Heinrich Hauser’s WORLD CITY IN ITS TEENS: A REPORT ON CHICAGO and Conrad Friberg’s HALSTED STREET (Documentary Revivals)

The Chicago Film Society and the Music Box Theatre – Saturday, 2:30pm

In the city symphony genre that was popular in the 1920s and early 1930s, Heinrich Hauser’s 1931 German documentary WORLD CITY IN ITS TEENS: A REPORT ON CHICAGO (1931, 74 min, 35mm restored archival print) is in a class by itself. Hauser, a photographer who was a leader of the New Objectivity movement in Germany that arose in reaction to Expressionism, created an interesting piece of propaganda that critiques aspects of life in the United States that both accord with and, more frequently, diverge from the values of National Socialism already on the rise in Germany. Hauser, who made a photographic study of the Mississippi River and its riverboats, makes a tenuous link between Chicago and his river footage by pointing out that Chicago connects with the country and ocean-going vessels through its waterways. His odd intertitle averring that there is no theft among the workers who load cargo onto the riverboats seems designed to contrast not only the more wholesome atmosphere of rural life with the big, bad city, but also his later scene of a “market of thieves,” Maxwell Street, introduced with a sign written in Yiddish. His condescending regard for African Americans is exposed in a scene of young black children playing that is immediately juxtaposed with black dogs at play. An enormously fat woman filmed on a jam-packed Oak Street beach also contrasts the fit and attractive image of the new Aryan. Hauser heartily approves of the mechanistic efficiency of women in a typing pool and the steel structures that gird the city, but offers a downside to progress that still plagues us—an enormous traffic jam on Lake Shore Drive, then a work in progress. The deplorable conditions of the Great Depression, also rife in Germany, get a lengthy airing. The despair that jumps off the screen during these scenes is the one emotion that is universally relatable. Showing with WORLD CITY, is HALSTED STREET (1934, 12 min, 16mm), directed by Conrad Friberg (as Conrad O. Nelson) under the auspices of the local chapter of the Workers Film and Photo League, a 1930s socially conscious collective similar to Kartemquin Films. As advertised, a man hurrying on foot travels the length of Halsted, from the farmlands at its southern end to the well-heeled city dwellers at its northern terminus. In between, we get a good look at the city’s poor and the many religious missions to which they turned for comfort and assistance, but the point of view is affectionate and not without humor. Live accompaniment by Dennis Scott. MF

Showing as part of the Music Box's 90th Anniversary Celebration programming.

Mick Jackson’s THREADS (UK Revival)

Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday, 4pm, Saturday, 3pm, and Monday, 6pm

I'm still haunted by vivid memories of watching THE DAY AFTER on TV when I was a kid, and as an adult I've watched dozens of other nuclear apocalypse movies, from sober classics like ON THE BEACH and TESTAMENT to tacky exploitation flicks like DAMNATION ALLEY. But catching up with THREADS had always eluded me; like Peter Watkins’ THE WAR GAME, which is in many ways its philosophical companion, since it was released it has been difficult to find on video, let alone theatrically. But earlier this summer, unaware that a brand new 2K digital restoration would be making its way to Chicago, I found THREADS online and watched it for the first time. And had nightmares two nights running. Somehow, even 35 years later, the prospect of nuclear annihilation is still uniquely terrifying; and the film's singularly unsentimental portrayal of how such a scenario could unfold ratchets up the terror even more. Its setting of working class Sheffield, a drab and rather beige environment that feels utterly ordinary, assuredly heightens the impact. As in previous films of the genre, a gallery of characters is introduced in the film's first third, some more sympathetic than others. But which characters survive is pointedly a matter of chance—or, more precisely, bad luck. After the first strike, you wouldn't want to be alive. THREADS relies on ingenious practical effects and production design rather than elaborate visual trickery to show the devastation and its aftermath, especially the way bodies succumb to radiation poisoning and malnourishment. It's human-scaled horror, and it resonates across time. By the end credits I was shivering and felt nauseous. It's hard to think of another film from 1984 that could make me feel so vulnerable. In the year 2019, THREADS is a difficult and absolutely essential watch. (1984, 114 min, DCP Digital) RC

