Alain Tanner’s CHARLES, DEAD OR ALIVE & JONAH WHO WILL BE 25 IN THE YEAR 2000 (Swiss Revivals)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 7:45pm and Saturday, 5:15pm (Charles), and Saturday, 3pm and Thursday, 6pm (Jonah)
This week the Siskel Center kicks off a seven-film retrospective devoted to Swiss filmmaker Alain Tanner with the director’s first fiction feature, CHARLES, DEAD OR ALIVE, and what is probably his most beloved work, JONAH WHO WILL BE 25 IN THE YEAR 2000. These movies exude a winning antiauthoritarian spirit and a relaxed, humane aesthetic that foregrounds the narratives in character quirks. Watching them, it’s easy to see why Tanner was one of the most popular European filmmakers of the 1970s—the films confront the political zeitgeist of the post-’68 era without ever succumbing to despair. Indeed they offer a sense of hope in difficult times. The title character of CHARLES, DEAD OR ALIVE (1969, 93 min, 35mm), is a 50-year-old industrialist who loses interest in running his family’s watch factory. After suffering a quiet nervous breakdown, and without telling his wife or grown children, he abandons his life and takes up with a bohemian couple, moving into their farmhouse and helping them raise their young child. Charles’s development represents a rejection of industrial society in favor of a more liberated, creative lifestyle (notably one of the young bohemians is a painter), yet the movie doesn’t feel like a political tract. Charles is too lovable and three-dimensional to register as a mere symbol, and his new friends are fully developed as well. Ultimately CHARLES is less about political change than personal fulfillment, which Tanner suggests to be possible in spite of suffocating social conditions. This theme also lies at the heart of the richer (and more upbeat) JONAH. Co-written by British intellectual John Berger, JONAH WHO WILL BE 25 IN THE YEAR 2000 (1976, 116 min, 35mm) follows about a half-dozen leftists over the course of a year as they try to live according to their ideals. The characters include a farmer and his wife, a history teacher determined to teach Marxism to high school students, a supermarket employee who steals food for elderly pensioners, and a former journalist who still aspires to expose corruption in public life. These people occasionally congregate at the farmer’s estate, but the narrative branches off to consider their separate journeys, showing how they respond, per Dave Kehr, “to the dilemma of the revolutionary in non-revolutionary times.” Though the film is littered with dream sequences, it’s no fantasy—each character runs up against challenges that thwart his or her ambitions, reminding viewers of the struggle involved in creating a better world (even on a small scale). At the same time, JONAH is so lively and charming that it’s difficult not to leave the theater in a good mood. It’s also more formally ambitious than the shaggy structure lets on. As Kehr noted in his Chicago Reader review, “[Tanner’s] camera movements draw the characters together in a unique kind of spatial and personal unity that testifies to a commonality of purpose, but one that also—through the shifting perspectives of the tracking shot[s]—preserves a multiplicity of points of view.” For Kehr, the aesthetic marked nothing less than a marriage of Jean Renoir’s humanism and Jean-Luc Godard’s radicalism, a fusion that we can now proclaim to be distinctly Tanneresque. BS
Romain Goupil’s MOURIR À 30 ANS (HALF A LIFE) (French Documentary Revival)
The Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) – Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
Vivid, intimate and moving, Romain Goupil’s MOURIR À 30 ANS (HALF A LIFE) is three documentary memoirs in one: first, it’s a portrait of the artist as a young Trotskyite, recollecting the filmmaker’s period of intense militant activism in Paris from the mid-1960s to early 1970s. Second, it’s a memoir of cinema: the son of a Communist cinematographer, Goupil’s adolescence was dominated by filmmaking as much as by socialist politics, and one of the joys of the film is the way it seamlessly stitches together the amateur shorts of Goupil and his gang with stunning footage of youth in revolt. Of course, cinema and revolution were inextricably linked in this moment. Many commentators have pointed to the February 1968 sacking of beloved Cinematheque Française director Henri Langlois by de Gaulle’s cultural ministers—and the subsequent street protests that saw members of France’s cineaste elite attacked by police—as a precedent, if not a catalyst for the wave of student demonstrations that followed in May. Tellingly, in a breathless sequence chronicling the