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BIG-SCREEN EPIC

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

3:45 p.m.: NFF: Snake Tales. Francesa Talenti, U.S., 1998, 91 min. In this loopy, entertaining, homegrown Texas variation of Arabian Nights, Lizzie (Arnalia Stifler) is arrested while passing through Pandale, Texas, for accidentally running over an endangered snake. On trial in a town where the courtroom doubles as the saloon, she begins to spin her defense, a tale within a tale within a tale. Just when we start to wonder where it's all going, the stories begin to overlap in a way that lets us know all these dots will eventually be connected. The fun is in watching it happen. Snake Tales is a sunny, sun-baked celebration of storytelling. Everybody has a story to tell, some more interesting than others, but all part of the curving highway of life. Talenti, a professor of film at the University of Texas at Austin, used a mostly student crew to make her film, and the cast runs the gamut from good to "what were they thinking?" But that can be overlooked when the sum of the parts is this much fun. Introduced and discussed by Talenti. (BH)

6:45 p.m.: NFF: Road to Park City. Bret Stern, U.S., 1999, 83 min. Undertaking the herculean labor of low-budget filmmaking, director/cinematographer Stern makes the pseudo-documentary Road to Park City an amusing, informative pleasure. Though would-be director John Viener has no idea what crossing the line, high boys, points and the DGA entail and though he's ignorant of insurance requirements, shooting permits and distribution deals, he remains undaunted by obstacles and irrepressibly cheerful. Intent on getting into the prestigious independent film festival called Sundance (hosted by Park City), he doesn't recognize the Sundance director's name and can't even choose an entry category. No matter. John figures he'll slip the responsible folks a cheap bribe and mention Sundance scores of times in his work and, presto, he'll have a festival winner. John's lost in the filmmaking maze without a compass, but watching him blunder his way through agents, producers, DPs and naysayers makes R2PC more fun than most slick, mindless $50 million throwaways. Introduced and discussed by Stern. (DC)

West Olive

2 p.m.: DS: Speaking in Strings. See Nov. 3, Plaza Frontenac.

4:15 p.m.: Man of the Century. See Nov. 1, Plaza Frontenac.

6:30 p.m.: Last Night. See Oct. 29, Tivoli.

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