7 p.m.: The War Zone. Tim Roth, U.K., 1999, 98 min. Dramatizing the repulsive, rarely examined horror of father-daughter incest, first-time director and veteran actor Roth doesn't flinch in his presentation of its ugliest moments in The War Zone. Isolated physically in the British countryside and emotionally by repeated denial of the abuse, this perverse nuclear family includes father and mother, 18-year-old daughter and the 15-year-old son from whose viewpoint the narrative unfolds. As in Gary Oldman's Nil by Mouth (which this film resembles in its uncompromising courage), Ray Winstone is again the terrifying, victimizing father. Tilda Swinton is the willfully oblivious mother, preoccupied with her third pregnancy. A fearless director, Roth makes Alexander Stuart's screenplay, based on his 1989 novel, appropriately horrific. Keeping the camera at a respectful distance, Roth uses the characters' silence and gestures, the father's intimidation and brutality to build inexorably to a climactic confrontation. This is a very tough, painfully honest and eminently praiseworthy film. (DC)

9:30 p.m.: DS: Get Bruce! Andrew J. Kuehn, U.S., 1999, 75 min. Bruce Vilanch is one's of Hollywood's top gag writers: He may be unknown to the general public, but for nearly three decades he has written material for Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, Billy Crystal and numerous other high-profile types, as well churning out reams of endlessly revised material for the Oscar and Emmy shows. He seems an unlikely subject for a documentary, but now we have Kuehn's loving tribute to him. Onscreen, Vilanch makes a curious -- screw it, bizarre -- presence: a decidedly full-figured kind of guy, middle-aged, flamboyantly gay, always clad in a T-shirt (even when in evening dress), with shoulder-length hair of ever-shifting colors (few of them occurring in nature). Kuehn talks to Goldberg, Midler, Crystal, Robin Williams, Nathan Lane and others (including Vilanch's doting mother), both in and out of Vilanch's presence, and the results are, not surprisingly, often howlingly funny, even if you start without the least curiosity about the subject himself. Williams, as usual, has a hard time restraining himself from upstaging the star, and ABC standards-and- practices head Susan Futterman manages to come off pretty well for a censor. The film makes a good case for Vilanch's talents; its only real misstep is the overly long tribute song that Ann-Margret croons under the closing credits. It would have been irritating at half the length. (AK)

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.


12:30 p.m.: Zacharia Farted. Michael Rohl, Canada, 1998, 110 min. The title of this production might lead you to believe it's a lowbrow comedy filled with adolescent antics, but nothing could be further from the truth. Zacharia Farted is actually a thoughtful, leisurely paced road movie about what happens when two friends, Brian (Benjamin Ratner) and Michael (writer/producer Colin Cunningham), embark on what's supposed to be a simple weekend fishing trip and find an unmarked gravestone that serves as the catalyst for an unexpected journey. On a rambling trek across the Southwest, the two friends encounter a variety of folk who shape their destiny in some way; each character is given distinguishing traits that elevate them above being merely plot-squatters, and their dialogue and behavior have the unmistakable feel of real life. In fact, the most notable thing about the film is the authenticity of the action and the pacing. Although nothing truly astonishing or spectacular happens, the film accurately captures the small surprises and fateful developments that occur on a loosely planned road excursion such as this. A compassionate, subtly meditative experience, Zachariah Farted wants to say something about fate, about keeping an open mind about people and places, about embracing the notion that although the destination you may set out for is not necessarily the one you'll reach, that doesn't mean you'll have any fewer life-enriching experiences along the route. Introduced and discussed by Cunningham and actor Madison Graie. (KR)

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 as 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)

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