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Tales of two film festivals present reel dichotomy

Film festivals around the state of Florida always seem to fall into one of two categories, regardless of their cinematic themes.

They may be adventurous outlets for alternative works, without frills because all energies are committed to the films themselves. Here you find the serious moviegoer, more interested in discovering an exciting new auteur than a better gourmet coffee. Budgets usually are tight, especially since organizers have a wacky idea of pricing tickets to be affordable to the average Joe or Josephine.

Or else a festival becomes a society-page event where attendees spend equal time conspicuously consuming and networking at fancy galas. Budgets may be tight, depending on which corporations or benefactors want top billing in the program, or the going rate for catering these days.

One of each of these festival types is planned in the coming weeks. Get your tux or T-shirts ready, depending on your tastes and travel opportunities.

The grass-roots charm of the CineWorld Film Festival is its venue, the Burns Court Cinema in Sarasota, a cozy 3-screen multiplex built by the Sarasota Film Society last year for the express purpose of showing films that don't fit the movie mainstream. You'll find a tasty snack bar and al fresco seating, but more importantly, you'll find hundreds of people in love with an art form. Nobody does a better job than Dick Morris and Jack Winner of finding movie gems for fans to ponder.

This year's CineWorld runs from Nov. 4-10, with 30 films already committed, many of which recently screened at the prestigious New York, Toronto and Montreal festivals. Tickets are now available, with discounts for Sarasota Film Society members. (Don't let that stuffy title fool you; these are 2,200 down-to-earth folks who kicked in 30 tax-deductable bucks for the privilege.)

A CinEconomy pass ($30, $20 for members) grants admission to six screenings, and tickets must be picked up at the box office on the day of the show. The Gold Pass ($55, $40) is good for 10 screenings and second-choice advance sales. The Full Pass ($100, $75) opens all screenings, with advance sales, admission to auxiliary events (such as make-up artist Dick Smith's (The Exorcist) slide show and lecture) and _ get this _ free popcorn. Call (813) 388-2441 for information and show times.

CineWorld's lineup this year includes Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway, the convenience store comedy Clerks, Alan Rudolph's Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, That's Entertainment III, Louis Malle's Vanya on 42nd Street and the complete Trois Couleurs trilogy by Krzystof Kieslowski.

Other highlights include tributes to directors Ernst Lubitsch (The Shop Around the Corner) and Sacha Guitry (Story of a Cheat), plus the Florida premiere of The Wormkillers' Last Spring, produced in St. Petersburg by producer Neil DeGroot and writer/director Tom Dempsey.

At the other end of the state (and comfort level) is the ninth annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF), scheduled for Nov. 2-9 in Boca Raton and Nov 10-20 in Fort Lauderdale.

Unlike the convenient CineWorld, FLIFF sprawls over a good portion of the Gold Coast, from the AMC Coral Ridge multiplex to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. My visit last year left me unimpressed, heavy traffic punctuating a spotty list of offerings and the socialite artifice of a black-tie tribute to filmmaker Roger Corman where few seemed to know or care who he is, as long as their lipstick or ties were straight for the camera.

This year films competing for prizes include Hal Hartley's Amateur, a suspense comedy with Isabelle Huppert; Bulletproof Heart, starring Anthony LaPaglia and Mimi Rogers; and Federal Hill, a mob drama starring Nicholas Turturro (NYPD Blue). One entrant, Manika, Manika, has already played at the Beach Theater here, and another, Intruso, was offered at last year's CineWorld. That says something about how throughly festival organizers searched for films to present.

Tickets prices (since I doubt many here joined the Broward County Film Society) range from $5 for a brisk awards presentation, to $100 for the black-tie opening night gala with LaPaglia, Rogers and Bulletproof Heart. Other events _ advertised by food offerings rather than films _ are $10 each. If you must, call (305) 563-0500 for information and a schedule of events.

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