On episode #8 of the Cine-Cast, Cine-File associate editor Ben Sachs gives an overview of Chicago movie-going in November. 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 Gene 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 JB Mabe and associate editor Kathleen Sachs.
The introductory theme is by local film composer Ben Van Vlissingen. Find out more about his work here.
Luchino Visconti’s WHITE NIGHTS (Italian Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Sunday, 5pm and Tuesday, 6pm
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella White Nights has spawned at least three great movies: James Gray’s TWO LOVERS (2008), Robert Bresson’s FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER (1971), and Luchino Visconti’s eponymous 1957 adaptation. (I can’t speak for the Iranian feature nor the five Indian films it inspired.) The reason it’s been adapted so frequently probably has to do with the fact that it’s the most concentrated of Dostoevsky’s major works, taking place over just a few days and containing relatively few characters. That it also concerns one of the most cinematic of subjects—unrequited love—makes it a wellspring for audio-visual splendor. Of course, White Nights wouldn’t be a Dostoevsky story without despair, and this dark undercurrent gives the tale a tonal complexity that filmmakers can translate to screen simply by preserving the central dramatic conflict. The hero is a benign variation on Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, a lonely urbanite longing for human connection. He finds it in the form of a young woman who’s desperate for the return of her lover, who’s been gone for a year. These two characters meet randomly and become friends, and just as the isolated hero blossoms out of love for the woman, the lost paramour reappears. The story exemplifies the axiom that it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, narrativizing the brief spell during which these two sad people find solace in each other. In his adaptation, Visconti taps into the story’s romanticism, employing an opulent style that builds upon that of his previous film, SENSO (1954), and which anticipates his baroque masterpieces of the 1960s and 70s. “Abandoning his usual habit of shooting on location, [Visconti] filmed the entire project in a studio,” Geoffrey Nowell-Smith wrote for the Criterion Collection in 2005. “To achieve the tight geographical focus needed, the director and his crew had one large set and various smaller ones constructed, roughly modeled on the Tuscan city of Livorno... Whereas in SENSO the settings were real but managed accidentally to look artificial, here the setting is both artificial and clearly intended to be seen as such. This is partly due to the photography and lighting, which produce an unexpectedly dreamy look, with unusually graduated contrasts reminiscent of the poetic realism of Marcel Carné. But it is also due to the disjunctive presentation of the characters in relation to their surroundings.” The gorgeous black-and-white photography, by the way, is by the great Giuseppe Rotunno, who would go on to shoot Visconti’s THE LEOPARD, as well as numerous Fellini titles, ALL THAT JAZZ, and Robert Altman’s POPEYE. (1957, 97 min, 35mm Archival Print) BS
Gordon Quinn and Gerald Temaner's INQUIRING NUNS (Documentary Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Check Venue website for showtimes
Call it Chronique d'un Chicago. The pair of nuns traversing the streets of Chicago asking pedestrians, "Are you happy?" is Kartemquin Films' direct response to Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch's 1961 Parisian documentary CHRONIQUE D'UN ETE, explicitly so. In the car en route to the first series of interviews, director Gordon Quinn explains to his volunteer nuns the structure of Morin and Rouch's film, hoping the sisters can similarly draw out interesting, serendipitous responses from their interviewees. What's most intriguing about NUNS is the possible response bias from interview subjects. Next to Vietnam (this being shot in 1968, everyone eventually mentions the Vietnam War, generally after being probed with, "What makes you unhappy?"), the most discussed topic is religion. It's a source of meaning and happiness in the lives of many, yes, but the striking thing is in the amount of time it often takes people talking to two nuns to mention religion, especially given the nuns' open interview technique. When a nun gives a person a neutral response, could it be that the person begins crafting answers to elicit a positive response from the nuns? What answer could it be but religion? This is perhaps the film's biggest weakness—rather than a sociological exploration of the responses and their possible causality, the documentary is instead content to stay effervescent yet superficial, exemplified when the sisters interview a novitiate nun at the Art Institute. Still, the documentary's slice-of-life approach and occasional moments of genuine insight temper any misgivings about its lack of depth. Check the Siskel website for details on in-person appearances, including by co-director Quinn. (1968, 66 min, Newly Restored 16mm Print) DM
Anton Vidokle’s Immortality for All: A Trilogy of Films about Russian Cosmism (New Russian Experimental)
Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) — Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
Russian filmmaker/artist Anton Vidokle presents his three-part polemic/performance art/pseudo-documentary exploring the Soviet-era theory of Cosmism, which was first put forth by Russian Orthodox Christian philosopher Nikolai Fedorov (1829-1903). In THIS IS COSMOS (2014, 28 min), Vidokle lays out the central theme of Cosmism, which is the desire to resurrect all ancestors into self-sustaining, transsexual immortals. Vidokle relates this through utterly poker-faced narration, Soviet-style signage in oversized white text on a burning red background, and via readings of Fedorov’s writings by non-professional actors, who address the viewer directly. THE COMMUNIST REVOLUTION WAS CAUSED BY THE SUN (2015, 32 min) expands the exploration to posit that the formation of the Soviet Union was an attempt to bring humanity together through Cosmism’s universalist tenets. Filmed largely in remote parts of Kazakhstan, it has the feel of a National Geographic documentary gone haywire. In the final (and most affecting) installment, RESURRECTION FOR ALL! (2017, 34 min), Vidokle spends much of the running time at the Zoological Museum of Moscow and various art museums, having a series of people (one wrapped up as a mummy) interact with the aging dioramas of taxidermied animals and masterpieces of early Soviet art. Of the three films, this is the one that has the most evocative passages and seems the least like an ironic put-on. After all the high-minded talk, the simple proposition that the way to immortality is to make art feels like welcome relief. It’s difficult to know for sure whether Vidokle sincerely believes in the astral Futurist theories put forth by Fedorov and his followers. At times this reminded me of Guy Maddin’s great fake doc MY WINNIPEG (2007) in its mix of generic geographical footage and obtuse philosophizing. Whatever this is, it kept my attention throughout, and even caused me to ponder some of these crackpot theories semi-seriously. Vidokle in person. (96 min total, 2014-17, DCP Digital) DS
Raoul Peck’s LUMUMBA: DEATH OF A PROPHET (Documentary/Essay Film Revival)
Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck’s 1990 documentary about Patrice Lumumba—the first Prime Minister of post-colonial Congo—is framed by Peck’s own family history and by his poetic voiceover, personal lenses that imbue the film with an intimacy that opens the film from strict hagiography and indirectly helps to humanize Lumumba’s story. Peck’s father was an agronomist who moved to the Congo shortly after its 1960 independence—one of many black experts imported to help fill a gap left by departing Belgians. An eight-year-old Peck, his mother, and siblings followed shortly after. Peck intertwines his own family’s photos and home movies, his youthful impressions of that turbulent time, and quoted remembrances of his mother with the rise and fall of Lumumba, who would be forced from power after less than three months in office, placed in house arrest, and then murdered in early 1961. Peck’s poetic ruminations on Lumumba, mostly over shots of Brussels (he was unable to travel to Congo—Zaire at the time—due to the political situation and fears for his and his crew’s safety), give the film a sense of longing and regret, one that mirrors the lost opportunity for the country in 1960. Peck portrays Lumumba as someone ill-equipped to deal with the realpolitik of a newly free country at the height of the Cold War—despite his charisma, intellectual gifts, and idealism. A visionary who would become victim to uncontrollable forces around him, internal and external. The intimate tone of the film heightens Lumumba’s and the Congo’s tragic fates and gives what is now a nearly sixty-year-old ripple in history continuing resonance. Co-presented by Hot House as part of their larger Tri-Continental screenings series. (1990, 69 min, Digital Projection) PF
