Cine-Cast on Transistor Radio
On the inaugural episode, Cine-File managing editor Patrick Friel and associate editors Ben and Kat Sachs discuss the intent of the podcast, as well as their favorite screenings of the year thus far; contributor JB Mabe reviews local experimental screenings happening in March; Kat interviews contributor and Onion City Experimental Film & Video Festival (March 8-11) curator Emily Eddy; and contributors Michael Smith, Scott Pfeiffer and Kyle Cubr conduct a roundtable discussion about the 21st Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival at the Siskel Film Center (March 9-April 5).
Special thanks to Andy Miles, owner of the invaluable Transistor Chicago in Andersonville and producer of our podcast.
Lois Weber’s SCANDAL MONGERS and SENSATION SEEKERS (Silent American Revivals)
Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) – Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
Lois Weber—an early Hollywood writer-director whose prominence is qualified as much by her gender as it is her talent—has been having something of a renaissance of late, with Chicago being especially committed to exhibiting her work. There was the series at the Siskel Film Center in April 2017, featuring some of her more acclaimed titles (WHERE ARE MY CHILDREN?, THE DUMB GIRL OF PORTICI, and THE BLOT, among others), and now, at the Film Studies Center on Friday, two of her less contemporarily touted films, SCANDAL MONGERS (1915/18) and SENSATION SEEKERS (1927), both of which address social mores in the same vein as the socially conscious dramas for which she’s best known. She made the former at Universal Studios, where she was once the highest-paid director and had near-total control over her films, in 1915 under the title SCANDAL, and the studio re-released it as SCANDAL MONGERS in 1918, “one of the first Universal pictures to receive such treatment,” according to Shelley Stamp’s book Lois Weber in Early Hollywood. Previews weren’t available for either film, so I’ll borrow Stamp’s summary of it “Weber and Smalley [Weber’s first husband, with whom she made many of her early films] play co-workers, Daisy and William, whom others suspect to be having an affair.” In this film Weber explores the damaging effects of gossip, “mak[ing] a compelling argument that overweening propriety, expressed in the film through erroneous accusations and malicious gossip, actually undermines marriage, rather than upholding it.” Though such summations of Weber’s films can often make them sound like artless moral preening, her direction transforms them into artful moral preening—with subversive effect. To cite a review that Stamp quotes in her book, “The average moving picture director would have hopelessly botched this subject.” SENSATION SEEKERS addresses a similar issue vis-à-vis a “frank meditation on female celebrity.” To again borrow Stamp’s summary, it’s “about a high-living socialite who renounces her hedonistic lifestyle for a more ethical path,” which is “clearly an allegory for Hollywood.” The protagonist, Egypt, “lives her life on a kind of media ‘stage’ where her every move is watched and reported on—written up in newspapers’ society columns, then gossiped about by her friends and neighbors.” Critiqued at the time as being “a bit too preachy,” Stamp asserts that “[w]hile the film risks being lumped together with the rash of late-1920s indictments of flapper culture, it is worth remembering that the ‘sensation seekers’ evoked in the film’s title are just as much Egypt’s neighbors and fellow churchgoers...as they are Egypt’s own ‘ultra-jazzy wealthy set.’” Stamp continues: “There is little difference, the film asserts, between those who seek sensation through alcohol or sex and those who seek it through scandal and gossip mongering.” Live accompaniment by David Drazin. (1915/18 and 1927, approx. 110 min total, DCP Digital) KS
Colin Campbell’s LITTLE ORPHANT ANNIE (Silent American Revival)
Chicago Film Society and Music Box Theatre (at the Music Box) – Saturday, Noon
LITTLE ORPHANT ANNIE came at the beginning of star Colleen Moore’s career (she began in 1916 and was half a decade away from her star-making hit FLAMING YOUTH), the middle of director Colin Campbell’s career (he made more than 170 films between 1911 and 1924), and at the end of its studio’s existence (Selig Polyscope went bust right after this film). But the auteur of LITTLE ORPHANT ANNIE is Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley, from whose 1885 poem the film is adapted. Footage of Riley (shot in 1916, the year he died) frames the film, the documentary images reconfigured with title cards to set up Riley as the storyteller for what we will see. Riley was an immensely popular poet in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His homespun, dialect-laden poems aimed for nostalgia, humorous uplift, and moral instruction, and they brought him considerable fame. His verses and individual lines pepper the film in title cards (“His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl, / An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all!”). The film, and a previous Colleen Moore-Colin Campbell film from the same year, A HOOSIER ROMANCE, aims to capitalize on Riley’s popularity (to the point of resurrecting him from the dead via the framing footage; there’s no mention of his death two years earlier). Despite this, the film benefits from Moore’s and Campbell’s efforts. Moore gives a fine performance as the young orphan girl Annie, even if she seems to be modeling herself after Mary Pickford; and Campbell shows some stylistic flair and demonstrates some effective effects work (visualizing Annie’s stories about goblins with an assortment of extras in fantastical costumes), though he never achieves the visual sophistication of contemporary (and sometime Pickford director) Maurice Tourneur, who trod similar ground in some of his films. ANNIE is a charming film, not a major discovery but an important relic of a studio from which very few films survive, a glimpse at the beginning of its star’s rise to fame (Moore would make one of the first Jazz-Age flapper films with FLAMING YOUTH and help popularize the bob haircut that became a rage in the ‘20s), and a fascinating record of the pop-celebrity of Riley. The film was restored by independent preservationist (and current Hoosier) Eric Grayson, who worked with five different print sources to reconstruct the film (some of the sources are of very inferior quality and it shows, despite his efforts; at the least, it’s instructive to recognize that not every preservation or restoration has access to great or even good material), will be in person to discuss his work on the film.Preceded by J. Stuart Blackton’s 1907 silent short film THE HUANTED HOTEL (5 min, 16mm). Independent film preservationist Eric Grayson in Person. Live accompaniment by Dennis Scott. (1918, 58 min, Restored 35mm Print) PF
ONION CITY EXPERIMENTAL FILM + VIDEO FESTIVAL at Chicago Filmmakers
Shorts Program 1: Growing
In THE LANDING (2017, 4 min), Katya Yakubov cuts rapidly between shots of sky, sunlight, and the moon, propelling the montage with a frenetic electronic score. Verdant landscapes enter into the visual mix, creating the impression of an entire world in bloom. This is the exemplary short in the program, which explores the dichotomy between natural and man-made worlds. Commissioned by the Chicago Film Archives, Marianna Milhorat’s SKY ROOM (2017, 6 min) also employs an electronic score, in this case to emphasize the inhuman nature of the vintage robotics footage that appears onscreen. Grace Mitchell’s wry SUNSET SONG (2017, 5 min) considers human beings’ distance from nature, presenting crowds of people taking pictures of beautiful seaside sunsets on cell phones and iPads. The program concludes with Jesse McLean’s WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE WE ARE (2017, 12 min), which presents postcard imagery in extreme closeup to conjure a longing for a lost past; the soundtrack features a narrator reading various scam emails, adding a layer of artifice to the proceedings. Also playing are Josh Weissbach’s FOR ALL AUDIENCES (2018, 3 min), Tommy Heffron’s LIKE THIS/LIKE THAT (2017, 3 min), and Zachary Epcar’s RETURN TO FORMS (2016, 10 min). All Digital Projection. BS
Shorts Program 2: Moving
This program confronts harsh political realities, mostly in the United States. Sky Hopinka’s DISLOCATION BLUES (2017, 17 min) reflects on protests around the Dakota Pipeline, while Sally Lawton’s SKY HIGH AND THE COLOR OF MONEY (2017, 6 min) looks at rallies staged by Trump supporters and anti-Trump protestors. Both works speak to the fervor of protestors in the current political moment—Hopinka’s directly, Lawton’s somewhat obliquely. Hopinka interviews a couple people who took part in the Standing Rock protests, and they recount feelings of camaraderie and of making history. Lawton presents images of rallies without sound, the images rendering protestors heroic and the Trump supporters menacing. The most impressive short in the program, Orr Menirom’s HOMEWRECKER (2016, 14 min), is even more abstract than SKY HIGH. Menirom creates a brilliant montage, intercutting wedding footage of brides throwing bouquets with images of protesters hurling projectiles and riot squads shooting tear gas. The conflicts seem weirdly celebratory while the weddings seem sinister—one gets the sense of political life having invaded private life, rendering all contemporary experience charged and dangerous. Jesse Malmed’s THERE (2016, 1 min) starts the program on a witty note, while Alee People’s DECOY (2017, 10 min, 16mm) takes the program into more obtuse territory, combining cryptic commentary with disconnected images of houses, rock climbing, bridges, and women’s basketball. Digital Projection except where noted BS
Shorts Program 3: Touching
