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PERIPHERAL VISIONS

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (R) (102 min.) _ The closing night hit of the recent Pride Gay and Lesbian Film Festival was Stephan Elliott's flamboyant cross-dressing comedy. Three lip-synching lounge performers _ transvestites Tick/Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) and Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce) and widowed, weathered transsexual Bernadette (Terence Stamp) venture into the Australian outback on a lavender bus christened Priscilla. Their opulent floor shows, to the beat of familiar pop tunes from ABBA, CeCe Penniston and Gloria Gaynor, among others, either charm or stupify the natives. Elliott isn't as concerned with plot as the party, but that's quite a bash. The only times his film truly catches fire is when Mitzi, Felicia and Bernadette are performing, decked out in pastels and feathers with makeup jobs that would make Mary Kay bolt for the door. Stamp's portrayal of regal, grumpy Bernadette is a small marvel of gender-bending acting, with a palpable sadness over a life that hasn't turned out as he/she wanted, even after the surgeon's knife. The pathos never overwhelms us or feels artificial, however, since Elliott regularly makes us forget the slim drama with another smashing musical number. If you ever wanted an idea of what happens in those "special" Ybor City clubs in after dark, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a rollicking primer. Opens today at Tampa Theatre and Movies at Pinellas Park. B

Eat Drink Man Woman (Not rated, probably PG-13) (124 min.) _ Writer/director Ang Lee's follow-up to his Oscar-nominated 1993 comedy The Wedding Banquet is a benignly entertaining tale of family ties. The Chu family (led by its patriarch Tao Chu, wonderfully played by Sihung Lung) is splintering through the maturity of its children, Master Chu's contemporary-minded daughters. Lee doesn't offer as much information about these budding lives as one might wish, but that doesn't prevent him from making his wry, touching points about this Asian generation gap. Eat Drink Man Woman should not be viewed on an empty stomach; Tao Chu handles a gourmet kitchen better than he handles his family, and the resulting dishes make this film the most scrumptious film to watch since Like Water for Chocolate. Held over at the Beach Theater. B+

The Slingshot (R) (102 min.) _ Roland (Jesper Salen) is coming-of-age against some hefty odds. He's living in 1920's Stockholm with a Jewish mother and a socialist father, which gives Roland's classmates (and one stuffy teacher) plenty of chances to ridicule him at school. Roland is also quite the budding capitalist, concocting harebrained inventions, mostly from his mother's clandestine supply of condoms, which were illegal in that era. Director Ake Sandgren never goes to extremes with the pathos or the slapstick, choosing to reveal Roland's life in an passive way that lures sympathy rather than yanks it from us. Not all the episodes of Roland's life are irresistible, but the ones that are _ a first glimpse of the female body, the boy's pride in his brainstorms and the final, bittersweet triumph _ make The Slingshot a worthwhile trifle. Opens today at the Beach Theater. B

_ STEVE PERSALL

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