Max Ophüls’ THE RECKLESS MOMENT (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Friday at 7pm*
A mother tries to dissuade her 17-year-old daughter from seeing an older man, but is rebuffed. When the teen accidentally causes the man’s death, her mother goes into action to cover it up. We’re in MILDRED PIERCE territory—a noir melodrama—but because THE RECKLESS MOMENT was directed by Max Ophüls, it has a certain delicate vérité feel to it that puts emotional flesh on the bones of its schematic plot. The last of the four films Ophüls completed in the United States, THE RECKLESS MOMENT is an excellent example of what the German director did so well. Ophüls’ preference for fluid camerawork, lensed here by Burnett Guffey in a fair approximation of what we’d later see with the invention of the Steadicam, adds an elegant, vibrant energy to the film. Each scene is a complete thought, not a rush from plot point to plot point. Most important, Ophüls elicits a performance of depth and range from Joan Bennett, usually a rather obvious actress, that represents a career best for her. James Mason, as part of a blackmailing team, seems to have filched his performance here from his star turn two years earlier as an IRA leader in Carol Reed’s ODD MAN OUT. As strange as it seems to have an Irish criminal running around in Southern California, the psychology of an Irish lad makes his change of allegiance believable, as Bennett’s character reminds him that her actions as a mother are no different from what his mother would do for him. Suggestions that the two have formed a love match—something that would happen in an ordinary noir—are undercut by this deft interpretation of the material; their love is strictly maternal in orientation. (1949, 82 min, 16mm archival print) MF
*Note that the previously announced 9:30pm Friday and 1:30pm Sunday shows will not be taking place.
Victor Erice's SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE (Spanish Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Sunday, 7pm
Recently I gave a close friend a copy of a record I cherish deeply, Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento’s 1973 album, “Milagre dos Peixes." It’s an enigmatic album whose diffuse and turbulent melodies wind through passages of quiet grace, devotional intensity, and primal anger. The title translates as “Miracle of the Fishes,” a reference to St. Anthony of Padua: when the heretics of Rimini rebuffed his sermons, the friar instead turned to a nearby river, where he preached passionately to the fish. Upon seeing the fish emerge from the river and raise their heads to the heed his words, the heretics abandoned their sins and returned to the church. This model of indirect political expression is integral to the album’s power: famously, Nascimento’s sharply critical lyrics were censored by Brazil’s military dictatorship, leading the singer to replace them with haunting, wordless laments. As the album’s producer explained, “since there really won’t be lyrics anymore, the idea is to carry them in the singing, to protest, to send a message with the voice…[Nascimento] wanted to let out everything they were impeding him from saying in words.” It’s an approach that Nascimento shared with another 1973 triumph of political and emotional obliquity, Victor Erice’s THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE—which is, quite simply, a work of utter perfection. The inhibited atmosphere of the Franco regime pervades Erice’s film, which measures the intimate stakes of the era’s repression and isolation through the life of a Castilian family in 1940. At the center of the wispy narrative are the experiences of two young girls, six-year-old Ana (Ana Torrent) and the older Isabel (Isabel Tellería), coming of age in a small village. In one of the most beautiful renderings of moviegoing ever put to screen, the girls visit an itinerant cinema, and their fateful viewing of James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN (1931) inflects their growing understanding of the wonderful and frightening world around them. Ana and Isabel discover a resistance fighter hiding in an abandoned barn; imagining him to be Frankenstein’s monster, Ana begins to feed and clothe him surreptitiously. Erice and screenwriter Ángel Fernández Santos broker the film’s delicate emotional balance—abiding melancholy and dread, shot through with unlikely flashes of childish delight—through the play of these two perfectly cast children, registering both Ana’s innate compassion and Isabel’s loss of innocence through the increasing cruelty of their games. (A scene in which Isabel first adores, then smothers, then chokes the family’s cat, only to paint her lips with the blood from its scratch, illustrates the theme of initiation into a violent society with perfect succinctness; it also showcases Erice’s gift for pure, deliberative visual storytelling.) The father, Fernando (Fernando Fernán Gómez), an aging intellectual and beekeeper, seems trapped in a pre-Civil War