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BIG-SCREEN EPIC

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

7:15 p.m.: DS: Creature. Parris Patton, U.S., 1999, 64 min. Parris Patton, who evidently now works with Disney, spent four years filming the pilgrim's progress of Stacey Hollywood/Kyle Dean, who ran away from a rural North Carolina home for a series of lives in LA as a transvestite prostitute, drag-club diva and pre-op transsexual. Patton's low budget and the extended shoot make Creature a collection of minidocumentaries that testify to the fluidity of identity and to the varieties of denial. The final portion records Stacey's first trip home in more than three years to see her devout mother and born-again father, whose Fu Manchu moustache is a relic from his time in prison: Although sure that what Stacey has done is contrary to God, they're just as sure that, this being America, she has every right to do it. Introduced and discussed by Patton. (FG)

9:15 p.m.: Bandits. Katja von Garnier, Germany, 1999, 109 min. Four women (Katja Riemann, Jasmin Tabatabai, Nicolette Krebitz and Jutta Hoffmann) in a prison rock & roll band break out of stir and become public heroines while trying to elude the cops. Much of the story -- as well as some details of the execution -- is derivative, primarily, of Thelma & Louise. But that's fine: Not enough films have been derivative of Thelma & Louise. Like that model, Bandits conveys a genuine sense of the liberating power of taking things to their ultimately self-destructive limit; to that, it adds a genuine sense of the liberating power of rock & roll: These four women are never so much their true selves as when they're playing. (It's not a trivial detail that the actresses wrote most of the songs and do their own playing and singing.) Von Garnier frequently slides into MTV-video segments: Once you realize that these sequences are as much externalized fantasies as expository montages, their flashy style manages to goose up the energy level without totally destroying the dramatic continuity. In German with English subtitles. (AK)

9:45 p.m.: DS: Pop and Me. Chris Roe, U.S., 1999, 91 min. When Richard Roe responded to his midlife crisis by cashing in his life savings to spend six months traveling around the world, his son Chris tagged along -- at Dad's expense -- to film the proceedings. At Dad's insistence, the vanity production was given a theme -- fathers and sons -- so they dutifully conducted interviews with families during their travels (there's even a brief chat with Julian Lennon about his dad), but don't be fooled: Roe, a graphic designer, has added flashy TV-style editing and titles, but they only serve to camouflage the lack of substance. It's just a glossy home movie that confuses predictably sentimental moments -- golly, men sure can be sensitive! -- with insights. Introduced and discussed by Richard Roe. (RH)

Midnight: DS: Meeting People Is Easy. Grant Gee, U.K., 1999, 95 min. When British band Radiohead's 1997 album OK Computer was released, the critics went gaga. They propped the band up on their shoulders as heroes who had just scored a game- winning goal. The crowd rushed the field, and chaos ensued. Meeting People Is Easy documents the five individuals inside this mass. Critics, talk-show hosts, industry execs and fans -- a monolith of others -- surround Radiohead throughout, and the band walks through dazed and confused, politely posing for the cameras, answering the interview questions and performing the record live. Director Gee films the crannies inside this chaos, and the result reveals a surreal kind of tedium, beautifully imagined, stylized and edited to create an exquisite cinéma verité portrait. Fans of the band will be fascinated, but fans of documentary film in general will be treated to a nearly perfect film, a post-MTV Don't Look Back. (RR)

West Olive

7 p.m.: Train of Life (Train de Vie). Radu Mihaileanu, France, 1998, 103 min. Because we need another Holocaust comedy, France brings us Train of Life, a rollicking tale of an entire Jewish town that attempts to escape the Nazis by staging its own deportation. Led by Shlomo, the village idiot (as usual, the smartest member of the town), these resourceful people sew Nazi uniforms, buy and renovate their own cattle train, forge papers and set off for Palestine. Along the way, they confront members of the Resistance, gypsies and, of course, actual Nazis. Although the film relies heavily on stereotypical jokes and predictable Jewish cultural references, it's often warmly funny, and there are some moments of sheer exhilaration. On the other hand, the fantasy is soon and often wearying in the face of what we all know to have been grim reality. Whether the shocking ending redeems the film is hard to say, but it's definitely a bold move on writer/director Mihaileanu's part. In French with English subtitles. (ML)

7:30 p.m.: That's the Way I Like It. Glen Goei, Singapore, 1998, 91 min. In late '70s Singapore, mild misfit Ah Hock (Adrian Pang) becomes entranced with the world of Saturday Night Fever and molds himself in the image of John Travolta. Goei's lighthearted movie is one of the few feature films to emerge from that country's tiny film industry in the past decade and presumably the first to receive commercial distribution in the U.S. since the two Cleopatra Wong action movies of two decades ago. You have to give Goei points for the film's good-naturedness and its slickness in the absence of money. Unfortunately, the movie isn't so much an homage to Saturday Night Fever as it is a remake, which makes things awfully predictable. Introduced and discussed by Goei. In Hokkien and English with English subtitles. (AK)

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