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BIG-SCREEN EPIC

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

9 p.m.: NFF: Roberta. Eric Mandelbaum, U.S., 1999, 87 min. An elegant study in obsession and morality that plays like a quiet thriller, Roberta premiered at the 1999 Sundance Festival. In an understated yet gripping performance, indie veteran Kevin Corrigan plays Jonathan, a man who decides to help a prostitute he knew when she was a girl. Risking his business and girlfriend, he moves Roberta (Daisy Rojas in a remarkable acting debut) into his apartment and starts her on a new life. But as Roberta resists his help and altruism turns to obsession, Jonathan's life unravels and his motivations become suspect: Is he atoning for his father? Does he desire Roberta sexually? Does motivation matter when the desired result is worthy? And at what point do good deeds become bad? Roberta is excellent -- well written, haunting, cinematic in the old-fashioned sense of the word, bold and refreshing in its simple choices. Mandelbaum is a talent to watch, and Roberta is not to be missed. Introduced and discussed by Mandelbaum. (BH)

9:15 p.m.: Earth. Deepa Mehta, India, 1998, 110 min. An Indian Gone with the Wind. Set against the backdrop of India in 1947 when the British moved out shortly after dividing their colony into India and Pakistan, Earth examines the ensuing violent turmoil through the eyes of 7-year-old Lenny-Baby (Maia Sethna, making an impressive acting debut), the daughter of an affluent Parsee couple. As the nation is divided along religious lines, the Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians previously united against the British turn against each other in an effort to seize land for themselves and expel any dissenters. Lenny-Baby's family, like the rest of the Parsee minority, struggle to remain neutral even as their land is declared part of the new state of Pakistan and their friends turn on one another. It's quite a challenge to take on such a sweeping historical event, and director Mehta wisely keeps most of the story on a human level, occasionally giving us enough of a glance at the big picture (a city on fire, a train filled with slaughtered Muslims) to allow us to imagine the rest, which we hear through anecdotes and gather, by way of its effect on Lenny-Baby and her family's everyday life. In Hindi and English with English subtitles. (LYT)

West Olive

1:45 p.m.: Erskineville Kings. See Nov. 4, West Olive.

3:45 p.m.: Via Satellite. See Oct. 31, Tivoli.

6 p.m.: N. Robert Lepage, Canada, 1998, 82 min. Alternating between Osaka during Japan's Expo 70 and Quebec at the height of the Quebeçois separatist crisis, charts the troubled course of the relationship betweeen Sophie (Anne-Marie Cadieux) and Michel (Alexis Martin). Sophie, in Japan as part of a Canadian theater troupe performing Feydeau (badly), discovers that she is pregnant. Michel, a Quebec Liberation Front sympathizer and struggling playwright, becomes embroiled in a ramshackle bombing plot. Sophie is self-absorbed and distraught; Michel is self-absorbed and distracted. Lepage cuts between the two, forcing parallels and accumulating subplots. The problem is that never strays far from the farcical, even, or especially, when a more delicate touch is required. With the exception of Sophie's blind translator and her sweetly goofy boyfriend, the ancillary characters are caricatures, deployed to set up romantic confusion and homo jokes. And it doesn't help that there's a terrible punning coda that could have spoiled a better movie than this one. Burdened by cleverness, sinks under the weight of its contrivances. In French with English subtitles. (JH)

8:15 p.m.: DS: Meeting People Is Easy. See Oct. 29, Tivoli.

Sunday, Nov. 7

Blueberry Hill

11 a.m.: NFF: Coffee with the Filmmakers. A discussion with Snake Tales writer/director Francesca Talenti and Road to Park City writer/director Bret Stern, moderated by He Said, She Said screenwriter Brian Hohlfeld.

Plaza Frontenac

1 p.m.: CC: Pleasantville. Gary Ross, U.S., 1998, 116 min. To escape his unpleasant home life, teenager David watches reruns of a 1950s sitcom, Pleasantville. One night, after a mysterious TV repairman (Don Knotts) visits, he and his sister, Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), are transported into the series, where they become the children of the principal family. Into this black-and-white world the two introduce sex and the concept of free will; slowly, the world, then characters, turn to color. Once the siblings are in the series, the film is a right-on parody. Later, however, Pleasantville becomes a political tract: As characters begin to change color, the black-and-white characters become prejudiced against "the coloreds." The message is obvious, but the film doesn't stop there; at one point, Bud makes an impassioned speech on The Value of Difference. Ross may have a point, but it seems he's lost faith in his audience to understand the film's meaning. This is too bad, because Pleasantville was on its way to being a great film. Presented by Harry Hamm. (JMS)

3:30 p.m.: Tumbleweeds. See Nov. 1, Tivoli.

6 p.m.: DS: Genghis Blues. See Nov. 6, Tivoli.

Sheraton Clayton Plaza Hotel

9:30 p.m.: Closing-Night Awards Party.

Tivoli

1 p.m.: Shorts Program 4. A couple of gems can be found in the relatively uneventful Program 4. One of them, "Cousin," filmmaker Adam Elliott's recollection of a childhood playmate afflicted with cerebral palsy, is surprisingly very funny and moving for just four minutes of clay animation. The other is Robert Peters' "Mutual Love Life," which spoofs the insurance industry with a clever idea for romance policies. Changhee Chun's "The Earth Is Not Round" takes a long time getting around to identifying mystical associations between two house burglars, but he does offer clever tips for thieves among us. Scott Campanella's "Fighter" is an exercise in endurance for both the subjects and the audience. Charlie Call dregs up every unfortunate female stereotype in an attempt to place humor in his "Peep Show." Ken Boynton uses the now-tiresome technique of Shakespearespeak in modern-day settings to have fun with a group-therapy session in "William Psychspeare's The Taming of the Shrink." And although there is much to appreciate in the gritty reality captured by Veena Sud's camera in "One Night," one is left with too many questions when that night is over. Introduced and discussed by Chan, Campanella, "Fighter" producer/actor James White and Sud. (RDZ)

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