On episode #2 of Cine-Cast, Cine-File managing editor Patrick Friel and associate editors Ben Sachs and K.A. Westphal discuss upcoming screenings and the Music Box Theatre's recent Steven Spielberg mini-retrospective; contributor JB Mabe rounds upcoming experimental screenings in April, including the Nightingale Cinema's 10th anniversary celebration and two 3-D films by Toronto-based filmmaker Blake Williams screening at the Film Studies Center; Ben talks with contributor John Dickson about the Lucretia Martel series at the Siskel Film Center in April, which includes the local premiere of her new film ZAMA and in-person appearances by the director; and contributor Tien-Tien Jong interviews current Doc Films programming chairs Antonia Glaser and Alexander Fee, as well as one of next year's chairs, Alex Kong, about this quarter's calendar, which includes Michael Haneke and Elia Kazan retrospectives.
As always, special thanks to our producer, Andy Miles, of Transistor Chicago.
Peter Bogdanovich's WHAT'S UP, DOC? (American Revival)
Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) – Wednesday, 1 and 7pm (Free Admission)
WHAT'S UP, DOC? is a screwball comedy to watch if you appreciate the fact that someone who just loves screwball comedies wound up with an opportunity to shoot a movie with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal (two of the hottest actors at the time), but had no script. What did he do? He asked two screenwriter friends to write a modern version of BRINGING UP BABY, and they did not do a bad job! Admittedly, Babs has quite a different vibe, and is a little more....sexual, shall we say, than Katharine Hepburn. And Ryan O'Neal is a little less....charming, shall we say, than Cary Grant. That's to be expected. No one can be a second Cary Grant without doing some crazy voodoo. That said, WHAT'S UP, DOC? is a delightful screwball comedy from start to finish. The plot is expertly, dizzyingly, incomprehensibly presented. There are four plaid briefcases, and they all have silly items in them. That's really all you need to know to enjoy the film. Well, I guess a few additional details might help: Howard (Ryan O'Neal) is betrothed to Eunice (Madeline Kahn, in what is, shockingly, her feature debut—she's already a comedic genius). To put it mildly, Eunice is a little bit of a wet blanket, although to be fair, Howard is an awkward geology geek with no social skills. Howard meets Judy (Barbra Streisand) in a drugstore, and Judy is instantly smitten, tracking him with frightening precision and disastrous consequences before they inevitably fall madly in love. Howard should be presenting some boring rocks to a musical geology conference in order to win an important grant. That...does not succeed. Instead, there are mix-ups, jewel thefts, secret government papers misplaced, a few gunshots, a fire in a hotel, an obligatory car chase through hilly San Francisco streets, and, of course, a delightful Cole Porter number murmured by Babs (sorry, Judy) atop a piano on the rooftop of the very hotel that she and Ryan (sorry, Howard) have been ejected from hours before. WHAT'S UP, DOC? is a comedy to watch if you really need an escape and 93 solid minutes of entertainment constructed lovingly by a critic's director (i.e., a former critic). The scene under the table at the awards banquet alone makes the movie worth watching. (1972, 93 min, 35mm) AE
Edgar G. Ulmer’s THE MAN FROM PLANET X (American Revival)
Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) - Tuesday, 7:30pm
After hearing that a mysterious “Planet X” is hurtling through space towards Earth, newspaper man John Lawrence (Robert Clarke) finds himself meeting with a professor in Scotland where the unknown planet will be supposedly at its closest. Upon his arrival, John is joined by a host of archetypal characters—the charming professor, his beautiful daughter, and an evil, mustachioed scientist. When the professor’s daughter’s car breaks down, she’s forced to cross a moor on foot and while doing so, discovers a downed spacecraft with an alien inside. Horrified, she returns to her home to inform her cohorts who set out to make contact with the creature. John and the professor find the alien to be skittish but friendly and bring him back with them. When the evil scientist tries to take advantage of the alien when they are left alone, his plan backfires and soon the alien starts to enslave local inhabitants for a nefarious plot. THE MAN FROM PLANET X is pure B-movie science-fiction with all the usual cheesy accompaniments: accents are muddled and seemingly incorrect for the region (the Scottish constable clearly sounds to be from Ireland), the dialogue is corny and only serves to further the confounding plot, and fear of the unknown plays heavily. Despite its quirks, the movie has some fantastic set pieces, with the Scottish countryside filled with fog being particularly impressive. The alien itself seems to be a blending of a deep-sea diving suit, an emotionless mannequin, and the robot from Lost in Space. In the end, not much is learned and the would-be alien invasion boils down to a mild inconvenience for all parties involved, but it’s not for a lack of trying. Preceded by Chuck Jones’ 1958 cartoon HARE-WAY TO THE STARS (7 min, 35mm). (1951, 71 min, 35mm) KC
This week offers and embarrassment of experimental film and video riches all over the city that we were not able to write on. In addition to the ones we’ve spotlighted, there are additional experimental screenings at Block Cinema, The Nightingale, Comfort Station, and the Conversations at the Edge series. Trinh T. Minh-ha’s 2016 experimental documentary/essay film FORGETTING VIETNAM screens at the Film Center. And Constellation has a live music and video event with C. Spencer Yeh and Andrew Lampert. Check the relevant sections of More Screenings below.
Experiments in Form: Cameraless, Hand-Painted, and Abstract Films (Experimental)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
A few weeks ago, I had the strange experience of watching a 35mm silent film from a century ago rendered as a DCP. I'm familiar with the general look of a print struck from a modern wetgate negative, but this was different: it was an eerily precise rendering of the original distressed nitrate element, registering less as a motion picture than a succession of highly-resolved photographs of the original object. The scratches weren't artifacts, but instead the core aesthetic strategy. Whatever I was looking at wasn't quite itself anymore, but something new—a distortion of the original work that opened up novel avenues of engagement. I thought back on this experience while previewing the films in Block Cinema's outstanding avant-garde program, ostensibly assembled in conjunction with the Block Museum's 'Experiments in Form: Sam Gilliam, Alan Shields, Frank Stella' exhibition. I didn't preview them on film, but instead through Vimeo and YouTube links—delivery systems that blithely diminish all films but felt especially heretical here. The ridiculous compression on view in the online version of José Antonio Sistiaga's IMPRESSIONS EN HAUTE ATMOSPHERE (1989, 7 min, 35mm) only served to emphasize the enormous amount of detail captured (and lost) in each individual, highly propulsive frame in the original film, which was painted on 15-perf IMAX 70mm. (Shades here of Brakhage's THE DANTE QUARTET, which expropriated an old 70mm print of IRMA LA DOUCE as its expansive canvas.) The celluloid strip is the irreducible building block of the hand-painted film—the only context in which these films make sense and the only context that's needed. And yet it was instructive to see Len Lye's COLOR CRY (1952, 3 min, 16mm) again in a piss-poor copy lifted from a VHS bootleg, complete with a haphazard tracking error that periodically threw the picture out of frame. Lye may not have made the film with a frameline, but the frame has a way of asserting itself all the same. In both COLOR CRY and Barbara Lattanzi's MUSIC FOR VOICES (1979/2009, 7 min, Digital Projection), the shadow of the film strip itself provides the only sharp lines; the impressions of the perforations supply the only right angles. (The present form of the Lattanzi work is a digital scan of a hand-processed 16mm film strip from the late 1970s, wedded to a vocal recording from the mid-1980s.) Neither work softens its abstraction by suggesting the outlines of familiar or figurative forms; the mechanical perfection, the manufactured bliss of film alone summons order from the void. That ethos is literalized in Jennifer Reeves's LANDFILL 16 (2011, 9 min, 16mm), a monumental work of outtakes repainted and repurposed from the filmmaker's own landfill. For much of its duration, LANDFILL 16 is a work of frightening and mysterious intensity, suggesting whole worlds in a flash-frame; the heightened engagement demanded by this apocalyptic seizure machine is momentarily eased by a sublime moment so primal and effective that it elicits an audible gasp. (Few avant-garde films merit a spoiler warning, but I wouldn't dream of diminishing Reeves's revelation here.) Madison Brookshire's AS WATER IS IN WATER (2017, 31 min, Digital Projection; made in collaboration with Tashi Wada) comes closest to matching my experience of watching the scratches go by in the DCP—and that's a high compliment! A series of looping passages that necessarily provokes prolonged contemplation and investigation of the surface of a film strip, Brookshire foregrounds all the details that normally flit right by. Also on the program: Josh Lewis's DOUBT #2 (2013, 5 min, 16mm) Bärbel Neubauer's FIREHOUSE (1998, 5 min, 16mm), and Kayla Parker's SUNSET STRIP (1996, 3 min, 35mm). Madison Brookshire in person. KAW
Explorations of Portrait and Place: The Films of Adele Friedman (American Experimental)
Chicago Filmmakers (5720 N. Ridge Ave.) – Saturday, 8pm
These silent 16-millimeter shorts by local filmmaker Adele Friedman advance a delicate and loving sensibility, not to mention a quiet sense of wonder with regards to man-made environments. Though Friedman’s camera is often in motion during the films, the pervasive tone is one of calm contemplation—experimental cinema doesn’t get much more soothing than this. Shot in black-and-white ROBERT’S PLACE (2004) is a playful exploration of the late Robert Coale’s apartment, which was filled with Victoriana and Venetian objects. It concludes with Coale lying under a cape and a Venetian mask, pretending to be a statue, a witty detail that conveys how people commune with the spaces in which they live. In MARIETTA (2006), also shot in black-and-white, Friedman’s camera discreetly explores the title subject’s apartment, taking in the furniture and pictures on the wall as though these were relics to be handled carefully. GIVERNY (2012), a beautiful color work, looks at Monet’s landscaped garden in the title French village. The film lacks any shots of people, but one senses the presence of humans in the beautiful design of the garden. It is a contemplative and ultimately transportive little film. Also shot in France, FRANCOIS: A PLACE OF TIME (2015) looks at an antique-filled apartment in the western region of the country. Friedman considers the interplay between past and present, fetishizing the apartment’s old objects while paying close attention to such momentary phenomena as daylight filling a room. The black-and-white RED CLOUD was shot in the title Nebraska town, which was the birthplace of famed novelist Willa Cather. “It is a portrait of a place, exploring the streets and architecture that most influenced her early writings,” Friedman writes. “While time has changed some aspects of Red Cloud, many have remained the same for over the past 100 years, unusual for a country that is often tearing down its past to create a present.” What emerges is a poignant consideration of Cather’s artistic legacy and a haunting view of vanishing middle-American landscapes. LINCOLN, NEBRASKA (2017) looks at a more modern side of Middle America, showing a gay couple in the title city as they work at an art museum and relax at home. The tone is alternately playful (as when the men comically pose like the figures in paintings and drawings) and serene (as when Friedman contemplates empty spaces in the museum), but a sense of love—for art and one’s spouse—pervades. Also playing are MILES AND YVES, INDRE (2017), LARS AND NIRIN: HOME AND HOSPITALITY, and SARAH AND NORMAN (1983). Friedman in person (1983-2017, Approx 75 min total, 16mm) BS
