On episode #8 of the Cine-Cast, Cine-File associate editor Ben Sachs gives an overview of Chicago movie-going in November, including a wealth of installation art and film festivals. Sachs and contributors Alexandra Ensign and John Dickson cover several series at Doc Films (Cinema Novo and Beyond, The Films of Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai, The Films of Chantal Akerman, and Female Sexuality and the Male Gaze), the Luchino Visconti series at the Siskel Film Center, and Chicago Film Society screenings of Elaine May's MIKEY AND NICKY and Edward Yang's YI YI.
Listen here. Engineered by Cine-File contributor Harrison Sherrod. Produced by contributor Josh B Mabe and associate editor Kathleen Sachs.
The introductory theme is by local film composer Ben Van Vlissingen. Find out more about his work here.
Orson Welles’ THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (“New” American)
Music Box Theatre — Saturday and Sunday, 11am
“If I were a nineteenth-century novelist, I'd have written a three-volume novel. I know everything that happened to that man. And his family—where he comes from—everything; more than I could ever try to put in a movie…I love this man and I hate him.” So said Orson Welles of Jake Hannaford, the fictional film director who holds the center of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, put into finished form more than 40 years after Welles stopped production and more than 30 years after his death. As embodied by real-life director John Huston, Hannaford is indeed a figure of voluminous breadth and depth, affording Welles the opportunity to craft one of his most richly allusive works. For THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND is a film that attempts to reconcile the Old Hollywood with the New, the Lost Generation with the flower children, the myth of the macho American artist à la Hemingway with the ugly, exploitative truth of him and his context, and, finally, the modern promise of cinema with the sudden specter of its post-modern obsolescence. Like Charles Foster Kane, Hannaford constitutes less an active player in this drama than a crumbling monument to a former era’s notion of ‘man’ around which the other players gather, in alternately mocking and melancholy celebration, within a mausoleum-like cinematic space. As in KANE, Hannaford’s death in an unexplained car accident is announced before the narrative itself has even begun. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND proposes to reconstruct the final hours before the crash through “recovered” newsreel and documentary footage, some in color, much in black and white, depicting the filmmaker’s 70th birthday party at a southwestern-style ranch. A carnivalesque soirée that extends to feature-length the classic Welles party sequences of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and MR. ARKADIN in story terms, this gathering represents a half-hearted effort to save Hannaford’s stalled comeback, a titular film within the film, by screening its assembly cut for the assembled guests. Between presentations of the bizarre footage, interrupted by increasingly lengthy power outages, the drama unfolds in polyphonic encounters between Hannaford, his chorus of cronies representing Old Hollywood, and an assemblage of wannabes, critics, voyeurs, and bystanders. The most important of these are Peter Bogdanovich, playing a version of himself as Hannaford’s one-time protégé, Brooks Otterlake, now a budding young turk of his generation; Norman Foster, putting in a heartbreaking turn as Hannaford’s loyal-to-the-last lackey Billy Boyle; and Susan Strasberg, pulling a shrill riff on Pauline Kael. A deep roster of studio era character actors—Mercedes McCambridge, Cameron Mitchell, Paul Stewart, Tonio Selwart, and Edmond O’Brien—fill out the chorus of cronies, while real-life New Hollywood directors like Dennis Hopper and Paul Mazursky make cameo appearances for the young set. Through this generational cacophony, Huston’s body lurches drunkenly from scene to scene like an Irish Imhotep, his face almost a death mask, or a cracked sarcophagus, inscribed with legend and rumor. As for the film within the film, Hannaford’s own “The Other Side of the Wind,” many critics have pointed to this as Welles’ OTHER SIDE’s major failing—a flat parody of Michelangelo Antonioni’s ZABRISKIE POINT in particular and art house psychedelia in general—but, for my money, rather the opposite is the case. Constructed much like the hall of mirrors climax of THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, these taut, entrancing sequences comprise some of the most dazzling imagery Welles ever committed to film, and, when intercut with the party scenes, sharpen Welles’ vision by offering a purely poetic expression of Jake Hannaford’s repressed emotional life. Plus, on 35mm, I’ll bet they sing. (1970-76/2018, 122 min, 35mm) EC
Frederick Wiseman’s MONROVIA, INDIANA (New Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check venue website for showtimes
Frederick Wiseman is like a sculptor whose raw material is not stone, wood, or metal, but film footage. To call what he does ‘documentary’ isn’t so much an insult as it is hopelessly reductive. Using no narration, talking heads, or any other recognizable trope of the genre, he instead feels intuitively for a poetic thread to tie together seemingly unrelated episodes after many days of shooting. Watching his movies is not unlike diving way into the deep end of the pool, then attempting to get one’s bearings and gradually making some sense of what it all might mean. A small, overwhelmingly white and Christian town in Indiana wouldn’t seem like rich terrain for Wiseman’s sort of work but the unguarded access that Monrovia’s citizens grant an aged East Coast Jew is one of the more hopeful signs about this deeply troubled country that I’ve seen in recent years. As is always true in Wiseman’s work, some of the most quotidian, boring sequences turn out to be the most compelling. Here, a drawn out town council debate on hydrants and water service turns into a rumination on community and cooperation. Wiseman always gives people in his movies more dignity and time to express themselves than virtually any other director I can think of and, probably, shows them more empathy than the average citizen of any profession. I doubt I’d have given most of the people of Monrovia the time of day without Wiseman demonstrating in his methodical way that they are worth knowing about. That is what makes him a treasure and the release of each new film cause for celebration. (2018, 143 min, DCP Digital) DS
Eve of the Future: Women and Film Before 1960 (Experimental and Animation Revivals)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) — Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
Though saying “Mort and Millie Goldsholl”—grouped together as if they were one entity—certainly has a ring to it, and is likely an appropriate tribute to what seems to have been a loving partnership (both in the office and out), Millie Goldsholl was not just her own person—as any woman in a relationship, naturally, ought to be considered—but a powerhouse in her own right. At Goldsholl Design & Film Associates, which they established together, Mort served as the company’s head and oversaw the design department, while it was Millie who built the film division. In 1959, she curated a film program for the International Design Conference in Aspen, an annual event that “emulated the Bauhaus philosophy by promoting a close collaboration between modern art, design, and commerce”; the program included several films on which women were either the director or principal filmmaker, and this Friday’s program at Block Cinema, “Eve of the Future: Women and Independent Film before 1960” (screening as part of a series organized in conjunction with the museum’s “Up is Down: Mid-Century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio” exhibition), focuses on these selections, an array of work ranging from straightforward documentary to abstract animation. Maya Deren’s AT LAND (1944, 15 min, 16mm), the renowned experimental filmmaker’s second film, falls somewhere in between—it’s realistic-looking enough but otherwise transcendental in nature. Deren stars as a woman washed ashore who finds herself intermingling with people and pawns alike; the chess games depicted in it are the famous “Immortal Game,” which Adolf Anderssen won against fellow chess master Lionel Kieseritzky by sacrificing all his important pieces and finally checkmating Kieseritzky with only three inconsequential pieces left on the board. Deren asserted that the film “presents a relativist universe… in which the problem of the individual, as the sole continuous element, is to relate herself to a fluid, apparently incoherent, universe. It is in a sense a mythological voyage of the twentieth century.” A CHAIRY TALE (1957, 12 min, 35mm), directed by Claude Jutra and Norman McLaren, with animation by Evelyn Lambart, is whimsical trickery, a simple-seeming display to which there’s more than meets the eye. In the film, a man and a chair face off in a battle of wills; it was made using stop-motion and string-puppet techniques. The famous Indian musicians Ravi Shankar and Chatur Lal composed the score, and it was nominated for Best Live Action Short Subject at the Academy Awards in 1958. Made using leftover footage from a State Department commission that involved artists creating two-and-a-half-minute loops reflecting “the American way of life” for continuous exhibition in the United States Pavilion, Shirley Clarke’s BRIDGES-GO-ROUND (1958, 8 min, 16mm) features shots of bridges spanning New York Harbor, which are abstracted through numerous shooting and editing tactics, as well as the “bi-packing” process, which, according to the National Film Preservation Foundation, is when “certain colors of the film original are altered by running the strip through the printer with a second piece of film.” The approximately 4-minute film will be shown twice, one version with the original score by electronic music pioneers Louis and Bebe Barron, the other with a score by legendary jazz producer Teo Macero. Joan and Peter Foldes’ A SHORT VISION (1956, 6 min, 16mm) uses Goya-esque animation to show the effects of nuclear warfare; based on one of Peter’s poems, the controversial short played twice on the Ed Sullivan Show, and, according to the British Film Institute's website, “reportedly produced one of the biggest reactions since Orson Welles' 'War of the Worlds' broadcast in 1938.” I was sadly unfamiliar with Mary Ellen Bute before viewing this program, but her film COLOR RHAPSODIE (1948, 7 min, Digital Projection) seems to be the perfect introduction to her work. Hailed as one of the first female experimental filmmakers, Bute was an animator who pioneered visual music; in COLOR RHAPSODIE, text at the beginning proclaims “SEEING SOUND… music in addition to pleasing the EAR brings something to the EYE.” The rest of the film is comprised of colorful designs composed in relationship to the accompanying soundtrack—one does get a sense of music come alive. IN THE STREET (1948, 16 min, 16 mm) is the result of a combined effort from acclaimed photographer Helen Levitt, filmmaker Janice Loeb, and esteemed writer James Agee. Viewed out of context, it seems like any other slice-of-life documentary, specifically about New York City’s Spanish Harlem in the mid-40s, when it was originally shot. But after learning that it was filmed using small, hidden 16mm cameras, it takes on new life as a genuine, if ethically dubious, text documenting this neighborhood at that time. Manny Farber wrote that the tactic had never been executed “with more success” than in IN THE STREET, praising Levitt’s editing in how it makes the film “a somber study of the American figure, from childhood to old age, growing stiffer, uglier, and lonelier with the passage of years.” Decidedly less depressing is John and Faith Hubley’s TENDER GAME (1958, 6 min, 35mm), a lovely animated fable set to the song “Tenderly,” performed by Ella Fitzgerald with the Oscar Peterson Trio. Concluding the program is Mort and Millie Goldsholl’s DISSENT ILLUSION (1963,10 min, 16mm), which was not included in Millie’s selection but was added to this program as a tribute to her own brilliant artistry. In it, the Goldsholls film a dancer in black-and-white negative images; they merge a deceptively simple subject—the human body and its myriad of movements—with a deceptively simple form, which, like A CHAIRY TALE, results in an elegant display that invites one to further consider its artistic candor. Millie may have been one in a pair, but she was also one of a kind—a one-of-a-kind woman, a one-of-a-kind artist, and, as is evidenced by this program, a one-of-a-kind curator with a finger on the pulse of contemporary-to-her cinema, especially as it involved the oft-neglected female filmmaker. Also screening are Jane Conger Belson Shimané’s LOGOS (1957, 2 min, 16mm) and Patricia Marx’s OBMARU (1953, 4 min, 16mm), which were not previewable. Introduced by University of Chicago associate professor Jennifer Wild. KS
Chantal Akerman’s NUIT ET JOUR [NIGHT AND DAY] (French/Belgium/Swiss Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Wednesday, 7 and 9:30pm
Chantal Akerman’s films seem so much to emerge from a place unbeknownst to their viewers that it’s hard to consider them as being acted in by people whose real selves exist outside her imagination. One doesn’t think of Akerman as a director of actors, largely because many of her films are either so blithely experimental or documentary-esque as to not necessitate their presence, but, when they are required, they seem more an extension of Akerman’s artistic inclinations than artists in their own right. In JEANNE DIELMAN (1975) and LES RENDEZ-VOUS D’ANNA (1978), Delphine Seyrig and Aurore Clément, though excellent, are essentially ciphers; in more distended features like TOUTE UNE NUIT (1982) and GOLDEN EIGHTIES (1986), the actors are almost like dolls at the whims of an impetuous possessor. All this is no less the case in NUIT ET JOUR—here, again, the obliqueness that defines Akerman’s output is merged with a similarly perplexing, musical-like playfulness that characterizes her aforementioned 80s films. Narrated by Akerman as an unknown “character,” NUIT follows Julie (Guilaine Londez) and Jack (Thomas Langmann), young lovers who move to a ramshackle flat in Paris, where Jack drives a cab at night. The couple doesn’t sleep, preferring instead to spend all their free time together; while Jack is working, Julie, the definiton of restless, walks around the city. She later meets Joseph, the young, handsome man who drives Jack’s cab during the day. They trek around together, eventually finding themselves at a hotel where a romantic affair begins; afterwards, each time, Julie goes back to her apartment to meet Jack and begin their day. It sounds more complicated, even more illicit, than it really is, but the film is as opaque as the night, largely—and ironically—because of Julie's radiant vacancy. In the film’s opening scenes, as Julie and Jack survey their situation, she cheerfully replies “Next year” to each consideration: meet people, get a phone, have a baby. Eyes big, gaze askew, curly hair wild, and skin baby-smooth, Julie is, for me, the answer to the problem that is Akerman’s illusory narratives—an answer but not a solution, as one is still left to wonder what it all means. The film is also read, similarly to Akerman’s casting of Delphine Seyrig in JEANNE DIELMAN, as an homage to the Nouvelle Vague, specifically Truffaut’s JULES AND JIM (hence, Jack and Joseph), with Julie even carrying around a copy of his Antoine Doinel screenplays. Despite the obviousness with which the film recalls the studied blankness of the New Wave's enfant terribles, Akerman’s work confounds beyond such signifiers; there’s a song, sung by Julie to exposit their circumstances, and various idiosyncratic motifs (such as the large, labyrinthine apartment where Julie and Jack talk from separate windows, make love in a perpetually unmade bed, and undertake the quotidian aspects of day-to-day life, which even in this tranqualizing world are not forgone). It certainly is a dreamlike film, though none of the characters appear to sleep for any significant amount of time. Insomnia regularly factors into Akerman’s work, and here sleep is explicitly connected with not living. It imbues the film with a sort of hypnagogic anxiety, like trying to remember what it is you had been thinking about just before going to bed, that propels its narrative towards a rather feminist conclusion. But just as it’s hard to imagine the true selves of the people appearing as characters in her films, it’s hard to qualify their intended impact on viewers, whose engagement, like that of the actors, serves only to elongate the reach of Akerman’s ever-befuddling artistic expression. (1991, 95 min, 35mm) KS
Designed to be Seen: Art and Function in Chicago Mid-Century Film – Programs 1 and 2
Screenings and exhibitions around the city this fall are providing a bountiful mini-history of Chicago moving image works. Currently on view are the Block Museum’s show on the Goldsholl Studios and the just-opened Chicago New Media 1973-1992 show at UIC’s Gallery 400, which showcase two very different traditions of media making in the city. Upcoming screenings include Kartemquin Film’s INQUIRING NUNS at the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Film Group’s THE MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON and AMERICAN REVOLUTION 2 presented by Black Cinema House, South Side Projections’ program of rare films and documentation The Mural Movement and the Black Arts Movement, and four programs in the Designed to be Seen: Art and Function in Chicago Mid-Century Film series, presented by the Chicago Film Archives, the first two of which are this week.
The New World: Industrial, Corporate and Sponsored Films (Documentary Revivals)
Chicago Film Archives at the Chicago Cultural Center – Sunday, 2:30pm (Free Admission)
This first program, The New World: Industrial, Corporate and Sponsored Films, showcases a selection of works not intended for the general public. These are films for internal use at companies, for tradeshow use, aimed at potential clients, or to market goods or services to business or corporate sectors. As might be expected, some of these films are unremarkable cinematically, evidenced here by two films produced by and for the Container Corporation of America: CCA & YOU: PARTNERS IN ACHIEVEMENT (Produced and directed by Rhodes Patterson for the Container Corporation of America, 1976, 5 min excerpt) and WRAPAK: YOUR PACKAGING ANSWER? (Produced by Container Corporation of America, c. 1968, 7 min)—though I could watch the WRAPAK box-filling and folding process looped indefinitely. Others, though, demonstrate that even these specialized films needed a sophisticated visual style to appeal to their intended audiences. Three of the films screening were produced by the Goldsholl Design Associates and feature the thoughtful and creative work that the company was known for. Here, all three are focused on printing, paper, and publishing content. TEXOPRINT (Kimberly-Clark Corporation, circa 1960, 14 min) uses UPA-like minimalist animation of owls as bookends to a sales pitch for a plastic paper-substitute for printing needs. IMAGINATION 11 (Directed by Morton Goldsholl for U.S. Plywood-Champion Papers, Inc., 1967, 5 min) advertises Champion Papers’ annual sample book, an elaborately-produced publication showcasing the range of papers stocks and finishes available from the company. The themed book is on the circus, and Morton Goldsholl and his team create a dynamic montage of images from the publication. It pushes beyond its corporate sales intent into the experimental—the strong resemblance to avant-garde animator Larry Jordan’s films seems too spot-on to be coincidence. MAG (Life Magazine, 1959, 13 min) targets potential advertisers with a pitch highlighting the myriad reasons that individuals purchase and read magazines. As visually compelling as the Goldsholl films are, though, the standout of the program was made by the long-established Chicago- and Detroit-based industrial film producer Wilding Picture Productions. THE NEW WORLD OF STAINLESS STEEL (1960, 16 min), sponsored by Republic Steel, is an ode to the wonders of stainless steel, with the film’s clean, no-nonsense design reflecting the mid-century Populuxe style. It was an especially elaborate film of its kind, shot in Technicolor, featuring elaborate sets (some which move; others in striking Mondrian-like designs), multiple locations and actors, and special process shots. Wilding wasn’t a design firm like Goldsholl, but clearly they had some artistically ambitious staff. This isn’t quite in the league of the great 1950s and 60s sponsored and corporate films like AMERICAN LOOK, but it certainly gives them a run for their money. (1959-76, 60 min total, Digital Projection) PF
Personal Legacies: Materiality and Abstraction (Experimental Revivals)
Chicago Film Archives at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 East Washington Ave) – Wednesday, 6pm (Free Admission)
Much has been said about the towering influence of artist, teacher and New Bauhaus founder László Moholy-Nagy on Chicago’s creative histories. One vital conduit for that influence was the Goldsholl Design Associates firm, where founders Morton and Millie Goldsholl extended Moholy’s experiments in light and film into the sphere of commercial advertising. All three of the filmmakers in Personal Legacies: Materiality and Abstraction, the second installment of Designed to be Seen, Chicago Film Archives’ generous series of Chicago-made experimental, industrial, and commercial films, worked for the Goldsholls. Two (Larry Janiak and Robert Stiegler) studied at the Institute of Design where Moholy once taught. This program, culled from the Archives, is dominated by the earlier, more exploratory personal shorts of Janiak and Stiegler; it shows Moholy’s influence persisting, but also loosening. The program’s title, suggestive of non-objectivity and of structural film’s medium-specific reductivism, is blessedly deceiving: Stiegler’s TRAFFIC (1960, 8 min) and CAPITULATION (1965, 20 min) are as besotted by the everyday matter thrumming before his lens, and by the abstractions glimpsed in architecture and in nature, as they are by the bare rudiments of cinema. In the bug-eyed urban peregrinations of TRAFFIC, Stiegler borrows substantially from Moholy and the Goldsholls; the result plays a bit like a jazz standard rehearsed by an emerging talent, still mastering the techniques of the greats. But check out those glimpses of Lakeshore Drive! CAPITULATION is a far more personal work—still an etude, but all the better for its wooliness and impulsivity. Stiegler’s careening camera inspects flowers, trees, crystals of ice, El tracks, shadows and glass, shelves lined with film books, and desks cluttered with film reels—even his own bathroom. With its superimpositions and negative images dovetailing nature and built environments, abstraction and objectivity, I was reminded less of Moholy than of another celebrated New Bauhaus professor, Gyorgy Kepes, who stressed the relationships between the patterns of abstract art and those uncovered in nature by the camera: “leading us away from the system of fixed things, and toward the system of spatiotemporal patterns, the newly revealed visible world brings us to the threshold of a new vision.” CAPITULATION finds Stiegler on such a precipice, moving between the thing-seeing he would explore in FULL CIRCLE (1968) and the pattern-seeing of 1966’s dazzling abstraction LICHT SPIEL NUR I. The two Larry Janiak films likewise seem anticipatory, gesturing more decisively towards structural film. GLASSHOUSE (1964) is, at least, a film about a structure, documenting a terrarium Janiak fashioned after Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. Janiak spins terrarium into his own version of Moholy’s famous kinetic sculpture, the “Light Space Modulator”: in its joinery of wood and glass, reflections and opacities–and in the animal-mechanical chirps its daring musique concréte soundtrack—GLASSHOUSE again proposes a form of perception attuned at once to the tangible and the ephemeral. Though made earlier, Janiak’s ADAMS FILM (1963) is the more advanced effort. In fact, the film is stunningly contemporary, cross-stitching snatches of daily life between hand-painted textures, light-catching leaves, dots of light and sheets of color: in its roomy and venturesome disparateness, its legacy can be directly felt in recent experimental work like Mary Helena Clark’s THE DRAGON IS THE FRAME (2014). Again, I was reminded more of Kepes’ systems-thinking: “our perception structure is itself a force diagram of interacting systems—of optical stimulus and our sensory apparatus, of optical image and our store of memory images, of our immediate experience and our inner picture of ourselves or of the world.” Chicago Film Archives restored this stone masterpiece in 2014 with a National Film Preservation Foundation grant, and it should be seen and celebrated more widely as a key work of American experimental cinema. The program is bookended by two works of visual music: Janiak’s ALLEGRO (1960, 3 min) a McLarenesque caprice prefiguring the coloristic and geometrical aspects of ADAMS FILM, and Byron Grush’s FOTOGRAMMAR (1969, 7 min) a psychedelic Man Ray riff as drippily ecstatic as its Grateful Dead soundtrack. When the lights come up, you’ll have crossed the threshold of a new vision. (1960-69, 59 min total, Digital Projection) MM
Fritz Lang's MINISTRY OF FEAR (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 9:30pm
MINISTRY OF FEAR would prove an essential link in Fritz Lang's career, bridging his exciting anti-Nazi films (MAN HUNT, HANGMEN ALSO DIE!) with the more insidious psychological thrillers he'd soon make with Joan Bennett (WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, SCARLET STREET, SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR). Here, Ray Milland plays the innocent hero pinned by forces beyond his control—in this case an elaborate Nazi plot weaving its way through English society. In classic Langian fashion, this character is not a wayward innocent, but a figure almost as suspicious as the ones pursuing him. The movie begins with Milland being released from a psychiatric ward, and it proceeds for some time before revealing why he was there in the first place. This moral knottiness is central to the director's work: by forthrightly addressing his heroes' faults, Lang could attack with no equivocation the larger systems engulfing them. Nearly all of Lang's films convey a sense of betrayal on a societal scale, and it's no less true of pulpier fare like this than of his established masterpieces. Of course, MINISTRY is perfectly satisfying as pulp entertainment, with several sequences—namely the ones at the county fair and the phony séance—creating an irresistible atmosphere of shadow and dread. (Lang was surely having fun here with suspense movie conventions: one of the most ominous props is a chocolate cake.) (1944, 86 min, 35mm) BS
Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai’s HELP!!! (Hong Kong Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Tuesday, 7pm
Not much has been written in English about Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai’s satire of the medical industry, which has got to be one of the fastest-produced films ever made. (According to IMDB, it was written, shot, edited, and released in the span of just 30 days!) But as the recent film 3 (which also took place in a hospital) demonstrated, To works quite well under constraints—that movie found the director coming up with an impressive variety of camera set-ups within a small set of locations. The story here concerns three young doctors who attempt to reform their hospital’s methods after treating the wealthy donor for whom the hospital is named. The trio faces opposition from the bureaucrats who manage the institution, resulting in a figurative battle for the hospital’s future. Those who have written on HELP!!! have noted the film’s over-the-top humor, which is said to border on surrealism at times. (That’s not surprising, given how many wild ideas Wai Ka-Fai has injected into the other films he’s made with To.) Doc Films programmer Will Carroll has suggested that a scene involving talking cars may have inspired the conclusion of Leos Carax’s HOLY MOTORS, which would mean the film is sure to be rather bizarre. In any case, To’s comedies rarely get shown in this country, making this revival a must-see for fans of the director. (2000, 90 min, 35mm) BS
THE CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL
The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival opened on Thursday and continues through November 9. More info and complete schedule at https://festival.facets.org.
No More Copycats (Shorts Program, Ages 6–10)
Facets Cinémathèque – Saturday 11/3, 9:45am
The short films and TV shows in No More Copycats are organized around the theme of truth and deception. Brightly colored in pastel paint and softly blurred backgrounds, the African tale THE GRUFF-VOICED TREE (6 min, 2017) is brought vividly to life by French filmmakers Anaïs Sorrentino and Arnaud Demuynck. A mouse, his bundle of belongings suspended from a stick resting on his shoulder, sees a large tree with a hollow at the bottom—perfect shelter for the tiny creature. As he approaches the tree, a booming voice shouts, “I’m the one who scares wolves and crushes bears,” sending the mouse scampering in fright. Serially, a squirrel, a rabbit, and a robin all tell each other what happened to them at the tree and go to investigate, with similar results. These animals are voiced by children, and it takes the adult-voiced turtle to uncover the truth and offer the Aesopian moral, “That’s how legends are born.” An episode of the German live-action TV show Timster called “Fake News” (2017, 15 min) covers the waterfront of a topic now near and dear to the immediate world—fake news. Host Tim Gailus uses the English phrase throughout the segment, in which he shows examples of online frauds, from a video showing a drone catching and flying away with a dog to a chain letter from a dead correspondent. He explains how fake news spreads and why people create it (fun, money, misinterpretation, opinion-making) and takes us to the Voltaire School in Potsdam, where communication and media students create fake news to learn more about it. The show remembers its young audience with its regular character, Little Girl, a muppetlike creature who pranks another puppet in this segment. “Fake News” communicates the basics of a very important topic in a highly digestible format. The hectically overproduced Chinese TV show Follow Me Go takes on the sophisticated subject of intellectual property theft in an episode called “No More Copy Cat” (2017, 24 min). The hosts attempt to teach empathy for those who create original work by crafting an experiment at an elementary school in which one team creates the school’s webpage and another team steals their work and wins a prize. I was reminded of the “Blue eyes–Brown eyes” exercise educator Jane Elliott enacted among her 8-year-old charges in 1968, as the pain this copycat deception caused was very real and not easily dispelled. The Chinese, well known for requiring firms wanting to do business in their country to turn over their intellectual property, may be trying to inculcate creativity in their youth. However, forcing children who seem to have intact moral compasses to steal in order to teach empathy to viewers doesn’t seem to be the best tactic, and American parents might be outraged at the suffering this experiment caused. The last short, “Hacking: The Meat of the Matter” (2018, 24 min), from the German TV show Did You Know That...? is an exceedingly entertaining look at how terms-and-conditions clauses in software agreements leave users of free apps open to photo theft, automated distribution of images, and abuse of images posted to platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. The hosts’ use of a small cask and two padlocks was an amazingly effective way to explain how encrypted messaging works. They also give an interesting history of the origin of algorithms (9th-century mathematician Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī) and show through live action and animation how algorithms form information bubbles around users that are not easy to pierce; their answer to escaping the bubble is to read books and newspapers, listen to radio, and watch TV. The hosts have great chemistry, are genuinely funny, and get their messages across in ways that will ensure they are remembered. (70 min total, Digital Projection) MF
Edgy Animation 1 (Shorts Program, Ages 13+)
Facets Cinémathèque – Saturday 11/3, 3:15pm and Thursday 11/8, 8:30pm
John Morena’s STRING OF SOUND (USA, 2017, 50 sec) is a perfect introduction to a program of shorts that focus on the variety of human experience and emotion. The black-and-white abstract film depicts lines reacting to the sounds people make, from sneezes and coughs to choral singing. The sometimes harsh, sometimes beautiful images created suggest life as it is lived over time. Anna Mantzaris’ ENOUGH (UK, 2017, 2 min), a humorous stop-motion animation using dolls and constructed sets, offers everyday examples of people who have reached the end of their rope. The doughy-looking everymen and women push people down stairs, scream and run out of meetings, and throw computers out of windows. As a public-transit-dependent individual, I personally related to the grocery-laden woman who misses her bus and lays down on the sidewalk in surrender. In HATE FOR SALE (Netherlands, 2017, 3 min), made for the Visible Poetry Project, Dutch director and animator Anna Eijsbouts sets Neil Gaiman’s bleak poem of the same name in an impressionistic world in which a narrator (Peter Kenny) resembling the emcee from CABARET entices the population to hate. The stop-motion cutout animation is quietly nightmarish, and a figure that suggests the current POTUS gives the viewer an extra jolt. Paul Bush’s RIDE (Portugal/UK, 2018, 6 min), an award-winner for its sound design, uses quick cuts static images of bicycles and motorcycles from a museum collection in northern Portugal in an imaginative meditation on movement and the variety of design and mechanical technology. A man eventually enters the scene and rides off through a vineyard, giving purpose to these examples of industrial design. A must-see for gearheads of all ages. Anna Maria Angel indulges her fondness for anthropomorphized insects in NIGHTMARE (Germany, 2018, 7 min), a tour through the dreams of a beetle-like creature who visits a pine forest, a library, and a nightclub called the Random Bar, and wakes up in bed with a boorish bug who brags about his criminal past. This simply drawn green beetle has starred in other works by Angel, and his resemblance to Kafka’s cockroach from The Metamorphosis made me empathize with his nightmare. Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol have crafted a diabolical film in THE CAT’S REGRET (France, 2018, 18 min). When sibling rivalry threatens to become deadly, Lucas is sent by his mother to visit “Uncle” Daniel, where he is regaled with tales of the obese cat sitting near the window who got such a taste for birds that he got too fat to chase them. Not impressed enough by this cautionary tale, Lucas is scared straight by “Uncle” Daniel’s confession to killing his own brother. This fully animated tale is fiendishly pleasurable. Edward Bulmer’s HEDGEHOG (UK, 2018, 11 min) will appeal to any child who has ever been timid and any adult who lacks self-confidence. Gareth chickens out of going to down a high slide at a fairground, and the ribbing he gets and shame he feels undermine his life. Twenty years later, he’s still living at home, working in a fast food joint, and too nerve-wracked to land a new job or ask a woman on a date. The color, stop-motion puppetry with limited animation is beautiful, and the invention of a prickly hedgehog as the devil on Gareth’s shoulder undermining his confidence is brilliant. Another winner produced under the auspices of the National Film Board of Canada is Alison Snowden and David Fine’s uproarious ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR (Canada, 2018, 14 min). Solidly adult in theme—a group therapy session—Snowden and Fine turn their recognizably neurotic patients into animals that children will enjoy: a leech represents a clingy patient who sucks her partner’s energy, a mother who can’t keep a man is a praying mantis who kills and eats her mates after sex, and a patient with OCD is a cat who can’t stop licking herself. All hell breaks loose when a gorilla with anger management issues joins the group, forcing even the rational facilitator, a dog, to act like, well, an animal. I laughed myself silly. Siqi Song uses stop-motion animation with malleable felt dolls and gentle, atmospheric music to tell the poignant tale of SISTER (China/USA, 2018, 8 min). In voiceover, a man reminisces about his little sister. In his annoyance with her crying when she was an infant, he imagines her inflating to room size and then pulling on her umbilical cord until it pops out, buzzing her around the room like a balloon losing air until she returns to normal size. Later, they fight over the remote to the television and plant and water one of his baby teeth so that it will grow back, as their mother said it would. In the end, the film is one of regret and a memorial to the unborn children of 1980-2015, when China enforced its policy of one child per family. Finally, Canadian story artist Trevor Jimenez’s WEEKENDS (USA, 2017, 16 min) is a beautifully rendered limited animation that chronicles one year in the life of a young boy whose parents are divorced. His mother lives close to the bone in the country, while the boy spends weekends with his rich father in Toronto. Jimenez contrasts the lifestyles of the former couple, particularly in depicting the father as a flashy collector of Asiana whose theme song is Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” and showing the difficulty the mother has getting her life back on track. This film will resonate with anyone, child or adult, who has had to navigate shared custody and the changes that come when new people enter their lives. (77 min total, Digital Projection) MF
Bragi Thor Hinriksson’s THE FALCONS (Iceland, Ages 9+)
Wilmette Theatre (1122 Central Ave., Wilmette) - Sunday 11/4, 9:45am
Davis Theater (4614 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago) – Sunday 11/4, 10am
A youth soccer tournament on the Westman Islands, off the south coast of the mainland of Iceland and ominously known as the “Pompei of the North,” is the setting for Bragi Thor Hinriksson’s inspiring film about what makes a true champion. Ten-year-old Jón (Lukas Emil Johansen), a member of the Falcons soccer team, dreams of a volcanic eruption as he and his team prepare to compete in the tournament, which will be held on a live volcano near the main town of Vestmannaeyjabær. Plagued by insecurities, Jón sticks close to the confident team captain, Skúli (Robert Luu), but still runs afoul of Ívar (Viktor Benóný Benediktsson), a bully from the host town’s team, who steals his soccer ball. In the course of the film, Jón will discover how bullies are made and unmade, and how to make adults listen and act when children are being abused and discounted. In the process, he gains confidence in himself and learns how to be a leader. Hinriksson, a former puppeteer and one of Iceland’s most successful directors of projects aimed at family and children, adapts an award-winning book series by Gunnar Helgason with great panache, offering a wide array of recognizably individual characters well-realized by his talented cast of young actors. The film is shot through with humor, particularly well-played by Luu when he is stoned on painkillers following a fracture to his arm. Hinriksson films and shows a number of the games from the real tournament, adding suspense and action, not to mention a hilarious voiceover narration by the play-by-play announcer who chronicles the ups and downs of the Falcons and their competitors. The spectacular, almost otherworldly scenery is mind-boggling and figures into the action when Jón’s dream comes true and the Falcons must finish their final match in a hail of volcanic ash. The film has a number of lessons for children and adults alike, but Hinriksson ensures that THE FALCONS is, above all, an exciting, entertaining experience that never feels polemical, and his final, celebratory scene made me want to join in the fun. The film is recommended for ages 9 and up, but there are many subtitles that may prove a challenge to youngsters with slow-developing reading skills. (95 min, Digital Projection) MF
Postcards from the Past (Shorts Program, Ages 12+)
Wilmette Theatre (1122 Central Ave., Wilmette) - Sunday 11/4, 11am
This thoughtful and artfully curated shorts program centers on loss and renewal, sampling animated and live-action films from Canada, Israel, and Germany. The first two films are among the outstanding animation offerings regularly generated through the National Film Board of Canada. Keyu Chen’s WINDS OF SPRING (2017, 6 min) is a flight through the imagination of a girl straining at the restrictions of being a child. Using the ink wash painting technique of her native China, Chen marks the stages of growth the girl faces, suggesting through her brush strokes how swiftly time flies, and adding green to the black-and-white palette until the entire frame is filled with mature trees. The film perfectly captures adolescent longing and the mystery of maturation. Éléonore Goldberg, a French émigré to Quebec, honors her deceased grandfather, Georges (Josek) Goldberg, by granting his request to tell his story in MY YIDDISH PAPI (2017, 7 min), a title that partially namechecks Sophie Tucker’s famous song of longing, “My Yiddishe Momme,” which forms part of the film’s score. His harrowing tale of escape from the Nazi-directed Operation Spring Breeze in 1942 Paris is shown in the starkness and detail of her ink and color wash illustrations. By asking herself the question “Would I have had your courage?” Goldberg gives her adolescent and adult audiences a chance to reflect on their own inner resources. Israeli animator Nadav Arbel sets AMERICA (2018, 16 min) in 1950 Tel Aviv, specifically, its large population of emigres from Europe. Young Yossi, whose father died in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, imagines himself a hero and rescuer, much to his Russian mother Natasha’s consternation. Both, however, are excited when they receive a telegram from Yossi’s uncle in America. The flat-perspective, color illustrations have a folk art, nostalgic feel, and Arbel’s narrative explores the courage, grief, and hope of immigrants with seriocomic panache. Israeli screenwriter/director Odeya Rosenak’s live-action TORCH (2017, 17 min) is a clear-eyed look at loss and grief. Fifteen-year-old Noga has lost her beloved father in a terrorist attack on a Jerusalem café. Wearing an anime costume designed by her father, Noga applies for survivor benefits and attends her mother’s grief circle. Finally, she lights the torch on Memorial Day and tells the assembled what her father meant to her, remembering him by humming the SPIRITED AWAY theme song. TORCH is a beautiful and painful film that provides important messages about how to survive the untimely loss of a loved one. In his documentary, ARI AND THE DAY OF THE DEAD (2018, 25 min), German filmmaker André Hörmann shows a Mexican family from the outskirts of Mexico City observing the Day of the Dead. Teenaged Ari and her family are grieving the recent loss of her grandfather. They travel to his rural home, where he is buried, to build an altar to his memory and celebrate the one day of the year when God allows the dead to return to the world to visit their loved ones. In the United States, the formerly sacred Halloween has become an empty holiday devoid of meaning. Not so the holiday Halloween used to resemble, the Day of the Dead. This film is a fascinating look at the rituals that bind families together, help them process their grief, and give them comfort in the belief that their departed dear ones are not really lost to them. Ari is an excellent guide through this process, and her love for her grandfather is deep and affecting. (73 min total, Digital Projection) MF
Delmer Daves’ 3:10 TO YUMA (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 4:45pm and Tuesday, 6pm
A stagecoach carrying a gold shipment is robbed by Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) and his posse out in the Arizona desert while rancher Dan Evans (Van Heflin) and his two boys look on. Eventually, Ben is captured by the marshal after his group splits up in an attempt to fool the local law enforcement and Dan is afforded the opportunity to make some money for his cash-strapped family if he delivers the man to the titular 3:10 to Yuma train. As far as westerns go, the film carries all the hallmarks of the genre, including some particularly well-shot cinematography. Movement of the film’s crane shots adds a tremendous sense of isolation to the ‘good guys’ tall order of trying to deliver their prisoner to his intended destination in addition to staving off Ben’s vindictive attacks. However, 3:10 TO YUMA’s finest quality is the relationship shared between Ben and Dan along their journey. What starts as a guard transporting his cargo evolves into a suspenseful pilgrimage as uneasy trusts are formed and then pushed to their limits. The mutual respect shared by the antagonist and protagonist tears down the machismo walls that typify the genre. With a catchy tune used throughout the film, 3:10 TO YUMA is a pensive western that explores the dynamics of good guy-bad guy and what happens when the two are placed in close proximity to one another. (1957, 92 min, 35mm) KC
Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW (American Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) – Thursday, 7pm (Free Admission)
Grace Kelly was never lovelier, "the right girl for any man with half a brain who can get one eye open." Thus spoke Thelma Ritter to Jimmy Stewart's sardonic photographer. The three function as a superb trio, as jazzy as Franz Waxman's score; equally matched and indivisible, perhaps the only such formation in any Hitchcock film. Through an alchemy yet to be duplicated, Hitchcock and writer John Michael Hayes got together and somehow fashioned the most perfect screenplay ever created. The characters' dialogue as written and performed meshes seamlessly with Hitchcock's own monologue, one that brilliantly uses camera, editing table, and sound design. Especially the latter. Its diegetic soundscape remains thrillingly unique. And its pacing is flawless; it's tightly conceived and executed yet never seems to be in a hurry. No matter how many times you've seen it, this is one movie that never stops offering up new pleasures. Introduced by Academy Award-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom. (1954, 112 min, 35mm) RC
Alfred Hitchcock’s I CONFESS (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 4pm and Sunday, 5:30pm
Catholicism and film have a long, intertwined history with one another for as long as the medium has been alive. From THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC to ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES to much of Martin Scorsese’s oeuvre, its influence can be seen everywhere. Certainly Alfred Hitchcock’s most Catholic film, I CONFESS, tells the story of Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift), a priest who’s taken the confession of a man under his employ who has admitted to committing to a murder. When the murder is reported, it is revealed that two witnesses saw a priest fleeing the scene, which makes Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden who, coincidentally, would go on to play a priest one year later in ON THE WATERFRONT) call in Logan for questioning. Logan becomes a prime suspect, as he cannot absolve himself of the crime since it would require him to break the sacred seal of confession. Hitchcock’s film juxtaposes civic duty with spiritual duty while maintaining a palpable tension throughout. Clift’s performance is morally righteous yet peppered with enough elements from his character’s past to depict him as a fully-realized individual. I CONFESS may not receive the same notoriety as other Hitchcock classics but its enthralling premise and strong performances make it a standout religiously-tinged thriller. (1953, 95 min, 35mm) KC
Luchino Visconti’s DEATH IN VENICE (Italian Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Saturday, 7:30pm, Sunday, 3pm, and Wednesday, 6pm
Thomas Mann’s prose, which provides one with the eerie sensation of burrowing into a specific time and place, made a perfect fit for director Luchino Visconti, who often achieved the same effect through his languorous approach to past eras. In his adaptation of Mann’s 1912 novella Death in Venice, Visconti generally eschews tracking shots in favor of pans and zooms; this strategy creates the feeling of being rooted in place while reaching out to idealized images. One never quite makes contact with the exquisite mise-en-scene (as usual, Visconti’s sets and costumes are meticulously realized), but rather approaches it in a state of longing. Besides evoking the sense of an irretrievable past, Visconti’s aesthetic encourages sympathy with the story’s protagonist, who gazes transfixed at his concept of ideal beauty but can never bring himself to get too close to it. The character, a fictionalized composite of Mann and Gustav Mahler, is a German composer vacationing in Venice. One day at his luxury hotel, he espies an androgynous young man, Tadzio, who arouses his fascination—which is partly sexual and partly paternal (a flashback reveals that the older man has recently buried a daughter). The composer (played fastidiously by Dirk Bogarde) tries to escape his fascination by leaving Venice, but after a mix-up with his luggage, stays on at the hotel; he becomes ever more obsessed with Tadzio and finds himself unable to depart, even as a cholera outbreak ravages the city. Visconti renders the character’s obsession as something of an intoxicating disease, not only through his brilliant visuals, but also through motifs from Mahler’s 3rd and 5th symphonies. The film induces a trance much like that which Aschenbach experiences—you quickly give yourself over to it, getting absorbed in the whirl of music, production design, and barely suppressed emotion. (1971, 130 min, DCP Digital) BS
George Stevens’ A PLACE IN THE SUN (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 4:45pm and Tuesday, 7:45pm
A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951), like its leading man Montgomery Clift, is conflicted. Adapted by George Stevens from An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser’s corrosive epic of social-climbing and callow careerism, the film’s narrative contours should track as a straightforward challenge to bootstrap capitalism; indeed, none other than Marxist monteur Sergei Eisenstein once sought to make his American debut with a screen version. The tale follows George Eastman (Clift), a rogue of limited means and enormous ambition, who parlays a distant family connection into an assembly-line job. As he rises in the company, his designs are thrown in jeopardy by the unwanted pregnancy of fellow factory-worker Alice, played by Shelley Winters for maximum faiblesse. Alice’s antithesis comes in the glittering form of Elizabeth Taylor—more than rising to the occasion of her first adult role—as Angela Vickers, a debutante who extends to George the compound allure of newfound wealth and unconditional love. Even after we witness George’s horrific solution to his predicament, it’s hard—impossible, really—not to share Angela’s burning infatuation: Clift’s unearthly gorgeousness radiates in every monumental closeup Stevens blesses us with, and the rapturous romantic scenes between him and Taylor make even the most sordid of crimes seem trivial. (On the strength of their chemistry alone, the film is legendary—it wouldn’t need to be half as great as it is to be one of the most iconic films of the 1950s). Through troubled by the growing distance and gnawing guilt she senses within George, Angela maintains her devotion, mirroring our own desire to exculpate, even to sanctify him. That’s precisely the nature of Clift’s beauty. As in both THE HEIRESS and I CONFESS, the dramatic crux here is whether or not the truth can remain suppressed behind the delicate lamina of Clift’s face. These three films are littered with scenes of interrogation, of cross-examination, of courtrooms and confessionals, their intensity escalating as a function of his paradoxically thin-skinned stoicism. Clift’s micro-expressive performance style and his slender frame, which rewrote the rules of screen masculinity, suggest a fragility wholly incommensurate with the weight of the secrets he guards. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, we want to shield him from the violence of the truth-seekers’ prying gaze, and yet fans, scholars, and armchair psychologists of Montgomery Clift have tried for decades to puncture that mystery. Invariably, the inscrutability of his desires solicits and inflames our own, until we want to punish him for it. Eisenstein imagined his AMERICAN TRAGEDY as a vehicle for “inner monologue,” a montage form that would penetrate inside the mind of the protagonist to capture the “inner debate behind the stony mask of the face.” That’s precisely what Stevens doesn’t do: the whole edifice of the film is constructed to avoid rupturing the ambiguity buried beneath George’s countenance. And that’s what makes the film such an object lesson in the hard limits of Hollywood anti-capitalism: within the studio system, our desire for justice pales in the luster of intoxicating illusion, the naked violence of class divisions is enshrouded by the promise of a love beyond the shadow of the law. I can’t help but think that this explains why the courtroom scenes in A PLACE IN THE SUN’s third act rank as some of the cinema’s most ludicrous. Clift’s sublime fathomlessness defies all judgment, his immaculate moral ambivalence makes a farce of the very concepts of guilt or innocence. Recalling another absurd courtroom drama, the glamorous rot of A PLACE IN THE SUN does illuminate one thing, which holds both for our conflicted attempt to understand Montgomery Clift and for Stevens’ conflicted attempt to challenge the mores of American society: we can’t handle the truth. (1951, 122 min, DCP Digital) MM
Luis Buñuel’s THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (Mexican Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Sunday, 7pm
He always was ahead of the curve: once upon a time, or maybe twice, master surrealist Don Luis beat Irwin Allen to the punch. A good ten years before THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, he made his own contribution to the genre of the disaster movie. Because that's exactly what THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL is. The plot's setup matches Allen's formula perfectly. After an elegant dinner party, the moneyed hosts and their guests retire to the drawing room for music and cigars. And then, in a Buñuelian twist that prefigures THE TOWERING INFERNO, disaster strikes. They find themselves mysteriously unable to leave the room, suddenly imprisoned—not by a raging fire or faulty elevators but by some mysterious force of social etiquette. After being trapped for several days they begin to starve and are soon reduced to living like animals. Madness follows. (One of the tropes of the disaster movie, of course, is that not everyone makes it out alive.) "Basically," as Buñuel puts it in his memoir, "I simply see a group of people who couldn't do what they wanted to—leave a room. That kind of dilemma, the impossibility of satisfying a simple desire, often occurs in my movies." This dreamlike fable about the complacency of the wealthy elite is as funny and frightening as any other film in his oeuvre, and features one of his all-time greatest endings. (1962, 96 min, DCP Digital) RC
Lisa D’Apolito’s LOVE, GILDA (New Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Check Venue website for showtimes
Gilda Radner was a groundbreaking comedienne struck down much too soon. Assembled from home movies, TV and audio clips, and warm testimonials from her many coworkers, friends, and admirers D’Apolito’s film is brimming with good feelings for a person who seemed to be universally loved. I didn’t know much about her personal life or background so watching clips of her clowning around as child and such was a pleasure. Though Radner had more than her share of tragedy and difficulty even before the cancer that killed her at age 42, the film always stresses the way she channeled her pain into making everyone laugh. Comedy was her cure-all. But there’s no way that a woman who had difficulty watching GHOSTBUSTERS because she had been romantically involved with each of the leads at one time or another didn’t rub somebody the wrong way at least once, is there? Yet there isn’t an unkind word voiced about Radner by anyone here. Most comedians make light of the darkness in their lives but few of them are saints. Perhaps Radner was the exception. In any case, fans of Saturday Night Live and comedy in general will find much to love in this affectionate tribute to a very talented woman. (2018, 88 min, DCP Digital) DS
Ali Abbasi’s BORDER (New Swedish)
Music Box Theatre — Check Venue website for showtime
Classic stories from The Hunchback of Notre Dame to Frankenstein have cast physically anomalous outsiders as both mirrors of and foils to the ills of mankind, serving as metaphors for a society hostile to difference. Without giving too much away, Ali Abbasi’s folkloric-realist BORDER joins their ranks while shrewdly subverting the cultural codes inscribed in such narratives, conceptualizing difference outside prevailing dualisms. The film follows Tina, a lonely Swedish border guard who, from the start, is clearly unlike anyone else. Not only does her visage set her apart—her heavy, protruding brow and pachydermic skin drawing curious stares—but so too does her seemingly supernatural ability to smell people’s guilt and fear, a trait the authorities exploit to find contraband. Near her home nestled in the woods, she appears to commune with foxes and moose, and indeed, her own behavior often resembles that of an animal, most notably in the way her upper lip flares when she’s in proximity of a guilty passenger. But is Tina really that sui generis? When she encounters someone entering the country who looks just like her, she begins to question her true nature as the two embark on a relationship that brings enlightenment and terror. Abbasi gradually parcels out information about Tina and this analogous partner, depicting their multiple idiosyncrasies with fascination but also affection. The film may be grounded in Scandinavian folklore, but its inflections of social realism, horror, and discourses around queerness unsettle it from generic categories, allowing it to engage, most excitingly and even radically, with the politics of anti-humanism. Lest this all get too esoteric, Eva Melander’s extraordinary performance as Tina anchors the film to a sense of lived experience. Behind the impressive prosthetics, the actress powerfully conveys the arc of a woman shambling from the shadows of diffidence and internalized hatred to self-actualization. BORDER is filled with a surfeit of imagery earthly and uncanny, but Melander’s accented face supplies it with its most arresting moments: the plays of anxiety, anger, and shame that capture a life kept on the sidelines of one society, and the blossoming confidence of one emerging tentatively into the center of another. (2018, 109 min, DCP Digital) JL
David Schalliol’s THE AREA (New Documentary)
Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) – Thursday, 7pm (Free Admission)
David Schalliol’s THE AREA follows community matriarch-cum-activist Deborah Payne as she crusades to save her neighborhood from mass demolition at the hands of the Norfolk Southern Railway corporation. The title refers to an 85-acre residential pocket of Englewood surrounding Payne’s home near 57th and Normal that’s scheduled to be bulldozed for the purposes of an intermodal freight hub, i.e. a glorified parking lot for shipping containers. Schalliol, a photographer and sociologist by trade who possesses a canny eye for architectural portraiture, is careful to eschew the ruin porn aesthetic in which dilapidated structures are treated as pure spectacle devoid of any contextual information about the socioeconomic forces that led to their demise. In one of the film’s most poetic shots, two houses are juxtaposed side by side: one in sound condition, the other abandoned, shuttered, and in the midst of dismantlement. It’s a stark contrast that symbolizes the conflicting perceptions of Englewood itself—there’s the nightly news caricature of Englewood, reducible to poverty and gun violence, and there’s the actual Englewood that’s home to a community of people. Indeed, THE AREA is deeply rooted in a sense of place, so much so that we’re often told the precise intersection or address where a scene is unfolding, and, like THE INTERRUPTERS and 70 ACRES IN CHICAGO before it, this is an urgent and compelling documentary about a dimension of city that’s rarely seen on the big screen. Though the scope here is hyperlocal, the themes of political apathy, corporate avarice, and the disenfranchisement of a minority community extend well beyond the parameters of the Area. Faced with the encroachment of the railroad company, some residents enthusiastically take buyouts; others want to stay, but aren’t given much of a choice. In order to execute their land grab, Norfolk Southern employs dubious tactics like enacting eminent domain, which allows the government to acquire private property and transfer it to a third party, and persuading at least one homeowner not to pay her mortgage in order to facilitate a “short sale.” Moreover, as a result of the entire neighborhood getting razed, residents are exposed to a slew of environmental hazards, including increased diesel emissions and gas leaks, bringing to mind Chicago’s recent pet coke scandal, the Flint, MI, water crisis, and countless other instances of environmental racism. At a town hall meeting, a Norfolk Southern representative argues that, “What we have to do is we have to balance the business imperative with our desire for the environmental need,” unaware or indifferent to the fact that these are diametrically opposed agendas. What bothers Payne most isn’t the inevitable railroad takeover, but the lack of respect for the families being displaced. Despite the efforts of a collective bargaining coalition and help from community organizations, homes inside the Area, which total around 400 at the outset, continue to dwindle until the film reaches its tragic conclusion. What’s missing, perhaps, is an in-depth interview with Norfolk Southern or 20th Ward alderman Willie Cochran, who endorses the sale of land in an about-face, in which they are taken to task for the fallout from their actions; the documentary, however, is less concerned with hard-hitting investigative journalism and more with chronicling Payne’s personal struggle. On its surface, THE AREA might seem like a tale of defeat, but this is ultimately a story about resistance, resilience, and collectivism. As Payne reflects near the end, “I feel good that we stood up to people who thought they could do anything…I think that it made me a better person.” Followed by a panel discussion that includes Schalliol and Payne, co-producer Brian Ashby, and University of Chicago professor Judy Hoffman. (2018, 93 min, DCP Digital) HS
Paul Schrader’s FIRST REFORMED (New American)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Saturday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 4pm
Paul Schrader’s angry, austere new film stars Ethan Hawke as Ernst Toller, a tormented priest grappling with personal and ecological apocalypse. A pregnant parishioner offers Toller a chance at salvation, but forces him to confront the slow suicide that has been his life in the aftermath of a personal tragedy. Watching the movie I kept thinking of Robert Bresson's DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST and Schrader's own original screenplay for TAXI DRIVER. I have little use for religion in my everyday life but there is no way around the fact that a lot of my favorite art is consumed with faith. Schrader's belief feels genuine so I can accept it without having to buy into it for myself. The thing that sets this story apart from much of Schrader’s prior work is an acknowledgement of shades of grey, in place of his usual moral absolutism. That nuance is personified in the pastor of a megachurch (a perfectly cast Cedric The Entertainer), who might have been logically been the heavy here, but is instead presented as a fully dimensional, flawed but earnest, and responsible community leader. The hopeless, fanatical, often sin-filled and ugly longing for grace and meaning that has always been Schrader’s calling card is on full display, but the resolution he leaves viewers with offers some newly-found hope. Toller has a lot of Travis Bickle in him but manages to walk himself back from the annihilation fantasy that haunts them both. (2017, 113 min, DCP Digital) DS
Peter Weir's PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (Australian Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 7pm
In 1967, Australian author Joan Lindsay published her popular novel Picnic at Hanging Rock, and it soon provoked the belief that its subject is a true, but undocumented event. Eight years later, Peter Weir and screenwriter Cliff Green adapted the novel into Weir's second feature film to explore this new subject of national folklore. In the film, several young women and their teachers from Appleyard College picnic at Hanging Rock near Mount Macedon, Victoria on Saint Valentine's Day in 1900. During the afternoon, Irma, Marion, and Miranda quietly leave their classmates to further explore "the geological marvel," and they never return. In time, the disappearance of the girls leads to greater tragedy at the college. Similar to his contemporary Terrence Malick's attention to American landscapes, Weir focuses his camera on the natural landscape of the Australian bush and its dynamic animal and plant life. Often shot from varying low angles, Hanging Rock appears to be very powerful and possibly dangerous. It arrests the sight of the small men and women who climb its steep slopes in search of an answer. While many films encourage viewers to solve their mysteries, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK asks them to accept it. In contrast, the film's characters cannot face the unknown, and their reactions in turn obscure them from each other and from us. For Weir, Hanging Rock holds the last memory of Irma, Marion, and Miranda, yet no one can interpret what nature recounts. In the interview "Picnic under Capricorn" published shortly after the film's release, Weir described his uncommon aim: "We worked very hard at creating a hallucinatory mesmeric rhythm, so that you lost awareness of facts, you stopped adding things up, and got into this enclosed atmosphere. I did everything in my power to hypnotize the audience away from the possibility of solutions...There are, after all, things within our own minds about which we know far less than about the disappearances at Hanging Rock. And it's within a lot of those silences that I tell my side of the story." (1975, 115 min, 35mm) CW
Milos Forman's ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 1:30pm
One of only three films (IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS being the other two) to ever win the 'Big Five' Academy Awards categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay), ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST is widely considered to be one of the greatest American films ever made. Milos Forman's film boldly questions the powers of authority and the perceptions of what makes a person sane or insane. Taking place at a psychiatric hospital during 1963, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST is presented from the perspective of Randle Patrick 'Mac' McMurphy (Jack Nicholson). He is a charismatic and anti-authoritarian criminal who's transferred into the mental institution in order to avoid the hard labor prison farm sentence for statutory rape. Shortly upon his arrival, Mac becomes entrenched in a battle of wits with the icy, suppressive Nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher). The head nurse delights in subtle humiliation and mind-numbingly boring routine to keep her patients at bay. Backdropped by a haunting, understated score by Jack Nitzsche and supported by the strong source material of Ken Kesey's audacious novel, the film excels across the board. Also of note are memorable performances by a young Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd (his onscreen debut), and Scatman Crothers. Although the movie's ending is well known to many by now, its messages of self-empowerment and altruism are fully realized by the novel's original protagonist, the mountainous Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), and the film's potent conclusion. An American classic, bookended by shots of the gorgeous mountains and wilderness of Oregon, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST resonates as powerfully today as it did nearly forty years ago. (1975, 134 mins, DCP Digital) KC
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Polish Film Festival in America opens on Saturday and runs through November 18. More info and complete schedule at www.pffamerica.org.
The First Nations Film and Video Festival continues through November 9 at various Chicago (and one Wisconsin) locations. More info and full schedule at www.fnfvf.org/blog.
Chicago Filmmakers (5720 N. Ridge Ave.) and the Chicago Film Society present Unsentimental Education: Classroom Films by Barbara Loden and John Mackenzie on Saturday at 7:30pm. The screening includes: THE FRONTIER EXPERIENCE (1975, 25 min, 16mm) and THE BOY WHO LIKED DEER (1975, 18 min, 16mm) by Barbara Loden, and APACHES (1977, 27 min, 16mm) by John Mackenzie.
Also presented by the Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) this week: Raw Nerves: The Filmic Fluxes of Manuel De Landa (approx. 84 min total, 16mm except where noted) is on Friday at 7pm. Screening are THE ITCH SCRATCH ITCH CYCLE (1976, 8 min), INCONTINENCE: A DIARRHETIC FLOW OF MISMATCHES (1978, 18 min), ISM ISM (1979, 8 min), RAW NERVES: A LACANIAN THRILLER (1980, 30 min), HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED (1982, 12 min, Blu-Ray Projection), and JUDGEMENT DAY (1983, 8 min); Miguel Ángel Rosales’s 2016 Spanish/Portuguese/Senegali/Mexican documentary GURUMBÉ: AFRO-ANDALUSIAN MEMORIES (72 min, DCP Digital) on Sunday at 5pm, with Rosales and dancer Yinka Esi Graves in person. Free admission.
The Conversations at the Edge series (at the Gene Siskel Film Center) screens Coco Fusco’s 2015 Cuban/US documentaries LA CONFESIÓN and LA BOTELLA AL MAR DE MARÍA ELANA on Thursday at 6pm, with Fusco in person. Approx. 65 min total, Digital Projection.
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) hosts local performance group Mocrep and their one-night film festival on Monday at 7pm; and Daniel Tucker’s 2018 experimental documentary LOCAL CONTROL: KARL HESS IN THE WORLD OF IDEAS (60 min, Digital Projection) is on Tuesday at 8pm.
Cinema 53 (at the Harper Theater, 5238 S. Harper Ave.) screens Robert Downey, Sr.'s 1969 film PUTNEY SWOPE (85 min, Video Projection) on Thursday at 7pm. Followed by a conversation with Northwestern University professor Aymar Jean Christian and series curators Cauleen Smith and Robert Bird. Free admission.
The Midwest Independent Film Festival (at the Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema) presents Advertising Community Shorts Night on Tuesday at 6pm, preceded by a reception and a producer’s panel.
Asian Pop-Up Cinema presents the 2016 Japanese/Filipino/Cambodian omnibus film ASIAN THREE-FOLD MIRROR 2016: REFLECTIONS (118 min, Video Projection) on Saturday at 1pm at the Illinois Institute of Technology (Stuart Hall, 10 W. 31st St.). The three parts are directed by Brillante Mendoza, Isao Yukisada, and Sotho Kulikar. Free admission, but RSVP required (visit www.asianpopupcinema.org to register); and Mag Hsu and Hsu Chih-yen’s 2018 Taiwanese film DEAR EX (100 min, Digital Projection) is on Thursday at 7pm at River East 21, with co-director Hsu Chih-yen in person.
The Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) presents a Champs-Élysées Film Festival on Friday beginning at 3pm. Screening are: INTENTIONAL CASTAWAY (Didier Nion, 2017, 93 min) at 3pm; MAI 68, MY FATHER, NAILS (Samuel Bigiaoui, 2017, 84 min; with Bigiaoui in person) at 5:30pm; and THE LOBSTER’S PATH (Vincent Giovanni and Igor Mendjusky, 2017, 70 min) at 7:30pm.
Kartemquin Films and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Veterans Program present six episodes from David Washburn’s new series Loyalty: Stories on Thursday at 6:30pm at the Chicago Cultural Center (preceded by a 5:30pm reception). [A second showing takes place on Friday, November 9 at 7:15pm (with a 6:30pm reception) at the Muslim Education Center (8601 Menard Ave., Morton Grove)] Both screenings are followed by panel discussion. Both are free of charge, but require an RSVP: here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/loyalty-stories-chicago-film-premiere-chicago-cultural-center-tickets-51431102813 for the Thursday show and here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/loyalty-stories-chicago-film-premiere-muslim-education-center-tickets-51440722586 for the Friday show.
The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1942 UK film ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING (102 min, Digital Projection) is on Wednesday at 1 and 7pm. Free admission.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Robert Clift and Hillary Demmon’s 2018 documentary MAKING MONTGOMERY CLIFT (88 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 2 and 6pm, Saturday at 3pm, and Monday at 7:45pm.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Bruno Barreto’s 1976 Brazilian film DONA FLOR AND HER TWO HUSBANDS (110 min, 35mm; faded print) is on Monday at 7pm; and Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook’s 1998 animated Disney film MULAN (88 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 4:30pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 film SUSPIRIA (152 min, DCP Digital) opens; Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s 2018 documentary FREE SOLO (100 min, DCP Digital) continues; Jim Van Bebber’s 1988 film DEADBEAT AT DAWN (80 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; and the Blue Whisky Independent Film Festival presents two encore screenings of award-winners from their festival: Adrian Goiginger’s 2017 Austrian film THE BEST OF ALL WORLDS (138 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 7pm and Dale Beaumont-Brown’s 2017 documentary THIS.IS.PROGRESS (132 min, DCP Digital) is on Monday at 7pm.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria, UIC) presents Chicago New Media 1973-1992 through December 15.
The Block Museum (Northwestern University) presents Paul Chan’s 2003 video installation Happiness (finally) after 35,000 years of civilization (17 min loop) through November 4.
The Screen Share Video Gallery (Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, outside Room 201) presents “Hannah Maitland” = Animation: A collection of animations, GIFs, video works and flicker films by Hannah Maitland Frank through November 7. The show consists of a 40-minute long looping program, in honor of the late UofC grad Hannah Frank’s life and work. The program will screen in the screening room at the Logan Center on Friday, October 26 at 5:30pm, followed by a reception. Free admission.
The Block Museum (Northwestern University) presents Up Is Down: Mid-century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio though December 9.
Elastic Arts (3429 W. Diversey Ave., 2nd Floor) presents Intellectual Property: A solo exhibition of work by Julia Dratel though November 17 (open most evenings during public events, or by appointment through the artist—contact via her website: http://juliadratel.com/intellectualproperty. The exhibition includes photographs (digital and film), poetry, and two single-channel video/sound works: rehearsal 1.29 (2017-18, 2 min loop) and battery park city (excerpts: "a loyalty to the objects you know") (2009/2018, 6 min loop).
The Graham Foundation (Madlener House, 4 W. Burton Place) continues Martine Syms: Incense Sweaters & Ice through January 12.
The Renaissance Society (University of Chicago) presents Shadi Habib Allah: Put to Rights through November 4. In addition to video installation works, the show includes photographic and sculptural works.
Currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago: Martine Syms' SHE MAD: LAUGHING GAS (2018, 7 min, four-channel digital video installation with sound, wall painting, laser-cut acrylic, artist’s clothes); Rosalind Nashashibi's VIVIAN’S GARDEN (2017, 30 min, 16mm on HD Video) is in the Donna and Howard Stone Gallery, through December 2; Dara Birnbaum’s KISS THE GIRLS: MAKE THEM CRY (1979, 6 min loop, two-channel video) is in the second floor corridor.
CINE-LIST: November 2 - November 8, 2018
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Edo Choi, Rob Christopher, Kyle Cubr, Marilyn Ferdinand, Jonathan Leithold-Patt, Michael Metzger, Dmitry Samarov, Harrison Sherrod, Candace Wirt