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BIG-SCREEN EPIC

Comprehensive coverage of the Eighth Annual St. Louis International Film Festival

Tuesday, Nov. 2

Plaza Frontenac

7:15 p.m.: The Other Conquest. See Oct. 31, Plaza Frontenac.

9:45 p.m.: DS: Photographer. See Oct. 31, West Olive.

Tivoli

7 p.m.: The Color of Heaven (Rang-e Khoda). Majid Majidi, Iran, 1999, 90 min. It depends how you feel about a blind boy whose eyes focus high above the clouds as he places back into its nest a baby bird that has fallen helpless to the ground. Or a horse washing fatally downstream. Or flowers filmed with blinding intensity. Or a heartbroken father who can't marry off his daughters or pawn off his blind son. Or overhead shots of a beach where a mourning father looks like just another broken piece of driftwood, shadowed by the migratory birds that follow an ancient call to find a place where they can survive the coming season. This film is not for the weakly sentimental, but if you can stomach its hard lessons, you might learn something about human possibility and prophecy, and see one of the greatest performances of a child actor (Hosein Mahjoob) ever committed to film. In Farsi with English subtitles. (CK)

7:30 p.m.: DS: Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi. Avi Mograbi, Israel, 1999, 77 min. Israeli filmmaker Mograbi is hired to document the celebration of Israel's 50th anniversary by a producer who can't decide whether he wants a Super Bowl halftime show or a 60 Minutes exposé. Then he is hired by a Palestinian producer who wants help with a film about the Nakba (Catastrophe), the Palestinian side of the anniversary story. Cutting across both projects, the speeches and rehearsals on one side and the abandoned Arab villages on the other, is the story of his personal land-for-peace problem: The house Mograbi is trying to sell for a big profit sits on a lot that may partly belong to his unfriendly neighbor. Mograbi's story is perhaps too perfect a parable for the circumstances, but overall this is a wry, ironic and sympathetic "semidocumentary." Admirers of "Bibi" may not be pleased. In English, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles. (FG)

9:15 p.m.: Free Enterprise. Robert Meyer Burnett, U.S., 1999, 100 min. This sometimes inspired, sometimes dull, always slick little film glorifies the misunderstood lifestyle of twentysomething sci-fi junkies, grown men whose lives revolve around unchecked obsessions with popular culture, who live by the wisdom of Spock and Yoda, who fill their apartments with still-in-the-box action figures. Writer/director Burnett and co-writer Mark Altman try here to recast the American Nerd as something much cooler than he actually is, and although the film comes off as a sort of Swingers-lite, two hours of hipster banter moving from one location to the next, it delivers the goods. Our two heroes spend a lot of time in bars and Toys R Us and Jerry's Famous Deli talking about relationships and Star Trek and relationships and Star Trek, and, well, that's about it. Oh yeah, and then they meet William Shatner, the William Shatner, who's reading porn in a bookstore and, though he doesn't know it, is in desperate need of their help and insight. These guys are all about models and laser discs, letterbox and directors' cuts, THX home systems and hardcover Sandman graphic novels. They live on a diet of the good stuff, the old stuff, the classics, and their relationships with women (um, duh?) suffer as result. The constant references, no matter how obscure or insightful, are no excuse for dialogue, and the love story's no fun, either, missing any drama or dimension. But Shatner's so much fun as a down-and-out version of himself, obsessed with bringing a six-hour musical Julius Caesar to the big screen, that you can easily forgive the overlong monologues and lame love story. (GG)

9:30 p.m.: DS: Keepers of the Frame. See Saturday, Oct. 30, Tivoli.

West Olive

7 p.m.: In the Navel of the Sea. See Saturday, Oct. 30, Plaza Frontenac.

7:30 p.m.: The Navigator. Vincent Ward, U.S., 1989, 92 min. As loopy premises go, The Navigator: An Odyssey Across Time ranks on the all-time list. The story, in precis: The Black Death creeps inexorably across a medieval English mining town, and the villagers gather to listen to bold Connor (Bruce Lyons), who's ventured forth into the world and stared the horror in the face. But it's Connor's brother, Griffin (Hamish McFarlane), who holds out hope of averting the disaster: He has dreamed a dream in which a cross is raised as tribute to God. The spire on which it's to be placed is to be found on the far side of the world, and a tunneling machine exists that will facilitate the journey to the other side. A plucky band sets forth on a subterranean pilgrimage, drilling downward and finally emerging in -- I'm not making this up -- contemporary New Zealand. Despite the story's inherent absurdity, The Navigator is impressive ersatz Bergman with a touch of post-Python Terry Gilliam. Though heavy on obvious symbolism and hyped drama, the film is full of striking imagery and subtly mocks its own pretensions with some amusing comic bits. Approached as weird fun rather than high art, The Navigator charts an entertaining course. Presented by Harper Barnes. (CF)

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