escalating agitation of the Spring (Goupil’s nimble montage and terse commentary are more than up to the task of capturing the era’s innumerable congresses, strikes, and marches), Goupil recalls “coming out through the broken window of the Langlois room” during an action at the Cinematheque. While MOURIR À 30 ANS is a model of cinematic resourcefulness and a testament to the insurrectionary potential of the medium, it’s even more of a love letter to his fellow militant and best friend Michel Recanati, whose 1978 disappearance (later discovered to be a suicide) triggered this recherche du agit-prop perdu. Politically extroverted yet emotionally withdrawn, Recanati is remembered a decade later with both awe and frustration in talking-head interviews with his fellow activists, all of whom seem to wear the leaden weight of revolutionary disappointment in their faces. It is as a tribute to Recanati, whose “rage to live” still electrifies the viewer, that MOURIR À 30 ANS is most impactful: unlike the sense of collective failure narrated in Chris Marker’s New Left postmortem A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT (1977/1992), the schematic squabbling of Olivier Assayas’ SOMETHING IN THE AIR (2012), and the borderline narcissism of Philippe Garrel’s REGULAR LOVERS (2005), Goupil here distills the all-too-rarely captured qualities of comradeship, of mutual friendship, solidarity, and love, which are both the engine and the aspiration of all emancipatory struggles. Goupil will appear in person, joined in a Q&A moderated by Jennifer Wild, Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at University of Chicago. (1982, 97 min, DCP Digital) MM
Jiri Trnka’s Shorts Program 1 & THE CZECH YEAR (Czech Animation Revivals)
Gene Siskel Film Center—Sunday, 2pm and Monday, 6pm (Shorts) and Sunday, 3:45pm and Wednesday, 6pm (Czech Year)
The Siskel kicks off a month-long presentation of the first American touring retrospective of Czech master animator Jiri Trnka (1912-1969) with two programs devoted to his early work in the 1940s. Trnka Shorts Program 1 includes THE ANIMALS AND THE BRIGANDS (1946, 8 min), a charming fairytale told in rhyme about how some mushrooms and barnyard animals turn the tables on three bandits in a forest at night. THE GIFT (1946, 15 min) is send-up of the creative process, which starts out with a live action scene of a screenwriter gloating over what he thinks is a masterpiece, shoots into a drawn animation describing said masterpiece (compromises the writer must make to appease producers included), and ends with the defeated writer prostrated on the floor. THE SPRINGMAN AND THE SS (1946, 13 min) is a black-and-white drawn animation telling the Czech urban legend of a young man who terrorizes the occupying Nazis in Prague. THE DEVIL’S MILL (1949, 20 min) is about an organ grinder’s dark night of the soul. It is the first film on the bill to feature the stop-motion puppetry for which Trnka is best known. Also showing are ROMANCE WITH DOUBLE BASS (1949, 13 min) and GRANDPA PLANTED A BEET (1945, 10 min). THE CZECH YEAR (1947, 76 min), Trnka’s first feature, is actually a series of seven short films that tell the story of his country through fables and song. Throughout Trnka displays the anarchic spirit of his people, which can’t be contained by either religion or authoritarian control. Though much of the film openly features the church and its role in Czech society, there is pre-Christian pagan feel to the peasant life he presents; a life lived within nature as much as among other people. Trnka’s puppets have immobile wooden faces that only seem more alive for what they withhold by their lack of expression. The stillness of their faces makes them observers of a world in which even the lowliest leaf teems with vitality. The films in these two programs were mostly made before the Communist Party asserted complete control over the country and curtailed artists’ ability to freely express themselves. The wit and ingenuity in Trnka’s work would continue to be evident in his later films, but so would the iron hand of the totalitarian regime under which he would be forced to toil for the rest of his days. (All DCP Projection) DS
Orson Welles' CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (International Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 7 and 9:30pm, and Sunday, 1:30pm