Sleepover with Channels: A Quarterly Film Series
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) – Saturday, 10pm (Free Admission)
Given that this program is curiously titled for what follows rather than for the program itself (yes, you can bunk down at the Nightingale following the screening), one might expect a show of soporific films and videos. Not so. While some of the works are lyrical and contemplative, others are jolting or visually boisterous. Among the former are Chloe Reyes’ lovely 2017 film NEW SUN BREATHING IN, which focuses on small details of a domestic space, and Terra Long’s 2016 desert-shot film 350 MYA. The three short videos by German filmmaker Victoria Ruhe are explicitly confrontational in varying ways. The ironically-titled ROMANTIC PERIOD (2015) is a decidedly unromantic look at feminine hygiene, and in PARENTAL ADVISORY and SHANGHAI TRIPPY (both 2017) Ruhe flagrantly violates the “personal space” of family members and strangers on the street with her camera. Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney’s new work riffs on the increasing inseparability of public and private space through an emphasis on the televisual and technological mediation of the world. It’s disjointedness is disconcerting and jarring; one is increasingly uncertain how to reconcile the fragmentation. Points of connection are lost, within the film and, by extension, within the world we inhabit. Madison Brookshire’s 2013 film VEILS is a hand-crafted work that uses handpainting and a variety of other direct manipulations of the film stock to create a pulsing, vibrant abstract work. Stan Brakhage’s handpainted films are an obvious comparison, but Brookshire’s film is very much in his own voice; its visual look and its rhythms are only superficially like Brakhage’s—they are looser, more ethereal, less controlled. It’s a gorgeous, often startling film and a solid closer to a solid program. Also showing is Fern Silva’s RIDE LIKE LIGHTING, CRASH LIKE THUNDER (2017). (2013-18, approx 60 min total, 16mm and Digital Projection) PF
DOC10 FILM FESTIVAL
Davis Theater (4614 N. Lincoln Ave.)
The Doc10 Film Festival continues through Sunday at the Davis Theater. Selected reviews follow and the full schedule is at www.doc10.org.
Robert Greene's BISBEE '17
The history of Bisbee, Arizona and its 1917 mass deportation of copper miners—the subject of Robert Greene’s BISBEE '17—gets you to near instant MAGA Bingo: In 1917 some 1,200 striking copper miners were run out of Bisbee, a U.S. town seven miles from the Mexican border, by an armed posse mobilized by the now defunct Phelps Dodge mining company. The predominantly foreign-born Mexican and Eastern European Bisbee miners were feared to be sympathetic to the anarcho-socialist Industrial Workers of the World and undermining the nationalistic war efforts, and thus run out of town in cattle cars hundreds of miles into the New Mexico desert. Over the ensuing century Bisbee took its lumps: Its last mine closed in 1975 and it has since fallen from one of the richest cities in Arizona to literally the poorest. Yet hope springs eternal amongst the Bisbee believers that the mining sector will rise again, and also maybe that Lou Dobbs will return to CNN prime time. Given that context, director Greene deftly utilizes present day Bisbee and seeks to recreate the shameful events of July 12th 1917 using local non-actors. The documentary functions as a feature length casting call, rehearsal, and final take for those residents that feel most connected to the town’s history. Within any given scene and without notice Greene maneuvers between traditional nonfiction interviews and scripted, borderline surreal vignettes. This fade-in and -out manages to both meaningfully conflate historical and present-day discourse around immigration, nationalism, and economic inequality, and feeds the very real impression that Bisbee is a ghost town. Greene’s formal risk-taking recalls not just his own recent experiments (2016’s KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE) but that of other unconventional documentaries such as Clio Barnard’s 2010 experimental biopic of Andrea Dunbar, THE ARBOR, and Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE ACT OF KILLING (2012). Oppenheimer’s film especially utilizes a similar gallows humor and historical distance to BISBEE '17 to raise uncomfortable questions of culpability. And while no Anwar Congo-level character exists in Greene’s collectivist film, the viewer is left to ponder whether it’s really as simple as one contrite Bisbee resident puts it: It’s a matter of “then values” versus “now values.” Followed by Q+A with Director Robert Greene via Skype. (2018, 118 min, DCP Digital) JS
Alexandria Bombach’s ON HER SHOULDERS
In the weeks since the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which claimed the lives of 17 people and wounded, either physically or emotionally, many others, reporters of an especially cinephilic ilk have likened survivor and resultant activist Emma González to Renée Jeanne Falconetti, the French actress whose face, best known for its masterfully variegated expressions in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, launched a thousand appreciations for her extraordinary anterior performance. The New Yorker legitimized what Film Twitter had already canonized in meme form, photo comparisons of Falconetti and González, solemnly tearful at the March for Our Lives in D.C., artfully situated under the headline “Joan of Arc and the Passion of Emma González.” A similar comparison entered my mind as I watched Alexandria Bombach’s ON HER SHOULDERS, a documentary about another remarkable survivor-activist, Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a young Yazidi woman whose village was overtaken by ISIS forces, after which most of her family was killed and she was forced into sexual slavery. Though comparing the two would be pointless, if not petty—both are undoubtedly extraordinary young women—it’s Murad who for me recalls Dreyer and Falconetti’s Maid of Orléans, the simple grace of suffering apparent as they endure pain and humiliation—and, in their own way, conquer those very obstacles—in the face of religious persecution. Over the course of the film, Bombach follows Murad as she shares her story around the world and, finally, at the United Nations Security Council (which made her the First Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking), with her steadfast companions and even Amal Clooney, accomplished human rights lawyer and wife of George, all eager to raise awareness about the Yazidi genocide in Iraq. Bombach intercuts this rote—albeit compelling—documentary footage with cinematographically striking talking-head sequences of Murad that elucidate a poignant inner-pain. Much like Dreyer, Bombach transforms face into landscape, humbling the film’s more sensational moments with a solemn reminder that its subject is a person and her people, rather than a far-off manifestation of All That’s Wrong With the World. The filmmaker holds back the more sordid details of Murad’s experience, instead focusing on her activism and understandable frustration with the media’s lurid preoccupations. Near the beginning, Bombach leaves in standard footage of Murad performing a sound-check clap, reminding us that what we’re watching is, in fact, a film, prudently constructed, like all films, to reflect a tendentious viewpoint. But rather than impress upon us a meretricious view of the medium’s impact, she reinforces cinema’s role as operous spectator, itself a face that stares back at us, conscious of our gaze. (2018, 94 min, digital projection KS
Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s RBG
Is there any figure whose contributions to society are more routinely overlooked, underestimated, and ignored in contemporary American culture than the elderly woman’s? And yet, as the cheeky title of the celebratory biography RBG suggests, part of the mystery of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is her rare status as a public figure able to consistently garner reverence and attention, and to inspire thoughtful reflection and advocacy through every word that she utters, against the tide of our culture’s worst instincts. This buoyant profile of Ginsburg lovingly emphasizes her roles as a feminist icon (crediting her as the architect of the ACLU’s strategy for the women’s movement in the 1970s), as the Court’s most accomplished litigator, and—in modern, increasingly traditionalist years—as the Court’s most forceful and resolute dissenting voice. Although this doc frequently appears more like a glossy magazine profile rather than the incisive portrait surely deserved by one of the great intellects of our time, it nevertheless benefits immeasurably from the great asset of access to Ginsburg herself: her remarkable presence and wisdom are a wonderful, replenishable resource. Time spent in her company and with her words on-screen is unabashedly exciting and inspiring. The weirdness of our culture’s Internet celebritydom becomes part of RBG’s story too, but compared with Ginsburg’s depth, this new source of cultural power feels like an entirely false and estranging one. Already a sensation at Sundance earlier this year, RBG may nevertheless be poised to propel Ginsburg into new levels of inadvertent stardom, along the lines of Al Gore’s AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. Followed by Q&A with Betsy West and Julie Cohen, and musical performance. (2018, 97 min, Digital Projection) TTJ
Everardo González’s DEVIL’S FREEDOM
Part investigative journalism piece and part surreal portrait of embodied trauma, Everardo González’s DEVIL’S FREEDOM is a stark representation of the ongoing drug wars in Mexico, as told through interviews with survivors, family members of the disappeared and deceased, cartel members, cops, and soldiers. Mostly composed of methodical long takes and medium close-ups on the subjects as they candidly recount their experiences of kidnapping, rape, home invasion, and murder, González has amassed a damning archive of eye-witness testimony about how a culture of intimidation, fear, and silence infiltrates every level of Mexico’s legal system. Especially startling is how many of the voices we hear from are children—both as victims and perpetrators of the violence. The documentary employs a chilling touch of artifice that doubles as the film’s main visual motif: all the participants’ heads are covered in identity-obscuring beige hoods (made out of a material in-between canvas and nylon), with holes cut out for the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth, like the bandages worn by burn patients. González designed the masks himself after seeing the image in a nightmare. It’s an unnerving device that both distances us from and helps us to negotiate the horror of the stories we hear, and preserves for the subjects a sense of privacy in their pain, even as the fabric covering their faces becomes stained with tears. Followed by Q&A with Prof. Xóchitl Bada (UIC), Prof. Héctor García Chávez (Loyola), and Susan R. Gzesh (Executive Director, Pozen Family Center for Human Rights). (2017, 74 min, Digital Projection) TTJ
Eugene Jarecki's THE KING
Eugene Jarecki's stunning documentary THE KING examines the rise and decline of Elvis Presley as a metaphor for the rise and decline of America. Driving across the U.S. in Elvis' '63 Rolls-Royce a year out from the 2016 election, Jarecki charts the life of the country via a road trip from Tupelo to Vegas: that is, from rebellious youth to bloated, corrupt empire. All manner of musician piles into the backseat along the way (the late Leo "Bud" Welch; the startling young Emi Sunshine; students from the Stax Music Academy). Densely, richly, and playfully layered, aurally and visually, the film contains interviews with the people you want to hear talk about Elvis (Greil Marcus, Peter Guralnick, Chuck D), as well as seemingly random folks (Ethan Hawke, Mike Myers) who nonetheless have cogent, revealing things to say about American identity, class and race, happiness and addiction, and the destruction of our democracy by celebrity and money. A haunting, elegiac farrago, the film, like its subject, is rollicking and electrifying, frustrating and fascinating, endlessly contradictory and complex. Followed by closing night tribute to director Eugene Jarecki with Q&A and musical performance. (2017, 109 min, Digital Projection) SP
Chicago Latino Film Festival
AMC River East 21 Theatres - 322 E. Illinois St.