past, the amber light of their sparse mansion amplifying a sense of personal and social stagnation. His wife Teresa (Teresa Gimpera) is similarly trapped, traumatized by years of privation and violence, but is yet unwilling to abandon the love she harbors for an unnamed lover, who may or may not be a political refugee. Typical of the film’s languid sense of time, Erice protracts a scene in which she composes and mails a letter to this distant figure to four breathtaking minutes, allowing the viewer to take in the somber landscape and to absorb the muted desires of his protagonists, expressed in glances and weary movements rather than words. Erice, too, was compelled to strip his script of any explicit reference to the political situation, and like “Milagre dos Peixes,” the film communicates a sense of outrage, grief, and hope in the dark of authoritarian rule with astonishing clarity. Like any great subversive work, THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE understands perfectly well the line it treads, as well as the necessity of crossing it—for both maker and viewer alike. Indeed, it’s precisely the elliptical quality of THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE that imbues it with the force of resistance. By leaving so much to the imagination, Erice demands a viewer who, like Ana, can meet the film more than halfway; effectively, he induces us to become co-conspirators. (1973, 99 min, 35mm) MM
Chris Marker's THE OWL'S LEGACY: PROGRAM THREE (French/Greek Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Sunday, 5:15pm and Monday, 6pm
Do you have a craving for the "feast of reason and flow of soul," beyond even what you get from your weekly issue of Cine-File? If so, then hie yourself to THE OWL'S LEGACY, a challenging, stimulating dispatch from Chris Marker (LEVEL 5, LA JETEE), the great explorer and camera essayist. Taking as its animating spirit and embattled conscience the owl—symbol of Athena, goddess of wisdom—this 13-part TV series is a critical, occasionally ironic, meditation on the modern heritage of Ancient Greek creativity. The Siskel is showing the series over four programs. This, the third installment, presents Part 7: Logomachy—or the Dialect of the Tribe; Part 8: Music—or Inner Space; and Part 9: Cosmogony—or the Ways of the World. Each discursive episode is chockablock with ideas, presented as interviews with an array of talking-head scholars and artists. (I've put some of the ideas that stuck with me in parentheses.) Program 7 looks at, among other things, the roots of the modern art of argumentation in Socrates. ("The adventures of language may be the most meaningful thing in world history"; "Words and objects have affinities, primordial and strange attractions.") Program 8 shows us, among other things, people experimenting with composer Iannis Xenakis' UPIC software, using computers to "translate" an owl's hoot into music and images. This episode also visits the island of Patmos on Easter, searching for connections between the Orthodox liturgy and the music of antiquity, and pondering how the advent of Christianity changed music. ("If a God could make himself a man, expose himself to frailty and fear, then human misery in turn could make itself a God, whose name was music.") Part 9 investigates, among other things, the modern validation of the Greek search for order amid chaos. ("Many phenomena today can prove that chaos can bring about some harmony and consistency.") The narrator considers what a tempting model Plato's Myth of the Cave offers for cinema, before holding out an alternative possibility: that "this 'inferior' art form shall find within the cave the power to negate the cave, to disarm the Gorgon, to tie itself to the thread of human creation, and finally to create its own myths.” These episodes of THE OWL'S LEGACY are valuable, as well, for expanding our notion of Golden Age Greece. It wasn't just the foundation of "Western man's" civilization—of our belief in science, democracy, and rationality (such as it is, these days)—though it was that. Marker shows it’s also been an inspiration to people all over the globe. We witness the adoration of the Japanese for Greek sculpture's mastery of the human form, as rapt museum-goers in Tokyo file past a kore on loan from the Acropolis. And at another point, Marker journeys to the island of Cape Verde to consider the influence of Greek thought on the generation of Amilcar Cabral, the liberation leader. (He'd venture into both Japan and Cape Verde in more detail in SANS SOLEIL.) Ultimately, I found these programs pleasurable simply because I enjoy listening to intelligent people talk. If you feel the same way, consider checking this out. (1989, 78 min, DCP Digital) SP
Marleen Gorris' ANTONIA'S LINE (Dutch Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Tuesday, 7pm