A thoroughly thrilling experience, inspiring on every conceivable level, and one of the saddest films ever made. Welles made a life-long study of Shakespeare, adapting him on stage many times and making, in MACBETH and OTHELLO, two of his best movies. As a very young man, he attempted a mammoth adaptation he called Five Kings, combining scenes from the eight history plays revolving around the War of the Roses and The Merry Wives of Windsor, a project that here, transformed from a youth's ambition to a mature artist's melancholy, forms the seed for CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, a sprawling, strange, and deeply big-hearted melodrama of love and death, honor and betrayal, cowardice and duty, profligacy and desperation. In his films he has always demonstrated a fascination with texture, with visual patterning, with the complex choreographies of incoherent human figures made possible through spaces of grotesque and labyrinthine depth. This is nowhere more apparent than here. In a series of grand kinetic dances, Welles arranges haunting specters of death, swirling amongst and engulfing the lusty, hot-blooded, and immanently life-loving commoners and nobles that populate Shakespeare's version of history. There is no-one so ignoble not to deserve the adoration of Welles's camera, or the dignity of Welles's staging. As Hal, the wastrel son of the usurper King Henry IV, Keith Baxter deserves particular note: he is as affectionate and as cruel as can be borne by one mere character, and his masterful portrayal of Hal's contradictions mirror the contradictions at the heart of the film. No one for more than a moment here is what he or she seems, no space is wholly trustworthy, and no plot truly secret, for the most serious of all games, and the most pleasurable, is that which is played with one's own life as the stake and with no hope of surviving to collect the winnings save in the songs of our loved ones. In short, this film is magic itself, a celebration of cinema as the grandest of tricks, that which alone can transform the past into the present as palpably as memory, and the whole of the material world into the effervescence of poetry. The greatest film by the greatest director. (1965, 119 min, 35mm) KB
Logan Theatre – Wednesday-Sunday, June 6-10
The 25th Chicago Underground Film Festival opens on Wednesday with two sold out screenings of the documentary INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT: THE STORY OF WAX TRAX! RECORDS. The festival continues through Sunday, June 6, with their usual eclectic and exciting mix of features, shorts programs, parties, and several retrospective programs of work by special guest Craig Baldwin (do not miss these!). Besides our selections below, also screening this week is Samira Elagoz’s 2017 documentary CRAIGSLIST ALLSTARS (66 min) on Thursday at 7pm, which is showing with Haley Mary Patricia McCormick’s 2017 experimental film DANCER (which is highly recommended by Cine-File contributor Michael Smith). The complete schedule is at www.cuff.org.
Shorts 1: A Map of an Unknown Territory
CUFF shorts programming kicks off with a striking new film from the late Paul Clipson. As its best, underground filmmaking strives to achieve what Clipson was able to realize with each new film. His films were energetic, passionate, and deeply felt personal expressions. With SPECTRAL ASCENSSION (2017) he explored bursting sunbeams and dense repetitions of overwhelming natural elements. It's a touching tribute to kick off the festival’s main programs with one of his final films. PHANTOM RIDE PHANTOM (2017) by Siegfried A. Fruhauf is a jittering, cracked melding of digital and film, color and B&W, creating a knotty portrait of an empty rail-yard. Mike Gibisser is a master of peculiar and powerful compositions exploring otherwise mundane spaces. His new film TRAVEL STOP (2017) transforms the titular space into something as eerily comfortable as it is banally terrifying. ANCHE IN PARADISO NON E BELLO ESSERE SOLI (EVEN IN PARADISE IT IS NOT GOOD TO BE ALONE) (2017) by Lorenzo Gattorna creates rough-hewn spectral images of Italy in tribute to his grandfather. With THE INVISIBLE AX (2016), Anna Kipervaser aims for the mythic, alternating bold animalistic imagery with phantasmic abstractions. Sky Hopinka further obliterates the lines between abstraction and document with ANTI-OBJECTS, OR SPACE WITHOUT PATH OR BOUNDARY (2017), telling the history of a space and a language while visually fusing color, nature, and urban spaces back into something like an essential whole. Also in this program is the disorienting IN A FREE SOUND FIELD (2017) by Monteith McCollum, the playful COWBOY TOWN by Jennifer Boles, and the massively weird THE SKIN IS GOOD by Anja Dornieden and Juan David Gonzalez Monroy. (2016-18, 90 min total, 16mm and Digital Projection) JBM
Craig Baldwin's WILD GUNMAN & TRIBULATION 99: ALIEN ANOMALIES UNDER AMERICA (Experimental Revivals)
