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[whitespace] By Richard von Busack

Central Station
Opens Christmas at various locations

At the central railway terminal in Rio de Janeiro, a young boy's mother is killed; the frightened orphan (Vinicius de Oliviera) begs a female stranger to get him to his father in the remote, arid northeast corner of Brazil. Like Gina Rowlands in Cassavetes' Gloria, the imposed-upon woman doesn't like children, but during the long trip to the north she begins to find dislike replaced by love. A much-heralded film by Walter Salles; the film took the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

The Jew in the Lotus
Dec 22-27 (closed Dec 24) at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight St; 415/668-3994.

The Dalai Lama meets perhaps his most unusual guests, a delegation of rabbis. Their topic: the way a religion survives in diaspora--naturally a subject of much interest to the Lama. Laurel Chiten's documentary is based on Robert Kamenetz's first-person book of the same witty title.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
Dec 25-31 at the Roxie Cinema, 3117 16th St; 415/863-1087.

Not until "what if God was one of us/just a slob like one of us" was there to be such an utterly runny look at divinity as Jesus Christ Superstar. The once-famed rock opera is a political version of the Messiah story. Here, the Jewish rebel leader (a screamin' Jesus played by the Roky Ericksonesque Ted Neeley) begins to get big ideas about his own godliness; Judas (Carl Anderson, the real star of the show) tries to disabuse Jesus of this idea, with spectacularly bad results. Norman Jewison's film, shot in Palestine, tries (successfully) for a Brechtian approach to the material. A bus unloads the cast in the desert; they set up and start performing, as if by the roadside. The contrast between the sparse desert locations and the '70s costumes adds a convincing note of alienation to the old, sad story.

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From the December 21, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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