Part of a double feature with Isaac Julien’s 1996 essay film/documentary FRANTZ FANON: BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASK (73 min, Digital Projection)
Thom Eberhardt’s NIGHT OF THE COMET (American Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) — Thursday, 7pm (Free Admission)
Celluloid saves. Case in point, when most every living creature has been turned to dust upon the comet-induced end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it in writer-director Thom Eberhardt’s NIGHT OF THE COMET, 18-year-old Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) manages to survive after spending the night in an old-school projection booth. As it would happen, projection booths used to be lined with steel, the very alloy that protects against the comet’s dissolutive effects. Reggie and her boyfriend, the projectionist, are thus spared from the after-effects of the comet, which not only vaporized most living things, but also turned some who weren’t killed into flesh-eating zombies. Wandering around Los Angeles, her boyfriend having been killed by said miscreations, Reggie finds a few other survivors, including her 16-year-old sister Sam (Kelli Maroney), who is alive after spending the night in a steel tool shed, and Hector (Robert Beltran), a good-looking truck driver who was protected by his vehicle's steel cab. The film’s plot is relatively unsophisticated—and exploitative, all in good fun—but its distinction lies in that simplicity. (Eberhardt described its scenario as “Valley girls at the end of the world." Incidentially, the mall scenes were shot at Sherman Oaks Galleria, where both VALLEY GIRL, appropriately, and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH were filmed. Joss Whedon claims it was a direct influence on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer.") I was taken with the neat ingenuity; it’s a film that uses its limitations to its advantage, rather than as an excuse as to why it can’t be something else, something more. But it needn’t be, with a self-assured aesthetic that makes up for a thin, albeit quotable, script. (One could, however, do without the casual racism and heteronormative preoccupations. It wasn’t a bomb that wiped out mankind, so I suppose it’s fitting that the nuclear family somehow managed to survive…) To give a sense of its visual triumph, there’s a crewmember whose credit is simply ‘neon,’ of which there is seemingly no shortage in post-apocalyptic L.A. For years, rumors of a sequel flooded the Internet; in October 2018, it was said that SOUTHBOUND co-director Roxanne Benjamin had been conscripted by Orion Pictures to pen a remake. Despite all this, and alleged influences ranging from THE OMEGA MAN to DAWN OF THE DEAD to LIQUID SKY, this B-movie-turned-beloved-cult-classic remains something singular, something that, much like a comet, comes around only once in a good long while. (1984, 91 min, 35mm) KS
Robert Aldrich's KISS ME DEADLY (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Thursday, 9:30pm
Robert Aldrich's low-budget noir classic, a loose adaptation of the Mickey Spillane novel, goes off the rails almost from the get-go. A nightmarish midnight driving sequence—complete with a hysterical nuthouse escapee—sets the tone, evoking a sense of terror that eventually bookends the film. After being intercepted on the road, knocked cold, and with the woman dead, P.I. Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) later finds himself interested in her case. In search of a mysterious object, "the great whatsit," Hammer navigates the warrens of Los Angeles to discover its contents. Shot on location in L.A.'s Bunker Hill neighborhood, KISS ME DEADLY uses the actual settings that so many noir films took as inspiration in the studio. This added realism helps ground the melodramatic nature of its plot, albeit one rife with plot twists and brutal violence. Eventually culminating in a beach house and a magnificent reveal of the MacGuffin, KISS ME DEADLY supposedly captures the paranoia of cold war America. More than that, Aldrich's film comes at the waning of the classical noir period, and it both embodies and critiques the genre. Aldrich called his laconic main character a "cynical fascist" and said that KISS ME DEADLY demonstrated that "justice is not to be found in a self-anointed, one-man vigilante." (1955, 106 min, 35mm Archival Print) BW
Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai’s FAT CHOI SPIRIT (Hong Kong Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Tuesday, 6pm