This program is not for squeamish. It concludes with Dani Restack and Sheilah Restack’s confrontational STRANGELY ORDINARY THIS DEVOTION (2017, 26 min), which features closeups of brain surgery, menstruation, and a woman coughing up blood. Yet most surprising about the work are the unexpected moments of tenderness, such as a scene of a woman going swimming with her young daughter or a tribute to Prince. STRANGELY ORDINARY bites off more than it can chew, tackling issues of climate change and the future of human reproduction, yet its ambition is noteworthy. It’s preceded in the program by Sasha Waters Freyer’s DRAGONS & SERAPHIM (2017, 14 min), a charming work that draws on three generations of home movies to evoke a warm sense of belonging. Freyer also incorporates the text of a rather good poem, “Childless” by Michael Morse, resulting in a dense work on a universal subject. Cameron Gibson’s SIT, STAY (2017, 12 min) considers the Japanese tourism industry from an outsider’s perspective, looking at the dehumanizing effects of travel. Despite the thematic focus on alienation, the work nonetheless exudes the calm of its locations, making one actually want to visit them. Also screening are two works about everyday intimacy, Linnea Nugent’s YOUR TEETH, MY TIME (2017, 3 min) and Carleen Maur’s DYKE IN SIGHT (2018, 4 min), and Frédéric Moffet’s FEVER FREAKS (2017, 8 min), which draws on imagery from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s THE ARABIAN NIGHTS and text from William S. Burroughs’ Cities of the Red Night. All Digital Projection. BS
Shorts Program 4: Thinking
This program contains the single most impressive work I previewed for this year’s Onion City, Michael Robinson’s ONWARD LOSSLESS FELLOWS (2017, 17 min). Highly recommended for fans of Owen Land and the more playful side of the avant-garde, ONWARD is a dada-like assemblage of a 1990s neighborhood safety instructional video, a speech about astrology and the human condition, strobe effects, and much more. The elements never feel disconnected, but rather like part of some paranoid whole; further, the paranoid vibe can turn the film scary when you least expect. It also includes a surprisingly effective cover of America’s “Horse With No Name.” The program features a few other shorts that are almost as good. Ben Edelberg’s EMPTY NIGHTCLUB (2017, 8 min) conjures a Hopperesque loneliness with depopulated urban spaces, Ben Balcolm’s SPECULATIONS (2016, 18 min) paints a vivid portrait of a postindustrial American landscape, and eteam’s WAYPOINT, FOLLOW, ORBIT, FOCUS, TRACK, PAN (2017, 14 min) begins as an abrasive meditation on camouflage and ends as a blissful account of people getting absorbed into landscapes. All three of these works make wonderful use of texture; in particular EMPTY NIGHTCLUB achieves a homey effect with the scratches and fuzz on its images. Also playing are Craig Neeson’s THIS IS A PORTRAIT OF ME AS A CHILD (2017, 3 min) and Olivia Ciummo’s MISSING IN-BETWEEN THE PHYSICAL PROPER (2016, 6 min). All Digital Projection. BS
Martine Syms’ INCENSE, SWEATERS & ICE
Saturday, 8pm (Reception at 7pm)
Surveillance, if not straight-up voyeurism, is a common theme in experimental film. It’s not hard to understand why—the concept of watching or being watched lends itself to the aesthetic and thematic preoccupations of the form, that of the image and all that it can convey. In INCENSE, SWEATERS & ICE, Martine Syms approaches the motif from a perspective at once boldly singular and maddeningly expansive, exploring the surveillance and resulting scrutiny of black bodies, ranging from the manual obsessiveness of the slave era (“Identity is presaged by surveillance,” she told Artsy.net in an interview. “Even if we think of pre-photographic technology, there was constant logging and cataloguing during the Middle Passage.”) to a contemporary society besieged by inexorable tech. The film follows three so-called characters, twenty-something Girl, her aunt, Mrs. Queen Esther Bernetta White, and WB (“whiteboy”), Girl’s love interest, surveilling them in various states—literally and figuratively, recalling the Great Migration—and via disparate modes. In the aforementioned interview, Syms wonders, “If I could access all the recording of me happening at one time, what might that look like?” This film is an approximation of that notion, thus calling into question the role of cinema in this quandary. The images are speculative, but appealing nonetheless—Syms is an elegant aesthete—with matte colors further confusing the effect. It’s pretty to look at, but often ugly to consider. (2017, 69 min, Digital Projection) KS
Shorts Program 5: Sensing
