70mm Film Festival at the Music Box Theatre
The Music Box rolls into the second week of the 70mm festival with a diverse assortment of films, new and old. In addition to the titles spotlighted below, also showing are: Carol Reed’s 1965 film THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY (148 min, 70mm) on Saturday at 2:30pm and Tuesday at 7:30pm; Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 film SPARTACUS (184 min, 70mm) on Saturday at 6pm and Thursday at 2:30pm; Richard Brooks’ 1965 film LORD JIM (154 min, 70mm) on Sunday at Noon and Monday at 2:30pm; Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ 1961 musical WEST SIDE STORY (152 min, 70mm) on Sunday at 4pm and Wednesday at 7:30pm; and Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ 2017 film KONG: SKULL ISLAND (118 min, 70mm) on Monday at 9:15pm, Tuesday at 4pm, and Saturday, July 15 at 8pm, with director Vogt-Roberts in person at the Saturday screening.
Tony Scott’s TOP GUN (American Revival)
Friday, 9:30pm and Wednesday, 4:30pm
The five men sit in the locker room, their toned torsos still damp from their showers. Around each of their waists, a thin, white towel is tightly wrapped, under so much tension it must hurt to breathe, let alone walk. Pendulous, pneumatic bulges sway tantalizingly beneath the cloth. Hollywood arches his back against the wall, stroking his chest, pulling at his dog tags. Iceman leans against a post, jutting his pectorals out as far as he can. Maverick struts through the room, surveying the parade of flesh available to his delighted eye. ‘It’s not your flying’, Iceman tells him, sweat beading slightly on his forehead and the bridge of his nose. His mouth hangs open, just a hair, before he continues, ‘it’s your attitude’. As he continues, Maverick bends forward, hanging over Goose, presenting his rear to Iceman. Goose’s head partially obscures the stenciled text, making it seem as though it says ‘MAN OF THE DAY’ rather than ‘PLAN’. ‘The enemy’s dangerous,’ Iceman tells Maverick, ‘but right now, you’re worse than the enemy. You’re dangerous and foolish’. Iceman, back in close-up, clenches his jaw, his face shaking back and forth in frustration. ‘You may not like the guys flying with you’. Hollywood looks down toward Iceman’s crotch. ‘They may not like you’, Iceman says, ‘but whose side are you on?’ Maverick, in profile, faces Goose in the foreground and Wolfman in the background, torn between his need and his desire: will he stay loyal to his partner or, like Wolfman, be submissive to another pilot? Whose side is he on? He’s going to have to choose which man to be with, and what kind of man he’s going to be. Disgusted, Iceman and Hollywood cross each other’s paths as they leave, their rippling flesh and, in Hollywood’s case, powerful upper thighs, heaving as they go. Defeated, Maverick shows Goose his bare left leg, all the way up to his crotch, but Goose stoically refuses to rise to the bait. He, too, has had his heart broken by his naïf of a pilot, but no more. ‘At least Viper got Iceman before he got us. We still got a shot at it,’ he says, the hopelessness and betrayal in his face belying the words that come out of his mouth. Maverick gazes regretfully after Iceman, muttering, ‘that was stupid. I know better than that.’ Back to a two-shot, Maverick concludes, ‘that will never happen again’, pounding his fist in the air.’ Goose rises, caresses Maverick’s shoulder, and walks away. ‘I know’, he says. ‘I know’. Finally, Maverick slumps, listless and deflated, on to the bench. It says something about Tony Scott that the movie he made in which Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon have sex is only his second-queerest melodrama. (1986, 110 min, 70mm) KB
Walt Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY (American Animation Revival)
Friday, 7pm, Saturday, Noon, and Monday, 7pm
An oversized, underdeveloped outlier among Walt Disney Productions' animated features, SLEEPING BEAUTY finds its studio at a crossroads with a thorny bramble on one side and a siren's spindle on the other. Over the course of SLEEPING BEAUTY's protracted eight-year production, the American animation business changed radically. The ornate background work that we admire in the earlier Disney features and the shorts from the mid-1930s or the Chuck Jones "Looney Tunes" of the late 1940s had given way to economical imperative of upstart studio UPA: a slanty, stripped-down style that rounded its grubby thriftiness up to an act of modernist non-conformity. The story of studio animation in the 1950s is the struggle to assimilate the lessons of UPA into the house styles that had developed when inkers, painters, and in-betweeners were as plentiful (and as abused) as medieval laborers. It's a tension that's literalized in the very form of SLEEPING BEAUTY—it's Disney's Chartres, built from the blueprints