MAKING his film debut in "Rushmore" as a braces- and beret-wearing, bespectacled high-school uber-nerd, Jason Schwartzman has resigned himself to one cold, hard fact. "The hope of me coming off with a girlfriend after this is pretty much out the window," he cracks, staring at his feet. In town recently to promote the new film, the 18-year-old Schwartzman and his 29-year-old director Wes Anderson are lounging on a large yellow bus idling in front of a "No Parking Any Time" sign on H Street NW. The bus, a studio concession to Anderson's distaste for flying, resembles a high-tech frat-house living room. Unmade bunk beds are passed on the way to the cozy interview suite that has been set up in the rear. On a table lies a half-empty tube of Crest.A window sill behind the interviewer's head holds a spare pair of athletic shoes. Be-bop by pianist Earl "Bud" Powell plays softly in the background, selected from one of two phone book-size CD carrying cases that the boys have packed for their excellent PR adventure. After four days, the place smells surprisingly fresh. "We're very cleanly people," insists Schwartzman, just a touch of defensiveness in his voice. In fact, the duo has been stopping to shower regularly in motels such as the one where they spent the previous night, after several fitful attempts to sleep on the bus. Schwartzman, despite his protestations, is actually a pretty pleasant-looking kid. You can see a little of his mother, the actress Talia Shire, in his dark hair and eyebrows, and in his groovy, vintage, short-sleeved shirt, he looks nothing like the 15-year-old weirdo that he plays in "Rushmore." On the other hand, Wes Anderson -- clad in fuchsia socks, red New Balance sneakers, baggy corduroys and big glasses -- seems the embodiment of the fictional character's esprit. While he admits that his own high-school years did bear some similarity to that depicted in the film (like Max, he had a crush on an older woman and was about to get rejected from his first-choice colleges), Anderson stops short of saying that his creation is some kind of cinematic alter ego. "Let's just say I think if I could have seen this movie when I was 15, it would have been valuable to me," says Anderson. "I could have used a role model like Max -- someone who has great enthusiasm and values and ideas, but is not high-school cool." Schwartzman agrees. The novice actor and musician, whose band Phantom Planet's first CD has just come out, says that what he relates to is the geek-chic paradox in his role. Like Max, he explains, "I didn't ever really fit in, but I was always really popular. People always were into me." Anderson laughs admiringly at his protege's strange mix of moxie and insecurity. As the interview winds down, the filmmaker/DJ graciously suggests closing with a sample from the album "Phantom Planet Is Missing." To a melody reminiscent of the early Beatles, bandmate Alex Greenwald croons Schwartzman's poppy lyrics of teenage angst: "And now I'm lying in your bed, unscrewing your head, trying to figure out what's wrong inside so you don't hate yourself tonight. Yeaaaaah." Due to legal problems, an Italian film distributor has canceled three of the four films scheduled to be shown at the American Film Institute this weekend as part of the AFI's Roberto Benigni retrospective. In place of "Voice of the Moon," "Little Devil" and -- appropriately enough -- "There's Nothing Left to Do but Cry," the AFI will screen the 1994 film "The Postman," starring the late Massimo Troisi (Friday at 6:30 and 8:45, Saturday at 6:30 and Sunday at 1 and 5). Additional screenings of Jim Jarmusch's "Down by Law" have also been added (Saturday at 4:30 and 8:30, Sunday at 3 and 7). Admission is $6.50. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 202/785-4601 starting Friday at 5. On Tuesday, the Washington Psychotronic Film Society will host the Short Attention Span Film and Video Festival in its regular digs at the Lucky Bar, 1221 Connecticut Ave. NW. Now in its seventh year, the annual festival is an international showcase for film, video and animation pieces under two minutes in length. Admission to the 8 p.m. event is free, although a $2 donation is requested. For information call 202/736-1732.