Sensing, indeed. The films in this program incite the senses (well, sight and sound at least, though one can almost feel their effect) every which way. Scott Fitzpatrick’s TRIGGER WARNING (2017, 5 min) throbs with timeliness, pulsates with indictment. It features various static shots of random objects, over which an appropriately static-y soundtrack seemingly innervates the articles. The items, however, aren’t so random—they’re culled “[f]rom a list of objects mistaken for guns during shootings of civilians by police in the United States since 2001” that was originally published in Harper’s Magazine. The inanity is fitting, tragic though it may be. Inaya Graciana Yusuf’s MURMUR (2017, 3 min) incorporates vintage sound and film clips of children and adults talking about them, “unraveling one's mental health and behavior shaped by a childhood past.” Its aesthetic is adumbral and precise, layered, confused as a child is, their memories like water in a well, mostly hidden but glistening when hit with light. Zachary Hutchinson’s RUMBLE BUMBLE™ (2016, 6 min) is a veritable assault against the senses, its apparent subject a nonsensical but trendy toy. The work defies summary, confusing the mind as much as it engages the faculties, its design outrageous and inspired. Also screening are Akosua Adoma Owusu’s MAHOGANY TOO (2018, 4 min), an experimental homage to Diana Ross in MAHOGANY, Steven Reinke’s bewildering WELCOME TO DAVID WOJNAROWICZ WEEK (2016, 14 min), and Jaakko Pallasvuo’s playful but thought-provoking FILTER (2017, 25 min). All Digital Projection. KS
Shorts Program 6: Listening
Experimental cinema need not entirely eschew story, as is exhibited in the films that comprise this program. Kristin Reeves’ CPS CLOSINGS & DELAYS (2017, 7 min) features all 50 Chicago schools closed by the Chicago Board of Education in 2013; the schools are shot on 16mm, while a digital camera is used to show those affected by such drastic changes in the here and now. The disparate formats appropriately complicate an otherwise straightforward conceit. In Ephraim Asili’s FLUID FRONTIERS (2017, 23 min) residents of the Detroit-Windsor region read aloud poems from original copies of Broadside Press publications with titles like Think Black and Home Coming. The content and the recitations are political and cultural, solidifying the intent of the films to represent both using oblique methods of experimental cinema. All were shot in 16mm—the cinematography is gorgeous, evocative in its seemingly purified aesthetic. It also makes it difficult to discern when the films were shot; rationally, one knows they were filmed in recent years, but the grainy chroma strips away any obvious indicators of time. Their corporeal beauty is timeless, but so, too, are the unfavorable themes—slavery, colonialism, and racism—that stare back at us through ethereal images on an apolitical screen. These dichotomous works screen with Jeffrey Chong’s KINGSWAY (2017, 6 min) and Laurentia Genske’s patiently observant EL MANGUITO (2017, 19 min). KS
Shorts Program 7: Looking
Looking, looking, looking...to what? For Lynne Sachs, whose fantastic experimental documentary YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT played in Chicago a few years ago, it’s three extraordinary female artists: Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer, and Gunvor Nelson. In CAROLEE, BARBARA & GUNVOR (2018, 8 min), she visits each of them in areas where they take respite from the world and explore the caverns of their creativity. Richard Tuohy and Diana Barrie’s PANCORAN (2017, 9 min, 16mm) explores a more chaotic terrain. In Jakarta, traffic represents an organized complexity that’s manipulated via contact printer matting techniques, gradually making it appear denser and denser. The black-and-white 16mm cinematography is striking, generally displaced from its effect but arresting nonetheless. In AMARILLO RAMP (2017, 24 min), Bill Brown and Sabine Gruffat set artist Robert Smithson’s eponymous land sculpture (and also his last work—he died in a plane crash while surveying the site) against indicators of human intervention (fracking, wind power, etc…) that surround it. The balance of placid observation and uncanny manipulation echo that very aim. Also looking, always looking, are Lorenzo Gattorna in ANCHE IN PARADISO NON È BELLO ESSERE SOLI (2017, 8 min) and Lynne Siefert in THE OPEN WINDOW (2017, 7 min). Digital Projection except where noted. KS
Note: Cine-File contributor Emily Eddy curated this year's Onion City Experimental Film + Video Festival, and Kat Sachs served on the screening committee.
EUROPEAN UNION FILM FESTIVAL at the Gene Siskel Film Center – Week One
The Film Center’s annual European Union Film Festival opens today and continues through April 5, with more than 60 films showing over the four weeks. We’ve spotlighted several of the first week films below. Other films of note this week include Rüdiger Suchsland’s German documentary HITLER’S HOLLYWOOD, Armando Iannucci’s UK satire THE DEATH OF STALIN, and the Opening Night film—Stephan Komandarev’s Bulgarian drama DIRECTIONS (as of our publication, tickets were only available for the showing in the small theater; the main theater is sold out).
