CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – WEEK TWO
The Chicago International Film Festival continues this week through Thursday, with screenings at the AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St.). For more information and a complete schedule visit www.chicagofilmfestival.com.
Claire Denis’ LET THE SUNSHINE IN (New French)
Sunday and Monday, 5:45pm
Claire Denis follows up her darkest and most disturbing feature, 2013’s BASTARDS—a gut-wrenching journey into the heart of a prostitution ring that was loosely inspired by William Faulkner—with LET THE SUNSHINE IN, undoubtedly her lightest and funniest work, which was loosely inspired by Roland Barthes. A delight from start to finish, Denis’ first collaboration with the iconic Juliette Binoche is probably the closest we’ll ever come to seeing the Gallic master’s take on the rom-com. Binoche, looking more radiant than ever at 53, plays Isabelle, a divorced mother living in Paris whose career as a painter is as successful as her love life is a mess. The neurotic Isabelle plunges headfirst into a series of affairs with dubious men, some of whom are married and one of whom is her ex-husband, all the while hoping to find “true love at last.” Isabelle’s best prospect seems to be the only man who wants to take things slow (Alex Descas) but a witty coda involving a fortune-teller played by Gerard Depardieu suggests that Isabelle is doomed to repeat the same mistakes even while remaining a hopelessly optimistic romantic. Bolstered by Agnes Godard’s tactile cinematography and Stuart Staples’ fine jazz score, LET THE SUNSHINE IN is funny, wise, sexy—and essential viewing. (2017, 94 min) MGS
Hong Sang-soo’s ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE (Contemporary South Korean)
Tuesday & Wednesday, 5:45pm
The latest feature from prolific South Korean filmmaker and SAIC-alumni Hong Sang-soo is one of his most somber, and yet, funniest films to date (though that could change by next week.) The melancholic air drifting through the spaces of this film aren’t ones of overwhelming sorrow however, but more the fleeting autumnal feelings one experiences through the changing of the seasons, a hushed reminder of memories faded and gone, but born not of bleakness and hopelessness, but of enlightenment and forward progression. Filmmaker Hong Sang-soo and his leading lady have recently been embroiled in some unwanted public spotlight, when it was revealed that they had been carrying on a not-so-secret affair for a few years. Much speculation has been made over the news of their coupling, though neither would comment on it until recently, when they were participating in a Q&A following the premiere of this film. The plot itself is a surefire example of art imitating life, in that it concerns itself with a young actress, reeling from a highly-publicized scandal involving her previous director, as she journeys to Germany for a much-needed escape and to share a very awkward dinner with a German couple, including Mark Peranson (the editor-in-chief of the seminal film magazine,Cinemascope.) The second part of the film concerns the same character visiting her former director/lover on the set of his upcoming movie where, in true Hong fashion, they consume bottles of soju and spill feelings normally bound up in the ties of level-headed sobriety. The film is less concerned with the densely-packed puzzles of some of his previous work and pushes ahead with one of the most linear plot lines to come from this filmmaker. Like his previous film YOURSELF AND YOURS, the director plays around with light touches of surreality, courtesy of the great Spanish filmmaker Luis Bunuel. Though instead of being a reconstruction of Bunuel’s THE OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE, the framework presents itself as a head-on charge into the heart of what makes this filmmaker so special, time and time again. (2016, 101 min) JD
Dziga Vertov’s LULLABY and David Perlov’s MEMORIES OF THE EICHMANN TRIAL (Documentary Revivals)
Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) – Friday, 7pm (Lullaby) and Thursday, 7pm (Memories) (Free Admission)