ANTONIA'S LINE is an epic family chronicle told by the great-granddaughter of an irreverent, strong-willed, and generous matriarch named Antonia. The movie begins on the day Antonia (Willeke van Ammelrooy, in a magnificent performance) decides to die and looks back at her life from the day she returns to the village of her birth as a post-war widow with a shy and wryly observant teenage daughter, Danielle. The film follows Antonia's life as she settles back into the family farm and builds an inclusive family anchored by her unique and equally strong-willed female descendants. It is a bucolic portrait of a village full of colorful and tragicomic characters referred to only by nickname: Crooked Finger, Russian Olga, and Mad Madonna, to name a few. The color palette of earth tones and soft, natural lighting add to the rich, pastoral atmosphere, often reminiscent of a Willa Cather novel. It is easy to imagine the title character is a nod to My Antonia, and the self-sufficiency and satisfying farm labor portrayed lovingly throughout the film supports that reading. ANTONIA'S LINE does not limit itself to sweet, warm stories, however. The film incorporates whimsical tones of magical realism, wry feminist critiques of the patriarchy, and harsh, brutal realities of sexual assault, all while maintaining an uplifting philosophy that "life breeds life" and that "season follows season" with comforting familiarity. Rather than wallowing in platitudes, however, the film strikes a counterpoint through contrasting characters like Crooked Finger, an agoraphobic philosopher with a nihilistic worldview. ANTONIA'S LINE was the first feature film by a woman filmmaker to win an Academy Award when it won for best foreign language film in 1995. Most notably, it is included in the lesbian cinema series at Doc Films because the story features a lesbian relationship between Danielle and her daughter's schoolteacher, and in a radical fashion (especially for when the story is set), Antonia and the rest of the village oddballs in her self-constructed family don't seem to care one bit about Danielle's homosexuality. In fact, Antonia is stubbornly accepting of all ways of life, as long as no one comes to harm. The lack of drama, tragedy, or shame surrounding Danielle's love story is one that was completely unseen before this film, and is still not often seen, especially portrayed in mainstream, Oscar-nominated features. Gorris would go on to direct a wonderful adaptation of MRS. DALLOWAY in 1997, starring Vanessa Redgrave, and two Emily Watson vehicles, but ANTONIA'S LINE still stands out as her strongest and most original film. (1995, 104 min, 35mm archival print) AE
Sandi Tan's SHIRKERS (New Documentary)
Music Box Theatre — Sunday, 4:45pm
In a duality that serendipitously underscores an essential characteristic of the cinematic medium, SHIRKERS names both a lost film and an existent one, a past and a present. In its current form, it is a record of its own absences and scars, but also its continual reconstitution; from the production history that included its 20-year disappearance and recovery, to the personal and material histories inscribed in its footage, which index lost realities as well as reclaimed ones, the film is a startling, accidental testament to the gaps, contingencies, and transformations that underpin, to some extent, all motion pictures. While the original SHIRKERS, a noir-tinged independent film shot by Sandi Tan and friends in 1992 before its theft by their film teacher Georges Cardona, may or may not have been the landmark Singaporean film its makers claimed it would have been, its incompletion has instead birthed a newer, perhaps even richer work, one whose lacunae and amendments alike point to the myriad ways films evolve in the imagination over time, becoming inextricable from our identities, histories, and memories. In a fascinatingly tacit doubling, Tan explains how Cardona was less his own person than an amalgamation of the films he watched, positioning him as a kind of mirror image of Tan. Although their respective cinephilias resulted in vastly different dispositions and life directions, Tan elicits the sense that the attachment to cinema that united them in the first place was equally formative in shaping them: not only their passions and career ambitions, but their very perceptions of the worlds they inhabited. That sense of film as ubiquitous mediator pervades SHIRKERS, from its integration of scenes from BREATHLESS and BLOW-UP that comment on experiences structured by media images, to its surfeit of experimental film tricks that manipulate time and space, to its resurrection of a disappeared Singapore, flickering to otherworldly life in early 90s footage. Rueful though it may be, SHIRKERS is finally not about a film that wasn’t, but about the film time allowed it to become. (2018, 96 min, 35mm) JL
Jacques Becker’s LE TROU (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Saturday, 3pm and Thursday, 6pm
“My friend, Jacques Becker, has filmed a detailed account of a true story. Mine.” The opening words uttered by Roland (Jean Keraudy) at the beginning of LE TROU set the stage for a film steeped in authenticity and realism. Based on the 1947 Le Stanté Prison Escape, LE TROU is centered on four inmates, Roland, Manu, Monsignor, and Geo, sharing a cell when one day a fifth inmate, Gaspard, is added to the bunch. After some initial banter with their new bunkmate, the quartet think highly enough of Gaspard to reveal their ultimate plan: to dig through the cement floor of their cell, through the basement of the prison, and into the sewer system that will connect them to the their freedom in the streets of Paris. The way in which Becker films this plan is a masterwork of suspense, ingenuity, and pure filmmaking. One particular scene features a nearly four-minute unbroken shot of the men alternating turns at busting through the floor using a piece of one of their bed frames while another keeps a lookout at the peephole using a makeshift periscope made from a shard of mirror affixed to a toothbrush. Brows furrow, sweat pours, and rubble piles as progress is made, and Becker’s camera catches the action in agonizing realtime while the specter of being caught by guards looms ever larger. Becker opted to use first time actors as the principal characters because, he said, “I desired the same sense of naturalism which Vittorio De Sica obtained so perfectly from his amateur players in [BICYCLE THIEVES].” Indeed this effect is achieved and goes even further with his casting of Keraudy, who himself took part in the 1947 escape. Much of LE TROU is filmed in medium to closeup shots to heighten the claustrophobic feelings of the cramped quarters of the cell and small tunnels the men have built. Becker also opts to use only diegetic sound to focus the audience’s attention on the moment, letting the sounds of the room create their own unnerving score. Alas, Becker died just weeks before the film’s release and never got to realize the wonder of what would be his final masterpiece. LE TROU blends brotherhood, man’s struggle to be free, and pure filmmaking into on of the finest escape films ever made. (1960, 131 min, DCP Digital) KC
Jacques Becker's ANTOINE ET ANTOINETTE (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Friday, 4:15pm, Saturday, 5:30pm, and Tuesday, 6pm
This tragicomedy was a major breakthrough for Jacques Becker, an oft-overlooked master who straddled the Tradition of Quality while earning the respect of the young Turks at Cahiers du cinema. Though the plot—which involves a poor Parisian couple winning a small sum in the lottery—has the makings of a satire, nothing could be further from Becker's mind; instead, he hones in on the characters' modest hopes and fears, and builds the drama around them. Sensitive but worldly, the film bristles with a sense of real life that hearkens back to Jean Renoir's mid-1930s work while anticipating the New Wave—a movement which Becker, who died of cancer in 1960, never saw flourish. (1947, 78 min, DCP Digital) IV
Maurice Pialat's WE WON'T GROW OLD TOGETHER (French Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Tuesday, 9:30pm
The story is simple and repetitive: An aging, stagnant filmmaker berates his much younger girlfriend. They cycle between breaking up and then getting back together. Then she leaves for good. The story is a harshly autobiographical one based on Pialat's own novel. It's brilliantly written and performed--but once you get past the yelling, the more interesting qualities of the film stem from Pialat's great eye and rhythms. Originally a painter, and trained as a filmmaker by almost two decades of making short films and documentaries, Pialat came to narrative feature-length filmmaking with a fully developed compositional style and sense of movement and space. As for the rhythms: scenes go on for too long, or end abruptly. Emotional tones shift unexpectedly. The story is linear but still disorienting, as almost nothing but the "bad times" are shown. It's a profoundly unsettled and economic film. (1972, 110 min, 35mm) JBM
Maurice Pialat's LOULOU (French Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Wednesday, 7 and 9:30pm
Maurice Pialat once averred that he would edit a film by cutting all footage that didn't feel true. This would explain the unique rhythm of his movies, which are propelled unpredictably from one moment of intense emotion to another and then another. Pialat never set out to capture the pace of life as it felt to those living it—the films progress too jarringly for that; it's even often difficult to parse how much time has elapsed between scenes and even cuts. What he came closer to was the sense of living under heightened awareness, be it from extreme passion, anger, or regret; and LOULOU, one of Pialat's greatest films, is revelatory in its understanding of all three. The story is of an unhappily married bourgeoise (Isabelle Huppert) who embarks on an extended affair with the title character, a petty thief played by Gerard Depardieu at the height of his charismatic appeal. The film captures the narcotizing power of ill-advised romance, but the dangerous euphoria of the early