of a post-war bungalow colony. In a "4 Artists Paint 1 Tree," a production featurette that the company finished and released before SLEEPING BEAUTY's completion, Walt himself manfully struggles with the contradiction of celebrating the individual personalities of the artists he's hired to build an assembly-line animation empire. He values their unique creativity, but gently reminds the audience that his employees will always need to sacrifice their flights of creative fancy if they hope to fashion a work of aesthetic-corporate harmony. Alas, SLEEPING BEAUTY brought this formula to its breaking point. The character animation (save Maleficent and her enchanted alter egos) plays as rote and flat as any in the post-UPA landscape. The narrative flow is pokey, too: the antics of the three fairies—color-coded like Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and no more grown-up—achieve the supernatural feat of slowing down a movie that only comes out to an hour and fifteen minutes. But, sweet mother of God, the backgrounds! Largely the work of Eyvind Erle, a painter and greeting card designer sacked from Disney before this feature was finished, SLEEPING BEAUTY's widescreen vistas are among the studio's most durable accomplishments—full-bodied, beautiful, and a winsome justification of the Super Technirama 70 process. Erle's work simply overshadows everything else in the movie—including the score adapted from Tchaikovsky. The characters in the foreground move while the objects in the background remain still, but it's the latter here that embodies the promise of animation. The film begins to resemble a medieval remnant—a collective work whose individual signatures have been worn away with the years—or chiseled off by a jealous taskmaster. (1959, 75 min, 70mm) KAW
Robert Altman's SHORT CUTS (American Revival)
Presented by the Chicago Film Society – Sunday, 8pm
Robert Altman's SHORT CUTS (American Revival)
Presented by the Chicago Film Society – Sunday, 8pm
Robert Altman, the great purveyor of omnibus character dramas, reached a pinnacle of a self-styled form in 1993 with SHORT CUTS. Nominally based on nine of Raymond Carver's short stories and a poem ("Raymond Carver soup," as Altman once described it), SHORT CUTS consists of twenty-two L.A. locals who intersect in plots of Carver-esque realism. Where some of Altman's early films like NASHVILLE contained interwoven characters and narratives, these films felt less tightly controlled than SHORT CUTS. The freedom of those earlier films conjured an image of a director on his characters' level, deeply curious about them but indifferent to their choices and outcomes. (Contrast this with Paul Thomas Anderson's heavy-handed MAGNOLIA—a film greatly indebted to SHORT CUTS—where his characters are dealt one cynical blow after another.) Altman's evolution in SHORT CUTS shows more of the tinker—not necessarily superior to his characters but quietly orchestrating them to certain places on certain cues. Characters are less inclined to spontaneity and instead are freighted with a kismet (read: contrived) interconnectedness that is, more than less, natural for the world of the film. Disasters, natural and otherwise, touch everyone in the film and serve as unifying devices, providing thematic resonance to the characters' scattershot, middling lives. At three hours, SHORT CUTS is epic in scale and subject matter, showcasing Altman's brute force brilliance: it isn't always pretty, but damn if it doesn't work. Preceded by a 70mm film trailer reel. (1993, 188 min, 70mm) BW
Christopher Nolan's INTERSTELLAR (Contemporary American)
Saturday, 10:15pm and Thursday, 7:30pm
Throughout the summer and early fall of 2014, INTERSTELLAR was discussed in hushed tones by Oscarologists and box office prognosticators, positioned sight unseen as an automatic blockbuster that would steamroll everything in its path—a feat of original I.P. that would tug at the heart and the wallet. Projectionists everywhere welcomed director Christopher Nolan's emphatically pro-celluloid public posture and marveled at the clout he exercised in goading Paramount Pictures to commit to a sizable run of 35mm, 70mm, and 70mm IMAX prints months after the studio had quietly abandoned analog distribution. When was the last time a one-sheet listed the available gauges under the contractual credits block? When word leaked that the film was nearly three hours long, the fanboys relitigated their starry-eyed comparisons to Kubrick and Tarkovsky. Physicists Kip Thorne and Neil deGrasse Tyson touted the movie's scientific bona fides. Then INTERSTELLAR actually came out. The reception was icier than the snow-swept landscapes that automatically connote a Nolan movie, a trope appearing in his work almost as frequently as murdered wives and guilt-ridden husbands. (How does Nolan's own spouse, Emma Thomas—also his