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Tivoli

12:30 p.m.: NFF Seminar: Lights, Camera, Civil Action. A panel on the legal aspects of filmmaking co-moderated by Alan S. Nemes and Jill L. Selsor of Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin LLP Entertainment Law Group, with panelist Kjehl Rasmussen (executive producer of The Corndog Man).

2 p.m.: NFF Seminar: My Shorts Are Showing. A panel on short films and their potential rewards moderated by Kathy Corley, professor of film at Webster University, with panelists Jonathan Buss (director of "Express: Aisle to Glory") and Veena Sud (director of "One Night").

3:30 p.m.: NFF Seminar: Following: How a No-Budget Film Becomes a Festival Darling. A case study on Following, with producer Emma Thomas and Next Wave Films' Mark Stolaroff.

5 p.m.: NFF Seminar: Studio Films, Indie Films and Me. A panel on criticism with critics Rich Cline of BBC Radio, Diane Carson of The Riverfront Times, Joe Holleman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Audrey Hutti of KSDK (Channel 5).

7 p.m.: NFF: Following Christopher Nolan, U.K., 1998, 70 min. Bill (Jeremy Theobald) -- out of work, lonely and with a vague notion of becoming a writer -- develops the habit of following strangers down the streets of London. One of his subjects turns out to be Cobb (Alex Haw), a slick young burglar who, as a result of his professional skills, quickly spots Bill and confronts him. He ends up taking Bill under his wing, showing him how a real invader of privacy works. Seduced by what he learns, Bill goes even further and violates one of Cobb's cardinal rules: Based on photos and belongings, he grows so infatuated with Lucy (Lucy Russell), one of their victims, that he contacts her and insinuates himself into her life. The rest of the plot unfolds as a series of genuine surprises; first-time writer/director Nolan packs an amazing number of complications into a film that barely times out at 70 minutes. Despite working on the lowest of budgets, Following hasn't a hint of amateurism, technically or aesthetically. If it has a major flaw, it's that the story is too compact to absorb in a single viewing. Like Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects, which was almost certainly an influence, the movie's plot revelations make us repeatedly reevaluate our assumptions about what we've seen. Things that may have appeared improbable become more rational as further layers of deception are peeled away. Nolan tells his story out of chronological order, somewhat in the manner of Kubrick's The Killing. At first, this intercutting makes the story hard to comprehend, but, on second viewing, Following almost seems like a different film -- an even more intriguing one. Introduced and discussed by producer Emma Thomas. (AK)

7:15 p.m.: Streetheart (Le Coeur au Poing). Charles Binamé, Canada, 1998, 97 min. Good films frequently begin with an interesting premise, and this French-Canadian offering posits a doozy: What if an attractive but disconnected young woman named Louise (Pascale Montpetit) were to invent a game in which she offered one hour of her time to strangers on the street at random? For that hour, people could do whatever they wanted with her. Naturally, one expects the sexual possibilities of this scenario to dominate, but Streetheart has much broader designs: to explore the responses of the surprised recipients of the offer (they range from stunned disbelief and rejection to curious choices for utilizing "Rose," the name Louise adopts for the game); the diverse character of modern society, from the innocent to the malevolent; and, ultimately, the soul and character of Louise herself, a complex woman longing for transcendence and deeper meaning than what her sheltered life offers. Louise lives in a rundown building that houses a dance school, and relationships with her sister Paulette and her older lover, Julien (Guy Nadon), are less than fulfilling. Her forays into the lives of myriad strangers give her life an exciting dimension but ultimately lead to emotional turmoil, grave risk and a climactic existential confrontation. Montpetit, a striking cinematic presence, gives a remarkable performance as the tormented Louise, and the film seizes on a truly compelling premise and sends it down all sorts of interesting side streets. In French with English subtitles. (KR)

9:30 p.m.: DS: American Movie/Coven. See Wednesday, Nov. 3, Tivoli.

9:45 p.m.: Shorts Program 2. Program 2 starts off with "Whacked," an outrageous one-joke film by Rolf Gibbs that explains why so many New Yorkers are dropping dead in the middle of the street. The paradoxical "Five O'clock Shadow" (by Traci Carroll) is a fine example of pure cinema, as it tells its creepy story with hardly any dialogue, leaving viewers to ponder what was real and what was dream. Sophia Trone stars in her own worst nightmare, "The Deformation of Myrna Brown," which finds a rash way of proving that you are literally what you eat. Kids suffer untold indignities from their insurgent inflatables in "Billy's Balloon," a twisted but inexplicably funny cartoon by Don Hertzfeldt. "Last Words," by Belgian artist Wim Vandekeybus, is a stagebound and hectic tribute to the Theater of the Absurd. It tells the story of a scream seller and his confrontation with the local tyrant, who attempts to purchase his own dying words in order to cheat death itself. Presented in the form of an educational filmstrip, "Das Clown" (by Tom E. Brown) delivers an AIDS parable of a kindly old shopkeeper's clown doll who comes to life one stormy night to wreak predictable havoc. Swiss composer Dominik Scherrer directed his own noisy opera, "Hell for Leather," substituting grungy bikers for Satan and his followers, who brutally torment the pious in a purposefully bleak London setting. Introduced and discussed by Carroll and Trone. (RDZ)

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