passages lead neither to tragedy nor redemptive allegory. Pialat realizes the characters so three-dimensionally that they resist easy interpretation. This is largely a result of Pialat's incredible employment of his actors, whom he encouraged to improvise to gain an immediacy of emotion that could not be pre-arranged. (All of Pialat's movies contain numerous can't-believe-they-caught-that images, as unsettling in their way as the moments of institutional cruelty Frederick Wiseman captured in his 70s documentaries.) But one shouldn't overlook the courageousness of the film's inspiration. LOULOU was suggested by an episode in Pialat's relationship with partner Arlette Langmann—his co-writer here, unbelievably—and the film's willingness to depict all the characters at their ugliest makes this a work of profound auto-critique as well as observational study. (1980, 101 min, DCP Digital) BS
Alan J. Pakula’s ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (American Revival)
Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) — Wednesday, 1 and 7pm (Free Admission)
Although it may be coming to an end with the threatened collapse of the newspaper industry, the newspaper movie has had a long run in motion pictures, chronicling both the cynicism that characterized the early years of yellow journalism in CHICAGO (1927) as well as Fourth Estate crusading, both helpful (DEADLINE, U.S.A., 1952) and harmful (TRY AND GET ME!, aka THE SOUND OF FURY, 1950). The inherent drama of headline news provides filmmakers with a constant supply of riveting material that offers audiences more bang for their buck for being at least partially true. Arguably the most acclaimed and influential newspaper movie is Alan J. Pakula’s ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, based on the best-selling book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, then reporters for the Washington Post, whose investigative reporting on the 1972 burglary of Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., revealed a vast dirty-tricks conspiracy that eventually ended the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Pakula and screenwriter William Goldman avoid histrionics, but amp up the tension of the film, borrowing from Antonioni’s urban alienation and George Romero’s paranoia to paint a portrait of ultimate power as both dangerous and deeply stupid. There are numerous shots of Woodward (Robert Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) driving past the White House, the endpoint of their inquiry, though they didn’t know it from the start. Cinematographer Gordon Willis favors high overhead shots to emphasize the informational maze through which the heroes must travel. One famous shot shows the pair in the mandala that is the Library of Congress, rifling through stacks of library slips. Willis also likes long shots of the wide-open city room, as though to emphasize the egalitarian and transparent nature of news reporting. Pakula uses a sort of Shakespearean construction of deep drama alternating with comic moments to keep the audience on a roller coaster of tension and release, an effective strategy for a story whose momentous outcome was known years before. Foremost is the character of Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook), now known to be W. Mark Felt, associate director of the FBI at the time of the break-in. The archetype of the oracle is an ancient one, and Willis’ shadowy underlair—a parking garage where he met with Woodward—suggests a plot born from Hell, pulling the film out of the everyday and marking it with mythic dimensions. Of particular note is the movie’s Oscar-winning sound design, which emphasizes a strong, muscular, determined group of professionals plying their trade with machines whose metal keys punch ink onto paper. It’s a distinctive and percussive sound, and emphasizes why I find so annoying the anemic, plastic clicking of the computer keyboards that have taken over from the typewriters and teletype machines in life—and especially in the movies. Coins ring into pay phones, telephone dials spin and click, stereo knobs click on and off—there are a whole range of sounds that are nearly lost to us today that make a more direct connection between the characters and their actions. Hoffman and Redford are iconic in these roles. Scrappy, energetic Hoffman channels just a bit of his Ratso Rizzo sleaze from MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969), marrying it to ambition and the good sense to let Woodward take the high ground when needed. Redford has us on his side all the way, his blond good looks and low-pressure style encouraging people to volunteer information they initially refuse to divulge. A vast supporting cast keeps the film moving in a dizzying, but never incoherent way. (1976, 138 min, Digital Projection) MF
It seems we like PRESIDENT’S MEN around here, and we realized late that we have a slightly older review on file as well; visit here for a 2016 review by Kian Bergstrom as well!
