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SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: STILL A HAVEN FOR INDEPENDENTS

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Among the disparate images that will flicker on Park City movie screens through next week:

- An animated hippo playing a variety of musical instruments.- Paul Newman as both a conniving industrial executive and, in black and white, a young Billy the Kid.

- Thirty women making excuses for their flaky men.

- Soupy Sales as Moses, holding the stone tablets that contain the Ten Commandments, along with a six-pack of Coke.

- Rodeo bucking bronc star Bruce Ford looking like a floppy crash-test dummy on horseback.

- A high-strung Ethan Hawke freaking out in a rehab program.

- The Los Angeles riots (in more than one film).

- Ed Asner as a mobster who offers a unique review of "On the Waterfront."

That's right, it can only mean the Sundance Film Festival is in town, and it will continue in Park City throughout next week, wrapping up on Super Bowl Sunday, Jan. 30.

Robert Redford will be around, of course, taking time out from editing "Quiz Show," a film he recently directed, and which will be released by Disney's Hollywood Pictures in the fall. Redford considers the Sundance festival so important, in fact, that he is skipping his own career tribute at the Golden Globe Awards on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Other high-profile festivalgoers - many of them regulars - who will also be kicking around Park City during the week include Winona Ryder, Danny DeVito, Andie MacDowell, Matthew Modine, Edward James Olmos, Ethan Hawke, Steven Soderbergh, Joel and Ethan Coen, John Cusack, Seymour Cassel, Eric Stoltz, Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and many others.

And among films having their premieres at the festival are Joel and Ethan Coen's corporate satire, "The Hudsucker Proxy," starring Robbins, Leigh and Paul Newman; the gritty thriller "The Young Americans," with Harvey Keitel; the Australian coming-of-age comedy "The Nostradamus Kid," with Noah Taylor ("The Year My Voice Broke," "Flirting"); and "Backbeat," a drama about the early days of the Beatles. A theme running through some festival movies this year is the Los Angeles riots, most prominently on display in the competition documentary "The Fire This Time."

Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore says these are the actors and filmmakers who care passionately about their craft, and they recognize that independent filmmaking is where it's at. "It has a lot to do with the world in which they work. They're looking for interesting work, and it's not unlikely that in the future that there will be more of them coming here.

"Top-grade acting talent like Winona Ryder and Eric Stoltz and Ethan Hawke are charmed by working with independent filmmakers, and they develop a stronger passion for these films than just going on to some less meaningful role in other branches of the industry."

There are more movies in the festival this year - but not all that many more. "We have 92 features this year, so it is, imperceptibly, growing. But we've stayed roughly in the same position, in terms of competition films. And premieres and special screenings are at the same level.

"But we added the Native American sidebar, in addition to the Asian, Latin American and European sidebars, so there are a few more there."

A new screening site, the Carl Winters School, was added last year, resulting in complaints about the projection and sound quality - as well as the lack of parking spaces. Gilmore says parking will still be a problem at the auditorium - now called the Park City Library Center - but the quality of film presentation has been upgraded. "The sound and projection are now top quality, or as top quality as possible for a temporary setup. Parking will be difficult, but there are plenty of shuttles, so we're urging people to take advantage of the shuttles."

Gilmore says a problem that has not been adequately addressed so far, however, is the problem of overpopulation that has been steadily increasing annually. "The whole festival is overcrowded and oversubscribed and we need to work at better ways to get people in.

"We actually held tickets for Utah patrons, so even though we sold out of the passes, we held as many tickets as in the past, and we're not selling more to people from out of town.

"We don't know ultimately what the bottom line is for a festival that has outgrown its environment, and yet we're not going to automatically make it larger to accommodate an ever-growing list of people.

"This is partly the problem of success. If you can't get into anything, at some point or another, to quote Yogi Berra, `Nobody goes there anymore, the restaurants are too crowded.' "

Gilmore says people who go to theaters before showtime and get on the waiting lists will likely still get into the movies they want to see - especially films at Prospector Square and the Library Center.But he acknowledges that those who do not have advance tickets for movies at the Holiday Village Cinemas may be turned away, since the three auditoriums there are rather small. And it can also be a problem at the Egyptian Theater, especially for high-profile premieres that tend to sell out early.

By the way, if you're wondering about those eight images described at the beginning of this story, they are from, respectively: "Musical Max," "The Hudsucker Proxy," "The Left-Handed Gun," "The Perfect Woman," "The Making Of `. . . And God Spoke,' " "Colorado Cowboy: The Bruce Ford Story," "Floundering," "The Fire This Time," "Down On the Waterfront."

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

For festival information, phone 328-FILM (3456); for ticket information, phone 322-1700. All theaters and auditoriums are in Park City, except the Tower Theater, which is in Salt Lake City, and the Sundance Screening Room, which is at the Sundance Resort in Provo Canyon.

