster -- sneak-tickled. The movie's characters are all glorious flakes. Reva (Marlo Thomas), for example, likes to chat every now and again with her inner self, which from the tone of her conversations lives curled up inside her like a lazy kitty. She's new age to the soles of her Birkenstocks, so naturally when she meets Crystal (Jeannie Berlin), a hooker with an abusive pimp, she attributes all of the spacey streetwalker's problems to bad diet. Indeed Crystal has a problem distinguishing good energy from bad -- such a problem, in fact, that she turns up dead. The police declare her a suicide, but when Reva and her friend Marianne (May) become the targets of a murder attempt, they figure out that the killer must be after Crystal's date book, which is filled with the names of mob figures and dirty cops. Until this point the movie is deliciously addlebrained -- a screwball comedy with crystal consciousness -- and Seacat gets her actors to give a sense of joyous abandon in their performances. As Reva, Thomas makes counterculture obliviousness seem like a blessed state. As the spoiled Marianne, May throws heavenly tantrums -- the words just seem to tumble out of her head like runaway coconuts. This ragged little comedy has an ingratiating spirit that's easy to get into. -- Hal Hinson
R, 1990, 102 minutes, CBS/Fox Video, $89.98.
Hmmmm, rapid pulse, dilated pupils and a flat EEG. The "Vital Signs" indicate patient just saw fast-paced, formulaic hospital movie about seven dedicated interns who fall in and out of love quicker than you can say, "Let's play doctor." The young doctors in love prosper under the guidance of Dr. Redding (Jimmy Smits), dean and chief of surgery. Laura San Giacomo is a darkly mumpish waitress newly married to Jack Gwaltney, as a would-be surgeon consumed by his competition with Adrian Pasdar as a driven but personable doctor's son. Obsessed with becoming the best surgical candidate at L.A. Central, Pasdar redefines his goals when he falls in love with Diane Lane, weepy as a pediatrician manque'. Rounding out the ensemble are Tim Ransom and Jane Adams as best friends who accidentally sleep together and ruin everything. Adams stands out in this crowd of masks and gowns. Norma Aleandro is quite wonderful as an outspoken cancer patient who teaches Pasdar about bedside manner. So what Elsewhere is new? As a healthy patient even dies during a transfusion, "Vital Signs" is not recommended for people planning even minor surgery. -- Rita Kempley
R, 1990, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, 103 minutes, $79.95.
Bruno Ganz oozes into David Hare's "Strapless" like a Cerruti-clad snail. Elegantly soft-spoken, immaculately well-mannered in a slow-gliding Continental manner, he's a dapper enigma, an aloof figure of mystery. When he approaches Lillian (Blair Brown), a London-based American doctor on vacation alone in Europe, his moves have a practiced ease. He's done this before, and he knows the lady's objections even before she does. Having had her objections overwhelmed, she agrees to have lunch, at least, and sitting in the perfect sunlight at a restaurant they talk in teasing circles around each other, hiding as much as they reveal.
"Do you like the beach?" he asks.
"No, my skin is too white," she answers.
"I like the open air."
"I like horses."
Oh waiter? Check, please!
"Strapless," which Hare wrote as well as directed, is a muffled, romantic art movie, enervating and preposterously rarefied. From its stately opening shots of classical statuary, which flash on screen like slides in an art history class, the movie seems to be about a certain kind of bone-tired sophistication; its characters' joints ache from Old World fatigue. -- Hal Hinson
VICTORIA DE LOS ANGELES: THE JUBILEE RECITAL
Unrated, 1989, in Spanish and Catalan, 90 minutes, VAI, $39.95.
On May 19, 1944, in the charmingly old-fashioned Palacio de Musica in Barcelona, soprano Victoria de los Angeles gave a recital that launched one of the most distinguished vocal careers of the mid-20th century. She returned to the same hall, 25 years later to the day, to give this recital: songs of Spain and Catalonia, many rooted in folk traditions. With another singer, this music might be a specialized interest; when de los Angeles sings them, these songs rank among the most appealing masterworks of the vocal repertoire. She is at home in a wide range of repertoire, but this is the music closest to her heart and the music she does best. After 25 years (a long time for a soprano), her voice is still fresh, attractive and used with feeling and precision. If one or two top notes are less firm and ringing, they were not needed for this program, and she performs with a sense of style and an ease of communication that would make a much less attractive voice worth hearing. The program builds right to the end. Its most exciting part is the last two encores, sung on a stage strewed with flowers thrown from the audience: the "Seguidilla" from "Carmen" and Valverde's spectacular "Clavelitos." -- Joseph McLellan