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ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS (R)

Directed by Lone Scherfig, this is the latest film to follow the Spartan tenets of the Dogme 95 movement (no music, no artificial sets or effects, natural lighting only). In this case, the Dogme restrictions create an intimacy that grows on you as the film progresses and its ensemble of lonely Copenhagen singles, all of whom take the same Italian language class, try to make connections. Brisk as a Danish winter, warm as Italian sunlight. (Pat Holmes)

Fox Tower

PANIC IN THE STREETS (NR)

The Northwest Film Center's Elia Kazan series continues with his 1950 noir classic about a public health officer (Richard Widmark) pursuing two killers (Jack Palance and lackey Zero Mostel) who may be infected with a plague virus. Kazan's social realist bent plays neatly to the noir conventions, turning New Orleans locales into a sweaty, infested maze. According to Widmark, the unpredictable Palance psyched himself up for scenes by pounding Mostel black and blue (he was eventually hospitalized), then knocked Widmark out cold with a real gun he substituted at the last minute for a prop that 'didn't feel real enough.' When we say this one's a knockout, we ain't kiddin'. (PH)

7 p.m., Monday, April 22, Whitsell Auditorium, Portland Art Museum, 1219 S.W. Park Ave., 503-221-1156

scratch (NR)

Doug Pray's riveting documentary about vinyl-scratching hip-hop disc jockeys patiently details the art to the uninitiated but offers plenty of new insight for those who know the culture. The film opens in the South Bronx, where original party rocker Afrika Bambaataa helped place the DJ at the heart of hip-hop culture. The documentary's format is to let hip-hop's brightest lights tell the story in their own words, but at times it can't resist getting into the action itself. As the film progresses, the camera starts to mimic the qualities of scratching: jumping, scraping and humorously splicing words and sounds. As for the host of guest appearances, Qbert of Invisibl, Skratch Pikls and his mentor, Mix Master Mike, are standouts. DJ Shadow's trip to the basement of a record store 'digging' for beats is one of the documentary's most absorbing moments: It illustrates how for many DJs, the art is about getting lost in sound Ñ not wanting to be found. (Michaela Bancud)

Cinema 21, 616 N.W. 21st Ave., 503-223-4515