"Vincent & Theo" has its regional premiere as part of the Sundance Film Festival Thursday evening, kicking off what promises to be a wild night at the Egyptian Theater in Park City.

Following the screening, director Robert Altman will discuss his film, a somewhat controversial look at Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo, who championed the artist's work during his lifetime but couldn't sell it.Earlier in the day Altman discussed "Tanner '88," the limited HBO series he did with "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau (who was to attend the festival but canceled due to illness). Altman won an Emmy for the show.

After the "Vincent & Theo" screening, the sold-out world premiere of Ken Russell's "Whore" will be shown, starring Theresa Russell. Theresa Russell will introduce the film, and afterward - about midnight - will lead a discussion titled "Sex and Cinema: Women - Objects or Actors." Ken Russell had to cancel his appearance but will participate via satellite.

In a telephone interview Robert Altman said he disagrees with critics who see him as identifying with his subject, noting that Altman's films have often received the same disrespect van Gogh's work did in his lifetime. "I don't think so, really. I think I understand the emotion of it and the pain of it, but I certainly don't in any way make any comparisons to my own life and career with that of Vincent van Gogh."

In fact, when the "Vincent & Theo" script was sent to Altman he says he didn't read it and rejected it outright. But the producers kept after him. "Finally I read


it, but I wasn't thrilled with it. I just don't like these kinds of movies, historical films about famous people. I was setting up all the reasons why these films aren't for me and I created a little hill I felt compelled to climb. I finally agreed to do this if I had creative control.

"It was a great experience and an experiment for me, because I went into this not knowing what kind of film I did want to make but pretty much knowing what kind of film I did not want to make. I wanted to avoid sentimentality, false truths."

"Vincent & Theo" was, in its European origins, intended as a four-hour miniseries - and it has already played in that form in Italy. But as it came together, Altman felt it cried out for theatrical distribution, and the film, at just under 21/2 hours, has proven successful in most areas of the world where it has played so far.

An exception, however, is van Gogh's birthplace. "They are more suspect in Holland," Altman said. "During the summer, during all that van Gogh hysteria of 1990 that was going on, and although the critical response was very strong, it just didn't do that well. But then, movies in general don't play very well there."

With regard to his satirical "Tanner '88" series, 12 half-hour programs about a fictional presidential candidate (Michael Murphy) who interacts with real-life politicians, Altman said, "I'm really proud of that work and think it's a benchmark, maybe the best work I've ever done."

And when the next presidential race comes around look for "Tanner '92." "We're thinking very seriously of running Jack Tanner in '92. Not for HBO, though. What we would like to do is run it on PBS, but it's hard to get the money it takes to do it without some sponsor. Given the right circumstances we would love to do it."

- THE UTAH CONNECTION: Two films in the festival have their origins in Utah: "Sure Fire," a melodrama filmed in Circleville, and "Nut Feed," by a University of Utah student filmmaker.

"Sure Fire," a dramatic competition film by Jon Jost, focuses on a hot-shot salesman who has alienated his family and friends through his self-centered shallowness. The film is demanding, however, eschewing traditional narrative technique in favor of stylistic touches that may make it somewhat difficult for mainstream moviegoers. "Sure Fire" will have its final screening Thursday at 10:30 p.m.

"Nut Feed" is a hilarious short documentary - a scant 9 minutes in length - by Verna Huiskamp about the castrating of bulls on a farm in South Dakota and the subsequent preparation of the "harvest" for a "nut feed" at a local bar and grill. The final "Nut Feed" screening will precede the documentary competition film "Paris Is Burning" at 10 a.m. Friday.FESTIVAL SCHEDULE


Egyptian: "Trouble Behind," 10 a.m.; "Legends," 1 p.m.; "Poison," 4 p.m.; "Vincent & Theo," 7 p.m.; "Whore," 10 p.m.

Holiday I: "Paradise View," 10 a.m.; "Maria's Story," 1 p.m.; "Takeover," 4 p.m.; "Coney Island," 7 p.m.; "Blood in the Face," 10 p.m.

Holiday II: "Amazonia," 10:15 a.m.; "The Juniper Tree," 1:15 p.m.; "Red Dawn," 4:15 p.m.; "Daughters of the Dust," 7:15 p.m.; "One Cup of Coffee," 10:15 p.m.

Holiday III: "Broken Meat," 10:30 a.m.; "Thank You and Good Night," 1:30 p.m.; "Absolutely Positive," 4:30 p.m.; "Short Wave," 7:30 p.m.; "Sure Fire," 10:30 p.m.

Prospector: "City of Hope," 10 a.m.; "Twenty-One," 1 p.m.; "Hangin' with the Homeboys," 4 p.m.; "Iron Maze," 7 p.m.; "All the Vermeers in New York," 10 p.m.

Sundance: "Waiting for the Moon," 4:30 p.m.; "American Dream," 7:30 p.m.

Trolley Corners: "In the Shadow of the Stars," 6 p.m.; "Enid Is Sleeping," 8:30 p.m.

Z Place: "Tanner '88," 1 p.m.; Seminar: Altman on "Tanner '88," 3:30 p.m.FRIDAY

Egyptian: "Straight out of Brooklyn," 10 a.m.; "Belle de Jour," 1 p.m.; "Naked Tango," 4 p.m.; "Christo in Paris," 7 p.m.; "Trust," 10 p.m.

Holiday I: "Paris Is Burning," 10 a.m.; "American Dream," 1 p.m.; "Secondary Roles," 4 p.m.; "To Sleep, So As to Dream," 7 p.m.; "The Restless Conscience," 10 p.m.

Holiday II: "The Enchantment," 10:15 a.m.; "One Cup of Coffee," 1:15 p.m.; "End of the Night," 4:15 p.m.; "All the Vermeers in New York," 7:15 p.m.; "White Lies," 10:15 p.m.

Holiday III: "Lola," 10:30 a.m.; "Absolutely Positive," 1:30 p.m.; "Privilege," 4:30 p.m.; "Slacker," 7:30 p.m.; "Stop Short," 10:30 p.m.

Prospector: "Vincent & Theo," 10 a.m.; "Whore," 1 p.m.; `Little Noises," 4 p.m.; "In the Shadow of the Stars," 7 p.m.; "After the Storm," 10 p.m.

Sundance: "84 Charlie Mopic," 4:30 p.m.; "Hangin' with the Homeboys," 7:30 p.m.

Trolley Corners: No screenings.