As long as Craig Baldwin lives and works, the term “underground film” still has meaning. Through his ceaseless activity as a filmmaker, publisher, programmer, and proprietor of what may be the last beacon of San Francisco art-damaged freak culture (his Artist’s Television Access space in SF’s ultra-gentrified Mission District), Baldwin affirms the spirit of the underground not as a style or genre, but as a resolutely oppositional mode of political, economic, and artistic existence. That unruly subterranean drive is emblazoned across every frame of the two found-footage shorts that kick off Chicago Underground Film Festival’s well-timed Baldwin retrospective on Thursday. Although fellow Bay Area bricoleur Bruce Conner’s influence is palpable in Baldwin’s early WILD GUNMAN (1978, 20 min, 16mm) —like Conner, Baldwin calls his films a “cinema of poverty"—the latter’s political sensibilities are already more acute, and his arsenal of DIY image-mutating techniques more expansive. With its caustic conflation of Western iconography, American imperialist violence, and toxic TV spectacle, WILD GUNMAN uncannily anticipated the Reagan era. TRIBULATION 99: ALIEN ANOMALIES UNDER AMERICA (1991, 48 min, 16mm), however, is undoubtedly Baldwin’s most visionary assemblage. Congealed from educational and industrial ephemera, TV news, and B-picture sci-fi, TRIBULATION 99 capitalizes on the paranoid connotations of found-footage montage to spin out a preposterously dense and disorienting 48-minute alternative history of CIA meddling in Latin American politics—pictured, two years before The X-Files even, as an occult struggle against a reptilian race of hollow-earth dwelling “Quetzals.” Baldwin’s crackpot mutterings (think William Burroughs as a Castle Films News Parade announcer) clearly anticipate the constipated conspiracies of the InfoWars set, yet I can think of no other film that invented the very genre it parodies: it’s impossible to imagine the archival and geopolitical hopscotching of Adam Curtis’s THE CENTURY OF THE SELF (2002), not to mention the “synchromysticism” of contemporary YouTube emissions like “BACK TO THE FUTURE predicts 9/11” without it. Baldwin has said that “all of my films are about history,” and he remains a stalwart custodian of a perennially endangered “other cinema” whose roots go as deep as the century-spanning archive of celluloid he culls from—but in our absurd era of Q-Anon, Pizzagate, and Flat Earth theory, TRIBULATION 99 alarmingly seems less like a museum piece and more like a special bulletin. MM
Shorts 2: Oh…Squalid Mind
‘Disconcerting’ is the word that comes to mind when viewing the shorts in this program, though it’s an endorsement rather than a warning. Two music videos break up the mix: HAPPY WASTELAND DAY (Ryan Calavano) and SUICIDE OCEAN (Karissa Hahn). The former is for a song by art rap denizen Open Mike Eagle; he writes, “We're releasing this video a year to the day [November 8, 2017] of the election of the garbage king. May our national nightmare end sometime soon,” referencing Trump’s 2016 election. The video is a MAD MAX-ish allegory set against a catchy-as-hell song—rarely is unbridled anger so lit. The latter, for a song by Japanese techno musician Yuji Kondo, is more abstract; an arts journal called Secret Thirteen says that his music “mixes folk, abstract pieces and industrial music, creating a cinematic flow that drifts like a constructivist era silent movie,” an apt description made all the more evident by Hahn’s thoughtful direction. Lyricless, its images are a sort of visual track accompanying the sound rather than vice versa. Other, more oblique work in the program includes Ben Skea's FUTURE EXIT STRATEGY, a hypnotizing piece described as “an episodic video sequence that uses moving image, sound and software to speculate on the future of human intelligence,” and Matthew Nelson's INFORMATION SUPER HIGHWAY, a Kubrickian vignette about artificial intelligence in driverless cars. The remaining films are more narrative-driven, each one unsettling in its own way: Annelise Ogaard's GIRL POWDER works as a satirical, mock-doc examination of the problematic #girlboss culture, this time making the boss babe in question the head of a trendy drug cartel whose assistant is tasked with doing the real dirty work; BLACK DOG (Joshua Tuthill) combines brilliant stop-motion animation and archival footage to tell the story of two brothers during the Space Race—should Wes Anderson ever dare to go full macabre, it might look something like this; Gonçalo Almeida's THURSDAY NIGHT is a fine short about a dog, Bimbo, who receives a visitor in the night; Spencer Parsons' ALPHA WAVED is another entry into the local filmmaker’s idiosyncratic oeuvre—if it has Parsons’ name attached, you know you’re watching something you won’t soon forget; Celine Held and Logan George's BABS follows a young man after he finds his deceased father’s hyper-realistic sex doll; and Jonathan Daniel Brown's HORSESHOE THEORY, a strangely charming and uncomfortably humorous film about two men—one a white supremacist, the other a Muslim radical—who find love in a hopeless place. You’ll leave the screening a little more discomfited (though in this day and age, one’s baseline agitation is likely elevated) than when you arrived, but in the best possible way. Embrace the squalid. (2017, 90 min total, Digital Projection) KS