producer—feel about all that?) It was pretentious, talky, sentimental, and it stopped the nascent McConnaissance dead in its tracks. The sound mix, including Hans Zimmer's Wendy-Carlos-at-the-electromagnetic-church-organ score, was roundly pilloried as unintelligible mud. Nolan and his co-scripting brother Jonathan cited 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY as their Rosetta Monolith, but fell short of their inspiration: if the 1968 film melded the dreamy design of vintage sci-fi illustrations with the weighty, pseudo-spiritual aura of a photo essay in Life, INTERSTELLAR played more like a crumpled issue of the Saturday Evening Post, unstuck in time. All told, INTERSTELLAR is just about the squarest blockbuster to arrive in many a moon. (How square? When the INTERSTELLAR Oscar campaign failed to gain traction, Paramount bought a two-page spread in the Hollywood Reporter that reprinted a recent endorsement from David Brooks in its entirety.) In any other movie, astronaut Anne Hathaway's monologue about the unsung scientific value of love would come across as a moment of eye-rolling sexism. And it is that, but it's also unquestionably, unabashedly sincere. INTERSTELLAR believes in love and family as real forces in the physical world, and I don't have the heart to tell it otherwise. (It also literalizes string theory as a multicolored pane of time-bending strings behind your bedroom wall. Think about that for a moment!) The ambition of INTERSTELLAR is inseparable from its clean-shaven nuttiness and its discreet romanticism. Its essential value would only become more pronounced in the aftermath of THE MARTIAN, with which it shares many plot points and several cast members. Both films can be construed as infomercials for NASA and a renewed commitment to STEM education, but the smartass quips and transparent ingratiation of THE MARTIAN are utterly alien to straight-arrow awe of INTERSTELLAR. John Lithgow's grandfatherly ramblings just about sum it up: "When I was a kid, it seemed like they made something new every day. Some, gadget or idea, like every day was Christmas." Make America Great Again? (2014, 169 min, 70mm) KAW
Busby Berkeley’s THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Friday, 6 and 9pm
Primarily known for his work as a designer of elaborate production numbers and later a director in his own right of many 1930s musicals, including the tremendous GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933, Busby Berkeley departed from his normal oeuvre to make THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL, a crime-drama about a boxer on the run from the law. New York southpaw Johnnie Bradfield (John Garfield) has a squeaky clean image that becomes compromised when, while drunk, he blabs to a reporter that his facade is a sham put on for the public. When the reporter is accidentally killed by Johnnie’s manager and Johnnie becomes the prime suspect, he goes on the lam, assuming the identity of Jack Dorney, and finds himself on a farm training the ragtag, reformed youths (played by The ‘Dead End’ Kids) to box. One of the immediate comparisons to this film that comes to mind is the James Cagney driven ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES. Not only do both films feature The ‘Dead End’ Kids but also their central protagonists serve as the patriarchal, role models with sordid pasts trying to inspire the boys to a betterment of their respective situations. Johnnie/Jack is obsessed with not being made a ‘sucker’ and tries to take advantage of all those that he deems are such. Even though Garfield plays his role with charismatic likability, the yin-yang duality of his character remains the film’s most interesting arc, as he struggles with his own demons as well as the extraneous forces around him. THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL established John Garfield as a leading man in Hollywood and signified Busby Berkeley’s range as a director beyond the normal body of work he had been previously known for. (1939, 92 min, 35mm Archival Print) KC
Errol Morris's THE B-SIDE: ELSA DORFMAN'S PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY (New Documentary)
Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes
Edwin H. Land founded the Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge, MA in 1937. Biographies of Land describe an inventor so singularly driven to research that he frequently had to be reminded to eat, and employed teams of assistants working in shifts round-the-clock to keep pace. Land's compulsion to solve problems of light polarization and color constancy were tied to no higher an aim than the democratization of technology. "Grand machines for a grand purpose," Land declared in one promotional video. Fellow Cantabrigian Elsa Dorfman, a photographer whose medium is ultra-rare, large format Polaroids and the subject of Errol Morris's most recent documentary THE B-SIDE, seems a sharp contrast to Land: unassuming, affable, and compelled by her personal and professional relationships. Contrasts in demeanor aside, the inventor and artist's legacies are uncommonly linked. The 80-year-old Dorfman's earliest subjects were friends of the Grolier Poetry Bookshop near Harvard Square: Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Tate. The first two-thirds of THE B-SIDE take the form of a chronological exposition of Dorfman's life by way of her photos. As the photographer opens drawer after drawer in her archive there's an earnestness to her reactions, like greeting an old friend: "Ahhh here's Jonathan!" Dorfman exclaims as she pulls a photo of the Jonathan Richman. Dorfman's lack of guile is what makes her a great documentary subject. She struggled to connect at galleries and financed her tenuous artistic existence through retail portraiture. "Everything I did made sense," she observed, "...if you knew me." The final third of THE B-SIDE leads us to the present where, like the Polaroid enterprise itself, questions of longevity linger over Dorfman. In 2008, post-bankruptcy, Polaroid stopped manufacturing the film and chemicals she used for her ultra-rare, 20x24 camera—one of five left in the world. Efforts were made to stockpile film but eventually Dorfman chose to retire, commenting to the New York Times, "It's dwindling, and I'm dwindling." The concepts of perishability and impermanence are at the core of Morris's latest work. The documentary serves as a bittersweet contrast between the hope of the inventor Land at the outset that Polaroid will "become part of the human being; an adjunct to your memory," and the realization of the artist Dorfman at the end of a career: "If you're a photographer and you're always nailing down what's the now, you realize it doesn't matter ... the now is always racing beyond you." (2017, 76 min, DCP Digital) JS
Bertrand Tavernier's MY JOURNEY THROUGH FRENCH CINEMA (New French Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes
The first of a projected series, this is Bertrand Tavernier's very personal, illuminating three-hour-plus waltz through my favorite of the great world cinemas. Gazing upon Jacques Becker's cinema, and the incandescent Simone Signoret, Tavernier muses we can feel his characters' heartbeats. He honors Jean Gabin, in the words of Roger Ebert "the greatest of all French leading men," with passages from Becker, Jean Renoir, and Julien Duvivier. Screenwriter Jacques Prévert gets love for his work with Marcel Carne, as do composers Antoine Duhamel and Georges Delarue for the beauty of their scores for François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. Tavernier takes a long look at Jean-Pierre Melville, his first mentor, and celebrates Claude Sautet. Given one lifetime, we may never get to see all of the films quoted here, but at least a lifelong connoisseur has given us a taste of the best. (2016, 192 min, DCP Digital) SP
Olivier Assayas' PERSONAL SHOPPER (New French)
Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) – Saturday, 2 and 7:30pm (Free Admission)
PERSONAL SHOPPER continues to explore themes that run throughout Olivier Assayas' oeuvre, especially CLEAN (2004) and CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (2014). Much like CLEAN, which starred Maggie Cheung, the film centers on an isolated, inward-facing character recovering from trauma in the city of Paris. Much like CLOUDS, the film stars Kristen Stewart, who plays a personal assistant (specifically in this case, a personal shopper) to a glamorous actress entrenched in the world of celebrity and fashion. Unlike CLOUDS, however, PERSONAL SHOPPER delves into the world of the assistant, and the single-name celebrity, Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten), is seen rarely. Kristen Stewart commands almost every second of screen time, much like Maggie Cheung does in CLEAN. Drawing comparisons among these three films is helpful in finding more depth and meaning in PERSONAL SHOPPER, which suffers in some ways from a meandering, underdeveloped screenplay that elicits accidental laughs and does too much juggling of tone to strike a resounding emotional chord. Assayas called the movie a "collage," but unfortunately the collage is uneven in execution, despite an incredibly impressive performance from Stewart. Apart from the unevenness of the screenplay, the movie has many interesting aspect, and one of the most inspired is allowing Kristen Stewart to do things without being highly sexualized and without speaking. She emotes in a subterraneously explosive manner, indicating the enormous tension within her character without overtly emoting. It's surprisingly captivating. PERSONAL SHOPPER vacillates between several genres, from dark comedy to coming-of-age to psychological thriller, and lastly to horror. The reason the film vacillates so much is due in part to the actual plot: Maureen (Stewart) is a personal shopper by day, and a medium on nights and weekends, mourning her dead twin brother who said he would send her a sign from beyond. She is in Paris for an indefinite amount of time, putting off her own life, and existing as something of a ghost herself, just waiting. Because the movie accepts the existence of ghosts as a given, it turns into a psychological thriller (revolving around an exchange of text messages with an unknown number who may or may not be Maureen's brother...it gets old, fast, watching text messages pop up on a screen), and then a spooky horror (by far the weakest element of the movie), while exploring elements of Maureen's character in quieter, sadder, less suspenseful scenes, hinting at depths the movie never quite reaches. Critics have disagreed widely in their reviews of the film, and it is easy to see why, but it is still highly recommended to see the film for yourself and wonder what this could have been with a stronger screenplay, given how fascinating it is to watch already. (2016, 105 min, DCP Digital) AE
Alejandro Jodorowsky's SANTA SANGRE (Mexican Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Saturday, 7 and 9:30pm
You wouldn't know it from the circus freaks, the religious cults, and the malicious (not to mention limbless) mothers, but SANTA SANGRE is Alejandro Jodorowsky all grown up. Separated from his early staples of hallucinatory cinema, EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, by 16 odd years and a highly mythologized failed first crack at Frank Herbert's Dune, the film finds Jodorowsky with an unexpected amount of narrative confidence, and surrealist sensibilities half as wild, yet twice as perceptive as all his concoctions to date. He spins the story of Fenix, troubled son of the circus, both in flashback and flash-forward, and the first half even tugs a few heartstrings with its tale of love, loss, and complete mental breakdown in the world of ethereal trapeze artists and adulterous knife-throwers. The murderous second half shakes things up, and Fenix's story takes a most unorthodox Oedipal twist that could wake Freud from cold, dead slumber. It's here we recapture some of the Jodorowsky visual flair we once knew, but more importantly, as the film veers firmly into the horror genre, he gets to flex his muscles as a surrealist pioneer. Sure, it's nowhere Lucio Fulci hadn't dabbled before, but Jodorowsky's return proves a surprisingly wise and unsurprisingly creepy effort, not quite the sensory experience that his earlier works remain, but every bit as much a great film. (1989, 123 min, DCP Digital) TJ
Andrei Tarkovsky's STALKER (Soviet Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 7:45pm; Saturday, 4:45pm; and Monday, 6:30pm
Loosely based on the Soviet novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Tarkovsky's STALKER creates a decrepit industrial world where a mysterious Zone is sealed off by the government. The Zone, rumored to be of alien origin, is navigable by guides known as Stalkers. The Stalker of the title leads a writer and a scientist through the surrounding detritus into the oneiric Zone—an allegorical stand-in for nothing less than life itself—on a spiritual quest for a room that grants one's deepest subconscious wish. Tarkovsky composes his scenes to obscure the surroundings and tightly controls the audience's view through long, choreographed takes. Shots run long and are cut seamlessly. Coupled with non-localized sounds and a methodical synth score, sequences in the film beckon the audience into its illusion of continuous action while heightening the sense of time passing. The use of nondiegetic sounds subtly reminds us that this may be a subjective world established for the Stalker's mystical purpose. Where sci-fi films tend to overstate humanity's limitless imagination of the universe, Tarkovsky reappropriates the genre's trappings to suggest the cosmos' deepest truths are in one's own mind. STALKER posits—perhaps frighteningly—that, in this exploration of the self, there is something that knows more about us than we know ourselves. The writer and scientist, both at their spiritual and intellectual nadir, hope the room will renew their métier; the Stalker's purpose, as stated by Tarkovsky, is to "impose on them the idea of hope." But STALKER is a rich and continually inspiring work not for this (or any other) fixed meaning but rather for its resistance to any one single interpretation. (1979, 163 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) BW
Brian Ashby, Ben Kolak and Courtney Prokopas's SCRAPPERS (Documentary)
ReBuilding Exchange (1740 W. Webster Ave.) – Wednesday, 6pm (Free Admission)
SCRAPPERS, which won both the Best Documentary Feature and Audience awards at the 2010 Chicago Underground Film Festival, is the definitive record of a vast underground culture. Who drives those spray-painted trucks with high walls full of battered appliances, and what happens to the things they collect? The first feature-length documentary by Brian Ashby, Ben Kolak and Courtney Prokopas, SCRAPPERS travels with two hardworking men and their families through three years of life at the margins of fickle, consumer-driven industry. The patient and curious camera reveals a Chicago of informal economies, not just ins and outs of collecting scrap metal, but bargains with neighbors through car windows and child-care arrangements made when everybody works and no one has money. Like their subjects, the filmmakers are quick on their toes and have their eyes wide open to the luck of circumstance; their captured goods range from the tenderly human to the violently mechanized. We notice every cat that wanders through the frame and peek into every pot cooking on a stove. The familiar aspect of Chicago's alleyways is rendered uncanny with gliding, truck's-eye-view camera work. Long wordless sequences of cars being compressed and copper being turned from cables to dust are buoyed by Chicago percussionist Frank Rosaly's optimistic workday funk score (performed on found metal objects). With the exception of a handful of well-placed inter-titles, SCRAPPERS lets the subjects and images do all the telling of both the personal stories about making ends meet and the big political story about a crashing economy and the crashing price of metals. They are the same and different stories at once; the connections are deep and plain. Documentaries rarely balance deep involvement with such a light touch. The result is essential. (2009, 90 min, Video Projection) JF
Terence Davies’ A QUIET PASSION (New British)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes
Substance aside, I remember three things from my early literary education: One, that William Shakespeare may not have written the classic plays attributed to him, and that other persons ranging from Christopher Marlowe to Queen Elizabeth could have in fact been the “real” Bard; two, that Charles Dickens allegedly wrote such long novels because he was paid by the word; and three, that noted poet Emily Dickinson was a notorious recluse who rarely left her home. To a young mind yearning to discover that fact is indeed stranger than fiction, these claims, now largely demystified, inspired as much interest as their subjects’ venerated oeuvres. Dickinson’s circumstances, however, beguiled me more than the others. Sure, a clandestine literary scandal and felicitous business acumen are intriguing, but her self-imposed sequestration resonated with my pre-teen self (“The Soul selects her own Society —/Then — shuts the Door —/To her divine Majority —/” she writes in Poem 303). And though the idiosyncrasies of her confinement are better understood thanks in part to a myriad of click-bait listicles with headlines like “Most Exaggerated/Bizarre/Just Plain Stupid Myths About Writers with Brown Hair” or whatever, critics still made a point of decrying Dickinson’s life as being inherently uncinematic when writing about Terence Davies’ A QUIET PASSION. On the contrary, her life is ripe for filmic rendering, and Davies succeeds in evoking the richness of an oft-ignored subject—a woman’s byzantine interior, wontedly suppressed beneath a slavish exterior. (Dickinson laments in Poem 764: “My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun - /In Corners - till a Day /The Owner passed - identified -/And carried Me away -.”) A biopic is an interesting choice for a director celebrated for his fiercely personal fixations, though all of his films since THE LONG DAY CLOSES (1992) with the exception of one (OF TIME AND THE CITY in 2008, his only documentary) have dealt with broader themes, having as their source an array of books (THE NEON BIBLE, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, and SUNSET SONG) as well as a play (THE DEEP BLUE SEA). Still, it’s clear that Davies chooses sources close to his personal interests; in addition to possessing a fervent love of poetry, Davies presents Dickinson, who’s played brilliantly by Cynthia Nixon in yet another of the director's perfect, albeit surprising, casting choices (Emma Bell as the teenaged Emily is also amazing), as a feminist hero who rallied—sometimes with her voice, sometimes with her pen—against various forms of oppression. Two interludes in particular emblazon the film with his auteurist stamp: the first, the literal aging of the central characters, bridging the gap between Dickinson’s religiously rebellious childhood (another personal theme) and her later years initially spent in the company of family and friends, then finally alone in her house before she died at the age of 55 (the myth of her seclusion rooted in some legitimacy), and the second, an auspiciously disparate, documentary-style interlude about the Civil War, complete with music, colorized photographs and jarring death tolls. The former effect—and yes, it is quite an effect—is representative of Davies’ preoccupation with the passing of time, while the latter allows him to include an experience near to his own life—war. Dickinson lived during the Civil War—in fact, it was her most fruitful period, as she wrote almost half her poems over those years—but none of her work references it (in her foreword for The Essential Emily Dickinson, Joyce Carol Oates uses this fact to distinguish Dickinson from Walt Whitman, another 19th century poet, but one for whom the war was material rather than immaterial). This segment, then, serves to divide the film just as Dickinson’s life was seemingly divided between an earlier, more well-adjusted period, during which she had a relatively active social life, and her famed reclusiveness; the concept of life and self before and after war is present in most of Davies’ films, the ultimate human conflict an apt metaphor for any number of internal struggles. Striking widescreen cinematography further illuminates this conflict, but not without a hint of irony—does such a large frame befit a secluded life? Perhaps not, but it does befit a grand mind. Davies’ script complements Dickinson’s poetry, which is either read in voiceover or cleverly integrated into a scene (she reads Poem 260, of “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” fame, to her baby nephew upon meeting him for the first time), though it’s the witty banter, mostly invented by Davies with the writer’s letters as inspiration, that steals the show, revealing Dickinson as the furtive revolutionary she was. He handles her descent into reclusion and her eventual death as tactfully as her more vivacious years were depicted mirthfully; when she dies, we cry with her family, lamenting the loss not only of a great poet, but also a new friend. “And then – the size of this ‘small’ life –/The Sages – call it small –/Swelled – like Horizons – in my vest –/And I sneered – softly – ‘small’!” (Poem 271). (2016, 126 min, DCP Digital) KS
Ceyda Torun’s KEDI (New Turkish Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 6pm; Saturday, 3pm; Sunday, 5:30pm; and Wednesday, 6pm
In Istanbul, Turkey, feral cats can be found everywhere; however, unlike the rats of our fair Chicago, these animals experience a peaceful co-habitation with the populace that, for some, borders on the reverential. KEDI packages Istanbul’s admiration for its felines in several vignettes and is meant for cat lovers and non-cat lovers alike. The stories told are uplifting. For some of the interviewees, these cats represent a tangential relationship between themselves and their beliefs in religious omnipotence. The cinematography found in KEDI is superb and beautiful. At times providing a cat’s eye view of the city, the camerawork bounces from rooftop to rooftop, scurries up trees, and dives down pathways that only the nimble footed could traverse. Combined with the staccato score, KEDI has succinct and upbeat tempo. The film follows seven cats’ lives and the nuances of their individual personalities are allowed to flourish on screen. Ceyda Torun explores the circumstances of how these animals came to become so prevalent in Istanbul and to paint a portrait of why their existence is a joyous thing for everyone. KEDI is the kind of film that gives essence to mankind’s love for cats and showcases all of the natural and urban beauty that can be found in Istanbul. (2016, 80 min, DCP Digital) KC
MORE OPPOSITIONAL VIEWING
The Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) screens Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo’s 1964 UK film IT HAPPENED HERE (96 min, 35mm) on Wednesday at 7:30pm. The film is an alternate history, imagining “what if” the Nazis had invaded Britain after the battle of Dunkirk. A fascist totalitarian takeover of a putatively democratic country? Seems strangely relevant… Preceded by at TBA cartoon.
Facets Cinémathèque presents a Teach-In screening of Volker Schlöndorff’s 1990 film THE HANDMAID’S TALE (109 min, Video Projection) on Monday at 6:30pm. A post-screening discussion will be led by Helen Thompson (Northwestern University). Free admission, but donations will be requested.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
South Side Projections and the DuSable Museum (740 E. 56th Pl.) present Films by Camille Billops and James Hatch on Tuesday at 7pm. Screening are the documentaries SUZANNE, SUZANNE (1982, 30 min, DVD Projection) and FINDING CHRISTA (1991, 55 min, DVD Projection). Introduced by Jacqueline Stewart (Univ. of Chicago and Black Cinema House). Free admission.
The Nightingale presents Asides & Besides: Video Artists Remixing Artists’ Videos on Tuesday at 8pm. With work by Ashley McClenon, Benjamin Pearson, Blair Bogin, Cameron Granger, Clint Enns, Emily Eddy, Hannah Piper Burns, and Scott Fitzpatrick.
Also at the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: Stephen Herek’s 1992 film THE MIGHTY DUCKS (100 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission. www.northbrook.info/events/film
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon’s 2016 French/Belgian film LOST IN PARIS (83 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; and Filip Renč’s 2016 Czech film THE DEVIL’S MISTRESS (106 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 8:15pm and Wednesday at 7:45pm.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Augusto Tamayo San Román’s 2010 Peruvian film LA VIGILIA (95 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 7pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: David Bickerstaff’s 2017 documentary MICHELANGELO: LOVE AND DEATH (91 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am.
Also at Facets Cinémathèque this week: Stephen Brown’s 2013 UK/Irish film THE SEA (86 min, Video Projection), Will Raée’s 2017 film AUSTIN FOUND (95 min, Video Projection), and Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl’s 2016 documentary LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD (95 min, Video Projection) all have week-long runs.
At the Chicago Cultural Center this week: Cinema/Chicago presents a screening of Sylvain Chomet’s 2013 French film ATTILA MARCEL (106 min, Video Projection) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents outdoor screenings of: Tonika Todorvoa’s 2017 silent film LULU (Unconfirmed Running Time, Digital Projection) on Tuesday at 8:26pm, with a live score by Silent Theater of Chicago; and Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent French film THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (approx. 110 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 8:25pm, with a live score performed by ALEXA GRÆ and MIAH LUZ. Free admission.
Comfort Film, HOMEROOM, and The Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell Ave.) presents Oscar Micheaux’s 1920 silent film WITHIN OUR GATES (79 min, Digital Projection) on Thursday at 8pm, with a live score by Paul Giallorenzo and Ben Lamar Gay. Free admission.
Sinema Obscura at Township (2200 N. California Ave.) presents TV Party 7 “Comedy and Tragedy” on Monday at 7pm. The program includes trailers and short films by Anya Solotaire and Aaron Eischeid, Luke Ciancio, Ryan Oliver, T.M. White, Katie Johnston-Saurus Dean, Andy Høpple, Elias Hart Mason, David Holcombe, Jack McCoy, and Allison A. Ramirez. Free admission.
The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 200) screens Leo Khasin’s 2010 German film KADDISH FOR A FRIEND (94 min, Video Projection) on Thursday at 6pm. Free admission.
The Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Sofia Coppola's 2006 film MARIE ANTOINETTE (123 min, Video Projection) on Thursday at 6:30pm. Preceded by Bryan Zahm’s 2016 short THE NUDE (9 min). Introduced by Gloria Groom (Art Institute of Chicago).
The Society for Arts (1112 N. Milwaukee Ave.) continues Marie Noëlle’s 2016 French-Polish film MARIE CURIE: THE COURAGE OF KNOWLEDGE (100 min, Video Projection) with screenings on Friday at 7 and 9pm; Saturday at 5, 7, and 9pm; and Sunday at 3, 5, and 7pm.
Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Nicolás Entel’s 2009 Argentinean film SINS OF MY FATHER (94 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.
The Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest (400 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest, IL) screens George Roy Hill’s 1969 film BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (110 min, Digital Projection) on Friday at 7pm.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
The Art Institute of Chicago exhibition Zhang Peili: Record. Repeat is on view through July 9. The artist’s first US exhibition features over 50 channels of video from 1989-2007. It is on view in Modern Wing galleries 186 and 289.
The Art Institute of Chicago (Modern Wing Galleries) has Dara Birnbaum’s 1979 two-channel video KISS THE GIRLS: MAKE THEM CRY (6 min) currently on view.
CINE-LIST: July 7 - July 13, 2017
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Kian Bergstrom, Rob Christopher, Kyle Cubr, Josephine Ferorelli, Harrison Sherrod, Ben Medina, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Brian Welesk