Doc Films concludes their fabulous Johnnie To series with another deep cut from the director’s career. “The film is a comedy, falling into the peculiar Hong Kong genre of mahjong films, and was released during the Lunar New Year of 2002,” begins the Wikipedia entry, which goes on to provide a lengthy plot summary. Judging from the poorly written synopsis, FAT CHOI SPIRIT has to do with a compulsive gambler (Andy Lau, who’s usually funny and charismatic whenever he works with To), his crazy ex-girlfriend, his broke younger brother, some gangsters, and lots of games of mahjong. Since it was co-written and co-directed by Wai Ka-Fai, expect a good deal of wackiness as well. To’s collaborations with Wai (among them HELP!!!, FULLTIME KILLER, RUNNING ON KARMA, and MAD DETECTIVE) tend to be looser in tone and narrative structure than his solo directorial efforts, exuding a slaphappy energy reminiscent of classic Looney Tunes. And like the films of animator-turned-live-action-director Frank Tashlin, the work of To and Wai never sacrifices formal rigor for laughs—their visual gags, predicated on a precise manipulation of physical space, can be hysterical and astonishing all at once. (2002, 96 min, 35mm) BS
Henri-Georges Clouzot's DIABOLIQUE (French Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Thursday, 7pm
A once-shocking, influential thriller now more suited to killing a cold, rainy afternoon, DIABOLIQUE (LES DIABOLIQUES)—based on a 1952 Boileau-Narcejac novel—is somewhat equally popular with deeper-digging aficionados of Hitchcock (whom director Clouzot beat out for the screenplay rights) as well as feminist film theorists, who mined the (wholly subtextual) lesbian relationship between the two suburban boarding-school teachers (Simone Signoret and Clouzot's wife, Véra) who conspire to murder the headmaster with whom they are both involved (Paul Meurisse). It's worth observing how Clouzot's comparatively breezy genre-interpolation (from suspense, to supernatural horror, to twist-ending policier) was transformed by Hitchcock into films that could instead only be decrypted in psychoanalytic terms (e.g. THE BIRDS). Intriguingly bookended in Clouzot's filmography by the nail-biting classic WAGES OF FEAR (1953) and the hallucinatory/meditative MYSTERY OF PICASSO (1956), DIABOLIQUE is also notable for its third-act arrival of the retired police inspector Fichet (Charles Vanel), disheveled and disingenuous, whom Cine-Filers of a certain age will recognize as the template for Peter Falk's Columbo. (1955, 114 min, 35mm) MC
Jean Vigo's L'ATALANTE + Shorts (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Check Venue website for showtimes
There are movies that put you to sleep, and then there are movies that remind you that you are asleep: Jean Vigo's cryptically peerless L'ATALANTE, only somewhat recognizable as narrative cinema, sometimes seems as close a document as any of the inspired dreamlife of a modernizing Europe. Deliberately given an uninteresting screenplay by his producer, the literally feverish (he would die of Tuberculosis later that year) 28-year-old Jean Vigo orchestrated (and improvised) the playful and violent titular floating world (partially filmed on an actual barge in the Seine) which would magically transport its honeymooning, rural protagonist Juliette (Dita Parlo) into the strange crowds and technological chaos of Parisian urbanity. And in his legendary performance of the barge's old hand Jules, Swiss actor Michel Simon portrays the rage and kindness of the perpetually besotted with an empathy worthy of WITHNAIL AND I's Richard E. Grant. Meticulously restored in 1989 from Vigo's notes, the resultant ludic limbo—where the provincial certainty and simplicity of heterosexual kinship is perpetually thrown into doubt—will be either recognizable as The Way We Live Now, or as an explicitly political affront to the dozing apathy of cultural conservatism in all of its forms. (1934, 89 min, DCP Digital) MC
Jean Vigo’s ZERO FOR CONDUCT (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Friday, 4pm, Saturday, 5:45pm, and Wednesday, 7:45pm
ZERO FOR CONDUCT (1933), Jean Vigo's penultimate movie, is a 49-minute featurette that packs a greater punch than most films twice its length. A remarkable tribute to the anarchic spirit of youth, it is perhaps best known today for the major influence it would go on to exert on both the French and British New Waves several decades later (François Truffaut’s THE 400 BLOWS would be unthinkable without it and Lindsay Anderson’s IF… is an unofficial remake), but make no mistake: there’s no substitute for the original. Vigo’s poetic rendering of the rebellion of four pre-adolescent boarding school students is so incendiary as an anti-authoritarian statement that it was banned in France until the end of World War II. There are unforgettable, occasionally surreal images—from the school’s principal, a dwarf, who keeps his prized bowler hat under a glass dome to the slow-motion shots in the celebrated pillow-fight sequence—but, as in Vigo’s more well-known L’ATALANTE made one year later, ZERO FOR CONDUCT’s aesthetic daring never overshadows the emotional sensitivity the director shows his protagonists. This is fitting given that, according to biographer Paolo Emilio Salles Gomes, the film was based on Vigo's own childhood memories. Preceding ZERO FOR CONDUCT are Vigo’s shorts A PROPOS DE NICE (1930) and TARIS (1931). The former is a “city symphony”-style travelogue of the title location marked by astonishing stylistic flourishes (the low-angled shots of bare-legged women dancing on a balcony are particularly memorable for their eroticism) while the latter is a short experimental documentary about a champion swimmer that allowed Vigo to try out the underwater cinematography he would take to dizzying heights in L’ATALANTE. (1930-33, 83 min total, DCP Digital) MGS
PJ Raval’s CALL HER GANDA (New Documentary)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) — Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
In 2014, a 26-year-old Filipina named Jennifer Laude—her mother called her Ganda, which means “beautiful” in Tagalog—was murdered. Her killer? A 19-year-old Marine stationed in the Philippines, on break from duty. The reason? As he later told a fellow Marine, he'd discovered that Laude was a “he-she,” to use his vile language. PJ Raval’s CALL HER GANDA is about this case and issues related to it, from transgender discrimination to the insidious aftereffects of colonialism. Raval assembles the film deftly, elegantly weaving together these strains, presenting them as both important, independent narratives and an intricate system of cause-and-effect. Laude’s family and friends, some present the night she died, illuminate her life (understandably tiptoeing around the fact that she may have been working in the sex trade) and mourn her tragic death; Raval also follows the case’s steadfast defense team and reporter Meredith Talusan, a Filipina-American transgender woman, who’s covering the story for American news outlets. He uses news footage and screenshots from social media posts to further exposit the crime in question, as well as archival news material to explain the Visiting Forces Agreement, which dictates, to an unnerving degree, how the Filipino government can (and, more importantly, cannot) preside over the cases of crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in their country. Though the Philippines gained independence from the U.S. in 1946, the agreement is a clear-cut sign of America’s persisting colonialist urges. Through all of this, however, is footage of Laude herself, radiant with life, but, sadly, vulnerable to its horrors. (2018, 98 min, Video Projection) KS
Chantal Akerman's NO HOME MOVIE (Contemporary Documentary)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Wednesday, 7 and 9:30pm
Chantal Akerman's NO HOME MOVIE—her last film before her untimely death in late 2015—is a synthesis of the Belgian artist's most personal work. A documentary about Akerman's mother in the months leading up to her death—they talk, they laugh, they suppress—it's formally reminiscent of JEANNE DIELMAN, which Akerman said was "a love film for [her] mother,” as it “gives recognition to that kind of woman.” The likeness is perhaps most obvious in the scenes that take place in the green-tiled kitchen, bringing to mind Delphine Seyrig as she cooked, cleaned, and silently contemplated. At one point Akerman's mother says to her other daughter, “She's never really talked to me,” referring to the filmmaker and recalling her own gently pleading letters in NEWS FROM HOME. Near the end, Akerman explains to a housekeeper how her mother fled Poland during the war only to be captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp; examining topics both mundane and meaningful, Akerman uses her avant-garde sensibility to meditate on a relationship and a lifetime in just under two hours. Much of her work imitates life in all its glorious banality, but NO HOME MOVIE considers life at its most honest and sublime. (2015, 115 min, DCP Digital) KS
Mike Gray and Howard Alk's AMERICAN REVOLUTION 2 (Documentary Revival)
Black Cinema House (at the Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave.) — Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
Early footage of the violence of the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests turns to the comparatively quieter world of revolutionary discourse, capturing the wide array of progressive talk in groups large and small in neighborhoods around Chicago in this landmark documentary by the Film Group. From Black Panther gatherings to house parties and Young Patriots rallies, Howard Alk and Mike Gray document some of the different communities who, in response to severe police brutality, were ready to meet violence with violence. A detailed and intriguing look at the people who wanted a new America desperately, how they tried to build it, and the language they used to envision it, the film displays the often rough and chaotic ways disparate groups of the engaged left aimed to unite themselves into one committed voice of dissent. Alk is unafraid to let long takes expose the complex arguments that arise when Black Panthers speak to an awakening middle class at a council meeting, or when a circular disagreement about Vietnam takes over an apartment party. AMERICAN REVOLUTION 2 assumes its audience is as engaged in these ideas as its subjects. Co-presented by Chicago Film Archives. Followed by a discussion. (1969, 77 min, Digital Projection) CL
Lizzie Borden's BORN IN FLAMES (American Revival)
With a concept, style, and politics that are still radical and relevant, Lizzie Borden's 1983 film gets a revival screening that is all-too-timely. Railing against the patriarchal and racist structures that remained in even the most progressive corners of American Society after the '60s and '70s, we are thrust into a feature length narrative of critique. Borden is able to place her ideology front and center, but also let the story sneak up around it. Embracing the gritty look of both 16mm film and the more battered parts of New York City in the early '80s, and combining them with an objective camera, she uses her low-budget as a storytelling asset. The world in which the anarchist movement dubbed the Women's Army carries out its counterrevolutionary campaign of pirate radio and direct action is rendered complete through a skillful combination of narrative and documentary modes. Artificial news clips about the progress of the current Socialist government and covert operations of the Women's Army's are mixed with observational shots of unemployed men and women on the streets, and we are constantly reminded of the veiled nature of the allegory. Other fictional scenes feel like we're watching the unedited negotiations between rival factions in a civil war as shot by an embedded cameraperson. When the pirate radio DJ—who acts as the film's voiceover—declares that the true nature of socialism is constant revolution, it seems a natural reinforcement of the film's message, rather than a didactic add-on. Managing to tow the line between preaching and pandering is not an easy task when taking on the very fiber of our society, and rarely has a film done it with such ease. (1983, 90 min, Digital Projection) JH
Lynne Ramsay’s YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (New British/American/French)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Saturday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 5pm
Lynne Ramsay is one of the most distinctive visual stylists working in film today. Each of her four features is marked by a dream-like, sometimes hallucinatory, feel and a preoccupation with death. Unlike a traditional action or horror director, Ramsay rarely just focuses on external, objective incidents; her camera often strays to catch bits of landscape or goes blurry and out of focus, hinting at interiority and subjectivity. It is often unclear whether what she’s showing is happening in the world or just in her heroes’ heads. This tack works perfectly for a story about a war-damaged vet (Joaquin Phoenix) who has taken it upon himself to save young girls from a child-sex ring run by powerful politicians and businessmen. Based on a novella by Jonathan Ames, the seedy setting and tormented protagonist are clearly indebted to the noir tradition. In fact, Ames has said in interviews that he has been obsessed with Donald Westlake’s Richard Stark novels and wanted to try his hand at that kind of story. An antecedent might be something like John Boorman’s POINT BLANK (based on a Westlake novel). While on the face of it this is a movie about a man using a ball-peen hammer to exact retribution on abusers of little girls, what Ramsay does brilliantly is put the viewer inside a fractured mind. He is a broken man bent on dispensing Old Testament justice in a fallen world. By showing us what he sees Ramsay makes us feel his pain. (2017, 90 min, DCP Digital) DS
Noah Baumbach's FRANCES HA (American Revival)
Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) — Saturday, 1:30pm