Charles Vidor’s HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN (American Revival)
Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) - Tuesday, 7:30pm
Although perhaps more known to modern audiences for the stories that served as the basis for some famous Walt Disney films, including THE LITTLE MERMAID, Hans Christian Andersen’s pedigree includes so much more. In this highly fictionalized account of the Danish writer’s life, Hans, played here by Danny Kaye in one of his most fanciful and charismatic performances, leads a simple life as a cobbler in Odense, Denmark, and spends his time regaling children with his fairytales, much to the displeasure of the local school’s headmaster who believes Hans to be distracting them from their schoolwork. After some of the kids fail to show up to school one day it is decided that Hans must leave; he and his apprentice head to Copenhagen to ply his craft there. What follows is a series of happy coincidences and eventually Hans finds himself in a love triangle with the head ballerina of a ballet company and her husband, who is in charge of the company’s productions. Charles Vidor’s film is especially radiant to behold as the film had a large production budget allowing for lavish sets, costumes, and art design. The film features many highly catchy tunes that stick with the viewer long after the movie has ended. Vidor excels at utilizing Andersen’s more famous works, such as Thumbelina and The Ugly Duckling, to serve as a springboard to impart a morale lesson to a character on stage as well as to show the depth of the writer’s works. The radiant Technicolor is always a treat and juxtaposes well with the light-hearted tone this film has. A smorgasbord of visual and aural stimuli, HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN is not a challenging a film by any means but serves as a reminder of the pleasing lavishness found in the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema. Preceded by Ruth Page’s 1977 short ALICE IN WONDERLAND: ACT II (7 min, 16mm Archival Print). (1952, 112 min, 35mm IB Technicolor Print) KC
Umetsugu Inoue’s THE STORMY MAN (Japanese Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 4pm and Tuesday, 6pm
As a cinephile, I revel in the thrill of discovery; as a critic, I get a knot in my stomach over the prospect of my research proving fruitless, as is often the case with relatively obscure international directors about whom there exists little information in English. Such is the case with Umetsugu Inoue—the discovery largely begins and ends with the films themselves, which, as far as I can tell, are worthy of consideration. Put together by Tom Vick, a film curator at the Smithsonian and a scholar whose book on Seijun Suzuki is a personal favorite of mine, the “Umetsugu Inoue: Japan's Music Man” series features five of the director's films, though he made over 100 during his career. The Gene Siskel Film Center is bringing four to Chicago, beginning with THE STORMY MAN. Best known for his musicals, Inoue’s THE STORMY MAN is not just a prime example of one, it’s also “the film that made Yujiro Ishihara a star and the Nikkatsu [Japan’s oldest major movie studio]...solvent,” according to the Harvard Film Archive website—it was the third highest-grossing film of its year in Japan. Ishihara plays Shoichi, a tough young drummer who’s discovered by Miya, her own toughness coming in the way of shrewd business acumen. She takes Shoichi into her home and under her wing, tapping him to replace Charley, Ginza’s number one drummer and her former boyfriend, as part of the popular jazz band she manages. Often called the Japanese Elvis Presley, Ishihara is a talented singer whose on-screen intensity raises the stakes in otherwise rote scenarios; Mie Kitahara, who co-starred with Ishihara in many films though never became as famous, delivers an alluring performance as a woman ahead of her time. Having only seen this one film by Inoue, it’s tough to say how much of its allure can be credited to his direction rather than the strong performances and catchy tunes, though I can say it’s competently helmed and certainly entices me to want to see more. (1957, 101 min, DCP Digital) K
Lynne Ramsay’s YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (New British/American/French)
Gene Siskel Film Center—Check Venue website for showtimes
Lynne Ramsay is one of the most distinctive visual stylists working in film today. Each of her four features is marked by a dream-like, sometimes hallucinatory, feel and a preoccupation with death. Unlike a traditional action or horror director, Ramsay rarely just focuses on external, objective incidents; her camera often strays to catch bits of landscape or goes blurry and out of focus, hinting at interiority and subjectivity. It is often unclear whether what she’s showing is happening in the world or just in her heroes’ heads. This tack works perfectly for a story about a war-damaged vet (Joaquin Phoenix) who has taken it upon himself to save young girls from a child-sex ring run by powerful politicians and businessmen. Based on a novella by Jonathan Ames, the seedy setting and tormented protagonist are clearly indebted to the noir tradition. In fact, Ames has said in interviews that he has been obsessed with Donald Westlake’s Richard Stark novels and wanted to try his hand at that kind of story. An antecedent might be something like John Boorman’s POINT BLANK (based on a Westlake novel). While on the face of it this is a movie about a man using a ball-peen hammer to exact retribution on abusers of little girls, what Ramsay does brilliantly is put the viewer inside a fractured mind. He is a broken man bent on dispensing Old Testament justice in a fallen world. By showing us what he sees Ramsay makes us feel his pain. (2017, 90 min, DCP Digital) DS
Lee Chang-dong's POETRY (South Korean Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Sunday, 7pm
The evolution of Lee Chang-dong from storyteller to soothsayer has been one of the glories of contemporary movies. A former novelist (and high school teacher before that), Lee began his filmmaking career in the energetic, confrontational manner that's marked so much recent Korean cinema. His first films as director, GREEN FISH and PEPPERMINT CANDY, are cannily placed needles in the national nerve; but his third, OASIS, is a revelation, one of the watershed moments in South Korean cinema. A romance between mentally disabled characters that is not sentimental or schematic, or flippantly unkind, it demonstrated how a curiosity about challenging social taboos (a near-constant in the Korean New Wave) could blossom into a study of humanity, period. It is one of the finest films ever made about the opposing forces of love and civic propriety. After a four-year stint as South Korea's Minister of Culture, Lee made SECRET SUNSHINE, a film about the inevitabilities of suffering and spiritual awakening that already seemed timeless shortly after its release. And then, POETRY. The main character, Mija (played by 60s Korean icon Yoon Jeong-hee, who came out of retirement for the role), is an elderly woman deprived, by circumstance, of companionship and anxious to rediscover life by learning to write poems. Like much of Lee's work, this sounds potentially maudlin in summary, though the realization of the material is anything but. As in the case of Jeon Do-yeon's character in SECRET SUNSHINE, Lee reveals different facets of Mija's personality through impulsive, often furtive action without ever betraying an audience's initial impression of her. Combined with the narrative unpredictability that has defined the director's best work, the result is a multi-faceted film that is inseparable—formally as well as structurally—from its central character. (2010, 139 min, 35mm) BS + IV
STANLEY KUBRICK X 4
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes
Stanley Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT (American/British Revival)
It took more than a decade’s remove from its initial release to finally begin to understand Kubrick's final film, which is set in a facsimile of contemporary New York but heeding closely to the psychology and sexual mores of the 1924 novella on which it is based. This discrepancy sparked incurious outrage in 1999—particularly among writers in the New York Times, who actually seemed offended by the lack of realism—but it's come to resonate as one of the deepest mysteries of the director's monumental career. For Martin Scorsese, who placed the film in his top five for the entire decade, it's about New York as it appears in a dream. "And as with all dreams," he wrote, "you never know precisely when you've entered it. Everything seems real and lifelike, but different, a little exaggerated, a little off. Things appear to happen as if they were preordained, sometimes in a strange rhythm from which it's impossible to escape. Audiences really had no preparation for a dream movie that didn't announce itself as such, without the usual signals—hovering mists, people appearing and disappearing at will or floating off the ground. Like Rossellini's VOYAGE IN ITALY, another film severely misunderstood in its time, EYES WIDE SHUT takes a couple on a harrowing journey, at the end of which they're left clinging to each other. Both are films of terrifying self-exposure. They both ask the question: How much trust and faith can you really place in another human being? And they both end tentatively, yet hopefully. Honestly." Kubrick arrived at this combination of mystery and exposure through singular working methods unlikely to be repeated in a major film. Reportedly the longest shoot in movie history, Kubrick spent weeks on individual scenes, running actors through conversations until they were no longer conscious of performing. He had pursued this sort of marathon process before--most notably on THE SHINING and FULL METAL JACKET—but never on material so explicitly psychological. As a result, even superstars like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (giving their finest performances as a wealthy married couple) seem unfamiliar and strangely vulnerable. But EYES WIDE SHUT is only truly unsettling on contemplation: on the surface, it's one of Kubrick's funniest (with some of the most eccentric supporting performances in anything he made after THE KILLING) and most luminous, capturing the allure of Manhattan in winter with remarkably simple lighting arrangements. (1999, 159 min, 35mm) BS
Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING (American Revival)
Though it had been made famous already by ROCKY, it wasn't until THE SHINING that the Steadicam yielded an aesthetic breakthrough in movies. Garrett Brown's innovation—a gyroscope mounted to the bottom of a camera, which allowed cinematographers to create hand-held tracking shots that didn't record their own movement—became in Kubrick's hands a supernatural presence. The film's justly celebrated Steadicam shots evoke a cruel, judgmental eye that does not belong to any human being, a perspective that's harrowing in its implications. (GOODFELLAS, SATANTANGO, and Gus Van Sant's ELEPHANT, to name just three examples, are inconceivable without the film's influence.) In this regard, the horror of THE SHINING makes manifest one subtext running through all of Kubrick's work: that humanity, for all its technical sophistication, will never fully understand its own consciousness. Why else would Kubrick devote nearly 150 takes to the same scene, as he did several times in the film's epic shooting schedule? With the only exceptions being other movies directed by Stanley Kubrick, no one moves or speaks in a film the way they do in THE SHINING. Everything has been rehearsed past the point of technical perfection; the behavior on screen seems the end-point of human evolution. What keeps it all going? (To invoke another great horror film of the era: the devil, probably.) The demons of the Overlook Hotel may very well be a manifestation of the evil within Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who once nearly beat his four-year-old son to death. They could be, like those Steadicam shots, an alien consciousness here to judge the vulnerabilities of mankind. Kubrick never proffers an explanation, which is why THE SHINING is one of the few horror films that actually remains scary on repeated viewings. Nearly every effect here prompts some indelible dread: the unnatural symmetry of Kubrick's compositions; Shelly Duvall's tragic performance (which suggests that horrible victimization is always just around the corner); and the atonal symphonic music by Bartok, Lygeti, and Penderecki that make up the soundtrack. (1980, 142 min, 35mm) BS
Stanley Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET (American Revival)
The inverse of those maudlin male weepies about the terrible things that happen to "our boys" during war, Stanley Kubrick's queasy Vietnam flick is built on the idea that a war movie is just a crime movie without the police. Its famously protracted climax, where soldiers try to kill an enemy sniper, is made with the linear attention to action that defines a good heist scene; the difference is that the protagonists don't just get away—they march through the countryside singing in a scene scarier than anything in THE SHINING. Kubrick is often accused of being a misanthrope, but "disheartened humanist" is much more accurate. This is an exactingly realized work of profound disappointment. (1987, 116 min, 35mm) IV
Stanley Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON (British Revival)
Borrowing many of the 18th century costumes directly from European museums and selecting his score after listening (allegedly) to every piece of 18th century music ever recorded, Stanley Kubrick brought an unprecedented level of verisimilitude to the historical drama with BARRY LYNDON. But rather than revel in the details for their own sake, Kubrick used them to create the eerie effect of a past existing autonomously from us as something like an alien planet--which may explain why Jonathan Rosenbaum has called the film a follow-up of sorts to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Rosenbaum has singled out "John Alcott['s] slow backward zooms" as key to the movie's impact, since they "distance us, both historically and emotionally, from its rambling picaresque narrative." Kubrick manages another great distancing effect with the film's wry, clinical-sounding narration (read by Michael Hordern), which often explains the action before it occurs. This has the immediate impact of making the spectacular, pageant-like mise-en-scene feel anticlimactic: It would be a fine nose-thumbing gesture in itself, but the movie is more complicated than that. Beneath the pomp and technical perfection (This is also the film for which Kubrick developed a special lens that allowed him to shoot scenes entirely by candlelight) is a fable about one man's rise and fall along the conventions of his time. Since the conventions themselves remain just beyond comprehension, Ryan O'Neal, as the title character, seems less of an antihero upon repeated viewings and more of a tragic figure—every bit the victim of systems beyond his control as Dave Bowman in 2001. (1975, 184 min, 35mm) BS
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens Alile Sharon Larkin’s 1982 short feature A DIFFERENT IMAGE (52 min, Preserved 16mm Archival Print), a seminal work from the “L.A. Rebellion” group of UCLA-trained black filmmakers, and Maureen Blackwood’s 1988 UK short PERFECT IMAGE? (30 min, Digital Projection), from the influential Sankofa Film and Video Collective of black British filmmakers, on Friday at 7pm. Introduced by University of Chicago professor Jacqueline Stewart. Free admission.
ArcLight Chicago screens Liu Chia-Liang's 1978 Hong Kong film THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN (115 min, DCP Digital) on Tuesday at 7:30pm.
The Midwest Independent Film Festival presents Noga Ashkenazi’s 2018 film SAINTS REST (85 min, Digital Projection) is on Tuesday at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark St.). A reception is at 6pm; a panel on crowdfunding is at 6:30pm; and the film is at 7:30pm.
The Otherworld Theatre Company presents the Juggernaut Film Festival, which features sci-fi and fantasy films, at the Music Box Theatre on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 11am each day. More info and full schedule at www.juggernautfilmfestival.org.
At the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: Jong-Yeol Baek’s 2015 south Korean film THE BEAUTY INSIDE (127 min, Digital Projection) is on Wednesday at 1 and 7pm. Free admission.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Atsuko Hirayanagi’s 2017 Japanese/US film OH LUCY! (95 min, DCP Digital) and Haifaa Al-Mansour’s UK/Luxembourgian/US film MARY SHELLEY (120 min, DCP Digital) both play for a week.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Ryan Coogler’s 2018 film BLACK PANTHER (134 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 4pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Tony Zierra’s 2017 documentary FILMWORKER (94 min, DCP Digital) opens; Xavier Beauvois’ 2017 French film THE GUARDIANS (138 min, DCP Digital) continues; and Mark Young’s 2018 horror film FERAL (92 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.
Facets Cinémathèque plays Matthew Newton’s 2017 film WHO WE ARE NOW (99 min, Video Projection) for week-long run.
The Wilmette Theater (1122 Central Ave., Wilmette) screens Chris Columbus’ 1990 film HOME ALONE (103 min, Digital Projection) is on Sunday at 2pm. Followed by a discussion led by film critic and blogger Don Shanahan.
The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of Sergio Machado’s 2015 Brazilian film THE VIOLIN TEACHER (102 min, Video Projection) on Wednesday. Free admission.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
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: June 1 - June 7, 2018
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Kian Bergstrom, Kyle Cubr, Jb Mabe, Michael Metzger, Dmitry Samarov, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky