BIG-SCREEN EPIC

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

9:30 p.m.: DS: Get Bruce! See Oct. 30, Plaza Frontenac.

St. Louis University High School

7 p.m.: DS: The Brian Epstein Story. Anthony Wall, U.K., 1999, 140 min. The story of Beatles manager Epstein, who died at age 31 of a drug overdose. NR.

Noah Fleiss and Val Kilmer in Joe the King
Noah Fleiss and Val Kilmer in Joe the King
Don McKellar and Sandra Oh in  Last Night
Don McKellar and Sandra Oh in Last Night

Tivoli

12:30 p.m.: Zacharia Farted. See Oct. 31, West Olive.

12:30 p.m.: Shorts Program 3. Arriving late to Program 3 should not be a problem for movie lovers; the initial offering, "The Gift" (by Gita Donovan), is not just about a dead dog but is one. The short emulates silent-film techniques but supplies a sappy piano score and unnecessary intertitles, resulting in a 20-minute snooze. "Half Full, Half Empty" (by Lisa Mulcahy) makes no significant contribution to cinema, either; its three minutes of dialogue would work just as well on radio. "Express: Aisle to Glory" (by Jonathan Buss) wakes up the proceedings, particularly for the anal-retentive among us. This comic delight should be an inspiration to bag boys the world over as it chronicles the successes of a now-legendary supermarket bagger. "'Amplifier'' (by Glenn Forbes) is a gripping extension of the horrors inflicted on us by the invention of television, a solid piece of filmmaking juxtaposing four levels of time. Seth Wiley's "P.1" darkly elevates the nature of autoeroticism to new parking levels, and Rick Dublin's equally sarcastic "Bubblepac" investigates mankind's obsession with this plastic marvel over one's regard for humanity itself. The program concludes with Oscar Moore's "The Indescribable Nth," a sweet tale of a young man's heart with rather simplistic -- indeed, at times unfinished -- animation. Introduced and discussed by "Express: Aisle to Glory" writer/director Buss and producers Michael Sarner and Stephen Goldstein. (RDZ)

3 p.m.: NFF: Eight Lanes in Hamilton. Aslam Amlani, U.S., 1999, 90 min. Charming hustler Sandy (Joe Garcia) returns to his hometown after an eight-year absence and insinuates himself back into the life of his best friend, his ex-wife and, most important, his teenage son, Billy (Mickey Blaine), who's at a crossroads. Billy can either make something of his life or follow in his father's crooked footsteps; it's a mythic problem played on a small-town scale. Everybody knows that Sandy is seedy and untrustworthy, but it doesn't keep them from falling for his charms even as he's tearing apart their relationships. Eight Lanes benefits from Garcia's low-key performance (which recalls the anti-hero films of the early '70s), and a terse, insightful script. This may seem like unlikely material for a Ugandan-born director, but Amlani, in his feature debut, has a sure touch with his ensemble cast, slowly heating up the material until we know it's bound to boil over. Introduced and discussed by producer Mark Yaney. (BH)

4 p.m.: DS: Genghis Blues. Roko Belic, U.S., 1999, 84 min. In the mid-1980s, San Francisco-based Paul Pena -- a black blues singer/guitarist, best known for writing the Steve Miller Band hit "Jet Airliner" -- was listening to shortwave radio when he came upon a broadcast of "throatsinging," a vocal style from the tiny region of Tuva, then part of the Soviet Union. The technique enables a single singer to produce multiple tones simultaneously, thus harmonizing with himself. With barely any resources to work from, Pena figured out the method, becoming so proficient that he was invited to participate in Tuva's triennial throatsinging competition. Pena, blind since birth, made the trip accompanied by some associates and documentarian brothers Roko and Adrian Belic, Pena charmed Tuvan audiences and won his division in the contest. It is not too much to say that Genghis Blues, the Belics' record of this excursion, is utterly irresistible and, for its first two-thirds, uplifting. (A series of catastrophes darkens the last part of the trip.) The travelogue aspects, the music and culture, would have been enough, but holding everything together is Pena, a complicated personality whose huge talent for, and joy in, music is mixed with a well-earned bitterness over the Job-like misfortunes that have marked his life. The Belics organize their already-rich material for maximum effect: It's hard to imagine any music or documentary fan being less than enthralled by the whole. (AK)

6 p.m.: NFF: The Corndog Man. Andrew Shea, U.S., 1998, 83 min. How sweet revenge is, especially when perpetrated on a cowardly racist redneck by his illegitimate, unacknowledged biracial son, the result of a rape long forgotten. This stranger tracks his father (called Ace for his sterling sales record at the KKK Marina) to Bougherville, S.C. Tediously, phone call after phone call, the anonymous caller baits, harasses, illuminates and drives his father insane while he amuses himself selling corndogs (hence the title). Flashbacks to seminal events, police involvement, booby traps, vandalism, moronic fellow employees and another sexual encounter with a black woman provide brief digressions. Despite Noble Willingham's intensely dark performance, The Corndog Man is relentless and annoying -- both in its intended plotline and its effect on the audience. Ace's monotonous, uninspired cursing in response to the tiresome calls and the unrelieved persecution amount to nothing more than wallowing in sadistic retribution. Introduced and discussed by Shea. (DC)

6:30 p.m.: SS: Go Tell It on the Mountain. Stan Lathan, U.S., 1984, 100 min. Originally an American Playhouse adaptation of James Baldwin's semiautobiographical novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain explores the relationship between young teen John (James Bond III) and his harsh stepfather Gabriel (Paul Winfield), a dour deacon at the local storefront Pentecostal church in 1930s Harlem. Winfield plays a man caught between his present righteousness and his past failures, implacable and frustrated; he considers this one of his best performances. A very strong ensemble cast includes Rosalind Cash, who shines as Gabriel's older sister, and early appearances by Giancarlo Esposito, Alfre Woodard and Ving Rhames as the young Gabriel. Introduced and discussed by Winfield, who will be presented with the African-American Sidebar's Distinguished Filmmaker Award. (FG)

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