Gaël Morel's CATCH THE WIND (France)
Friday, 2pm and Wednesday, 8:15pm
Gaël Morel's CATCH THE WIND is a lovely, goodhearted (some may say syrupy), character-focused drama, but I'd recommend it if for no other reason than it gives a starring role to Sandrine Bonnaire. Working for three great French directors, she left an indelible impression in my filmgoing life, as the dangerously childlike, simplistic young woman in Claude Chabrol's disturbing LA CEREMONIE; the would-be free spirit who ends up in a ditch in Agnes Varda's VAGABOND; and the budding teenage daughter of Maurice Pialat, in that director's À NOS AMOURS. She has an extraordinary visage, with its vulnerability, depth of feeling, and that wonderfully warm smile that occasionally breaks. Here, she plays a lonely, 50-ish textile factory worker who starts a new life. When her workplace offshores to Morocco, they offer her a choice: relocate, or take a severance package. To everyone's great surprise, she impulsively seizes the opportunity to move to Tangier. She ends up as a seamstress in a sweatshop, absent the labor protections she enjoyed, and rather took for granted—and was even somewhat hostile to—back in France. She befriends the acerbic, independent proprietress at her boarding house (Mouna Fettou) and the woman's kind, easygoing teenage son: their relationship reminds her of what she once had with her own estranged son. Those seeking a movie with a "message," sent perhaps via Western Union, must look elsewhere. Rather, this film's political points—and it does have something to say, about globalization, the erosion of social democracy in the EU, and the valor of working-class lives—emerge organically from the characters and the story. It's interesting to reverse the typical immigrant story. Here, it's the Frenchwoman who is greeted skeptically by Moroccan workers, the European who is driven to the brink of despair and hopelessness. Morel, who co-scripted the film with Moroccan writer Rachid O., has said he wanted to film not the Tangier of Paul Bowles and the beats, but the other side, of workers and factories. That said, he's still caught so much local color and ambience, so many surprises and joys, from the urchins to the beauty of the sea. The movie aspires to being romantic and cinematic and sweeping, not didactic, and I think it succeeds. It's a bit of a travelogue, I suppose, but that's not a pejorative in my book. In fact, following the peregrinations of the great Bonnaire, I had the enjoyable experience of returning to Tangier: crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, wandering through the souqs in the medina, looking out from a terrace over the Grand Socco. I might not rank CATCH THE WIND with Bonnaire's most iconic films, but it's a fine, humane one, and another chapter in an essential career. (2017, 104 min, DCP Digital) SP
Bavo Defurne’s SOUVENIR (Belgium)
Saturday, 3pm and Monday, 6pm
SOUVENIR presents disarmingly light and digestible territory for an actress we all know for much darker roles, but Isabelle Huppert effortlessly carries the film despite a somewhat weak script and predictable plotlines. Huppert plays Liliane, a washed-up chanteuse who works at a paté factory and re-ignites her career at the urging of a much younger lover (Kévin Azaïs). Inevitable complications arise due to age difference and Liliane's fear of rejection, which is outweighed by her desire to escape from the humdrum life into which she has settled post-fame. The plot matters little in this film, which is obviously an homage by a director who loves both Huppert and Douglas Sirk: the film is merely a vehicle to watch Liliane's inner self emerge à la ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS supported by the love of a modern-day Rock Hudson. Even the hand-written titles and credits pay homage to Sirk and lush, warm "women's pictures" of the 1950's, which is why the lack of dark subtext and twisted subplots don't spoil the pleasure of watching this film. Huppert is magnificent, as always, and her persona from darker films such as ELLE and THE PIANO TEACHER lends a particular thrill to watching SOUVENIR: at times we are not quite certain if the film will veer into darker territory as Liliane swigs another scotch in solitary confinement, unleashing something more sinister than a sweet comeback story. Instead, SOUVENIR ends up remaining a rather delightful departure from such films, and an opportunity to see Huppert in a softer, sweeter light, which can be a rather welcome digestif for those who might have needed to recover from ELLE with a stiff scotch as this reviewer did. (2016, 90 min, DCP Digital) AE
Kornél Mundruczó’s JUPITER’S MOON (Hungary)
Saturday, 5:15pm and Monday, 7:45pm
His first film since 2014’s exquisite WHITE GOD, Director Kornél Mundruczó crafts another gripping tale of inclusion, exclusion, and fantasy with JUPITER’S MOON. Aryan (Zsombor Jéger) is a Syrian refugee making his way from Serbia to Hungary with his father and a host of others. When they are stopped by border patrol, Aryan is separated from his father and shot by an agent only to immediately resurrect from the dead with the ability to fly. Gabor Stern (Merab Ninidze), a doctor whose past still haunts him, discovers Aryan in a refugee camp and decides to use Aryan’s newfound ability to make money off those in need, who dub him a fallen angel. The most fascinating element in this film is the clever camera movement. Its free-floating characteristics allow the viewer to follow Aryan as he moves around in the air and to provide interesting perspective to those beneath. It was as if the audience was the proverbial fly on the wall and able to soak in the action from dynamic viewpoints. As for the story, strong Biblical motifs are present throughout but Mundruczó’s rather philosophical approach to these prevents the film from getting too preachy with its message. “Everyone lives horizontally in their world. Sometimes they forget to look up,” exclaims Stern at one point. JUPITER’S MOON’s uniting of cultures from many walks of life makes for a grounded, yet poignant film. (2018, 129 min, DCP Digital) KC