Joan Tewkesbury’s OLD BOYFRIENDS (American Revival)

Chicago Film Society at the Music Box Theatre — Monday, 7pm

For those searching for a thorny and compelling case study of contemporary womanhood, look no further than Joan Tewkesbury’s OLD BOYFRIENDS. After a traumatizing suicide attempt and a falling out with her husband, Dianne Cruise (Talia Shire) forgoes her daily life to track down her old flames to find out what went wrong. From the college fling that got away, to the high school boy who made her all-too aware of her sexuality, and her first love from grade school, Dianne examines herself and her past in a confrontational and introspective way. She discovers things not only about these boys, but also about herself—and how her conception of love and intimacy has been irreparably shaped by men who didn't deserve to. Dianne is not always the hero in her story, but she isn’t supposed to be. She’s complicated and makes mistakes; some of which are justified because of her turbulent past, others that are harder to side with. But because of that, Dianne is a contradictory and nebulous symbol of what it means to be human. Through her atypical journey, the audience is forced to live out the highs and—more often than not—lows of her life and to process them along with her. Paul and Leonard Schrader craft a compelling critique of masculinity and relational power dynamics that feels even more authentic under Tewkesbury’s masterful direction. You may not always like Dianne or her choices, but you can almost always understand her perspective to some extent—and you sure as hell will want to join her to the end of her journey. Preceded by Dave Fleischer’s 1935 cartoon BEWARE OF BARNACLE BILL (7 min, 16mm). (1979, 103 min, 35mm) CC

Dominga Sotomayor’s TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG (New Chilean/International)

Facets Cinémathèque - Check Venue website for showtimes

Set in an “ecological community” on the outskirts of Santiago during the early days of post-Pinochet Chile, the stunningly well-realized TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG tracks personal, familial, and societal transformations through that most venerable of genres, the coming-of-age tale. The film undergoes something of a transformation itself: as she introduces over a dozen characters in the first hour, director Dominga Sotomayor captures the loose-knit vibe of a seemingly idyllic community so effectively that one might not realize how dense with information and uneasy portent these exchanges really are. As lovelorn teenagers Sofía (Demian Hernández) and Lucas (Antar Machado) gradually emerge from the ensemble as our primary protagonists, things snap into focus, and the leisurely pace shifts into higher gear. The film’s bravura second half, an extended New Years Eve party sequence and morning-after crisis, amply demonstrates Sotomayor’s formidable skills as a writer, director, and world-builder—ironically, just as the community she’s built goes up in smoke. Like Lucrecia Martel’s THE HOLY GIRL, the film situates unruly adolescent emotions within a complex and sharply-drawn topography of class, gender, political, and generational conflicts. Sotomayor distributes her sympathies more communally, however; she lets us in to the romantic illusions of each of her characters, if only to capture the pain of dismantling them more precisely. (2018, 110 min, Video Projection) MM

Paul Verhoeven’s ROBOCOP (American Revival)

Music Box Theatre — Wednesday, 9:15pm

Jacques Rivette once likened Paul Verhoeven to painter Ray Lichtenstein, and in no film does that comparison feel more than apt than ROBOCOP, Verhoeven’s first U.S. feature. Screenwriters Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner encouraged Verhoeven to read American comic books before he started shooting, and you can see plainly how the director learned from them. The performances, mise-en-scene, and satirical tone are all pointedly overstated, as if drawn by a caricaturist; considering that the film’s subject is American fascism (specifically, the soft takeover of American law enforcement by corporate interests), the overstatement feels appropriate in a fight-fire-with-fire sort of way. ROBOCOP also has a slick, streamlined sense of movement, both within shots and in the cutting from one shot to another—it proceeds much like a comic book does. The sleek camera movements (executed by Jost Vocano, cinematographer on a number of Verhoeven features) express a certain moral complexity, too; in their self-aware bravura, they seem to be putting air quotes around the action. That ironic distance is helpful for digesting the over-the-top violence, some of the most extreme to have been shown in a mainstream American entertainment up to that point. (According to IMDB, the filmmakers submitted ROBOCOP to the MPAA 12 times until it was given an R rating.) Again, Verhoeven’s sense of overstatement is fitting—this is a movie about the devaluation of life under fascism; the spectacle of people shot to bits like paper targets is the logical end point of a system that views criminals as less than human in the first place. There’s something Swiftian in how Verhoeven and company make so much of this seem funny. Extending their comic book aesthetic to their characterization of society, the filmmakers render the near-future U.S. as an absurd hell: the TV programs we see people watching are either grim state propaganda, vulgar fantasies, or some combination of the two; nearly every character is obsessed by sex, violence, or money. This is the closest 80s cinema came to the annihilating (but formally sophisticated) satire of William Klein’s MR. FREEDOM, and it’s pretty close indeed. (1987, 102 min, 35mm) BS

Showing as part of the Music Box's 90th Anniversary Celebration programming.


Andy Warhol’s THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO (Experimental Revival)

Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Friday, 7 and 9:30pm

When a couple of New York City cops show up towards the end of Andy Warhol’s THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO, it’s unclear whether they’ve arrived to break up the band’s rehearsal or whether they just want to hang out at Warhol’s Factory, which is where the movie was shot. Does it matter? In Warhol’s films, everybody onscreen is important by the virtue of being themselves; some of the most existentialist works in cinema, the essence of their subjects takes value over anything they do. For most of its running time, THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO observes the eponymous musicians as they jam on a couple of riffs. The repetitive music isn’t that great, but it succeeds in setting a hypnotic atmosphere in which one can contemplate the faces and bodies of the band and other people, such as Nico’s young son, who stands next to his mother for most of the rehearsal. The film proceeds in very long takes with Warhol’s camera zooming in and out, presenting the band, alternately, as a unit and as a collection of individuals. Fans of VU will appreciate this as a portrait of the band in the first stage of its career: Lou Reed, who never takes off his sunglasses, already has his schtick down; Mo Tucker, keeping time with ease and aplomb, has a laid-back confidence; John Cale seems off in his own little world on the viola. But anyone can enjoy the film as a document of artists at work, presenting a group of people in an effort to find their creative groove. (1966, 67 min, 16mm) BS

Colin Higgins’ 9 TO 5 (American Revival)

Music Box Theatre — Saturday, 9pm

Despite the fact that the feminist office satire 9 TO 5 is almost turning 40, this film feels depressingly current in its assertion that women deserve an equitable, harassment-free workplace in America. The story follows three women in an office who, through a series of mix-ups and shenanigans, including one hysterically funny scene in a hospital, kidnap their horrible male boss, holding him prisoner in his home for several weeks. While he is under house arrest, they enact a series of changes that make the workplace both more equitable and productive (flexible schedules, free daycare, etc.), attracting praise from the head of the company. Jane Fonda commissioned writer Patricia Reznick to write the screenplay for 9 TO 5 through Fonda's production company, IPC Films, which she founded to produce socially conscious and impactful films. After producing and starring in THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979), a successful drama about a cover-up at a nuclear power plant, Fonda switched gears with 9 TO 5, addressing feminist concerns following the women's liberation movement and heading into the stifling Reagan era, but doing so with a broad, silly satire to make the feminism a little more palatable to the masses. Screenwriter Reznick had originally drafted a much darker comedy, according to a 2015 interview in Rolling Stone, inspired by Charlie Chaplin's black comedy MONSIEUR VERDOUX, but Fonda and other producers worried the material was too dark to succeed at the box office. Colin Higgins, a gay filmmaker who wrote HAROLD AND MAUDE and produced the popular comedy FOUL PLAY (1976), was brought in to re-write the script and direct. Though Reznick, who wrote the treatment for Altman's 3 WOMEN (1977) and wrote the screenplay for A WEDDING (1979)—one of my favorite Altman films—was heartbroken that the screenplay was re-written, much of her original intent, including having the film star Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton in her screen debut, remained intact. The result of the rewrite and Higgins' love of the broad slapstick of Warner Brothers cartoons is the version of 9 TO 5 that became one of the highest grossing and enduring comedy films of all time. Lily Tomlin as office manager Violet Newstead smirks and rolls her eyes through endlessly frustrating office experiences, hindered by chauvinistic and incompetent men at every turn, bringing her wry timing and loose, cartoonish physicality to bear in each scene. Jane Fonda plays a trembling, hesitant woman going through a divorce and entering the workforce for the first time, recalling the persona of some of her flightier pre-feminist comedic roles in BAREFOOT IN THE PARK (1967) and BARBARELLA (1968), but updating that persona with modern-day feminist empowerment. Dolly Parton plays Doralee Rhodes, the sunny and cheerful secretary to the horrible male boss who is shunned by all the female staff as they assume she is sleeping with him, though she staunchly avoids his sexual harassment with as much southern kindness and euphemism as she can muster. Both the plot and characters of 9 TO 5 are absurd and cartoonish, and recall the silly exploits and machinations of classic screwball comedies, though the boss, Franklin Hart (played by Dabney Coleman), engenders much less sympathy than a surly Spencer Tracy or sneaky sideways-glancing Cary Grant. Coleman plays a deliciously repulsive villain whose structural faults are sadly still present today, if more subtly practiced. Parton charmed viewers both with the title track "9 to 5" over the opening credits and with her delightful persona and winking-yet-wholesome comedic style. Higgins would go on to direct Parton again in the campy musical THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS in 1982, which plays next in this special Dolly Parton 9 to 5er to celebrate the Music Box Theatre's 90th anniversary. (1980, 110 min, DCP Digital) AE
Showing as part of the Music Box's 90th Anniversary Celebration programming. This “Dolly Parton 9 to 5er” event is an overnight (9pm-5am) quadruple marathon that also includes THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS (DCP Digital), RHINESTONE (35mm), and STRAIGHT TALK (35mm).

Spike Lee’s CROOKLYN (American Revival)

The Black Harvest Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center - Thursday, 6:30pm

CROOKLYN is Spike Lee’s contribution to a rich cinematic subgenre, the autobiographical memory film. Like Tarkovsky’s THE MIRROR, Fellini’s AMARCORD, and Davies’ DISTANT VOICES, STILL LIVES, the film is based on the director’s childhood, and, like them, it’s designed to feel less like a story than a series of memories. It takes place in Brooklyn over the spring and summer of 1973, and for the first half-hour or so, Lee (who collaborated with siblings Cinqué and Joie Lee on the script) just rejoices in recreating this time and place. The weather is nice, kids play in the street, the music on the radio is killer, and people of all races more or less get along (the white neighbor played memorably by David Patrick Kelly is at worst an uptight weirdo). Lee’s filmmaking is as exuberant here as it was in SCHOOL DAZE, with the director trying out all sorts of cinematic devices as though he were a kid first discovering the medium. At the same time, CROOKLYN is as vivid a depiction of poverty as you’ll find in mainstream American cinema of the 1990s—one memorable episode revolves around the main character (a nine-year-old girl presumably based on Joie) experiencing embarrassment over having to pay for groceries with food stamps. Alfre Woodard and Delroy Lindo play the parents of five children, and they do a good job of playing parents as children see them—their performances are warm and a little larger than life. Critics writing about this are all but forced to mention that Lee shot one scene in widescreen without anamorphically adjusting the image to create a disorienting effect. Used to convey the young heroine’s feelings of disorientation when she visits her religious, socially aspirational cousins in suburban Virginia, the device is—at least from this writer’s perspective—one of the more successful formal experiments in the director’s accomplished body of work. Screenwriter/actor Joie Lee and actor Zelda Harris in person. (1994, 114 min, 35mm) BS

Brian Yuzna’s SOCIETY (American Revival)

Music Box Theatre — Sunday, 7pm

The horror-fantastical director Brian Yuzna has carved out a fine career. Among his films are low-budget gems of the body horror subgenre, the most extreme of which is his 1989 debut, which didn’t see a release until 1992. The story has to do with Billy (properly William Whitney, for those who like to keep track of their cinematic references), a Beverly Hills prep-schooler with a therapist, a crumbling relationship with his parents, and incestuous feelings for his sister. His alienation from his family plays pretty straight at the beginning (except for Billy hallucinating worms), then, twenty minutes in, takes a turn for the extravagantly paranoid—or… is it? Ensuing are murders, softcore porn (the T&A often displayed, physiologically, every which way, due to the work of the savagely effective prosthetic makeup artist Screaming Mad George), people expelling hairballs, and surreptitious taping of Billy’s family engaging in the most vile of rituals. Billy thinks he’s not a biological part of his clan; as it turns out, he doesn’t know the half of it. There’s some residue of ROSEMARY’S BABY here, but even though SOCIETY hits all the exploitation beats, it’s not the kind of film you want to spoil overmuch. The twists tend to elicit “You did not go there” responses from the uninitiated, and Yuzna’s genuinely fearless in putting the screws to you; he’s not afraid to up the horrific and rhetorical ante. People have been pressing SOCIETY on friends for years, and not a one of them didn’t wait on tenterhooks wanting to know what you thought of the ending, which is a legend of sorts in horror circles. You hate to throw around “vision,” but Yuzna’s really got one; the last half-hour of this film means no good, philosophically—underneath all the delivering of genre goods is a genuinely pissed-off movie. Yuzna in person. (1989, 99 min, 35mm) JG


Showing as part of the Music Box's 90th Anniversary Celebration programming.

Dario Argento’s PHENOMENA [in the U.S.-Release Version CREEPERS] (Italian Revival)

Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 and 9:30pm

Uncomfortable and alien, PHENOMENA was a massive departure from the furious, hallucinatory series of supernatural horrors Dario Argento had been making since 1977’s SUSPIRIA. Angry, violently colorful, and soaked with primal power, these magical films are inverted in PHENOMENA entirely. Rather than a film that peels back the viscera of the commonplace to reveal the skeleton of evil underneath, he produced a bizarre, clinical film that resists our gaze, one that grows ever more cryptic the more it progresses. At the heart of PHENOMENA is Jennifer Corvino, the daughter of a famous actor, who is sent to a mysterious Swiss boarding school for girls while her father is away on a shoot. Clever viewers might be lulled into thinking this will be a retread of the similarly-premised SUSPIRIA, but this is something entirely different, indeed almost it’s opposite. Jennifer (played expertly by Jennifer Connelly) seems to possess a psychic link with insects, and quickly makes friends with an elderly, disabled entomologist played by Donald Pleasance. As a murderer stalks the area, picking off teenage girls with abandon, Jennifer’s uncanny abilities allow her special access to the moments of death. But where an earlier Argento film would have delved into the carnal, corporeal violations, building a chromatic tapestry of gore and knife and flesh, the camerawork here is cold, dispassionate, refusing for the most part to engage with the violence within its frames. The characters, especially Jennifer, are shot as though wearing thick, hard suits of armor, and they move in eerie, inhuman ways, posturing their bodies to suggest additional joints, additional limbs. This is an insectoid horror, awash in near-monochrome, obsessively fascinated by decay and the comfortable, meatiness of death, unwilling to grant subtle psychologizing or motivations to the impenetrable interiorities of those it sees. The entomologist tells Jennifer at one point that a beetle she is holding is attempting to seduce her, that her mere presence is enough to provoke it into a premature mating season. It is a key insight into the metaphysics of PHENOMENA. The natural world is coming into its own through her. She is the gateway between the dwindling, self-important human civilization and the ever-present, marvelous wonders of the ant, the bee, the fly, beetle, who see all, reveal so little, and wait with infinite patience for us to kill ourselves off. Nota Bene: the film is showing in a significantly shortened (and re-titled CREEPERS), 82-minute version (from its original 116 minutes) that this critic has not seen. (1985, 82 min U.S. release version, 35mm) KB

Diego Arsuaga’s OTARIO (Uruguayan Revival)

Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 7pm

Often described as the Switzerland of South America, Uruguay may possess the biggest little cinema in the world—the country excels at compact, deadpan, and generally entertaining films about everyday people and workaday life. (Between the Chicago Latino Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival, our city is lucky enough to see a few of them every year.) OTARIO, made around the start of the national film industry’s resurgence, is described as film noir, of which there are not (to my knowledge) many Uruguayan examples. It’s a 1940s-set detective story that mainly takes place at a seedy club called El Paradise, where a private detective winds up in his search for a Spanish woman’s missing husband. This was shot on video and then transferred to film, and since it was made in 1997, it should probably have a distinctive, compellingly ugly look. (1997, 106 min, 35mm) BS

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM (New Documentary)

Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes

Toni Morrison is a great writer, full stop. She could almost be considered the creator of a genre of fiction, one that surveys with blazing originality and honesty the lives of African-American girls and women. Therefore, predictably, attempts to marginalize her, ignore her, change her, and ban her have dogged her from the moment her first novel, The Bluest Eye, debuted in 1970. Being the highly intelligent, imaginative, and socially committed person that she is, Morrison has triumphed over her detractors, eventually winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Now we are able to share a bit in her journey through Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ documentary TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM, a film that focuses probingly, and almost exclusively, on her working life and accomplishments. We are edified about how Morrison used the early morning hours to turn out her stellar debut novel with two young sons to raise and provide for, and how now the world always looks better to her at dawn. We learn how, as an editor for Random House, she was able to bring other African-American voices into the world. We see her fun-loving side and her clear-eyed compassion. The documentary is packed with talking-head admirers, but really, Morrison can tell her own story perfectly well without them, as she has for 50 years. TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM is a competent portrait of a life well lived. (2019, 120 min, DCP Digital) MF

Quentin Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD (New American)

Music Box Theatre (35mm) – Check Venue website for showtimes

Having finally arrived, Quentin Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD could not be any truer to its creator’s decades-long fascination and obsession with 1960’s and 70’s cinema, though it also feels slightly atypical for the director. Without giving anything away, the long blocks of back-and-forth dialogue that Tarantino usually indulges in have begun to give way to more preoccupation with staging, fourth-wall-breaking camera moves, and all around color, resulting in an ambling and evocative dreamscape rife with a whole host of characters. Atmosphere has never been so palpable and dialogue between characters so natural in a Tarantino film—there’s nary a monologue in sight. The film begins at the tail end of an era in Hollywood filmmaking in which rapidly-fading TV actor/cowboy “heavy" Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is seeing his career head towards Italy, specifically towards the cheap and fast genre films of Sergio Corbucci. Burt Reynolds went to Rome to work with Corbucci, Eastwood did the same for Sergio Leone, along with character actors like Lee Van Cleef, and so did one-time TV western stars like Ty Hardin (Rick Dalton is probably most similar to the latter). In the cases of Reynolds and Eastwood, their careers were revitalized by the Italian industry, but many others, like Hardin, were pushed further into obscurity. While watching his star power sputter out in what he perceives to be his twilight years, Dalton is accompanied by his sidekick/assistant/stunt man/reflective image Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who lives in a trailer behind a drive-in theater, while Dalton lives in a Benedict Canyon home (with pool, naturally). He lives next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), and Manson family members are prowling around the streets of L.A., hollering at police officers and offering up blowjobs while they try to hitch back to their nesting grounds at the Spahn Ranch. Tarantino covers a lot of ground in ONCE UPON A TIME—an entire landscape of stories is on view, not dissimilar to something like Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE or even Richard Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED. The film has a near three-hour running time, but three hours that have never seemed so short and compact in recent film memory. The movie has a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it pace, rare for a director who sometimes has a tendency to halt the rush of his work with overly bravura dialogue sequences. Tarantino seems to find fresh new ground within his already steadfast movie-making abilities, to let the scope of his powers extend further than previously thought possible. He barely pauses for the chance to show off his noted screenwriting abilities, and instead chooses to craft an ensemble work that somehow feels more epic than any of his films have ever felt; this is Los Angeles completely transformed back to the summer of 1969, in a way that only a very large budget and large talent could realize. It might possibly be one of the last times we see Hollywood bankroll such an ambitious project, by an auteur still powerful enough to retain final cut. ONCE UPON A TIME isn’t as cynical a look at Hollywood as other films have been (such as Altman’s THE PLAYER—even though it does share a curious opening shot). It’s more bittersweet nostalgia, and is perhaps Tarantino’s breeziest and best work to date; his entire career as a director bursts forth as both a marvelously crafted time-capsule and a fantasy-land-rendering of a mythical Hollywood, specifically the place where dreams, however real, are made. (2019, 165 min, 70mm/35mm/DCP Digital) JD


Media Burn Independent Video Archive screens their 2019 documentary/essay film GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE (65 min, Digital Projection) at Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash, 8th Floor, Columbia College) on Saturday at 6pm. This omnibus film, made from footage in the Media Burn archives, is in four parts, each by a different director: Lori Felker, Mikhail Zheleznikov, Dimitri Devyatkin, and Dmitrii Kalashnikov. Filmmakers in person. Free admission.

South Side Projections and the DuSable Museum (at the DuSable Museum) screen Stan Lathan’s 1970 television episode THE BLACK WOMAN (52 min, 16mm archival print), part of the series Black Journal, on Tuesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.

Chicago Filmmakers (5720 N. Ridge Ave.) screens Gavin Rayna Russom’s 2017 experimental feature NO MORE WHITE PRESIDENTS (approx. 60 min, Digital Projection) on Friday at 6pm, with director/musician/artist Russom in person. Followed by a panel discussion. Co-presented by A Queer Pride.

Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Trent Harris’ 1979-85/2000 film THE BEAVER TRILOGY (83 min, Video Projection) on Wednesday at 8pm.

Rebuild Foundation at the Stony Island Arts Bank (6760 S. Stony Island Ave.) screens Ralph Bakski’s 1975 animated film COONSKIN (100 min, Digital Projection) on Saturday at 5pm. Free admission.

The Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) hosts the Reel Film Club screening of Arnaldo Valsecchi's 2018 Chilean film BROKEN PANTS (101 min, Digital Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm. Tickets are $20/$30 for two.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Waad Al-Khateab and Edward Watts' 2019 film FOR SAMA (95 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; and the Black Harvest Film Festival concludes this week, with a Closing Night screening of Spike Lee's CROOKLYN (see above), and narrative features Storm Saulter's SPRINTER and Damon Jamal's LAST NIGHT A DJ SAVED MY LIFE; documentary features Carine Bijlsma's DEVIL'S PIE—D'ANGELO, David Weathersby's locally-made THEE DEBAUCHERY BALL, and Olivier Sarrazin's French BESSIE COLEMAN, FIRST BLACK AVIATRIX; and the shorts program "Women of Color."

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: 90th Anniversary Celebration programming continues with Andrew Davis’ 1993 film THE FUGITIVE (130 min, DCP Digital) on Friday at 7pm, with Davis in person; a MARY POPPINS SING-A-LONG is on Sunday at Noon; Paweł Pawlikowski’ 2013 Polish film IDA (80 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Terence Davies’ 2011 UK film THE DEEP BLUE SEA (98 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 8:45pm; James Cameron’s 1984 film THE TERMINATOR (107 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7pm; and Robert Zemeckis’ 1989 film BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II (108 min, 70mm) is on Thursday at 7pm; plus, see WORLD CITY IN ITS TEENS, ROBOCOP, 9 TO 5, and SOCIETY above; Also showing, separate from the Anniversary programming: Jennifer Kent’s 2019 film THE NIGHTINGALE (136 min, DCP Digital) continues; and Jim Sharman’s 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35) is on Friday at Midnight.

The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of Ben Elton's 2017 Australian film THREE SUMMERS (95 min, Video Projection) is on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.

The Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase, presenting Chicago-made films in various Chicago Park District locations around the city, begins on Monday and continues through August 31. Free admission. Visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com for the schedule.

CINE-LIST: August 23 - August 29, 2019

MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel

ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal

CONTRIBUTORS // Kian Bergstrom, Rob Christopher, Cody Corrall, John Dickson, Alexandra Ensign, Marilyn Ferdinand, Jim Gabriel, Michael Metzger