The 34th Chicago Latino Film Festival continues through Thursday, April 19 at AMC River East. Selected reviews follow and the full schedule is at https://chicagolatinofilmfestival.org/.
Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra’s GOOD MANNERS (AS BOAS MANEIRAS) (New Brazilian)
Sunday, 8:30pm and April 15, 8:15pm
An ambitious and mostly successful coming-of-age fable with gorgeous cinematography and a sometimes-puzzling lesbian subplot, GOOD MANNERS is a satisfying upending of a typical werewolf film, although it is a tad too long at 135 minutes. Despite the lugubrious editing, Isabél Zuaa, who plays Clara, the protagonist, carries the film with quiet intensity. Clara is a dark-skinned woman from the favelas of São Paulo who talks her way into a nannying job with Ana, a wealthy (pregnant) daughter of a plantation owner from the country. Ana slowly reveals details of her story, as suspense thickens with lush cinematography that clearly references Douglas Sirk as much as it does classic horror and film noir. Ana was impregnated by a priest who seems to be a werewolf, a story revealed in dream-like still images to Clara before the couple consummate their (admittedly, not-quite-convincing) sexual chemistry. Shortly thereafter, Ana suffers from a more brutal film reference, as her werewolf fetus tears himself from her womb. (Don't worry—I'm only giving away the first hour of the plot!) Clara cannot resist rescuing and raising Ana's baby, with quite the expected consequences of raising a werewolf baby. Now comes the real task: forget the plot. As with most of the best Brazilian films I've seen over the years, plot is a peripheral matter. Atmosphere, character, racial and class tension, existential dread, and the ominous, threatening, yet still mesmerizingly beautiful presence of the mega-metropolis of São Paulo (often shown clearly in matte paintings, a delightful homage!) play a much larger role than mere plot in this rambling movie. There were moments when I was stunned by the cinematography, and though I was not stunned by the social commentary, I appreciated the effort these ambitious filmmakers made to do something interesting with a tired genre. (2017, 135 min, Digital Projection) AE
Issa López’s TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (New Mexican Horror)
Friday, 9:15pm and Sunday, 8:30pm
After ten-year-old Estrella accidentally summons the ghost of her murdered mother using a piece of magical wishing chalk her teacher gave her as their class huddled on the ground during a shootout—no, wait. Let me back up. Mexican director Issa López is a huge success in her native land but is mostly unknown in the US. This is likely going to change with the critical and popular reception of her third feature, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID, which has garnered several festival awards and enthusiastic tweets from horror luminaries including Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro (the latter is producing Lopez’s next film). Those two are good touchstones for an understanding of approximately what you’re getting into with this film, a story of the bonds of childhood friendship tested by horrific human and supernatural events. Set against the very real horrors of the drug wars in Mexico, which have orphaned tens of thousands of children, the film follows a group of orphans—Lost Boys (and a girl) who never grow up because their parents have been murdered—on the run from drug dealers and vengeful ghosts through a hellish Neverland of industrial decay. The film careens between whimsy (graffiti that comes alive), gotcha moments punctuated by instrumental blasts, moments of wonder (the kids exploring an abandoned luxury apartment complex), and both mundane and supernatural threats as the gang members close in and the wishes of the undead become clearer. Narrative and thematic cohesion aren’t prominently featured on the menu, but there are frights aplenty, perhaps the biggest of which is that apart from the supernatural elements, the film probably doesn’t stray too far from reality for some kids. López will appear at the Friday screening. (2017, 83 min., DCP) MWP
Michael Haneke’s 71 FRAGMENTS OF A CHRONOLOGY OF CHANCE (Austrian Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Tuesday, 7pm
Michael Haneke’s third theatrical feature was his most experimental prior to CODE UNKNOWN, and it shares several of that movie’s themes as well. As the title suggests, it’s broken into 71 short scenes that end before they make clear exactly what’s going on. An opening title summarizes a 1993 news story in which a young man opened fire in a bank, killing three people before committing suicide; one might guess the narrative fragments concern the people who will be the victims of this attack, yet Haneke never divulges whether this is in fact the case. Regardless, the depiction of contemporary life is so despairing that one would feel an air of impending doom even if Haneke didn’t include that title card. The characters include a Romanian boy who has illegally emigrated to Austria on his own, a solitary old man who feels alienated from his grown daughter, a couple experiencing marital problems, and an emotionally disturbed computer programming student. The fragmentary structure emphasizes the characters’ disconnect from each other as well as themselves—everyone seems incomplete as an individual, which is precisely Haneke’s point. The director intersperses the narrative with then-recent TV news reports of the civil war in Yugoslavia, refugee crises, the pedophilia charges leveled against Michael Jackson, and other accounts of how messed up the world is. In this context, the characters emerge as emblems of a broken global society—one which the filmmaker has no idea how to make whole. Haneke expresses his despair through a cold, inquiring style where the camera rarely moves and the cuts between scenes are hard and disorienting. Bresson’s L’ARGENT is a likely point of reference, but the avant-garde flourishes make this distinctive. (1994, 95 min, 35mm) BS
Max Ophüls’ THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... (French Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Friday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 1:30pm
EARRINGS is a characteristic late work by Max Ophüls that correlates romantic longing with the opulence of a dead era. It is set in a fin-de-siècle Europe that resembles a dollhouse come to life: Every element of the decor seems to have been fetishized before it was built. Yet unlike most historical romances, the sets don't suffocate the drama—in fact, they underscore the film’s tragic dimension. The central affair of EARRINGS is, fittingly, never realized (and even ends, operatically, in the death of one of the lovers), given that the precious environments in which it transpires will soon be forever destroyed by the barbarism of World War. As in the later masterpieces of Luchino Visconti (SENSO, THE LEOPARD, LUDWIG), the outmoded codes of Europe's aristocracy—both visual and social—are recreated with absolute thoroughness so as to remind us of how foreign they now are. Still, Ophüls' transcendent camera movements and his characters' glorious sophistication allow the memory of this forgotten world to live on. (1953, 105 min, 35mm) BS
Elia Kazan's A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Wednesday, 7 and 9:30pm
Film history pop trivia might have you believe that Elia Kazan's film version of Tennessee William's A Streetcar Named Desire would have been much better had Jessica Tandy been allowed to transplant her stage performance to screen. However, for anyone with a soft spot for Vivian Leigh's staunch Southern belle act (à la GONE WITH THE WIND), Kazan's film still renders the play into a unique slice of Hollywood melodrama, albeit quite different from Williams' original. The critics at the time agreed. Kazan won 5 Oscars for STREETCAR, and many felt that Brando was born to play Stanley Kowalski. Although Kazan produced a number of plays for the stage and directed many films, STREETCAR was the only time he filmed a play he had previously directed for the stage. Melodrama aside, it endures as a haunting dissection of female desire and denial - a stunning and vicious pendulum of violence: physical, sexual, and linguistic. (1951, 125 min, 35mm) BC
Richard Linklater’s BEFORE SUNSET (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 7pm
Each film in the Delpy/Hawke/Linklater BEFORE series has succeeded as a dialogue by being, in reality, a trialogue—with the screenwriting a collective process, the content is always closer to WAKING LIFE than MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, a lattice of thoughts and ideas, sequentially highlighted in each new setting and context. The character of Jesse, for example, can be initially characterized by an unlikely oscillation between "Ethan Hawke" mode—the disenchanted downtown celebrity who'd rather keep it real writing novels, turning down blockbusters, and picking up girls in the Chelsea Hotel lobby—and "Richard Linklater" mode: the everyman intellectual, reading voluminous quantities of philosophy and literature but deliberately never using any words a freshman UT stoner wouldn't use. And in BEFORE SUNSET, Celine becomes rather more "Julie Delpy"—a dedicated artist and musician (and now, composer and director)—with Delpy's own songs (from her self-titled 2003 album on the Belgian PIAS label) bookending the film. The ingeniously relaxed acting and Steadicam cinematography is especially impressive given that the location shooting here (much more so than 1990s Vienna in the middle of the night) was undoubtedly a total nightmare; more so than its engaged interrogation of the possibility of thoughtful and reflexive romantic love among creative artists, filming 15 straight summer mornings in Paris without filling the frame with tourists might be the most heroic achievement of the entire series. (2004, 80 min, 35mm) MC
Steven Spielberg’s READY PLAYER ONE (New American)
Music Box Theater (in 70mm) and multiple other venues (in DCP) – Check Venue showtimes for details
Anyone would be right to suggest that READY PLAYER ONE predictably follows the standard “blockbuster model,” a typified structure of storytelling that is set-piece driven, lively, fast-paced with plenty of action and humor, concluding with fairly predictable results; but since Spielberg mostly wrote the rules for this model of cinematic storytelling, the formulaic design becomes emboldened by his signature and still-pioneering direction. Just as JURASSIC PARK’s storyline—the artificial creation of fantastic beings that would eventually run loose and wreck everything—paralleled the film’s actual production/creation of real-world CGI-spectacle that would increasingly run ferociously and blindly amok, so does the creator of the virtual world in READY PLAYER ONE resemble its filmmaker, with both utilizing nearly every element that has come to define what a “blockbuster” is. Nearly all of the pop culture references in the movie found their genesis in the 1980s, with Spielberg harvesting them and coalescing them into a single nostalgia-laded green-screened universe, fostering a joyous (if fairly simplistic) reminiscence of the halcyon days of one’s early years (for those who came of age in the ‘80s). READY PLAYER ONE also conjures another aspect of this decade—the no-limit financial opportunities for business execs and CEOs who knew how to leverage the system. A different kind of ‘80’s nostalgia. (Could this be Spielberg taking aim at contemporary Hollywood’s go-to mode of recycling revered and vibrant films of the past into hollow, plastic “remakes” and “reboots”?) As much a Spielberg appropriates characters from other films and franchises (his own and others) for sheer spectacle and culture-riffing, he is also in a sense liberating them from the commercial exploitation they’ve experiences in the intervening decades. Seeing Mario, Chucky, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and other characters together in a film certainly can elicit some initial jeering and laughter, but the larger point comes through, maybe only afterwards, and understanding of Spielberg’s game and one begins to commiserate for how these now devalued iconic figures have just become commodities of capital. Here, the creator of the film’s virtual world, Oasis, and Spielberg, are aligned. Both are battling against the cynicism of their times, looking to re-connect people with the joys of creation and creativity. The greed of the 1980’s business world and the greed of the corporatists in READY PLAYER ONE are both harbinger of and reflection of the greed of contemporary Hollywood. These themes transpire in a film that is on its own a visually dense world of eye-popping movement, color, and texture. It’s situated somewhere between Spielberg’s CGI-only works (THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, THE BFG) and the more real-world world-building of a few of his other films (MINORITY REPORT, EMPIRE OF THE SUN). He steals from his own films, as director and as producer, as freely as he steals from others: the T-Rex from JURASSIC PARK makes an appearance, and several of his fellow genre-subvertor buddy, Robert Zemeckis’ films get nods. Spielberg’s own AI: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, and the criticism it received from the pro-Kubrick camp, is addressed directly and humorously in one standout scene. READY PLAYER ONE is Spielberg reckoning with his own pop-culture legacy, his complicity as the “progenitor” of the modern blockbuster, and the soulless product they’ve become. Gone is the fantasy, the wonder, and the joy of creativity. One wonders whether audiences can get past the cynicism of internet-driven hot-takes to look at Spielberg’s visionary creation with even the smallest sense of awe. (2018, 139 min, 70mm at the Music Box and DCP Digital elsewhere) JD
Mel Stuart's WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (American Revival)
Wilmette Theater (1122 Central Ave., Wilmette) – Sunday, 2pm
Even though the lackluster Peter Ostrum (who played Charlie and thankfully retired from the acting business to become a veterinarian) covers the film in a slimy, sentimental goo, Mel Stuart's exceptional but uneven WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY still remains a visual and rather perverse delight. Get past the interminable "Cheer up Charlie" song and the flimsy ending and you're left with some gorgeous color cinematography and the pleasure of watching half a dozen pre-pubescent miscreants get their comeuppances while Gene Wilder acts bewildered. Most of the musical numbers are quite good too, and the classroom scenes with David Battley as an inept grade school teacher are worth the price of admission alone. Post-screening discussion led by film critic and blogger Don Shanahan. (1971, 100 min, Digital Projection) JA
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) screens the omnibus 1983 Taiwanese film THE WHEEL OF LIFE (105 min, HDCam Video), directed by King Hu, Li Hsing, and Pai Ching-Jui, on Friday at 7pm; and a lecture entitled “Topographies of Culture: Kracauer and the Metropolis” by Columbia University professor Andreas Huyssen on Thursday at 4pm. Free admission for both.
Also at Chicago Filmmakers (5720 N. Ridge Ave.) this week: local filmmaker Kyle Henry's 2017 film ROGERS PARK (87 min, DCP Digital) screens on Wednesday at 7pm, with Henry and select cast/crew in person.
The Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center presents an added screening of Thorsten Trimpop’s 2016 Japanese experimental documentary FURUSATO (90 min, DCP Digital) on Sunday at Noon, with Trimpop in person; and presents The Nation’s Finest (1971-2013, approx. 71 min, Various Formats) on Thursday at 6pm, with curators Astria Suparak and Brett Kashmere in person. The program of experimental and other works about sports and spectatorship includes films and videos by Haig Aivazian, I AM A BOYS CHOIR, Tara Mateik, Nam June Paik, and Keith Piper, Lillian Schwartz.
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) continues its four-day celebration of its tenth anniversary. This weekend’s events are: a Tele-Thon (presented by Live to Tape Artist Television Festival and ACRE TV) on Friday at 8pm; the Chicago iteration of Home Video Day is on Saturday from 1-5pm (Free Admission); Regional Microcinema Report is on Saturday at 7pm, featuring works by Ben Balcom, Emily Drummer, Mike Gibisser, Sam Hoolihan, Jesse McLean, Kevin Obsatz, Ariel Kate Teal, C. Jacqueline Wood, and Charlie Woodman (Free Admission); and Sleepover with Channels: A Quarterly Film Series features a 10pm screening on Saturday (see Crucial Viewing above), followed by an optional sleepover at the Nightingale (bring bedding!) (Free Admission).
Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: The Wandering Eye: Canyon Cinema in the World is on Thursday at 7pm. Screening are: PATH OF CESSATION (Robert Fulton, 1974, 15 min, 16mm), MOSORI MONIKA (Chick Strand, 1970, 20 min, 16mm), THE FIVE BAD ELEMENTS (Mark LaPore, 1997, 32 min, 16mm), and AU SUD (Sandra Davis, 1991, 7 min, 16mm). Free admission.
Musician C. Spencer Yeh and filmmaker and film preservationist Andrew Lampert appear at Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) on Monday at 8:30pm with an evening of live music, video, and performance.
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Sokeel Park and Chad Vickery's 2017 documentary THE JANGMADANG GENERATION (53 min, Digital Projection) on Tuesday at 8pm; and guest curator Dane Haiken presents Duets: Films on Duality and Dialogue on Wednesday at 8pm. Included is work by Lyra Hill, Monica Thomas and Steve Delahoyde, Troy Lewis, Lori Felker, Stephen Socki, Robin McKay, T.Will, and Robert Carter. Both free admission.
Asian Pop-Up Cinema, the Consulate General of Canada in Chicago, and the University of Chicago’s International House present Kaleidoscope of Canadian-Chinese Films on Saturday at International House Assembly Hall (1414 E. 59th St., University of Chicago). The day-long event begins at 1pm with opening remarks; Ann Marie Fleming’s 2003 documentary THE MAGICAL LIFE OF LONG TACK SAM (90 min) is at 1:15pm, with Fleming in person; Yung Chang’s 2012 documentary CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT (89 min) is at 3pm; a short reception at 4:30pm is followed by a 5pm talk by Toronto-based writer, critic and film curator Shelly Kraicer; and Johnny Ma’s 2016 film OLD STONE (80 min) is at 6pm. Free admission.
Asian Pop-Up Cinema also presents Jumpel Matsumoto’s 2017 Japanese film PERFECT REVOLUTION (117 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 7pm at AMC River East 21, with Matsumoto in person.
The Park Ridge Classic Film Series (at the Park Ridge Public Library, 20 S Prospect Ave, Park Ridge) screens Alexander Mackendrick's 1955 British film THE LADYKILLERS (91 min, Digital Projection) on Thursday at 7pm. Free admission.
Black Cinema House (at the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, 1456 E 70th St.) screens Andrew Dosunmu’s 2013 US/Nigerian film MOTHER OF GEORGE (107 min, Digital Projection) on Friday at 7pm. Free admission.
Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Eduardo de la Serna, Lucas Marcheggiano, and Adriana Yurcovich’s 2003 Argentinean documentary EL AMBULANTE (84 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 7pm. Free admission.
Italian Film Festival USA presents five screenings from April 7-19 at various locations. Full schedule at www.italianfilmfests.org/chicago.html.
Also at the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: Andrew Morgan’s 2015 documentary THE TRUE COST [aka THE TRUE COST OF CHEAP CLOTHING] (93 min, Video Projection) screens on Sunday at 1pm. Followed by a discussion. Free admission.
Wallace Worsley’s 1923 silent film THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (133 min, Digital Projection) is on Thursday at 8pm at the Davis Theater (4614 N. Lincoln Ave.), with live organ accompaniment by Jay Warren. Presented by Terror in the Aisles.
At the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Lynn Shelton’s 2017 film OUTSIDE IN (109 min, DCP Digital), Alison Chernick’s 2017 documentary ITZHAK (80 min, DCP Digital), and Sebastián Lelio’s 2017 Chilean film A FANTASTIC WOMAN (104 min, DCP Digital) all play for a week; Trinh T. Minh-ha’s 2016 experimental documentary/essay film FORGETTING VIETNAM (90 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 4pm and Tuesday at 6pm (with a lecture by SAIC professor Nora Annesley Taylor at the Tuesday show); and in the Asian American Showcase this week: the 1919 silent film (with live accompaniment) THE DRAGON PAINTER, FISH BONES, THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT, and FIND ME all screen.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Craig Gillespie’s 2017 film I, TONYA (119 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 4pm; Bong Joon-ho’s 2000 South Korean film BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE (110 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 7pm; Atom Egoyan’s 1997 Canadian film THE SWEET HEREAFTER (112 min, 35mm) is on Monday at 7pm; and Alan Parker’s 1982 film PINK FLOYD: THE WALL (95 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9pm.
Music Box Theatre this week: Ferenc Török’s 2017 Hungarian film 1945 (91 min, DCP Digital) opens; and Frank Henenlotter’s 1982 horror-comedy BASKET CASE (91 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.
At Facets Cinémathèque Ivan Sen’s 2016 Australian film GOLDSTONE (110 min, Video Projection) and Sally Potter’s 2017 UK film THE PARTY (71 min, Video Projection) both have week-long runs.
Sinema Obscura and Charm School “Do a Thing,” an evening of films and live music, on Saturday from 8-11pm, (message S.O. via their Facebook page for the address).
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has artist Paul Pfeiffer’s two-channel video installation Three Figures in a Room (2016, 48 min looped) on view through May 20.
The Art Institute of Chicago (Stone Gallery) has on view a show of two large-scale installation works by French artist Philippe Parreno. One of these, With a Rhythmic Instinction to Be Able to Travel beyond Existing Forces of Life (2014) includes a moving-image component.
Also currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago: 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: April 6 - April 12, 2018
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, K.A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Julian Antos, Beth Capper, Michael Castelle, Kyle Cubr, John Dickson, Alexandra Ensign, Tien-Tien Jong, Michael W. Phillips Jr., Scott Pfeiffer, James Stroble
ILLUSTRATIONS // Alexandra Ensign