Edoardo De Angelis's INDIVISIBLE (Italy)
Sunday, 5:15pm and Thursday, 8:15pm
Coming of age never hurt quite so much as it does in Edoardo De Angelis's unique, intensely moving drama INDIVISIBLE. 18-year-old conjoined twins (Angela Fontana and Marianna Fontana) live in Villagio Coppola, a coastal village northwest of Naples. Their wolfish father (Massimiliano Rossi), who's the songwriter of the crew, and their stoned, sad-eyed, glowering mother (Antonia Truppo), exploit them as an itinerant singing act, entertaining the rich with songs that poke fun at their own disability. Even the local priest (Gianfrano Gallo), who wears shaded John Lennon glasses, gets in on the act, marketing them to his impoverished immigrant flock as local saints whom it's good luck to touch—who can heal people and perform miracles. As the film opens, the young women are happy with their lives. In a desperately poor area, they're good earners. Their parents are carny people, essentially, but they do love the girls, in their way. The father can even be seen as an analogy for the once-essential mentor who, finally, stands in the way. When the twins discover that a doctor in Geneva can easily separate them, they run away to have the operation. Playing the twins, literally joined at the hip for life, the Fontana sisters give remarkably expressive, poignantly powerful performances. Constantly cradling each other, they have given us sisters who are symbiotic physically and psychologically, while also registering as individuals. De Angelis has said his film was inspired by the rather sad story of Daisy and Violet Hilton, real-life conjoined twins who appeared in Tod Browning's FREAKS—the twins in this film are called Dasy and Viola—and it's almost as if he's dared to imagine a different fate for them. He is not afraid to swipe from Fellini's LA DOLCE VITA, recreating the famous shot of a hoisted Jesus statue. There's also a ship populated by a Felliniesque demimonde of "freaks," collected by a pervy agent winkingly named for Marco Ferreri, whose film THE APE MAN was an avowed influence on this film. With INDIVISIBLE, De Angelis has created as powerful a metaphor as any I know for the hurtful, but necessary, process each of us must go through to grow up: separating from the ones we love, so as to become fully ourselves. Becoming your own person also means asserting your own aesthetic choices. In a heartbreaking scene, what that means for the twins is, finally, to sing a Janis Joplin song. (2016, 101 min, DCP Digital) SP
Govinda Van Maele's GUTLAND (Luxembourg)
Sunday, 5:15pm and Tuesday, 7:45pm
Mysterious, metaphysical, and shrouded in shadows, Govinda Van Maele's feature debut GUTLAND lives up to the unlikely tag of "surrealist rural noir." A German stranger (Frederick Lau) emerges from the woods in a village in the Gutland ("Good Land") region of Luxembourg, looking for work as a farmhand. He meets a fetching, earthy, playful young woman (a radiant Vicky Krieps of PHANTOM THREAD), who beds him straightaway. Featuring a small town with an undertow of clandestine sexuality, and characters whose identities morph gradually, almost imperceptibly, throughout, the film plays like Lynch's BLUE VELVET crossed with Kiarostami's CERTIFIED COPY. (A series of (erotic) photographs which reveal more detail every time they're examined suggests Antonioni's BLOW UP.) The stranger melts steadily, if awkwardly, into the community, picking up words in the language, taking up trumpet in the concert band. Still, everything seems slightly off. The film intriguingly drops hints that the community may be concealing secrets, just as the stranger is. There's the mysterious disappearance of a local man, as well as a strangely unaffiliated little boy. GUTLAND offers an ingenious parable for the immigrant experience of melting into a new culture—potent both as metaphor and mystery. It also works as a satire of conformity, domestication, and the spirit of nativism on the rise in the EU (as well as in the US), as well as what we might conceive of as the red/blue—here the provincial/urban—divide. Van Maele has a good feel for this farming community (he should: he grew up there), which seems alternately open-armed and vaguely threatening, salt-of-the-earth and sinister. Everything depends upon that balance, and Van Maele walks the line with nary a misstep, building a sense of creeping menace, a naturalistic nighttime world of fate and guilt. Even the picturesque wheat fields seem to carry whisperings of danger. It's a puzzler of a debut that left me pleasurably scratching my head. Which just means that I wanted to see it again almost as soon as it was over. (2017, 107 min, DCP Digital) SP
Bruno Dumont’s JEANNETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC (France)
Sunday, 3pm and Thursday, 6pm
Bruno Dumont’s astonishing recent period continues with a heavy-metal musical about the childhood of Joan of Arc. Based on a play by Charles Peguy, featuring a score by someone named Igorrr and shot by a crew of non-professionals, JEANNETTE obviously grew out of Dumont’s previous two films (LI’L QUINQUIN and SLACK BAY, both of which also featured child protagonists and a healthy and – for Dumont – surprising dose of humor) while simultaneously confounding expectations and striking out in a bold new direction. In his ability to reinvent himself while also remaining supremely himself, this recent run of films is comparable to Bob Dylan’s ingenious genre hopping in the late 1960s: if SLACK BAY was Dumont’s John Wesley Harding then JEANNETTE is his Nashville Skyline. Of course, the thing that’s remained the same since Dumont made his debut as writer/director with THE LIFE OF JESUS in 1997 at the ripe old age of 39 is his interest in philosophical and spiritual themes. So the oft-filmed “life of Joan of Arc,” tackled by heavyweight filmmakers from Dreyer to Rossellini to Bresson to Rivette, would seem to be a natural fit as subject matter for the former philosophy professor. And yet this bizarre freak-musical takes an extremely unorthodox approach to its heroine even for the director of TWENTYNINE PALMS. Apparently made on a low budget, the bulk of the narrative consists of a series of one-on-one conversations between the young Jeanne (played as a 14-year-old by Lise Leplat Prudhomme and as a 17-year-old by Jeanne Voisin) and her best friend, her uncle and a nun – all on what looks like the same stretch of deserted beach. Aside from a stray crane shot or two, and the use of CGI in a scene involving a vision of the Saints, JEANNETTE has a remarkably simple and stripped down approach to its imagery that recalls both the asceticism of late Rossellini and, in its documentary-like transposition of a stage musical to actual exterior locations, Straub/Huillet’s MOSES AND AARON. By focusing on a Jeanne younger than we’re used to seeing her onscreen, Dumont also shows us the kind of formative, internal moral dilemmas that the character only alludes to in the other films, which tend to focus on more dramatic and heroic external events. In so doing, Dumont, aided by his wonderful actresses (especially the endearingly awkward Prudhomme) arguably brings us closer to the historical Jeanne than any previous filmmaker. It’s the story of a simple, country girl whose decision not to enter the local convent but instead to take up arms against the English in order to drive them from France is spurred by a religious conviction so strong that it requires a good deal of literal head-banging to convey. (2017, 105 min, DCP Digital) MGS
Terrence Malick's BADLANDS (American Revival)
ArcLight (1500 N. Clybourn Ave.) – Tuesday, 7:30pm
[Plot Spoilers] Terrence Malick's first feature film remains as opaque and seductive as it must have been for audiences upon its release in 1973; none of the four films he made in the next 38 years gave us a Rosetta Stone to de-code his unique language of deadpan narration, breathless romance, horror, and whispering tall-grass. Later films have tinkered with the proportions (more romance in THE NEW WORLD, more grass in DAYS OF HEAVEN), but never the unsettling combination of ingredients. In BADLANDS, Sissy Spacek (as 15 year-old Holly) provides the flattened voice-over that suggests both teenage sass and PTSD. As Kit (a full-bore Martin Sheen) seduces her, murders her father, and takes her on the run, it's Holly's voice that pulls the viewer by the nose so deep into their world that conditioned reactions don't work. Playfully sexy shots of Spacek in short-shorts and Sheen in his Canadian Tuxedo block efforts to moralize about their ages (Kit is 25). The weapons and traps Kit builds to defend their forest hideout are as cartoon-stupid as they are dead-serious. We aren't shocked because there's no room for shock under this heavy blanket of affectless style; if Kip is Holly's captor, Holly and Malick are our captors, and we all have Stockholm Syndrome. (1973, 95 min, DCP Digital) JF
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Chicago Feminist Film Festival continues on Friday at Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash Ave.). More information and complete schedule at http://chicagofeministfilmfestival.com.
The Chicago Jewish Film Festival continues through March 18 at several locations. Details and full schedule at https://jccfilmfest.jccchicago.org.
The One Earth Film Festival continues through March 11 at various Chicago and suburban locations. Details and full schedule at www.oneearthfilmfest.org.
South Side Projections presents Roy Germano’s 2009 documentary THE OTHER SIDE OF IMMIGRATION (55 min, DVD Projection) on Wednesday at 7pm at Casa Michoacán (1638 S. Blue Island Ave.). Followed by a panel discussion. Free admission.
Black Cinema House (at the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, 1456 E 70th St.) screens Alli Logout’s 2015 short narrative film LUCID NOON, SUNSET BLUSH (32 min, Video Projection) and Sally Nuamah’s 2014 documentary HER STORY: EDUCATE A WOMAN, EDUCATE A NATION (37 min, Video Projection) on Friday at 7pm. Free admission.
Asian Pop-Up Cinema presents Kwak Jae-yong’s 2017 Japanese/South Korean film COLORS OF WIND (119 min, Digital Projection) on Tuesday at 7pm at AMC River East 21, with actor Yuki Furukawa in person.
The Pride Film Festival presents their March screening of short films on Tuesday at 7:30pm at The Broadway, Pride Arts Center (4139 N. Broadway Ave.). Screening are: CALVIN’S STORY (Quinn Wilson, US), CHOICE (Rafael Valerio, Italy), FUEGO (Alice McKinney, Scotland/Poland), INTO THE RAINBOW (Hasan Najmabadi, Iran), MOMO (Yun Joo Chang, South Korea), NAUGHTY AMELIA JANE (Risheeta Agrawal, India), TRISTAN (Sonam Larcin and Gaspard Granier, Belgium), and WE ARE HERE (Nick Kinney, US). (93 min total, All Video Projection)
Black World Cinema (at Studio Movie Grill Chatham, 210 W. 87th St.) presents a screening of Ryan Coogler’s 2018 film BLACK PANTHER (134 min, Digital Projection), along with BWC’s Afrofuturist Film Competition-winning short SIGHT (Janeen Talbott, 2018, 15 min), and a discussion about Afrofuturism featuring writer/filmmaker Ytasha Womack, WVON talk show host Salim Muwakkil, and pop culture content creator Paco Taylor. http://blackworldcinema.net/blog/
The Park Ridge Classic Film Series at the Pickwick Theatre (5 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge) screens Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1933 film KING KONG (100 min, Digital Projection) on Thursday at 2 and 7:30pm.
The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Martin McDonagh's 2017 film THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (115 min, DCP Digital) on Saturday at 10:30am (open caption screening), 2pm, and 7pm; Guillermo del Toro's 2017 film THE SHAPE OF WATER (123 min, DCP Digital) is on Wednesday at 1 and 7pm; and Michel Gondry’s 2004 film ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (108 min, Unconfirmed Format) is on Thursday at 7pm, showing as part of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movie Discussion Group meeting. Free admission. www.northbrook.info/events/film
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Roland Joffé’s 1984 film THE KILLING FIELDS (141 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 6pm, with a lecture by SAIC professor Nora Annesley Taylor.
At Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Stanley Donen’s 1967 film TWO FOR THE ROAD (111 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 1:30pm; Lee Unkrich’s 2017 animated film COCO (105 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 4pm; and Carol Reed’s 1940 British film NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH (95 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 7pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Michael Haneke’s 2017 French film HAPPY END (107 min, DCP Digital) opens; Andrey Zvyagintsev’s 2017 Russian film LOVELESS (127 min, DCP Digital), Sebastián Lelio’s 2017 Chilean film A FANTASTIC WOMAN (104 min, DCP Digital), and Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2018 film PHANTOM THREAD (130 min, DCP Digital) all continue; Gus Van Sant's 1991 film MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO (104 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 11:30am; Jean Rollin’s 1973 French film THE IRON ROSE (86 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; and Jennifer LeBeau’s 2017 concert documentary BOB DYLAN: TROUBLE NO MORE (60 min, DCP Digital) is on Wednesday at 9:30pm.
At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Philip Gelatt’s 2017 thriller/horror film THEY REMAIN (105 min, Video Projection) and Amber Sealey’s 2016 drama NO LIGHT AND NO LAND ANYWHERE (75 min, Video Projection) both play for week-long runs.
The Chicago Cultural Center presents OTV - Open Television on Wednesday at 6pm. The program will feature a selection of new pilot episodes and series that will be showing on the online platform Open TV. Free admission.
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Clare Austen-Smith’s documentary video series Uninsurable (no info available) on Wednesday at 8pm. Followed by a panel discussion. Free admission.
Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Emiliano Altuna, Carlos F. Rossini, and Diego Osorno’s 2012 Mexican documentary THE MAYOR (80 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm; and Jose Luis Tirado’s 2013 Spanish documentary NO, A FLAMENCO TALE (76 min, DVD Projection) on Wednesday at 6pm.
Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Martin Laroche’s 2017 French Canadian film TADOUSSAC (90 min, Video Projection) on Wednesday at 6:30pm, with Laroche in person.
Sinema Obscura presents Season One of Super Narcoleptic Girl at Logan Bar (2230 N. California Ave.) on Monday at 7pm; and TV Party, a program of short films, at the Logan Theatre (2646 N. Milwaukee Ave.) on Wednesday at 7pm.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
The Art Institute of Chicago (Stone Gallery) has on view a show of two large-scale installation works by French artist Philippe Parreno. One of these, With a Rhythmic Instinction to Be Able to Travel beyond Existing Forces of Life (2014) includes a moving-image component.
Also currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago: Frances Stark’s 2010 video installation NOTHING IS ENOUGH (14 min loop) in Gallery 295C; and Nam June Paik’s 1986 video sculpture FAMILY OF ROBOT: BABY in Gallery 288.
CINE-LIST: March 9 - March 15, 2018
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, K.A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Kyle Cubr, Josephine Ferorelli, Scott Pfeiffer, Michael Glover Smith
ILLUSTRATIONS // Alexandra Ensign