On episode #3 of the Cine-Cast, Cine-File associate editors Ben Sachs and K.A. Westphal discuss recent releases and screenings they're looking forward to at the Chicago Film Critics Film Festival; Sachs and contributor John Dickson chat about the Philippe Garrel series at the Gene Siskel Film Center; contributor JB Mabe interviews the new Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts at the Block Museum of Art at Northwest University, Michael Metzger—they talk about upcoming programming and the direction Mike is taking within the Chicago film community; and contributor Kyle Cubr interviews Chicago Film Society co-founder Julian Antos about their new season.
Listen here. As always, special thanks to our producer, Andy Miles, of Transistor Chicago.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's EIGHT HOURS DON'T MAKE A DAY (German Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes
In most English-language appraisals of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's career it is hardly ever mentioned that more than a third of his films were created for television. Outside of Germany, viewers would have encountered these TV productions in the movie theater or on home video, so it makes sense that the films and television work get muddled. But Fassbinder took some fascinating risks with the television productions and they include some glowing standouts in his filmography. It seems silly to say that a filmmaker as daring and inventive as Fassbinder took risks in his TV work, but it's where you can find the notoriously bleak and brutish man being adventurous, personal, and playful. The historic scope of BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ is obvious. WORLD ON A WIRE allowed him to play with the sci-fi genre. I ONLY WANT YOU TO LOVE ME is his most plainly autobiographical and vulnerable work. FEAR OF FEAR is his most sparse and quietly sad—and one of his absolute best works. And with this film, EIGHT HOURS DON’T MAKE A DAY, Fassbinder did what no one would have expected from him; he made a loving romantic-family almost-comedy! The film features an extended family fighting for workers’ collective rights, fighting against bureaucracy, and fighting for love and understanding. Fassbinder's complex tracking shots are here, as is his untouchably deft hand with actors, but in service of a story that will surprise you. Some critics are calling this his most sympathetic film, but I think they're wrong. Fassbinder always had deep sympathy for his characters and the actors portraying them—it's just that this time they aren't all acting like manipulative assholes. (1972, 478 min, DCP Digital) JBM
Note: EIGHT HOURS is showing in five separate episodes, two times each.
Bahman Ghobadi’s A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES & TURTLES CAN FLY (Iranian Revivals)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) – Wednesday, 7pm (Horses) and Thursday, 7pm (Turtles) (Free Admission)
This week Bahman Ghobadi—one of Iran’s greatest living filmmakers and perhaps the most important Kurdish filmmaker ever—comes to Block Cinema to attend 35-millimeter revivals of three of his films over three consecutive nights. These screenings would be crucial even if Ghobadi weren’t in attendance; the films are powerful, brilliant accounts of lives one rarely encounters in western media. Their subject matter is frequently despairing, yet remarkably the filmmaking never is—Ghobadi’s imagery and narrative momentum are stirring, inspiring both amazement towards the natural world and a humbling respect for people who endure tortuous living conditions. Winner of the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Ghobadi’s debut feature A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES (2000, 80 min, 35mm) centers on three orphaned siblings living near the Iran-Iraq border. One of the siblings, Madi, was born with a congenital disorder that’s resulted in dwarfism, profound intellectual disabilities, and a variety of health problems; his brother and sister (who are just entering into adolescence) devote themselves to his care. When a doctor informs the children that Madi will soon die if he doesn’t undergo an operation, his brother—and the family’s de facto patriarch—gets work smuggling goods into Iran from Iraq to pay for the surgery. Ghobadi creates several harrowing sequences detailing the smuggling operation, which is not only illegal, but deathly dangerous, as the region the smugglers cross is plagued with land mines. Indeed, the film builds to a climax that’s almost unbearably suspenseful. DRUNKEN HORSES also established Ghobadi as a masterful director of children: the protagonists (even Madi) emerge as so much more than figures of pity; they’re courageous and complex individuals who manage to preserve their humanity despite the dehumanizing conditions in which they live. Ghobadi’s third feature, TURTLES CAN FLY (2004, 98 min, 35mm; showing with his 2014 short SOMETIMES LOOK UP, 15 min, Digital Projection), considers conditions that are even sadder. The film takes place at a Kurdish refugee camp in Iraq shortly before the U.S. invasion of 2003; nearly every character is an orphaned child, and quite a few of them are missing limbs. The hero, an early adolescent called Satellite, supervises other children as they find abandoned land mines to sell to arms dealers. Brimming with confidence (and no small amount of hucksterism), Satellite transcends the misery of the camp and inspires brio in others; the early scenes, which detail his daily routine, are surprisingly cheerful, almost uplifting. Ghobadi even finds humor in the impending U.S. invasion, with scenes of refugees struggling to understand the American news reports they receive on pirated cable TV. (“He keeps saying it’s going to rain tomorrow,” Satellite says of a George W. Bush speech he barely understands. “I think it’s code for something.”) As in DRUNKEN HORSES, Ghobadi intersperses the character comedy and political despair with poetic wide-shots that show the influence of Abbas Kiarostami (for whom Ghobadi worked as assistant director on THE WIND WILL CARRY US) and introduce a cosmic perspective. Such images elevate Ghobadi’s work from straight realism into something more mysterious and beautiful; they also serve as reminders that even in dire situations, the world can still find room for art. BS
Ghobadi’s film NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS will screen next Friday, May 25. See next week’s list.
CINÉ-TRACTS and Maurice Lemaître’s SOULÈVEMENT DE LA JEUNESSE (Documentary/Experimental Revivals)
The Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) – Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
The Film Studies Center presents the first of two programs (the second is on June 1) that mark the 50th anniversary of the student and worker uprisings in France in May 1968. This democratic (small “d”) movement was embraced by many of the filmmakers working in France at the time, allowing them to connect their work to the agit-prop films of Soviet filmmakers Dziga Vertov and Aleksandr Medvedkin, whom they greatly admired and emulated. Taking up the collectivist call, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, and others produced a series of short (2-4 minutes), silent, quickly-made “Ciné-Tracts” intended as political missives to aid the cause; the program includes a selection of 18 of them. These works were individually made, but all unsigned, and distributed at cost to groups who wished to show them. As propaganda for the revolutionary moment, one wonders how effective they were and what audiences were seeing them. They fall squarely in line with the modernist, formalist films that these filmmakers had already been making: some feature dynamic montage, others playful wordplay with text on screen (surely by or influenced by Godard). They are made from still images rather than moving ones, but some have dramatic pans across or zooms in or out on the photos. Some mark up the photos (or other print material—book covers, newspapers, etc.) with text. Some Letterist influences seem to be encroaching on the French New Wave tactics. Were these short films changing hearts and minds of the apolitical and the uncommitted? Those who would have seemed most likely to comprehend the formalist goings-on in the films would probably already be in support of upheaval and change in France. No matter. Today, these CINÉ-TRACTS are fascinating time capsules of that historical moment; harbingers of the paths Godard and Marker would take in the years immediately following, with more anonymous, communal, and overtly politically-engaged filmmaking—at least for a time; and tiny formal gems that call to mind not only Vertov’s Kino-Pravda newsreels and Medvedkin’s “cinetrain,” but also films as disparate as those by 1960s contemporaries Santiago Álvarez in Cuba and Arthur Lipsett in Canada, the 1960s and 70s Newsreel collectives in the U.S., and the video work of AIDS activist groups in the 1980s. Troubled times leading to engaged, energetic, and urgent image making. Also showing is Maurice Lemaître’s 1969 French experimental documentary short about the May 68 uprisings, SOULÈVEMENT DE LA JEUNESSE (28 min, 16mm). Introduced by University of Chicago Associate Professor Jennifer Wild. (1968-69, approx. 85 min total, 16mm [Lemaitre] and Digital Projection [Ciné-Tracts]) PF
Philippe Garrel’s THE VIRGIN’S BED & THE CRYSTAL CRADLE (French Revivals)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 4pm and Saturday, 2:45pm (Bed), and Saturday, 4:45pm and Tuesday, 8:15pm (Cradle)
This week the Siskel Center continues their invaluable Philippe Garrel retrospective with two works from the French filmmaker’s early, experimental period, THE VIRGIN’S BED (1969, 95 min, 35mm) and THE CRYSTAL CRADLE (1976, 70 min, 35mm). The first is an allegorical film that combines religious and topical imagery in tableaux vivants. “I believe my point of view on the Christian myth is quite clear in THE VIRGIN’S BED,” wrote Garrel, whose films can be famously opaque. “It is a non-violent parable in which Zouzou incarnates both Mary and Mary Magdalene while Pierre Clementi incarnates a discouraged Christ who throws down his arms in face of world cruelty. In spite of its allegorical nature, the film contains a denunciation of police repression in 1968, which was generally well understood by viewers at the time.” Writing about VIRGIN’S BED in Artforum last year, Tony Pipolo noted the film’s stark landscapes (a motif Garrel would continue to explore in 1972’s THE INNER SCAR, which plays in the retrospective next week), saying they undermine Garrel’s witty approach to the Christian narrative. This complexity is typical of Garrel, who was at this time essentially a poet working in sounds and images rather than printed words; his organization of shots shows little influence from narrative cinema. Yet his presentation of faces and bodies—which is never less than compelling—inspires viewers to forge emotional connections with the onscreen subjects, resulting in the sorts of relationships one has with characters in fiction films. One can expect this sort of intense observation in THE CRYSTAL CRADLE, a film that has rarely, if ever, screened in Chicago. Little has been written in English about this short feature, which Garrel made when he was 28 (and already a decade into his filmmaking career!), but the Siskel Center gazette promises observations of “Nico [Garrel’s on-and-off girlfriend, frequent performer, and longtime muse] as she works out a series of poems that would become the lyrics to her 1980 album The Drama of Exile. Interspersed are appearances by Dominique Sanda, Anita Pallenberg, and painter Frédéric Pardo, who take drugs, lounge around, and make art.” The description might remind you of Warhol’s films—and indeed there’s a Warholian quality to much of Garrel’s 70s work—but this director’s gaze is soft and sympathetic where Warhol’s was inquisitive and cold. Garrel has never been afraid to confront his own life in his work, and the naked intimacy of his autobiographical features can be found in his portraits of others. CRYSTAL CRADLE comes shortly after one of the best films of Garrel’s first period, LES HAUTES SOLITUDES (1974), as beautiful a piece of cinematic portraiture as anything in the experimental film canon. If CRADLE is anything like it, prepare to be mesmerized. BS
Issa López’s TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (New Mexican Horror)
Chicago Filmmakers (5720 N. Ridge Ave.) and the Chicago Cinema Society – Friday, 7:30pm and Sunday, 7pm
After ten-year-old Estrella accidentally summons the ghost of her murdered mother using a piece of magical wishing chalk her teacher gave her as their class huddled on the ground during a shootout—no, wait. Let me back up. Mexican director Issa López is a huge success in her native land but is mostly unknown in the US. This is likely going to change with the critical and popular reception of her third feature, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID, which has garnered several festival awards and enthusiastic tweets from horror luminaries including Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro (the latter is producing Lopez’s next film). Those two are good touchstones for an understanding of approximately what you’re getting into with this film, a story of the bonds of childhood friendship tested by horrific human and supernatural events. Set against the very real horrors of the drug wars in Mexico, which have orphaned tens of thousands of children, the film follows a group of orphans—Lost Boys (and a girl) who never grow up because their parents have been murdered—on the run from drug dealers and vengeful ghosts through a hellish Neverland of industrial decay. The film careens between whimsy (graffiti that comes alive), gotcha moments punctuated by instrumental blasts, moments of wonder (the kids exploring an abandoned luxury apartment complex), and both mundane and supernatural threats as the gang members close in and the wishes of the undead become clearer. Narrative and thematic cohesion aren’t prominently featured on the menu, but there are frights aplenty, perhaps the biggest of which is that apart from the supernatural elements, the film probably doesn’t stray too far from reality for some kids. (2017, 83 min., DCP Digital) MWP
Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (British/American Revival) [70mm]
Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes
For many, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is not simply a masterpiece, but the apotheosis of moviegoing itself. In no other film is the experience of seeing images larger than oneself linked so directly to contemplating humanity's place in the universe. Kubrick achieves this (literally) awesome effect through a number of staggering devices: a narrative structure that begins at "the dawn of man" and ends with the final evolution of humankind; one-of-a-kind special effects, the result of years of scientific research, that forever changed visual representations of outer space; a singular irony that renders the most familiar human interaction beguiling; blasts of symphonic music that heighten the project of sensory overload. It isn't hyperbolic to assert, as film scholar Michel Chion has in his book Kubrick's Cinema Odyssey, that this could be the most expensive experimental film ever made; it's certainly the most abstracted of all big-budget productions. As in most of Kubrick's films, the pervasive ambiguity--the product of every detail having been realized so thoroughly as to seem independent of an author—ensures a different experience from viewing to viewing. Much criticism has noted the shifting nature of "thinking" computer HAL-9000, the "star" of the movie's longest section, who can seem evil, pathetic, or divine depending on one's orientation to the film; less often discussed is the poker-faced second movement, largely set in the ultra-professional meeting rooms of an orbiting space station. Is this a satire of Cold War diplomacy (something like a drier follow-up to DR. STRANGELOVE)? An allegory about the limitations of scientific knowledge? Like the "Beyond the Infinite" sequence that makes up most of the film's final movement--an astonishing piece of abstract expressionist art every bit the equal of the Gyorgy Ligeti composition that accompanies it—one can never know concretely what it all "means," nor would one ever want to. (1968, 142 min, 70mm; Brand New Print) BS
Armando Iannucci's THE DEATH OF STALIN (New British)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes
There's comfort to be had in absurdity. Traveling recently in Prague and Budapest, we learned how their citizens developed a dark sense of humor in order to survive communism. Americans wishing to cultivate their own sense of gallows humor should see THE DEATH OF STALIN by Armando Iannucci, who specializes as a writer/director of dark political satire. It's an always entertaining, mostly brilliant, often devilishly funny comedy, albeit one with a tendency to poke and prod mainly at obvious targets, offering only occasional new insights into what an atmosphere of mind-and-power games does to people. Iannucci's CV includes the BBC series The Thick of It, the HBO series Veep, and the 2009 movie IN THE LOOP; for decades, he's collaborated with Steve Coogan as a writer/director on those droll Alan Partridge productions. Here, working with his usual co-writer, Ian Martin, he's adapted a graphic novel by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin. Set in Moscow in 1953, the movie is essentially a freely fictionalized, yet broadly historical, portrayal of the hysterical jockeying for power that played out after Stalin's death among his imbecilic Central Committee, portrayed by an excellent British and American cast. The chief rivals are the two sharpest, most cunning minds among this gang of bumblers (it's all relative): Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi, who carries the film: if there were a curtain call, he'd get the standing ovation) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale, deliciously Machiavellian in his pince-nez), the notorious chief of the NKVD secret police. Pawns in their game include the vain, weak interim leader Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) and the craven, simpering Molotov (Michael Palin). The movie's pleasures are those of watching these outrageous nogoodniks—cynical, preening portraits in cowardice—try to stay alive while plotting to do each other in, all the while letting loose with fireworks of colorful, florid—musical, even—vulgarity. Keeping a constant finger to the wind, these men compete to see who has the neatest line in Orwellian doublespeak, as well as who can most enthusiastically denounce official enemies—be they brother, wife, or even themselves. (After all, if they're on the list, it's axiomatic they must have done something wrong—even if they can't remember what). Also on hand are Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana (a very funny Andrea Riseborough, one of the only people in the film with any sense), and his wastrel of a son (Rupert Friend). Once you accept the slightly awkward convention that there will be no attempt to adjust the modern Britishisms and Americanisms to the time or place, you'll have a lot of fun. The tonal shifts—from silly slapstick to the rounding up and executing of those on Stalin's enemies lists—are impressively fluid, until the somewhat jarring final act, which follows the brutal coup against Beria staged by Khrushchev and the indispensable Field Marshal Zhukov (Jason Isaacs, in a robust parody of gung-ho bravado). I wouldn't quite number THE DEATH OF STALIN among the very best farces about communism, like Miloš Forman's THE FIREMEN'S BALL or Péter Bacsó's THE WITNESS, both of which had the benefit of being made by filmmakers who were products of the culture, and era, they were lampooning. Still, it's very good, and Iannucci, like his characters, understands something key: those who control the narrative, hold the power (and vice versa). "You're bending and cracking the truth like a human body," Khrushchev shouts at Beria, in frustration. These days, one opens the daily paper and, emitting a bitter, mirthless chuckle, discovers that reality has once again trumped farce. Better to have a dark laugh with THE DEATH OF STALIN. As generations knew who faced more brutal days than ours (yet) are, satire is an inoculation against the infection of despair. (2017, 107 min, DCP Digital) SP
Michael Haneke's THE WHITE RIBBON (German Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Tuesday, 7pm
I'll tell you this: the scene in THE WHITE RIBBON where a little boy is told about death is better than the whole of THE PIANO TEACHER. In fact, THE WHITE RIBBON is Haneke's best film after CODE UNKNOWN. Lars Von Trier called THE BOSS OF IT ALL "a light comedy;" Haneke has called this one "a film about the rise of fascism." Both are puckish statements of intention, not descriptions of the results. It all starts with a wire strung between two trees to trip a horse. A year or so before World War I, in a small Protestant community, the balance created by the ordinary cruelties of the upper class is undermined by extraordinary cruelties by mysterious perpetrators. Everyday negligence is responded to with planned attacks. All of these events are investigated by a schoolteacher (played by Christian Friedel as a young man and by the voice of Ernest Jacobi as an old one), who is the first Haneke character who could be called a "hero" rather than a "protagonist." Haneke's camera, like Visconti's or Sirk's or Mizoguchi's or von Sternberg's, has always held a privileged position, an ability to either stare at what the director feels the audience would avert their eyes from, or to see shapes, patterns, and causes that the characters can't. There's a scene in THE WHITE RIBBON, shot in a single immobile take, where a poor man comes to look at the corpse of his wife, who's just been killed in a sawmill accident. Her upper body is blocked out of view. The man, his head held low, approaches the bed she's been laid on and, in a moment of unknowable misery, becomes obscured. It's at this moment that Haneke relinquishes the aforementioned privilege and it becomes clear that THE WHITE RIBBON is the most openly empathetic film he's ever made. (2009, 137 min, 35mm) IV
Peter Bogdanovich's THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am
In THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, Peter Bogdanovich tells a coming of age story about three teenagers simultaneously living their own lives and seemingly reliving those of their parents and grandparents in the small town of Anarene, Texas. While finishing high school in the early 1950s, Duane (Jeff Bridges) dates the gorgeous Jacy (Cybill Shepherd), and Duane's best friend, Sonny (Timothy Bottoms), tentatively begins an affair with his football coach's wife (Cloris Leachman). As a film critic, Bogdanovich popularized the classic Hollywood era by praising its great filmmakers, including John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Orson Welles; he later described the larger aim of his film, "I saw the story