This week, the Film Studies Center presents, on two different nights, a pair of powerful and under-seen documentaries. Each is a masterwork of the highest order. LULLABY (58 min, 35mm Archival Print) is a late-period collaboration between Vertov, the brilliant theoretician, and Yelizaveta Svilova, the genius editor. After the intense formal experimentation and self-reflexive autocritique of THE MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA and ENTHUSIASM, Vertov and Svilova began increasingly to theorize about the possibilities of sound cinema to enable what he called a ‘cinema of behavior’, a mode of filmmaking that discovered in people’s private moments and patterns of repetitive actions hidden access to the imprint of ideology and power being made on the very manner of their body’s flow through space. Vertov’s project, in short, was to make social structures, intangible and elusive at best in ordinary conditions, visible, to put on display the very machinery of human relations. Originally conceived as a study of capitalism and socialism through a comparison of how women in Germany and France on the one hand and in the USSR on the other performed similar tasks, LULLABY, partially under State restriction (Vertov was unable to get permission to film abroad) transformed in its creation into a rumination on the unphotographable interiors of people, on the ways in which the movie camera shows us neither as we seem nor as we feel, but as we are. In perhaps their most sumptuous film, Vertov and Svilova explore the intimate, unguarded faces of nursing infants and their mothers, the mechanical toil of garment factory workers, the elaborate theatrics of public speechifying, and the riveting storytelling of a parachutist’s first jump. What is faked, what is illusion, and what is genuine? Towering over the film is that greatest of all political illusionists, Stalin, whose opacity even to cinema stains the film to its core (and may be part of why Stalin intervened to suppress the film upon release). A disturbing reverse to LULLABY’s obverse, David Perlov’s made-for-Israeli-television documentary MEMORIES OF THE EICHMANN TRIAL (1979, 65 min, Digital Projection) is a brutal, almost Warholian gaze into the shadow evil casts over those who come within its aura. Perlov’s film, austere and cold to the same extreme that Vertov and Svilova’s is wide-ranging and compassionate, is made up of isolated interviews, mostly showing only the interview subject, with people who either attended or were intimately involved in the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Witnesses who testified, a soldier who helped capture Eichmann in Argentina, people who learned through the radio broadcast of the testimony for the first time what their parents had been through twenty years earlier, return to that moment and relate how they came to be involved in the trial. In a heartbreaking moment straight out of Beckett, an elderly woman listens to herself, recorded telling her story to the court in front of Eichmann, as she describes the murder of her daughter at the hands of Nazi collaborators and her own humiliating narrow escape from them. But the centerpiece of the film is a long interview, returned to again and again, with Henryk Ross, a Polish photojournalist at the time of the war who secretly photographed the Lodz ghetto for years as the Shoah burned down Eastern Europe. His collection of negatives, buried when the ghetto was evacuated in the hopes that some record might survive, contains images of such stark horror and desperation that they can scarce even be viewed. For each picture, Ross and his wife wryly describe what isn’t shown in it, the reality that Ross didn’t manage to capture with his camera, hidden under scarves inside his coat or shooting through half-opened doorways. Vertov and Svilova explored the ways in which cinema could tell the truths about us that even we don’t know ourselves; Perlov’s film is about what can’t ever be shown, what no amount of recording, documentation, evidence, or research can ever exhaust. Eichmann himself appears, very briefly, mainly in haunting still images. LULLABY worries that no amount of probing will ever penetrate the facades that Stalin wears. MEMORIES OF THE EICHMANN TRIAL worries that there might not be anything at all inside Eichmann, that he might be fakery all the way down. As a coda to the film, Perlov lingers on some photographs of Ross’s wife in the ghetto, smiling, seeming genuinely happy, while Perlov explains that that after the war, he never took another picture. What is the truth of these pictures? What can we see in them that we can’t see without them? For Vertov and Svilova, the camera shows us invisible things. For Perlov, these pictures might hide more than they reveal. In either case, these are films of great importance. KB
MEMORIES OF THE EICHMANN TRIAL is followed by a panel discussion that includes Perlov’s daughter, Yael Perlov.