The most financially and critically successful of the mumblecore films, FRANCES HA is also Noah Baumbach at his finest and firmly pushed the genre into the wider public eye. Heavily influenced by Woody Allen films (ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN) as well as the French New Wave, Baumbach's magnum opus showcases the straightforward side to filmmaking and demonstrates how a strong director can make one hell of a film from a simple screenplay. The script is full of sharp, candid dialogue that feels honest and natural. This character study relies heavily on the emotional and disenfranchised power that conversation has in daily life. Greta Gerwig plays the titular Frances, a 27-year old dancer whose life is crumbling around her with no end in sight. Like a drummer behind the punchline of a joke, Frances is often a beat late in her conversations, her finances, and most importantly, her livelihood. Gerwig's performance serves an apt metaphor for the millennial generation and the obstacles that they face. It's refreshing to see a film provide an authentic look at how a character's life isn't always going to work out in that special, feel-good way. Despite all this, FRANCES HA is inspiring for its views on the influence of personal growth and the highly personal definition of success that exists when people finally find their own little slice of heaven. Frances just wants to find happiness, and it's fascinating to watch her take that intimate journey towards it. (2013, 86 min, Video Projection) KC
Tom Volf’s MARIA BY CALLAS (New Documentary)
Music Box Theatre — Check Venue website for showtimes
In the glittering, overblown world of opera, there are many divas, both female and male. But to most opera lovers, Maria Callas is the very definition of the word “diva.” Even people with barely a nodding acquaintance with opera recognize her striking Greek features and glamorous wardrobe, and know of her reputation for temperament and her long-term affair with Aristotle Onassis that ended when he threw her over to marry Jacqueline Kennedy. Although MARIA BY CALLAS touches on these and other personal and professional moments in her highly publicized life, its focus, thankfully, is on her artistry. The film is comprised of film clips of performances, television interviews, home movies, and still photos, supplemented by actor Joyce DiDonato reading Callas’ private letters, thus allowing her to tell her own story. The generous samplings of her performances in Verdi, Bizet, and especially the bel canto repertoire she helped popularize—Bellini’s Norma figures prominently—are glorious and perfectly capture Callas’ emotional connection with the music and her audiences, even when she misses more than a few high Cs. French director Tom Volf, a photographer turned documentarian, is mesmerized by Callas’ allure and convincingly ensures she is never upstaged by the many famous admirers he shows attending her performances, including Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother, Anna Magnani, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. MARIA BY CALLAS is a moving tribute to a great opera star. (2017, 113 min, DCP Digital) MF
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) screens Edward L. Cahn’s 1933 film LAUGHTER IN HELL (70 min, 35mm) on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Preceded by George Cochrane’s 1931 short A BURGLAR TO THE RESCUE (18 min, 35mm).
The Chicago Film Archives presents Form and Function: The Legacy of the Institute of Design (approx. 60 min, Digital Projection) as part of their “Designed to Be Seen” series on Tuesday at 6pm at the Chicago History Museum. Introduced and post-screening discussion by SAIC professor Jan Tichy. Free admission.
South Side Projections and the DuSable Museum (at the DuSable) screen William Miles’ 1977 documentary MEN OF BRONZE (60 min, Digital Projection) on Thursday at 7pm. Followed by a discussion with jazz historian Howard Mandel and Roosevelt University professor emeritus Christopher Reed. Free admission.
Chicago Filmmakers (5720 N. Ridge Ave.) and Hot House present the second of three programs as part of Hot House’s larger Tri-continental Series on Saturday at 7pm. This program is a double feature of Isaac Julien’s 1996 essay film/documentary FRANTZ FANON: BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASK (73 min, Digital Projection) and Raoul Peck’s 1990 documentary LUMUMBA: DEATH OF A PROPHET (69 min, Digital Projection).
Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria St., UIC) welcomes filmmaker Josh Tsui who will screen and discuss excerpts from his 2018 documentary INSERT COIN: INSIDE MIDWAY’S ’90S REVOLUTION on Wednesday at 6pm. Free admission.
The Chicago Cultural Center hosts Seen & Heard on Saturday at 7pm. The screening includes: THE MAN IS THE MUSIC (Marris Curan, 19 min), THE BIRTH OF AFROBEAT (Opiyo Okeyo, 7 min), TO BE FREE (Adepero Odunye, 13 min), and IT NEVER ENDS (Thomas Carillon, 38 min). Co-Presented by The Cinema Culture. Free admission.
The Art Institute of Chicago screens Leslie Buchbinder's 2014 documentary HAIRY WHO & THE CHICAGO IMAGISTS (105 min, Video Projection) on Friday at 3pm, but it is listed as sold out.
The Midwest Independent Film Festival (at the Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema) presents Best of the Midwest Awards Nomination Party on Tuesday at 6pm. The 7:30pm awards nominations announcement and screening is preceded by at 6pm reception and a 6:30pm producers panel.
Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Fernando Fernán Gómez’s 1963 Spanish film EL MUNDO SIGUE (124 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.
The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Anatole Litvak's SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948, 89 min, DCP Digital) on Wednesday at 1 and 7pm. Free admission.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Franz Osten’s 1928 Indian/German/UK silent film SHIRAZ: A ROMANCE OF INDIA (105 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 2pm, Sunday at 3pm, and Thursday at 6pm; Jenny Murray’s 2018 Nicaraguan/US documentary LAS SANDINISTAS! (97 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; and Glenn Silber and Barry Alexander Brown’s 1979 documentary THE WAR AT HOME (99 min, DCP Digital) has five screenings throughout the week, with co-director Silber in person at the Friday and Saturday shows.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Milos Forman’s 1984 film AMADEUS (180 min director’s cut, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 7pm and Sunday at 1:30pm; Vittorio de Sica’s 1970 Italian film GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS (95 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 7pm; and Carlos Diegues’ 1980 Brazilian film BYE BYE BRASIL (110 min, 35mm) is on Monday at 7pm.
At the Music Box Theatre this week: Lee Chang-Dong’s 2018 South Korean film BURNING (148 min, DCP Digital) opens; E.A. Dupont’s 1923 German silent film THE ANCIENT LAW (135 min, DCP Digital) is on Tuesday at 7pm, with live accompaniment by Donald Sosin and Alicia Svigals; Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 film SUSPIRIA (152 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday-Sunday at 9:45pm; The Sound of Music Sing-a-Long is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am; Abby Epstein’s 2018 documentary WEED THE PEOPLE (97 min, DCP Digital) is on Wednesday at 7pm; Kendall Goldberg’s 2018 film WHEN JEFF TRIED TO SAVE THE WORLD (93 min, DCP Digital) is on Wednesday at 8:15pm and Thursday at 9:45pm, with actor Jon Heder and additional cast and crew in person; Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 film THE ROOM (99 min, 35mm) is on Friday at Midnight; and Jim Sharman’s 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight.
Facets Cinémathèque plays Júlia Murat’s 2017 Brazilian/Argentinean/French film PENDULAR (108 min, Video Projection) and Jaron Albertin’s 2017 film WEIGHTLESS (99 min, Video Projection) for week-long runs; and John M. Kline’s 2018 film ONCE UPON A SUPERHERO (113 min, Video Projection) for a single screening on Friday at 9:15pm, with Kline in person.
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Little Green Light 1 Intervene with Animations on Wednesday at 8pm. Free admission.
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 Up Is Down: Mid-century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio though December 9.
The Graham Foundation (Madlener House, 4 W. Burton Place) continues Martine Syms: Incense Sweaters & Ice through January 12.
Currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago: Gretchen Bender’s 1985 24-moniter, 3-screen video installation TOTAL RECALL is currently on view; 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 30 - December 6, 2018
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Michael Castelle, Kyle Cubr, Marilyn Ferdinand, Jason Halprin, Christy LeMaster, Doug McLaren, Dmitry Samarov, Michael G. Smith, Brian Welesko