as a Texas version of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons, which was about the end of a way of life caused by the coming of the automobile. This was about the end of a way of life caused by the coming of television." In Bogdanovich's Anarene, the cinema is closing. The owner complains to Duane and Sonny that no one comes to the movies anymore, because they are at home watching TV. The cinema's last picture show is Hawks' RED RIVER (1948), starring John Wayne as a tough cattle driver in the Old West. Hawks depicted yet another way of life from times gone by that only exists in the movies. While Bogdanovich too quickly mourned the passing of a representation of life that is still with us, his co-writer, Larry McMurtry, laments life itself as lived in Anarene, also known as the Archer City of his youth. McMurtry and cinematographer Robert Surtees create an extraordinary sense of both the place of this poor town and the vast, empty space that nearly engulfs it and its last few inhabitants. Anarene is dying; it may soon be a ghost town with no one left at all. It begs questions like: Why did it exist? Why is it still here? In the middle of THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, Sam the Lion, played by veteran western actor Ben Johnson, tells Sonny that he is just as sentimental as the next when it comes to "old times." Their conversation and the film as a whole remind one of a statement by Terrence Malick, who also deals in memories of his Texas boyhood: "Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything." THE LAST PICTURE SHOW is a beautiful evocation not only of old times, but also of the possibility--whether great or small--time once held. (1971, 118 min, 35mm) CW
Claire Denis’ LET THE SUNSHINE IN (New French)
Music Box Theatre – Check venue website for showtimes
Claire Denis follows up her darkest and most disturbing feature, 2013’s BASTARDS—a gut-wrenching journey into the heart of a prostitution ring that was loosely inspired by William Faulkner—with LET THE SUNSHINE IN, undoubtedly her lightest and funniest work, which was loosely inspired by Roland Barthes. A delight from start to finish, Denis’ first collaboration with the iconic Juliette Binoche is probably the closest we’ll ever come to seeing the Gallic master’s take on the rom-com. Binoche, looking more radiant than ever at 53, plays Isabelle, a divorced mother living in Paris whose career as a painter is as successful as her love life is a mess. The neurotic Isabelle plunges headfirst into a series of affairs with dubious men, some of whom are married and one of whom is her ex-husband, all the while hoping to find “true love at last.” Isabelle’s best prospect seems to be the only man who wants to take things slow (Alex Descas) but a witty coda involving a fortune-teller played by Gerard Depardieu suggests that Isabelle is doomed to repeat the same mistakes even while remaining a hopelessly optimistic romantic. Bolstered by Agnes Godard’s tactile cinematography and Stuart Staples’ fine jazz score, LET THE SUNSHINE IN is funny, wise, sexy—and essential viewing. (2017, 94 min, DCP Digital) MGS
Lucrecia Martel’s ZAMA (New Argentinean)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Saturday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 4pm
“I know it seems like the inexplicable, but it’s just a boy in that box,” says a man to the film’s namesake character, Diego de Zama, as he watches a wooden crate move by itself on the floor outside his room. This supernatural facade haunts the stagnant title character, and us the viewer, who is explicitly implicated in the film’s first bit of opening dialogue. Zama (wonderfully portrayed by Daniel Giménez Cacho) conspicuously watches a group of indigenous women covering their naked bodies in mud; he is spotted by the women, who tease him by yelling, “Voyeur!" Lucrecia Martel places Zama in the lower-right corner of the frame, drawing a direct line between the accusatory women’s pointed glance and the viewer. As he runs away, one of them catches this leg, to which he turns around and slaps her, twice. Zama, a functionary of the King of Spain, is awaiting a transfer out of the land he helped colonize, in hopes to return to his wife and newborn son in Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, he suffers one indignity after another, first by the innkeeper’s daughters, who bathe and sleep with him in his temporary home, then by a blue-blooded seductress of nobility. He’s constantly humiliated by his superiors (the surrounding slaves silently mock him at every turn), his vapid manhood dissolving slowly all around him. As he nervously awaits the transfer papers, he is thrown out of his temporary furnishings by a new governor recently arrived on the scene. Zama then drags his belongings to a possibly haunted inn on the edge of town, as he waits for the very same governor to sign off on a letter to the King, imploring his long-gestating transfer to his family. The knotty corridors of bureaucracy delay the letter further, so he takes it upon himself to hunt down the phantom-like bandit that has been pestering local authorities for years, in hopes of speeding up his transfer process. It is this journey that makes up the second half of the film, in which Zama and a few men plunge into the heart of the surrounding savannah in search of this elusive figure. Martel took up ZAMA after five years of toiling away on a sci-fi feature that resulted in nothing; most likely due to financier dead-ends. This led her to Antonio Di Benedetto’s 1957 novel, which she read while recovering from exhaustion and illness. It then took three years to turn ZAMA into her latest cinematic gem, which deceptively breaks with her “Salta Trilogy” (her previous feature films, LA CIENAGA, THE HOLY GIRL, and THE HEADLESS WOMAN), in that the earlier films followed multiple women, while ZAMA follows just one man. Despite the reversal of gender roles, her latest wholly embodies, and even properly contextualizes, her three previous films. All four deal with the implications of a bourgeois, almost sleepwalking society whose actions and motives directly influence the indigenous populations they live amongst, resulting in simmering hotbeds of un-acknowledged racism that refuse to be uprooted, no matter how hard some may try. Like the main character of THE HEADLESS WOMAN, Zama is at the will of forces higher and above, both within the upper-echelons of society they hail from, while also from inside the cognitive anxieties and doubts that swim laps around his mind. Martel’s characters listen to voices, real and imagined, as they try to create meaning and narrative to their trancelike states of existence. As always with Martel, off-screen sounds, layered in hallucinatory power, achieve a hypnotizing spell of insects buzzing, birds crying, and animals screaming, that meld into the film’s visuals like distant figures blurring out of perception under a hot sun. Martel reportedly avoided the use of candles and torches to light the atmosphere, bucking the tradition of lighting schemes intended to induce one into a 17th-century world (a la BARRY LYNDON, with which ZAMA shares a kindred spirit). The result is one of unnerving possession and complete immersion into a nightmare brought on by Zama himself, who resists any attempt to go with the flow of his circumstances, thrashing against the powers of red-tape, lust, and sunstroke in his attempts to arrive at a sense of complacency with his current state of affairs. It’s impossible to avoid succumbing to the film’s atmosphere and somnambulistic gaze, especially when you realize suddenly you are in the presence of one of the absolute masterworks of the last ten years. (2017, 115 min, DCP Digital) JD
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
Co-Prosperity Sphere (3219 S. Morgan St.) hosts Lightworks: The Films of Sky David, a program of ten 1970s and 80s experimental films by the former Dennis Pies (now Sky David), on Thursday at 7pm. The films will be shown without their soundtracks and will instead be accompanied by a live score by Ben Van Vlissingen. Presented by the new screening series Strange Days Experimental Sci-Fi Cinema. Unconfirmed Running Time, Digital Projection. Free admission.
South Side Projections screens Javier Solórzano Casarin’s 2009 Mexican documentary ELVIRA (70 min, DVD Projection) on Saturday at 7pm at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago), with the film’s subject, Elvira Arellano, in person. Free admission.
The Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) screens Sidney Poitier’s 1972 film BUCK AND THE PREACHER (102 min, 35mm) on Tuesday at 7:30pm. Preceded by a production featurette for Ralph Nelson’s 1966 film DUEL AT DIABLO (7 min, 16mm).
Also at Chicago Filmmakers (5720 N. Ridge Ave.) this week: selections from Ali Abbas’ 2018 web series THE GIRL DEEP DOWN BELOW (Unconfirmed Running Time, Digital Projection) is on Saturday at 8pm. This screening replaces the previously announced ANOTHER LIFE.
Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen’s 2017 Italian/US documentary SPETTACOLO (91 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 7pm; and Craig Atkinson’s 2016 documentary DO NOT RESIST (72 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 1pm. Both free admission.
The Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Juan Antonio Bardem's 1955 Spanish/Italian film DEATH OF A CYCLIST (84 min, DVD Projection) on Wednesday at 7pm. Free admission.
Black Cinema House (at the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, 1456 E 70th St.) screens Phillip Noyce’s 2002 Australian film RABBIT-PROOF FENCE (94 min, Video Projection) on Friday at 7:30pm. Free admission.
The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave.) screens Massimo Ferrari’s 2016 Italian documentary WHERE THE CLOUDS GO (75 min) and his short film THE INTERVIEW (6 min) on Tuesday at 6pm, with Ferrari and producer Gaia Capurso in person; and Luca Guardabascio’s 2016 Italian documentary ANDREA DORIA: ARE THE PASSENGERS SAVED? (77 min) on Wednesday at 6pm. Both free admission.
At the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: Lara Stolman’s 2016 documentary SWIM TEAM (90 min, Digital Projection) is on Monday at 6:30pm; and Arthur Hiller’s 1970 film LOVE STORY (100 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 1 and 7pm. Free admission.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Matthew Miele’s 2018 documentary ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE (91 min, DCP Digital) and Kaouther Ben Hania’s 2017 Tunisian film BEAUTY AND THE DOGS (100 min, DCP Digital) both play for a week;
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Philippe de Broca’s 1966 French film KING OF HEARTS (102 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 1:30pm; Kim Ki-duk’s 2003 South Korean film SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER… AND SPRING (103 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 7pm; Zacharias Kunuk’s 2001 Canadian/Inuit film ATANARJUAT: THE FAST RUNNER (172 min, DCP Digital) is on Monday at 7pm; Elia Kazan’s 1950 film PANIC IN THE STREETS (96 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7 and 9:30pm; Mike Nichols’ 1967 film THE GRADUATE (106 min, DCP Digital) is on Thursday at 7pm; and Richard Attenborough’s 1978 film MAGIC (107 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:30pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s 2017 film GHOST STORIES (97 min, DCP Digital) and Chloë Zhao’s 2017 film THE RIDER (104 min, DCP Digital) both continue.
Facets Cinémathèque plays Timothy McNeil’s 2017 film ANYTHING (94 min, Video Projection) for a week-long run.
The Wilmette Theater (1122 Central Ave., Wilmette) screens Penny Marshall’s 1988 film BIG (130 min, Digital Projection) on Sunday at 2pm, with a post-screening discussion led by film critic and blogger Don Shanahan. www.wilmettetheatre.com
The Chicago Cultural Center screens Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu’s 2017 documentary THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT (130 min, Video Projection) on Saturday at 2pm. Followed by a discussion. Free admission.
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Ana Endara Mislov’s 2016 Panamanian documentary THE JOY OF SOUND (60 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 8pm. Preceded by Sebastián Pinzón Silva’s 2017 Columbian documentary PALENQUE (25 min, Digital Projection). Co-presented by the Chicago Latino Film Festival, and introduced by festival programmer Maria Lopez. Free admission.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has artist Paul Pfeiffer’s two-channel video installation Three Figures in a Room (2016, 48 min looped) on view through May 20.
Currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago: Cauleen Smith's single-channel video SPACE IS THE PLACE (A MARCH FOR SUN RA) (2001) is in the Stone Gallery; Gretchen Bender's eight-channel video installation TOTAL RECALL (1987) is in Gallery 289; Joan Jonas’ MIRROR PIECES INSTALLATION II (1969/2014) is in Gallery 293B; Frances Stark’s 2010 video installation NOTHING IS ENOUGH (14 min loop) in Gallery 295C; and Nam June Paik’s 1986 video sculpture FAMILY OF ROBOT: BABY in Gallery 288.
CINE-LIST: May 18 - May 24, 2018
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // John Dickson, Jb Mabe, Scott Pfeiffer, Michael W. Phillips Jr., Michael G. Smith, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Candace Wirt