Howard Alk’s THE MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON (Documentary Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 3:30pm and Wednesday, 7:45pm
While many documentaries hold true to their genre and ‘document’ history, very few actually capture that hefty substance as it is happening. Examples that come to mind are the Maysles brothers and Charlotte Zwerin’s GIMME SHELTER and, more recently, Laura Poitras’ CITIZENFOUR and RISK. In the former, the filmmakers caught the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter while filming the Altamont Free Concert; in the latter, Poitras depicts real-time revelations from and about Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. The UCLA Festival of Preservation brings another, one that retains an especially germane timelessness, its themes as urgent as ever. Originally intended as a more straightforward examination of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and its chairman Fred Hampton, Howard Alk’s THE MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON, produced by the Chicago Film Group, evolved into something much more pressing and investigative after Hampton was killed during an early-morning raid while the project was underway. It’s effective as it details both the Black Panther ideology (which includes truly forward-thinking social and education programs, as well as cooperation with other minority groups) and the events surrounding Hampton’s horrific death; the dichotomy created by the unfortunate circumstances is a compelling one. In this way, it was a much-needed antithesis to conservative accounts touted at the time, specifically that which appeared on the front page of theChicago Tribune—to quote Howard Zinn from his seminal A People's History of the United States, "the mountain of history books under which we all stands leans so heavily in the other direction…that we need some counterforce to avoid being crushed into submission." In his review of the film for the New York Times, A.H. Weiler opened with the declaration that “[h]istory is, or should be, recorded after exhaustive contemplation.” Who says? THE MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON was ahead of its time in its propinquity, reflecting history as a stimulus that demands immediate response. (Weiler eventually concedes this, but let’s reconsider his leading sentiment anyway.) The footage of a prostrate Hampton covered in blood after being dragged off the bed he’d been sleeping in just moments before is much more affecting than the FBI reenactments, however illuminating they may be in their homiletic significance. Fred Hampton was murdered, and this film demands its viewer bear witness to that in such a way that’s just now reaching critical saturation. Preceded by the 1967 student-made short THE JUNGLE (Charlie “Brown” David, Jimmy “Country” Robinson, and David “Bat” Williams, 22 min, Restored 35mm Print). (1971, 88 min, Restored 35mm Print) KS
Anthony Mann’s THE FAR COUNTRY (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am
A few years ago, I wrote that Anthony Mann was “not traditionally associated with psychological thrillers.” And while that technically might be correct—his films certainly aren’t considered along with those from the likes of Hitchcock, Cronenberg, and Fincher—it’s undeniable that his Westerns are rooted in a violent psychology that examines man’s basest instincts, an appropriate offshoot of a genre already concerned with the most primitive era of American history. The psychological Western borrowed “elements of film noir to present a very different kind of hero to the one who had ridden West in search of land, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the triumphant expansionist dramas of the 1920s and 30s,” as detailed in the BFI entry on the subject, and this is especially applicable to Mann’s films, as the director started his career making noirs like T-MEN, RAW DEAL, BORDER INCIDENT, and SIDE STREET. Indeed, the expansionist nature of the earlier Westerns is sharply contrasted by the psychological interiority of the ones from the new subgenre, a particularly noirish influence that’s laid bare in Mann’s spacious settings. THE FAR COUNTRY, his fourth collaboration with Jimmy Stewart and their third with screenwriter Borden Chase (a significant contributor to the subgenre), is set against the Klondike Gold Rush; it follows Stewart’s Jeff and his sidekick, Ben, as they make their way to Dawson City (still frozen, though not in time) to cash in on beef and gold. Along the way they encounter the typical Western archetypes, including a corrupt judge, a naive maiden and a feisty female saloon owner. Despite the richness of his character, both literal and figurative, Jeff fancies himself a loner, and the psychological dilemma of this particular Mann film emanates from that very disunion. The archetype of the loner cowboy is fundamentally at odds with the reality of the scenario—unchartered territory can’t be pioneered alone. Its moral dilemma is as clear as the very ice the players stand on, yet the transparency of its quandary doesn’t detract from its nimble psychology so much as it situates a fragile situation within a similarly fragile ecosystem. Once again, Mann exhibits a masterful use of space, even if largely manufactured; filmed in Technicolor both on location at Athabasca Glacier and Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, and on soundstages by cinematographer William H. Daniels, THE FAR COUNTRY has textures and compositions that aptly reflect the puerile complexity of its plot—and its reception. “It...seems enchanting to do an Alaska movie inside a studio,” Manny Farber said in an interview republished in Negative Space, “and then to have critics write about it as if it's a masterpiece of location work.” The compositions are less deceiving—one can stop the film at any point during THE FAR COUNTRY and understand its psychological undertones, be it a lone character against a mountainous horizon or several characters situated by thematic hierarchy. The filmic landscape of the Western is as wide as the terrain it’s set in, and THE FAR COUNTRY finds man using more frigid territory with which to explore more manifest behaviorism. (1954, 97 min, 35mm) KS
Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s BEWARE OF A HOLY WHORE (German Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Sunday, 7pm
In an essay for the Criterion Collection, Michael Koresky points out that Rainer Werner Fassbinder divided his early films (i.e., those made released between 1969 and 1971) into categories of “cinema films,” which played with conventions of other movies, and “bourgeois films,” which critiqued conventions of German middle-class life. Koresky also notes that while BEWARE OF A HOLY WHORE takes place on a movie set, it really belongs to the second category. The film, Fassbinder’s tenth feature, depicts an independent movie crew as a deformed version of a bourgeois nuclear family, with a tyrannical patriarch (Lou Castel, playing a stand-in for Fassbinder), subservient “children” (i.e., the rest of the crew), and lots of incestuous sex. Very little filming gets done during HOLY WHORE (there’s always some delay: the crew is out of film stock, the director’s experiencing creative block), and so the characters, left to it around, drink, and gossip, enact power games with each other. Someone’s always trying to bed someone else or else a relationship is coming apart. And there’s yelling, lots of yelling. The obsession with sloth and libertine behavior recalls Warhol’s films, though the camerawork is not at all Warholian. Working with the great Michael Ballhaus, Fassbinder executes long, snakelike dolly shots, which render cavernous and vertiginous the Spanish chateau where the film-within-a-film is being shot. Fassbinder also achieves indelible effects with pop music, often playing songs in their entirety so that they draw out underlying emotions of a scene. Fassbinder’s use of The Songs of Leonard Cohen is particularly inspired, the songs from that record calling attention to the characters’ unspoken vulnerability and longing to be loved. But the most explosive musical cue is Ray Charles’ “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” which plays over the climactic long take. One of the most dynamic moments Fassbinder ever shot, the scene conveys sadness, anger, resignation, and aesthetic beauty all at once. The writer-director’s cynicism here about the creative process anticipates the imminent breakup of Antiteater, the theater company he cofounded in 1967; at the same time, the film’s intoxication with the possibilities of mise-en-scene are rapturous. Fassbinder later claimed that this was his favorite of his own films; it’s certainly his most furious. (1971, 104 min, 35mm) BS
Wolfgang Reitherman/Walt Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK (Animation Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 and 9pm, and Sunday, 4pm
Adult reconsiderations of Disney movies are often prefaced with the nostalgic epitaph “I haven’t seen it since I was a kid.” Such a proclamation is two-fold, acting as both a verbal amulet against the metamorphoses of time and a reticent acceptance of the film’s transformation from kiddie entertainment to pièce de résistance of its genre. I had this experience recently when revisiting SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959) and PINOCCHIO (1940) for the first time as an adult, and again when rewatching THE JUNGLE BOOK for its upcoming screenings at Doc. In my memory lived a death-defying Mowgli, a lovable Baloo, and a terrifying Shere Khan. In reality, Mowgli is kind of a brat (one who’s all too willing to abandon his friends for a girl), Baloo is actually cooler than previously thought, and Shere Khan is more suave than scary. Still, this dichotomy between youthful appreciation and mature cogitation is unique to the studio, its output as likely to inspire metaphor-laden think pieces written by adults who have watched Disney movies their whole lives as it is unbridled joy in youngsters still new to their output. A definite product of its time, THE JUNGLE BOOK claims a divisive legacy—on one hand, it’s adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s racist and colonialist novel (though Disney fired writer Bill Peet after he submitted an early treatment that followed Kipling’s text too closely), and its King Louie character, an ape voiced by Italian-American entertainer Louis Prima, is undeniably stereotypical. On the other, it’s evocative of its era; one defined by racial tension, anti-colonialist fervor, and distinct music styles such as bebop and British pop. The latter is a good starting point: Baloo’s showpiece, “The Bare Necessities,” was written by folk singer Terry Gilkyson, reflecting a socialistic worldview often associated with his style; King Louie’s “I Wan'na Be Like You” could be interpreted as a call for either equality or violent uprising against oppression; and “That’s What Friends Are For” is performed primarily by a group of vultures who sound like a certain Fab Four. The last film produced by Disney himself, who died during its production, THE JUNGLE BOOK was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and features the voice talent of Phil Harris as Baloo, Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera, George Sanders as Shere Khan, and Reitherman’s son as the voice of Mowgli. Its rough-hewn animation style befits its complexity, adding both a folksy standpoint and a reminder of its inherent artifice—regardless of what one feels about the film, it’s just that, and an animation nonetheless. Yet it’s in this artifice—the most deliberate kind, to be sure—that one can illustrate an array of interpretations to analyze or enjoy. (1967, 78 min, 35mm) KS
Andrzej Żuławski’s THE DEVIL (Polish Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Tuesday, 7pm
Suppressed for almost 20 years after it was completed, Andrzej Żuławski’s second feature is one of the most damning and terrifying critiques of communist society in cinema. It takes place in the 1790s, during Prussia’s violent invasion of Poland, but Żuławski uses that period to comment obliquely on the time when the film was made, a repressive era in Polish history following the mild cultural thaw of the late 1960s. Responding to the state’s persecution of artists and intellectuals, Żuławski conjures a world defined by rampant brutality and betrayal; the pervasive onscreen violence is generally gruesome and protracted. The story follows a Polish nobleman who journeys home to his family estate after being released from a Prussian prison; he’s accompanied by a strange man (probably the devil) who goads him into committing heinous acts such as betraying his compatriots in the Polish resistance and murdering random people. Like the director’s later POSSESSION, THE DEVIL is an immersive experience, employing a heavy psychedelic rock soundtrack, shaky and near-constant camera movement, and performances that seem to want to jump out of the screen and shake you. One doesn’t just watch THE DEVIL—one endures it. The film gains in meaning the more you know about Polish history (it’s dense with historical references, making it a rather modernist construction), but taken on a literal level, it remains a powerful vision of a world gone mad. (1972, 119 min, DCP Digital) BS
Joseph L. Mankiewicz's SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Friday, 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday, 1:30pm
Some of the most luminary actors of the time—Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Montgomery Clift—star in this Tennessee Williams adaptation and the director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, was among the most respected of his generation, having won Oscars for both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay two years in a row. Yet the source material is among Williams' most shocking: Sexual submission, cannibalism, and forced lobotomy are all integral to its plot. It's almost inconceivable to think that a writer so fascinated with prurient subject matter could attract such A-list talent—and under the Hays' Code no less—but such was Williams' astonishing trajectory in the 1950s. (To consider just how weird this was, imagine Tom Hanks starring in an adaptation of Sarah Kane's Blasted or Ridley Scott directing the film version of Tracy Letts' Killer Joe.) Of course, much of Williams' script had to be omitted, altered, or replaced. The most glaring change is the addition of new characters in the film's flashback sequences, themselves not a part of the original one-act—which was a slow crescendo towards abject terror achieved entirely through language. Fortunately Mankiewicz was among the most gifted men in Hollywood when it came to constructing dialogue (as was the film's co-writer, Gore Vidal), so at least the timbre of Williams' writing was preserved. Whatever the film's weaknesses, this revival should provide a spectacle all but absent from contemporary American cinema: that of one richly literate talent engaging with the work of another. (1959, 114 min, 35mm) BS
Adrian Lyne's JACOB’S LADDER (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Friday and Saturday, Midnight
In one of his first starring roles, Tim Robbins plays Jacob, an emotionally scarred Vietnam War veteran estranged from his wife and working as a postman in 1970s New York. But what begins as a muted social drama gradually turns into a surrealistic nightmare more unpredictable and terrifying than almost any other commercial American film. As JACOB’S LADDER unravels, it seems more and more likely that the “story” is really a hallucination, the result of Jacob having been a guinea pig in military tests involving LSD; it’s also possible that he’s died and gone to Hell. A radical experiment in genre mixing from the unlikely team of director Adrian Lyne (FLASHDANCE) and writer Bruce Joel Rubin (GHOST), it is, like the similarly cryptic and paranoid MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962), a masterpiece that transcends any auteurist interpretation: Arguably, its real author is the American subconscious. It’s also a beautifully acted film, something one rarely says of horror movies. Robbins, in what may be his best work, delivers a courageous performance, channeling for most of the film a reservoir of naked vulnerability. (1990, 115 min, 35mm) BS
David Cronenberg's THE FLY (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Tuesday, 7:15pm
David Cronenberg may have finally shed the moniker of "former midnight-movie director," but it's worth noting that the major themes of his recent work have been present all along. This revival of THE FLY is a reminder of how much Cronenberg has always been in control of his ideas—and, as importantly, how he could use them to truly unsettle an audience. The film was a potentially thankless project (a remake of a 50s sci-fi/horror item affectionately remembered as camp), but Cronenberg transformed it into something wholly personal, an existentialist allegory about growing alienated from your own body. It's discomforting filmmaking from literally the first shot, a classic Cronenbergian close-up that isolates the main character (Jeff Goldblum, in the performance of his career) in a frame purposely devoid of context: the surrounding milieu (in terms of both space and time) is rendered unclear, and the overly technical sci-fi jargon, delivered with deadpan assurance, only complicates things further. It takes a few minutes to determine that, no, we're not in a dream; the rest of the film can be seen as a deepening of that initial uncertainty. As Goldblum's scientist transforms into a giant insect (an extremely nuanced process, thanks to Cronenberg's scientific imagination and some of the finest make-up of any movie), the more sympathy he arouses in the journalist who's fallen for him. Some critics have read the film as an AIDS metaphor; and on that level, it ranks with the best of Derek Jarman and Todd Haynes. But the central romance—in which love is strengthened by the impossibility of love—resonates in a number of directions, sustaining the film across multiple viewings. Introduced by Erica Zahnle (Rice DNA Discover Center, Field Museum). (1986, 95 min, 35mm) BS
Mario Monicelli's THE ORGANIZER (Italian Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Monday, 7pm
"Don't you ever call me 'dummy' again," says a bold young boy to a jaded young man as they go to work in a factory. The young man replies, "I'll call you anything I want as long as I'm bigger than you." Mario Monicelli's THE ORGANIZER is full of such metaphors, which reflect the film's central drama and provide context to its egalitarian slant. Set in Turin, Italy, during the late nineteenth century, it's about a group of factory workers who decide to organize against oppressive management after a radical professor--played to near perfection by the iconic Marcello Mastroianni—comes to town. Though Mastroianni's character is the de facto protagonist, Monicelli gives various factory workers as much, if not more, consideration; this echoes the film's spirit, as it organizes the characters similarly to how they're organizing themselves. Borrowing from the neorealist tradition that predated him by only a few decades, Monicelli cast many real workers in lieu of professional actors. Giuseppe Rotunno's striking cinematography illuminates the disconcerting realism, also contributing to the "sort of neorealist period piece" aesthetic that J. Hoberman describes in his essay for the film's Criterion release. (The look is so gritty and authentic that more than once I found myself verifying what year it was made.) It's strangely funny at times, though such dark humor is to be expected from one of the masters of the Commedia all'italiana genre. A mustachioed scab who's later arrested for threatening the bosses when they won't let him work is Chaplinesque in both appearance and demeanor; that he becomes violent suggests a tramp who's reached his limits. Most importantly, however, is that the film's straightforward, pro-labor message isn't hampered by didacticism. It's as expressive as it is informative, and its reluctant modernity is challenged only by its clever archaism. (1963, 128 min, 35mm) KS
David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 9:15pm
So few digitally-shot features dare to place the medium's technical limitations at the front and center of their aesthetic. Mostly filmmakers just hope that the audience ignores how crappy everything looks. Not David Lynch. INLAND EMPIRE obsessively fixates on the look of mid-grade digital video: blocky smears of light, washed-out colors, hazy and peculiar. It's literally a dreamworld. As in a dream, you can't always tell what you're seeing--or what it means. There is only the eternal now; in the film's world, memory can just as easily refer to tomorrow as to yesterday. Memory is as blurry as the degraded visuals. We're forced to squint between the pixels, trying to remember. Lynch marries this to a soundtrack that's arrestingly intricate, populated with all manner of industrial noises and hair-raising sound effects. It's an image/sound mashup as scary and bewildering as any nightmare. Seen in a darkened theater we're caught in its brilliant grip. (2006, 180 min, 35mm) RC
With a pre-show presentation by Daniel Knox at approx. 8:50pm.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center presents Tense Nature: The Changeover System, a live projector performance by filmmakers/artists Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder, in collaboration with local sound artist Brian Case, on Thursday at 6pm. Gibson and Recoder will be taking over both theaters at the Siskel and all four 35mm projectors, cycling the reels of a feature film among them and distorting the image through various means. Gibson and Recoder will also be giving an artist talk at Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria St., UIC) on Tuesday at 6pm. The talk is free admission.
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) presents a program of documentary shorts by Nigerian filmmaker Femi Odugbemi on Thursday at 7pm, with Odugbemi in person. Screening are: MAKOKO: FUTURES AFLOAT (2016, 29 min), BARIGA BOY (2009, 25 min), and OUI VOODOO (2005, 45 min). All digital projection. Free admission.
Cinema 53 at the Harper Theater (5238 S. Harper Ave.) presents Jack Hill’s 1974 blaxploitation film FOXY BROWN (94 min, Video Projection). Preceded by Julie Dash’s 1978 short FOUR WOMEN (7 min, Video Projection). Followed by a conversation with curator/writer Tempestt Hazel and local filmmaker Coquie Hughes, moderated by Jacqueline Stewart.
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents The Eyeslicer Road Show (approx. 118 min, Digital Projection), a touring program of work culled from the experimental, independent TV series The Eyeslicer on Sunday at 6pm, with co-producer Dan Schoenbrun in person.
Lithium (1932 S. Halsted St.) screens the 2015 film INFINITE LOOP (approx. 180 min, Video Projection) by the artist-duo Double-Color Balls (Lin Aojie and Yu Yiyi) on Friday at 6pm.
The Den Theatre (1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.) hosts the combination music performance/film screening The Listening // Song for Samhain on Friday at 9pm. Music by Jessica Marks, MICHA, and Caroline Campbell, and films by Eve Rydberg and Julia Zinn.
Black Cinema House at the Stony Island Arts Bank (6760 S. Stony Island Ave.) screens Wes Craven’s 1991 horror film THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (102 min, Video Projection) on Friday at 7pm. Free admission.
The Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema opens on Wednesday and continues through November 5 at various locations in Chicago, Glenview, and Skokie. Full schedule at http://israelifilmchi.org.
At the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: Fisher Stevens’ 2016 documentary BEFORE THE FLOOD (96 min, Video Projection) is on Monday at 7pm; and Gore Verbinski’s 2002 film THE RING (115 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. www.northbrook.info/events/film
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Anna Chai and Nari Kye’s 2017 documentary WASTED! THE STORY OF FOOD WASTE (85 min, DCP Digital), Michael Winterbottom’s 2017 UK film THE TRIP TO SPAIN (108 min, DCP Digital), and Scott D. Rosenbaum’s 2016 documentary SIDEMEN: LONG ROAD TO GLORY (81 min, DCP Digital) all play for a week; Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2006 Thai film SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY (105 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 8:15pm and Sunday at 4:45pm (followed by a discussion with local filmmaker Melika Bass); Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s 2007 French animated film PERSEPOLIS (96 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 1:30pm and Tuesday at 6pm, with a lecture by film scholar Donald Crafton at the Tuesday screening; and Juleen Compton’s 1965 film STRANDED (90 min, Restored 35mm Print) is on Saturday at 5:45pm and Monday at 6pm.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Norman Jewison’s 1979 film …AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (119 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7 and 9:30pm; and François Truffaut’s 1959 French film THE 400 BLOWS (99 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 6:30pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi’s 2017 documentary CHAVELA (93 min, DCP Digital) opens; Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s 2017 UK/Polish animated film LOVING VINCENT (94 min, DCP Digital) and John Carroll Lynch’s 2017 film LUCKY (88 min, DCP Digital) both continue; and Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s 2017 film LEATHERFACE (90 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.
At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Miranda Bailey’s 2017 documentary THE PATHOLOGICAL OPTIMIST (106 min, Video Projection), Li Yuhe’s 2017 Chinese film ABSURD ACCIDENT (97 min, Video Projection), and Patricio Valladares’ 2017 film NIGHTWORLD (92 min, Video Projection) all have week-long runs.
The Park Ridge Classic Film Series at the Pickwick Theatre (5 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge) screens Mel Brooks’ 1974 film YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (106 min, Video Projection) on Thursday at 2 and 7:30pm. http://parkridgeclassicfilm.com
The Chicago Cultural Center present a screening of Risé Sanders-Weir’s 2015 documentary GADGET GIRLS (28 min, Video Projection) on Saturday at 2pm, followed by a panel discussion. Free admission.
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Ed Hunt’s 1988 horror film THE BRAIN (94 min, VHS Projection) on Wednesday at 8pm in the “Released and Abandoned: Forgotten Oddities of the Home Video Era” series. Free admission.
Filmfront (1740 W. 18th St.) presents What Is Black Comedy?, a screening of “clips from stand-up performances, comedy sketches, cartoons, and news satire” and discussion led by The Point Magazine contributor Lauren Jackson, on Thursday at 7:30pm.
Sinema Obscura at Township (2200 N. California Ave.) Jeff Harder’s 2015 film CARMILLA (64 min, Video Projection) on Monday at 7pm.
Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Claudia Llosa’s 2009 Peruvian film THE MILK OF SORROW (99 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.
The Italian Cultural Institute presents a screening of Mario Martone’s 2014 Italian film LEOPARDI [IL GIOVANE FAVOLOSO] (143 min, Video Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm, followed by a talk by scholar Francesca Brencio (University of Zaragoza). Free admission.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
The SAIC Sullivan Galleries (33 S. State St., 7th Floor) presents Apichatpong Weerasethakul: The Serenity of Madness through December 8. The show features many short films and video installations by the SAIC graduate, along with a selection of photography, sketches, and archival materials.
The Graham Foundation presents David Hartt’s installation in the forest through January 6 at the Madlener House (4 W. Burton Place). The show features photography, sculpture, and a newly commissioned film.
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: October 20 - October 26, 2017
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Kian Bergstrom, Rob Christopher, John Dickson, Michael Glover Smith