FRIDAY (JAN. 21)

Egyptian Theatre: "River of Grass," 1 p.m.; "Go Fish," 4 p.m.; "Backbeat," 7 p.m.; "Clean, Shaven," 10 p.m.; "Aswang," midnight.

Holiday Village Cinema I: "Shorts Program I," 1 p.m.; "Cuba Va," 4 p.m.; "Shorts Program V," 7 p.m.; "Theremin," 10 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema II: "blessing," 1:20 p.m.; "Shorts Program III," 4:20 p.m.; "Risk," 7:20 p.m.; "The Secret Life of Houses," 10:20 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema III: 1:40 p.m.; "Spanking the Monkey," 4:40 p.m.; "The Fire This Time," 7:40 p.m.; "Shorts Program II," 10:40 p.m.

Prospector Square: "Killing Zoe," 3 p.m.; "Grief," 6 p.m.; "Shopping," 9 p.m.

Library Center: "Closing Numbers," 3:30 p.m.; "I Love a Man in Uniform," 6:30 p.m.; "Cronos," 9:30 p.m.

Tower Theater: "Suture," 6 p.m.; "Four Weddings and a Funeral," 8:30 p.m.

SATURDAY (JAN. 22)

Egyptian Theatre: "The Pornographer," 10 a.m.; "Shopping," 1 p.m.; "Two Small Bodies," 4 p.m.; "Piper-Heidsieck Tribute to Gena Rowlands," 7 p.m.; "Totally F***ed Up," 10 p.m.; "Minotaur," midnight.

Holiday Village Cinema I: "Hoop Dreams," 10 a.m.; "Are They Still Shooting?" 1:30 p.m.; "Mama Awethu!," 4 p.m.; "Shorts Program II," 7 p.m.; "Clerks," 10 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema II: "Beijing Bastards," 10:20 a.m.; "The Miracle Worker," 1:20 p.m.; "Risk," 4:20 p.m.; "The Nostradamus Kid," 7:20 p.m.; "Colorado Cowboy," 10:20 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema III: "Cancer in Two Voices," 10:40 a.m.; "Tango Feroz," 1:40 p.m.; "Fast Trip, Long Drop," 4:40 p.m.; "Lies in Hazard," 7:40 p.m.; "Four Friends," 10:40 p.m.

Prospector Square: "Temptation of a Monk," 9:30 a.m.; "Child Murders," noon; "Boxer Rebellion," 3 p.m.; "Suture," 6 p.m.; "Naked in New York," 9 p.m.

Library Center: "Backbeat," 9:30 a.m.; "Program II," 12:30 p.m.; "Bonnie and Clyde," 3:30 p.m.; "Go Fish," 6:30 p.m.; "Opening Night," 9:30 p.m.

Tower Theater: "Floundering," 6 p.m.; "Backbeat," 8:30 p.m.; "The Making of . . . `And God Spoke,' " midnight.

Sundance Screening Room: "Not Just for Kids," 2:30 p.m.; "Nina Takes a Lover," 4:30 p.m.; "Where the Rivers Flow North," 8 p.m.

SUNDAY (JAN. 23)

Egyptian Theatre: "The Secret Life of Houses," 10 a.m.; "Naked in New York," 1 p.m.; "The Fire This Time," 4 p.m.; "Betrayal," 7 p.m.; "Lives in Hazard," 10 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema I: "Clean, Shaven," 10 a.m.; "Aswang," 1 p.m.; "Heart of the Matter," 4 p.m.; "Freedom on My Mind," 7 p.m.; "Coming Out Under Fire," 10 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema II: "Fresh," 10:20 a.m.; "What Happened Was," 1:20 p.m.; "Makin' Up," 4:20 p.m.; "Minotaur," 7:20 p.m.; "Fun," 10:20 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema III: "Shorts Program I," 10:40 a.m.; "Grief," 1:40 p.m.; "Fire Eyes," 4:40 p.m.; "Dialogues with Madwomen," 7:40 p.m.; "Shorts Program III," 10:40 p.m.

Prospector Square: "Anchoress," 9:30 a.m.; "Interactivity and Cinema," noon; "blessing," 3 p.m.; "Mickey One," 6 p.m.; "The Blue Kite," 9 p.m.

Library Center: " Living on the River Agano," 9:30 a.m.; "Spanking the Monkey," 12:30 p.m.; "Ivan and Abraham," 3:30 p.m.; "Cuba Va," 6:30 p.m.; "Little Big Man," 9:30 p.m.

Sundance Screening Room: "Kanehsatake," 4:30 p.m.; "Darkness in Tallinn," 8 p.m.