Joel and Ethan Coen's INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Contemporary American)
Music Box Theatre — Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am
When CBS Films acquired INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS out of Cannes in 2013, the upstart distributor presumed that it could ride the Coen Express to Oscar glory and demonstrate its expertise in handling testy auteur cinema. Their dreams were largely dashed, though not before going down in the record books as the first awards campaign nearly derailed by the unauthorized appropriation of a tweet. These details don't necessarily have anything to do with this movie's long-range stature as art, though it's hardly inappropriate that this ridiculously uncommercial venture about a sneeringly arrogant artiste choked outside the confines of the critic's club. It's a Coen project through and through, continuing a hitherto successful formula--exceedingly precise craft applied to caricatures not far removed from the walls of a junior high school toilet stall. (I can't recall another movie where the plot turns on the question of whether a cat possesses a scrotum.) The period details are unusually rich and suggestive—the novelty song "Please Mr. Kennedy," the conditional sympathy of a nascent academic folk fan base, the altogether unexpected elevation of Akron, OH to American Promised Land. What ultimately distinguishes INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, though, is its sectarian specificity: it's a movie about the moment when folk music morphed into the folk revival, aimed at a very specialized connoisseur audience fiercely secure in its judgment that clean-cut phonies like the Kingston Trio ruined fucking everything. The critic Leo Braudy has complained that INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS neglects the folk scene's radical politics. Such a position ignores Llewyn's unstated but unmistakable disgust with troubadour naïf Troy Nelson and the very idea of a folk singer nurtured by a sojourn in the military industrial complex. This is a movie of private ideals wasted on a world in ashen withdrawal, an irascible old-world sensibility kicked to the curb by musical gentrification. (Need I mention, too, that the Coens have coolly predicted that this will be their last 35mm production? [Their subsequent film, HAIL, CAESAR!, also wound up being photographed on 35mm - Ed.] The results, with DP Bruno Delbonnel subbing for Coen regular Roger Deakins, are lovely and a little disconcerting, as if the film stock itself met condensation at the foot of a noisy Manhattan radiator.) Even if you find nothing ominous in the rise of Peter, Paul, and Mary, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS remains a compelling portrait of an artist whose sense of musicianship is so refined that it leaves no room for the audience. It also manages to describe poverty in the most straightforward and useful terms—an improvised existence without the latitude to act in a so-called 'economically rational' manner. Like a record with the needle stuck in the groove, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS is an enclosed tragedy. (2013, 105 min, DCP Digital) KAW
Bing Liu’s MINDING THE GAP (New Documentary)
Music Box Theatre — Monday, 7pm
Above and beyond a prescience toward current events that makes his first documentary one of the year’s most crucial, Bing Liu also has the distinction of being what one might call a natural filmmaker. The consummate visual aesthetic of MINDING THE GAP often seems wane in light of the film's sociopolitical urgency, but it's a perfect example of how these components can work in concert. Produced by Kartemquin Films and shot over several years, the film follows a group of boys (now men) from Rockford, Illinois, through various obstacles in their respective lives. Though heralded as a skateboarding doc, the enduring burnout sport is really a narrative device by which the story glides, grinds, and even crashes. Liu himself is one of the young men in question, along with Zack Mulligan and Keire Johnson—contrary to what the film would have you believe, only Mulligan and Johnson are childhood friends, with Liu an acquaintance who met both at different points in late adolescence and early adulthood. The men have more than skateboarding and their hometown in common: All three are intimately familiar with domestic violence, a theme that not only coheres the subjects, but the film itself. It’s perhaps as apt an exploration into toxic masculinity as I’ve seen of late, with firsthand insight into the hows and whys of the epidemic. The most difficult element of the film is Zach’s alleged abuse of his on-and-off again girlfriend, Nina, who’s also the mother of his child; Liu interviews both about the abuse and even plays a recording of Nina’s alleged retaliation. It’s comparable to a similar, but more graphic, sequence in Wang Bing’s BITTER MONEY (another one of the best documentaries to play in Chicago in recent years), the audience watching as these incidents unfold in front of them, rather than behind closed doors. As in the work of fellow documentary filmmakers Wang and Frederick Wiseman, Liu’s diplomatic observation of problematic circumstances seems necessary to one’s overall understanding of them—he presents domestic violence not as an incurable illness, but rather a treatable symptom, part of a larger societal framework in which almost everyone is a victim. His images, near masterful, do as much to convey this as the words forthrightly spoken by his subjects. Medium and regular close-ups delve into the subjects’ souls, and heedful compositions express more than words; consider the pivotal scenes where Liu interviews his mother, herself a victim of domestic violence, about his abuse at the hands of his stepfather. He isn’t filming these scenes, but Liu's exceptional direction, likely borne of his early career as a camera operator and cinematographer (he's credited as such on this film, as well as on Kartemquin's ALL THE QUEEN'S HORSES and AMERICA TO ME), is evident in the set-up, the camera equipment a noticeable divide between him and his mother, revealing both connection and artifice. Maybe less emotionally affecting, but still superlative, is the delightfully frenetic skateboarding footage and snowy shots of Rockford à la Pieter Bruegel the Elder's “Hunters in the Snow," all of which compounds one’s reception of Liu as a veritable aesthete. He's certainly one to watch—hopefully we’ll do so him as thoughtfully as he does us. With director Bing Liu and producer Diane Quon in person for a post-film Q&A moderated by Steve James. (2018, 93 min, DCP Digital) KS
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) screens Roy Ward Baker’s 1952 film DON’T BOTHER TO KNOCK (76 min, 35mm) on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Preceded by Dave Tendlar’s 1957 Baby Huey cartoon PEST PUPIL (6 min, 16mm).
The Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) screens local filmmakers Bea Cordelia and Daniel Kyri’s 2018 webseries THE T (43 min total, Digital Projection) on Friday at 7pm, with Cordelia and Kyri in person. Free admission.
The Film Studies Center (at Cobb Hall, 5811 S. Ellis Ave., Room 307, University of Chicago) presents a lecture by David Bordwell (Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison) titled “Geometries of Popular Narrative: Episodes from the History of Fiction and Film” on Thursday at 4pm. Free admission.
Chicago Filmmakers (5720 N. Ridge Ave.) and the Chicago Cinema Society screen Tim van Dammen’s 2018 New Zealand action-comedy film MEGA TIME SQUAD (86 min, Digital Projection) on Saturday at 7pm.
Cinema 53 (at the Harper Theater, 5238 S. Harper Ave.) screens Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson’s 2013 documentary AMERICAN PROMISE (80 min version, Digital Projection) on Thursday at 7pm. Followed by a discussion with Eve L. Ewing (assistant professor at the University of Chicago and author of Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side) and Amanda Lewis (Director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, UIC).
Full Spectrum Features and Americas Media Initiative present the first of six programs over the course of the year in their Cuban Visions film series. Program One, “Racial Inequality and Class in a Changing Cuba,” features Alejandro Ramirez Anderson’s 2016 documentary SONG OF THE STREET (80 min, Video Projection) on Thursday at 7pm at the Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N. Southport Ave.). Followed by a discussion.
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (756 N. Milwaukee Ave.) and Pentimenti Productions present 4 Films by Suzanne Simpson on Thursday at 7pm. Followed by a discussion with Pentimenti Productions’ Executive Director (and occasional Cine-File contributor) Harrison Sherrod. Screening are: KARL WIRSUM (1973, 14 min), ROY DE FOREST (1974, 15 min), HASSEL SMITH (1975, 13 min), and ISIS (1977, 16 min). All Digital Projection. Free admission, but RSVP required at www.art.org.
Bric-a-Brac Records (3156 W. Diversey Ave.) hosts the Hawk Martha 100 Video Video Hour on Saturday at 5pm. Filmmaker Hawk Martha has selected a barrage of internet-sourced videos that will all show within an hour’s time. Free admission.
The Beverly Arts Center screens David Wain’s 2001 film WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (97 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 7:30pm.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Julian Schnabel’s 2018 film AT ETERNITY’S GATE (110 min, DCP Digital), Antonio Mendez Esparza’s 2017 film LIFE AND NOTHING MORE (114 min, DCP Digital), and Talal Derki’s German/US/Syrian documentary OF FATHERS AND SONS (99 min, DCP Digital) all play for a week; Giorgio Angelini’s 2018 documentary OWNED, A TALE OF TWO AMERICAS (83 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 6:15pm and Wednesday at 8:15pm; and Jules Rosskam’s 2018 documentary PATERNAL RITES (82 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 5:30pm and Monday at 8pm, with Rosskam in person.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Felix van Groeningen’s 2018 film BEAUTIFUL BOY (121 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 4pm; John Badham’s 1977 film SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (118 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 7pm; and Jerzy Skolimowski’s 1978 UK film THE SHOUT (94 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:30pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Pawel Pawlikowski’s 2018 Polish film COLD WAR (89 min, DCP Digital) opens; Arnaud Bouron and Antoon Krings’ 2017 animated film TALL TALES (88 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 11:30am; Talal Derki’s 2018 German/US/Syrian documentary OF FATHERS AND SONS (99 min, DCP Digital) is on Wednesday at 4:45pm; 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. Also, check the MB website for any held-over or late additions (their website was in maintenance mode when we were finalizing this list).
Facets Cinémathèque plays Moby Longinotto’s 2016 UK/US documentary THE JONSES (80 min, Video Projection) and Maya Gallus’ 2018 Canadian documentary THE HEAT: A KITCHEN (R)EVOLUTION (75 min, Video Projection) for week-long runs.
At the Chicago Cultural Center this week: the Chicago Latino Film Festival presents Carlos César Arbeláez’s 2010 Columbian film THE COLORS OF THE MOUNTAIN (88 min, Video Projection) on Wednesday at 6:30pm; and Free Spirit Media’s short films FUZZY LEGS and AHIMSA are on Saturday at 2pm, followed by a panel discussion. Free admission.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
PRESENT ABSENCE, a five-channel video installation by Salome Chasnoff and Meredith Zielke, is on view at Uri-Eichen Gallery (2101 S. Halsted) through February 1 (call 312 852-7717 for an appointment). Opening reception is on Friday from 6-10pm.
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); and Dara Birnbaum’s KISS THE GIRLS: MAKE THEM CRY
CINE-LIST: January 18 - January 24, 2019
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Kyle Cubr, Alexandra Ensign, Marilyn Ferdinand, Jonathan Leithold-Patt, JB Mabe, Michael Metzger, Scott Pfeiffer, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky