NEW on our blog: An interview with local film scholar and professor Therese Grisham, co-author of a new book about director and actress Ida Lupino. Grisham will be introducing a screening of Lupino’s HARD, FAST AND BEAUTIFUL and leading a discussion about women in Hollywood on Monday at Facets. See More Screening below for details. Read the interview here: https://www.cinefile.info/blog/
NOTE: The Gene Siskel Film Center will be closed from December 1 to January 4 for renovations. They will be presenting a handful of off-site screenings this week and next (see below for details).
Alfred Hitchcock’s I CONFESS (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Friday, 7 and 9pm and Sunday, 1:30pm
Catholicism and film have a long, intertwined history with one another for as long as the medium has been alive. From THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC to ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES to much of Martin Scorsese’s oeuvre, its influence can be seen everywhere. Certainly Alfred Hitchcock’s most Catholic film, I CONFESS, tells the story of Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift), a priest who’s taken the confession of a man under his employ who has admitted to committing to a murder. When the murder is reported, it is revealed that two witnesses saw a priest fleeing the scene, which makes Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden who, coincidentally, would go on to play a priest one year later in ON THE WATERFRONT) call in Logan for questioning. Logan becomes a prime suspect, as he cannot absolve himself of the crime since it would require him to break the sacred seal of confession. Hitchcock’s film juxtaposes civic duty with spiritual duty while maintaining a palpable tension throughout. Clift’s performance is morally righteous yet peppered with enough elements from his character’s past to depict him as a fully-realized individual. I CONFESS may not receive the same notoriety as other Hitchcock classics but its enthralling premise and strong performances make it a standout religiously-tinged thriller. (1953, 95 min, 35mm) KC
Phantom Limbs and Future Remains: An Evening with Jay Rosenblatt
Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) – Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
If I had to choose a medium that best exemplifies the shared human experience, I’d pick experimental films made from found footage. Through this mode, we “find” not just images from the past or previously unknown to us, specters revealed through light rather than obscured by it, but also the realization—simultaneously consolatory and discomfiting—that to live is a communal endeavor. San Francisco-based filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt excels in this space, making work that’s as much a magnanimous epistle as it is a rhapsodic concession to the reality that is living and having lived. THE SMELL OF BURNING ANTS (1994, 21 min, 16mm) is described by Rosenblatt as “a haunting account of the pains and trauma of growing up male.” Though it’s easy to scoff at such a summarization, the film beautifully dismantled toxic masculinity before it was even a buzz phrase. A voiceover reminds us that “[n]o one ever tells him what to be, only what not to be. Boys become boys, in large part, by not being girls.” Archival footage of boys in various states inculcates viewers with this unfortunate dichotomy, appropriately confusing the viewer’s perception as one merges what’s being shown with what’s being said. PHANTOM LIMB (2005, 28 min, Digital Projection) is more outrightly personal, as Rosenblatt uses the death of his seven-year-old brother to explore the nuances of loss via found and newly shot footage, including desultory talking head-like interviews. The uncanny combination mirrors the semblant aimlessness of grief; in one section, a voiceover lists advice for the grieving parent while a sheep is shorn of its fleece. Whatever obvious connection there is to be found between the words and the image is lost on me—its ineffable beauty suggests the macabre elegance often found in anguish. His most recent film, THE KODACHROME ELEGIES (2017, 11 min, DCP Digital), masterfully compares private and public spheres through its shared format, Kodachrome film, which, as is noted in the piece, “was valued for its rich tones and vibrant colors.” The short is book-ended by home movies made by Rosenblatt’s parents and the infamous Zapruder footage of Kennedy’s assassination, both shot on Kodachrome 8mm. The film does indeed suggest “the end of an era and the loss of innocence,” quoting Rosenblatt’s own words, as well as corporeal attachments between disparate entities, something that’s gradually disappearing as we float into the cloud. Finally, HUMAN REMAINS (1998, 30 mins, 16mm) is the second earliest work in the program, but confining it to chronology would be as absurd as the film itself, which is perhaps the best reason to save it for last. One could describe it as a documentary; it does indeed use documents, both images and texts, to construct offbeat vignettes about the 20th century’s cruelest tyrants. The personal lives of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Francisco Franco, and Mao Tse Tung are glibly detailed via an amalgamation of archival footage and real facts voiced in both the subjects' respective languages and English. The only thing missing from the candid enumerations are details of their horrific actions—remove those, and it seems most dictators are just kinksters who really love their dogs. Banality of evil, indeed. Once jokingly referred to by Rosenblatt as “'Dictators Are People, Too!'' it’s nonetheless a mordant reminder of that very shared humanity from which good and evil alike can stem. Rosenblatt in person. (1994-2017, 90 min total, 16mm and Digital Projection) KS
Carol Munday Lawrence’s NGUZO SABA Films (Animation Revival) + Carol Munday Lawrence’s “WERE YOU THERE” (Documentary Revival)
South Side Projections and Black World Cinema at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) – Saturday, 3pm (Free Admission) // South Side Projections and Black World Cinema at the DuSable Museum of African-American History (740 E. 56th Pl.) – Saturday, 7pm (Free Admission)
Based on the two selections screening at the DuSable Museum this Saturday, the 1981 TV series Were You There was an innovative program that used a combination of documentary and narrative strategies to pay tribute to figures in recent African-American history. Both 30-minute selections—“Oscar Micheaux: Film Pioneer” and “The Facts of Life” (about Chicago-based bluesman Willie Dixon)—are celebratory and packed with facts, sharing much biographical information about their subjects and contextualizing them within larger historical phenomena. In the Micheaux episode, the phenomenon is the rise of American independent filmmaking; writer-producer Carol Munday Lawrence characterizes Micheaux as a gifted storyteller and an inspired huckster who used every trick in the book to raise money for his groundbreaking features and to cut costs on the productions. (A young Danny Glover plays Micheaux in the dramatizations, and he gives an ingratiating performance during his brief screen time.) In the Dixon episode, the phenomena under consideration are American blues music and the migration of African-Americans from the rural south to northern cities in the first half of the 20th century. Dixon comes to seem like as much of a showman as Micheaux, turning his personal struggle into wonderful songs. Lawrence will attend the screening of the Were You There episodes as well as another screening, earlier in the day, of animated films she produced between 1972 and 1981. This program of shorts, all screening from 16mm, illustrate the nguzo saba, or seven principles of unity that are associated with the holiday of Kwanzaa, with each short dedicated to a different principle. The stories are drawn from folktales from the African Diaspora, and the drawing styles, appropriately, evoke different folk art traditions. Taken together, the shorts provide a vibrant lesson in African cultural history, making the 50-minute program ideal viewing for young audiences. Lawrence in person at both screenings. The “Were You There” program is followed by a conversation between Lawrence and writer/filmmaker Ytasha L. Womack. (Nguzo Saba: 1972-81, approx. 50 min total, 16mm / Were You There: 1981, 60 min total, DVD Projection) BS
Arthur Penn’s NIGHT MOVES (American Revival)
Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) – Tuesday, 7:30pm
The synopsis of Arthur Penn’s NIGHT MOVES is especially inane, at least on paper: Gene Hackman stars as Harry Moseby, a former pro football player turned private investigator. Set in Los Angeles, the film follows Moseby after he’s hired to find an aging actress’s runaway teenage daughter, all while juggling his own domiciliary drama—hoping to surprise his wife at a screening of Eric Rohmer’s MY NIGHT AT MAUD’S, he discovers that she’s having an affair with a decidedly less virile figure. To avoid his problems at home, he follows the 16-year-old girl (Melanie Griffith in her first speaking role; creepy James Woods also makes an early career appearance as a lubricious mechanic) down to Florida, where she’s living with her ex-stepfather and his flaxen-haired paramour. And that’s not even the half of it. There’s also stuff about Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, stunt plane debauchery, and, finally, artifacts smuggled from the Yucatán. Dubbed a neo-noir and now considered something of a classic from its era (noted critic and Penn enthusiast Robin Wood wrote that “NIGHT MOVES is among the finest Hollywood films of the 1970s”), it’s appropriate, then, that it’s reminiscent of Robert Aldrich’s seminal—and similarly bewildering—genre staple KISS ME DEADLY; the plot is secondary to its temperament, desperate and paranoid in its dogmatic, post-Watergate pursuit of the Truth, whatever that may be. Any confusedness, however, is transmogrified by Penn’s direction, as is his style—his is an expression that conquers, even when the triumphs are more subtle than absolute. I’d remarked in my write-up of Penn’s BONNIE AND CLYDE that it augured a contemporary mode of cinema, one that’s reflecting our sui generis brand of violence back at us vis-à-vis seemingly evanescent divertissement. I wouldn’t be surprised if, much like Penn’s progression from overtly choleric themes à la BONNIE AND CLYDE to the more understated perlustration found in NIGHT MOVES, we start seeing films that invite us to explore our own latent anxieties rather than revel in a timely—albeit fleeting, as all violence is—condition of brutality. Perhaps those, too, in their solitary eccentricities, will seem inane forty years from now. Preceded by “The Big Setup,” a 1956 episode of the television series “Dragnet,” directed by Jack Webb (30 min, 35mm). (1975, 99 min, 35mm) K
Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s LOLA (German Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Sunday, 7pm
Doc Films concludes their Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective with one of the director’s final films, LOLA. The director labeled this the third in his “BRD Trilogy” (films about life under the postwar reconstruction of Germany), although it was made second; the “middle” episode, VERONIKA VOSS, would be made the following year. Despite this designation, LOLA feels like a middle work—it doesn’t reach the grand emotions of THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN and VERONIKA VOSS, but rather achieves what Dave Kehr (writing in 1982) described as “stability, and with it a species of happiness.” The film’s relative pleasantness makes it unique in Fassbinder’s canon, which is full of neurotic characters and unhappy endings; it suggests that, had he lived on, Fassbinder might have started to temper his creative fixations with a more crowd-pleasing spirit, a la Pedro Almodovar. LOLA anticipates Almodovar’s films in its exaggerated color scheme; as Kehr writes, “Flirting with cliche, Fassbinder assigns different colors of light to his protagonists—a clear, celestial blue for von Bohm [the idealistic building commissioner played by Armin Mueller-Stahl], an overheated mauve for Lola [the prostitute and burlesque singer who steals von Bohm’s heart, played by Barbara Sukowa]—but he avoids cliche (and here is his technique in a nutshell) by pushing the device to its limits. The contrasting colors are used so frequently and so insistently that they cease to have a simple metaphorical function. The colors don’t ‘express’ the characters as much as they come to entrap them. The actors are isolated in separate color spheres—separate moralities, separate worlds.” The story of LOLA was derived from Josef von Sternberg’s THE BLUE ANGEL (1930), in which Marlene Dietrich’s Lola Lola entraps and socially disgraces an upright schoolteacher played Emil Jannings. Updated to the late 1950s, Fassbinder and his writers Pea Frohlich and Peter Martheesheimer transform the narrative into one of compromise; von Bohm doesn’t fall from society, but rather enters into it, accepting Lola for who she is and coming to terms with the corrupt building contractor who “keeps” Lola and profits illegally off the construction in his town. If the grand theme of the BRD Trilogy is that Germany lost its soul in the process of rebuilding its economy and infrastructure, then LOLA tempers that theme a bit, leaving its characters enough of their souls to hold on to once social forces have had their way with them. (1981, 115 min, 35mm) BS
Arturo Ripstein's TIME TO DIE (Mexican Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center at the Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) – Monday, 6pm
One of many interesting things about Arturo Ripstein's Mexican Western TIME TO DIE is just how much it plays like an American Western, making you think once again about how very arbitrary that border between Mexico and the U.S. really is. Still, for many the hook for this memorable low-budget movie will be its literary pedigree: Gabriel García Márquez, the esteemed Columbian man of letters, wrote the movie's story, then adapted it into a screenplay with no less than Carlos Fuentes, the great Mexican novelist. TIME TO DIE, now restored by Film Movement for its 50th anniversary, is also the debut feature of Mexican auteur Ripstein (BLEAK STREET, THE CASTLE OF PURITY, DEEP CRIMSON), who got his start as a protégé to Buñuel, visiting the set of THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL to learn at the feet of the master. After 18 years away in prison for killing a man, an honorable man (Jorge Martínez de Hoyos) comes back to his little town. He's paunchy now, in his 40s, and gentle. Once, however, he was considered "bulletproof," "the best with women, horses and pistols—a real man." (The movie's a subversion of this kind of machismo.) He doesn't realize the two sons of the dead man, a bad egg he killed fair and square in a duel, still want to kill him, particularly the vengeful older brother (Alfredo Leal). He befriends the kind younger brother (Enrique Rocha), whose girlfriend (Blanca Sánchez) does her best to forestall the inevitable. She takes counsel from the bitter experience of her older friend (Marga López), who, all those years ago, was the "killer's" fiancée. He just wants to knit and live out his days quietly with the woman he still loves. Soon enough, however, he's suiting up to repeat the past, putting on the same vest he wore on that fateful day. Though Ripstein had a major career that continues to this day, he doesn't rate an entry in any of the three film encyclopedias I own. He's been influential, though: Alex Cox has said, "In the 1990s all the feature films I made were shot in a style the Mexicans call 'plano secuencia' (a single master for every scene). I was inspired in this by my friend the director Arturo Ripstein." I like the way he moves his camera, often gliding elegantly around his people rather than deploying conventional shot/countershot. I enjoyed the occasional strange cut, wherein he'll switch location in mid-conversation. The sound design, too, is sometimes distorted and subjective, as when the ticking of a clock seems to quicken and get louder, as if it were a nervous woman's heartbeat. Note the visual elaboration of certain thematic elements (fathers and sons, fate), such as the moment when the older son catches a glimpse of himself in a mirror on a high wall, and in the frame he looks just like the painting of his late father he keeps in his room. Alex Phillips's sensory cinematography makes us feel the dusty heat coming off the cobblestones, and the guitar-based score by Carlos Jiménez Mabarak is lovely and plaintive. All the heavy thematic material, straight out of Greek tragedy as it is, could sound ponderous, but it never really is (even if it is a bit self-conscious at times). Instead, it's a movingly primal and classical tale. García Márquez once acknowledged the thread in his work of "love that encounters obstacles." "Love and death are always very close," he went on. "That's something Shakespeare invented before us." All of this is very much on the screen in TIME TO DIE. (1965, 88 min, Unconfirmed Format) SP
Christopher Nolan’s DUNKRIRK (New British)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 and 9pm and Sunday, 3:30pm
Christopher Nolan’s 10th feature film finds the director delving into the past to tell the story of Dunkirk, a moment during World War II in which 400,000 British and French soldiers find themselves cornered along the shore of the Strait of Dover with German forces closing in from all sides. Focusing on the extraction of the British soldiers, the film’s narrative is split into three timelines, from the perspectives of those on land, on the sea, and in the air. The most unique feature here is the differences in time dilation that each of these plot threads experiences—the time scale covering a week, a day, and an hour, respectively. Much like the structuring of Steven Soderbergh’s TRAFFIC, these scenarios are differentiated from one another via distinct tones. Despite being a war film and covering so much material, the film is relatively light on dialogue. Instead, Nolan seeks to create impact through visually stunning detail and intimate camera work. Cameras are strapped to planes, on boats, and to cameraman in the water, creating a deeply immersive experience. As seen throughout his oeuvre, in which he’s been a proponent of on-location shooting and the use of practical effects, the vast beaches coupled with huge warships create a daunting sense of scale. This immensity also helps to create isolation; some of the characters seem but a drop of rain in a storm—an impression accentuated by the use of soft focus during long shots. Hans Zimmer’s score creates foreboding and suspense. Rising and swelling like the sea itself, the music is underlined with the tick-tock of a pocket-watch, driving home the theme of elapsing time. Drawing inspiration from films as diverse as SUNRISE and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, and building on ideas explored in Nolan’s own films MEMENTO and INCEPTION, DUNKIRK immerses its audience with its complex, interweaving storylines. (2017, 106 min, DCP Digital) KC
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The new quarterly screening series Channels presents two screenings at Cinema Borealis (1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., 4th Floor) on Sunday. At 6pm is a shorts program, with Olivia Ciummo’s MISSING IN-BETWEEN THE PHYSICAL PROPER (2017, 6 min), Tomonari Nishikawa’s TEN MORNINGS TEN EVENINGS AND ONE HORIZON (2016, 10 min, 16mm), Jennifer Saparzadeh’s NU DEM (2017, 10 min), Brigid McCaffrey’s BAD MAMA, WHO CARES (2016, 12 min, 35mm), Ana Vaz’s AMÉRIKA: BAHÍA DE LAS FLECHAS (2016, 9 min), Marianna Milhorat’s THIS IS NOT AN ANCHOR, THIS BOAT IS NOT AN ANCHOR (2007, 12 min), and AJ McClenon’s HE KIND OF LIKE SKIPS OVER ME AND TELLS ALL MY AFRICAN-AMERICAN FRIENDS TO GO SIT DOWN. (2015, 9 min) [Digital Projection except where noted]; and at 8pm is Stephen Broomer’s 2017 experimental feature POTAMKIN (67 min, 16mm).
The Pop-Up Film Festival continues at Oakton Community College on Friday at 12:30pm with the shorts program Women in Danger. Included are Clare Cooney’s RUNNER, Sadie Rogers' CHIP V.2, and Layne Marie Williams and Lonnie Edwards’ AN ATRAMENTOUS MIND, with all four in person. Screenings take place at the Footlik Theatre (1600 E. Golf Rd., Des Plaines, IL). Free admission.
The Museum of Contemporary Photography (600 S. Michigan Ave., Columbia College) presents Inside/Outside, a shorts program curated by Molly Hewitt, in their occasional “Video Playlist” series. The screening is on Wednesday at 6pm. Free admission.
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) hosts Kinosonik: SSSS! Second Sexing Sound Symposium on Saturday at 8pm. Vocalist Frauke Aulbert and musician Seth Parker Woods will accompany a program of films by JoAnn Elam. Free admission.
The Chicago Serbian Film Festival continues through December 4. More information and complete schedule at www.serbianfilmfest.com.
The Midwest Independent Film Festival presents 2017 Best of the Midwest Awards on Tuesday at 8pm (7pm reception) at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark St.). Tickets for this event are $25.
Black Cinema House (at the Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave,) screens Jennia Fredrique and Nathan Hale Williams’ 2016 short film 90 DAYS (20 min, Digital Projection) on Friday at 7pm. Followed by a discussion with cast members and HIV/AIDS treatment experts. Free admission.
At the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: William Dieterle’s 1939 film THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (117 min, Digital Projection) is on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission. www.northbrook.info/events/film
The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave.) screens Sergei Eisenstein and Grigorij Aleksandrov’s 1928 silent Soviet film OCTOBER [TEN DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD] (116 min, Video Projection) on Wednesday at 5:30pm; and Kurt Maetzig and Günter Reisch’s 1958 German film THE SAILOR’S SONG (126 min, Video Projection) on Thursday at 5:30pm. Free admission.
The Gene Siskel Film Center presents a handful of “On Location” screenings at area venues this month while they are closed for renovations. This week: Richard Kane’s 2016 documentary I KNOW A MAN...ASHLEY BRYAN (73 min, Digital Projection) is on Sunday at 2pm at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.); Arturo Ripstein’s 1965 Mexican film TIME TO DIE is on Monday at 6pm at the Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) [see our review under Also Recommended above]; and Lara Stolman's 2016 documentary SWIM TEAM (100 min, Digital Projection) is on Thursday at 7pm at the Gorton Community Center (400 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest).
At the Music Box Theatre this week: James Franco’s 2017 film THE DISASTER ARTIST (98 min, DCP Digital) opens; Sing-A-Long Sound of Music is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am; Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 film THE ROOM (99 min, 35mm) is on Friday at Midnight; and Jim Sharman’s 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight.
At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Nathan Silver’s 2017 US/French film THIRST STREET (83 min, Video Projection) and Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest’s 2017 documentary FOR AHKEEM (90 min, Video Projection) both play for a week; and Ida Lupino’s 1951 film HARD, FAST AND BEAUTIFUL (78 min, Video Projection; Free Admission) is on Monday at 6:30pm, in Facets’ “Teach-In” series. With an introduction and discussion by film scholar and professor Therese Grisham, co-author of Ida Lupino, Director: Her Art and Resilience in a Time of Transition.
The Chicago Cultural Center presents the WTTW-produced documentary MY NEIGHBORHOOD: PILSEN (Unconfirmed Running Time, Video Projection) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.
Sinema Obscura screens Dave Campfield’s 2012 film CEASAR AND OTTO’S DEADLY XMAS (83 min, Video Projection) on Monday at 7:30pm at Township (2200 N. California Ave.).
The Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest (400 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest, IL) Jon Favreau’s 2003 film ELF (97 min, Video Projection) on Saturday at 2pm.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
Currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago: Elizabeth Price’s 2015 video installation K (7 min loop) in Gallery 186; 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.
The SAIC Sullivan Galleries (33 S. State St., 7th Floor) presents Apichatpong Weerasethakul: The Serenity of Madness through December 8. The show features many short films and video installations by the SAIC graduate, along with a selection of photography, sketches, and archival materials.
The Graham Foundation presents David Hartt’s installation in the forest through January 6 at the Madlener House (4 W. Burton Place). The show features photography, sculpture, and a newly commissioned film.
CINE-LIST: December 1 - December 7, 2017
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Jb Mabe, Scott Pfeiffer, Michael G. Smith, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky