On episode #9 of the Cine-Cast, contributor Harrison Sherrod chats with fellow contributor and local filmmaker Rob Christopher about Christopher's upcoming documentary, ROY'S WORLD: BARRY GIFFORD'S CHICAGO. Associate editor Ben Sachs and contributor Alexandra Ensign cover the upcoming Chicago Film Society and Doc Films calendars. And, finally, Sachs, Ensign, Sherrod, and contributor JB Mabe discuss their favorite films of 2018.
Listen here. Engineered by Sherrod. Produced by Mabe and associate editor Kathleen Sachs.
The introductory theme is by local film composer Ben Van Vlissingen. Find out more about his work here.
Claudia Llosa’s THE MILK OF SORROW (Peruvian Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Monday, 7pm
The problem with so much literature and cinema that gets classified as magical realism stems from an imbalance of realism and magic. Without sufficient grounding in historical or social observation, stories that aspire to the genre come off as needlessly precious—they aren’t purposeful distortions of reality, but rather escapes from it. The films of Peruvian writer-director Claudia Llosa are genuine magical realism: not only do they immerse you in distinctive settings, they also exude a certain toughness that comes from a willingness to confront difficult truths. Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival, THE MILK OF SORROW meditates on Peru’s era of rampant terrorism and its lasting impact on the nation’s indigenous population. Fausta (Magaly Solier, who also starred in Llosa’s debut feature MADEINUSA) is a young woman who was born at the height of that era; her mother, who was raped by terrorists while pregnant, transmitted her feelings of fear and trauma to Fausta through her breast milk. The heroine remains in thrall to these feelings in her early 20s, and she can transcend them only by improvising poetic ballads. Llosa follows the character as she takes cautious steps into adulthood: learning to live without her mother (who dies before the film begins) and grandmother (who dies soon afterwards); entering the workforce as a caterer and as a housemaid to a well-to-do pianist; and coming to accept the romantic attentions of men. The film takes place in Lima and the nearby community of Manchay, where many indigenous people fled in 1980s to escape terrorist attacks; Llosa creates so many dynamic compositions with these locations that THE MILK OF SORROW would be enthralling even with the sound off. Indeed the director’s greatest strength may be her ability to render real-life settings towering and mysterious—you always want to know what’s going on outside the frame. Llosa’s elusion of key visual information mirrors her oblique treatment of Peru’s painful history, yet the film never lacks for detail or narrative interest. The things that go unseen or unspoken gnaw at you, and they darken Llosa’s graceful sense of fantasy. (2009, 98 min, 35mm imported print) BS
Orson Welles' THE STRANGER (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Friday, 2 and 6pm and Tuesday, 6pm
Note: Significant spoilers! Welles was hired as a contract director for Sam Spiegel for this low-rent knock-off of Hitchcock's superior SHADOW OF A DOUBT. Playing a Joseph Cotten-derived role, Welles portrays Franz Kindler, a fanatical Nazi war criminal now in hiding in up-scale Connecticut, as a twitchy, sweaty, and distracted mass murderer. In the Theresa Wright role is Loretta Young, transformed from Uncle Charlie's niece into Kindler's histrionic and hysterical young bride. With virtually no creative control, Welles limits his energies to a series of elfin interventions in an otherwise anonymously crafted work of Hollywood nonsense. The one major contribution he was able to make to the narrative, an elaborate, 25-ish minute chase through Argentina for an escaped Nazi underling sought by Edward G. Robinson's fascist-hunter, was eviscerated by Spiegel, leaving only a five minute fragment behind. With a relentlessly stupid screenplay, a hamstrung director, and no control over casting, this is unmistakably Welles's worst completed feature, however, though it is compromised and emasculated to a crushing degree, its scattered moments of power and poetry are true treasures. Fifteen minutes into the film, Kindler meets the Nazi from the prologue. In a pair of exceptional long takes, he realizes the man has led the Nazi hunter to him, takes him into the woods, throttles him, hides the body under a pile of leaves, and diverts a group of athletic teenagers from finding the body. Aided by Russell Metty's masterful camerawork, Welles is able to transmute the murderous ideology of the National Socialist into a series of inky, horrifying blots within an otherwise harmonious natural world. Moving from the direct light of a false halo to the occluded shelter of bushes, branches, and dead leaves, Kindler is more physically felt, more texturally palpable, than anything in CITIZEN KANE. That physicality, when allowed to be present in a film that is largely constrained to the mere prosaic and functional, threatens always to undermine the ostensive moral purposes of the picture. Consider the fascination with which Welles captures the work it takes for him to hide a body under time constraints, the growling effort it takes to restrain his face from expressing fury at the idiocy of his former colleague, the pausing, halting prayer the two men share as Kindler waits to make sure his killing will be successful... At the heart of the town is a general store maintained in a stunning performance by the vaudevillian Billy House. Overflowing with intricate décor—small packages and boxes, amusing signs, mirrors, and the like—the store is less a realm of consumerism in THE STRANGER than the exemplar of everything that has been lost by the war between America and men like Kindler. Shot in the same long takes and wide lenses as the murder in the forest, the store is presented as an oasis of stasis in a world that can never return to innocence, a world that, like Loretta Young's newlywed who must discover she has married a human monster, will never recover from the traumas of the fight to defeat fascism. At the conclusion of the film, Kindler, whose sole characteristic other than his Nazism is his love of old clocks, is killed by the very clock tower he has lovingly restored. Time's run out for Kindler, but the past's a casualty of finally rooting him out of our country, for the clock that slays him destroys itself in the process. Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum lectures at the Tuesday show. (1946, 95 min., 35mm) KB
Naeem Mohaiemen’s UNITED RED ARMY (THE YOUNG MAN WAS, PART 1) (Contemporary Experimental/Documentary)
Naeem Mohaiemen was eight years old when a hijacked Japan Airlines flight landed at what was then known as Dhaka Airport in the five-year-old nation of Bangladesh. The five hijackers belonged to the Japanese Red Army (JRA), a militant communist organization opposed to the Japanese regime and whose unpredictable and brutal violence was thought insane by other terrorists and even some of their own members. For 80 hours, the terrorists held 142 passengers and 14 crew members aboard while the Bangladeshi negotiator, Air Force Chief of Staff Abdul Gafur Mahmud, acted as intermediary between Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda and the leader of the hijackers, Osamu Maruoka, known only as Dankesu to the outside world. Mohaiemen created The Young Man Was series of three documentaries to examine the promise and failures of radical leftist movements of the 1970s, a period that is vivid for him because he was a child during that time. In UNITED RED ARMY, he recalls wanting the extended live coverage of the hijacking, the bulk of which comprises a static shot of the airport control tower, to end so that his favorite TV show, a British Mission: Impossible knockoff called The Zoo Gang, would resume broadcasting. With little in the way of moving images of the standoff to work with, Mohaiemen largely constructs his film using the original sound recordings of the hostage negotiation recreated verbatim on title cards—red type for Maruoka, green type for Mahmud, and white type for conversations going on in the background. Listening to the negotiation is a tense affair that rivets our attention, giving Mohaiemen a chance to make a larger point about what goes unseen during moments of high drama—events, he says in his narrative, that “come as a Trojan horse.” Bangladeshi officers planning a coup saw an opportunity and seized it. They attacked the control tower during the third day of the siege—you see, Mahmud was second in power only to Bangladesh’s president, Zia Rahman—and 11 people were killed. This set the stage for hundreds of suspected dissidents to be murdered over the next year. Mohaiemen is also concerned with misinterpretation, focusing particularly on Maruoka’s erroneous image of Bangladesh as a worker’s state; in fact, Zia had removed all references to socialism from the country’s constitution and set it on the road to becoming an Islamic state. Mohaiemen’s childish concerns about The Zoo Gang conflate with the seriousness of world political upheaval and the fictions that even news coverage propagates by choosing what not to cover as he closes his compelling film with a scene of the Zoo Gang meeting with relief and joy in an airport. Mohaiemen in person. (2011, 70 min, DCP Digital) MF
Takeshi Kitano’s FIREWORKS (Japanese Revival)
Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) — Wednesday, 7:30pm
A joke: What's Takeshi Kitano's preferred type of shot? … The deadpan. Silly, yes, but perhaps appreciable to Kitano, also known as “Beat” Takeshi, a stage name he assumed as one half of the wildly popular Japanese comedy duo Two Beat. (Comedy is just one among his many talents; he’s also an actor, a screenwriter, a television host, and an author.) The pair, consisting of Kitano and his friend Nirō Kaneko, belonged to a genre of Japanese comedy called manzai, involving a straight man—tsukkomi—and a funny man—boke, Kitano’s role in the duo—engaging in humorous banter at great speed. Videos of their act are available on YouTube, and they make for an odd pairing with most any of the films he directed; within minutes, it’s clear that his directorial style, which foregrounds silence over spiel and stillness over frenzy, is vastly different from that of his comedy. FIREWORKS (HANA-BI) is one of many examples of this within his oeuvre, as well as the first of his films to achieve international success, having won the Golden Lion award at the 54th Venice International Film Festival. Dubbed by renowned Japanese film critic Nagaharu Yodogawa as “the true successor to Kurosawa" and often compared to Buster Keaton (much like Jackie Chan, whose POLICE STORY and POLICE STORY 2 played in town last week, though Kitano’s similarity may be even more personal—a 1994 motorcycle accident left his face partially paralyzed, hence his own stony facade), Kenji Mizoguchi, and even Yasujiro Ozu, Kitano’s style is nonetheless singular, existing on its own scale, with one end being disaffected sentiment, evoked most fully in his 1991 outlier-masterpiece A SCENE AT THE SEA, and the other extreme brutality, exemplified in his 1989 directorial debut, the aptly titled VIOLENT COP. FIREWORKS is among those firmly in the middle, a mix of sober violence and wistful emotion—for every bloody encounter, there’s a lovely scene between the beleaguered protagonist and his sweet, sickly wife. Kitano stars as Nishi, a police detective who abandons the force after a shootout that leaves one of his colleagues dead and two others gravely injured. Things hadn’t been going much better up to that point: his young daughter had previously died, his wife is terminally ill, and he’s borrowing money from the yakuza to keep up with her medical care. After the shootout, Nishi robs a bank to get funds to take his wife on a trip and provide for those affected by the incident, one of whom starts painting. The artwork in the film is actually Kitano’s own, the uncommon auteur having taken up the practice after his own accident. I won’t make a case for Kitano as an especially brilliant painter, but his work possesses a quality much like his films, that of rare stillness and an indelible affectation. A similar sense of ineffable wonder tinges both, displaying a purity of form that defies categorization. Though not always apparent, there is humor in Kitano’s funereal work, but it’s a humor born of unabashed melancholy, maybe similar to that of the proverbial straight man he played against early in his career—his may not be a great stone face, but rather a great stone heart, palpable but impenetrable. Preceded by Kenneth Anger’s 1947 experimental short film FIREWORKS (15 min, 16mm). (1997, 103 min, 35mm) KS
Lotte Reiniger’s THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED (Silent Animation Revival)
What is it that draws the eye to silhouettes? From the groundbreaking early 20th century filmmaker Lotte Reiniger to contemporary artists such as Chicago-based multi-media group Manual Cinema and subversive silhouettist Kara Walker, there’s no denying that this art form, originating as far back as the 1st millennium BC with traditional shadow puppetry, is as complex in the way it’s created and the reactions it can evoke as it is simple in how it might appear to the casual observer. (Reiniger once referred to herself as a “primitive caveman artist,” speaking to the apparent simplicity of her intricate cut-outs.) THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED is not only a prime example of the art form, but it also has the distinction of being the oldest surviving feature-length animation, a consequence worthy of Reiniger’s achievement, even if a technicality. With a picaresque story derived from the Arabian Nights folktales, the German filmmaker’s precise cut-outs—made using a variety of materials, including regular and tissue paper, cardboard, and metal—depict the titular Prince Achmed as he embarks on a multinational adventure, complete with evil demons and sexy princesses, following a run-in with a sorcerer and his flying horse. Reiniger made it over the course of four years using a painstaking technique similar to what’s now recognized as stop-motion animation. Textured, colored tinting backlight the filigreed silhouettes, making it look all too modern for a film that predates Disney’s SNOW WHITE by more than a decade. Even more intriguing than Reiniger’s output is her background; having worked under famed theater director Max Reinhardt and expressionist filmmaker Paul Wegener, her sensibility is thus rooted more in the avant-garde than any traditional mode. This makes THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED all the more exciting, likewise canonical and experimental, reflecting both Reiniger’s clear legacy and her shadowy legend. Preceded by Tony Sarg's 1922 animated silent short ADAM RAISES CAIN (7 min, 16mm). Live accompaniment by Dennis Scott. Introduced by members of Manual Cinema. (1926, 66 min, 35mm) KS
Michael Glover Smith's RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO (New American)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Friday, 8pm; Saturday, 4:30pm; and Monday and Wednesday, 7:45pm
At a time when our leaders prey on, and feed off, the worst parts of ourselves, it couldn't be a more necessary time for an homage to Éric Rohmer. That's just what my friend, Cine-File's own Mike Smith, has given us with his third feature, the sweet, delightful, humanistic rom-com RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO. It celebrates love and intelligence—that is to say, the best in us. Smith has taken the basic form of Rohmer's RENDEZVOUS IN PARIS—three sketches united by their setting in one of the world's great cities—and added his own original agenda, which encompasses feminism and a pro-gay vision. He's even shot the movie in Rohmer's favored boxy Academy aspect ratio. Smith's script, based on stories he dreamed up with Jill McKeown (his wife and also a friend), shows his knack for the simple yet elegant structure: the three chapters correspond to the beginning, middle, and end of love, respectively, with the end cycling back into the beginning. Coming out of acting retirement after 37 years, Haydée Politoff, from Rohmer's touchstone LA COLLECTIONNEUSE (1967), performs a place-setting Hyde Park prologue. She's the faculty adviser to U of C doctoral candidate Delaney, wittily played by Clare Cooney. The first vignette, The Brothers Karamazov, takes place in a little candlelit wine bar. If I say it's a bit of a Kubrickian/Lynchian antechamber, that belies how cozy it actually is. It's a lonely Sunday night and whip-smart Delaney is working on her thesis. Suddenly, she finds herself being hit on, not entirely unwelcomed, by the only other patron: none other than Paul, the likably pretentious aspiring writer from COOL APOCALYPSE, Smith's debut. (Amusingly, when we get a glimpse of what Paul's writing, it's the end of MERCURY IN RETROGRADE, Smith's second feature.) Once again, Paul is played by the funny Kevin Wehby, who's emerging as Smith's Jean-Pierre Léaud, or Kyle MacLachlan. Delaney proposes a naughty little game, which quickly hoists Paul with his own male petard. The second sketch, Cats and Dogs, is my favorite. Achieving an effortless Linklater-ian tone, it follows a gay couple, Andy and Rob, as they walk from their Rogers Park home to the shores of Lake Michigan. Smith sets the scene with glimpses of the Essanay and Selig Polyscope buildings, nods to Chicago's rich film history, a subject on which he literally wrote the book. We know, but Andy doesn't, that Rob has a question to pop, but look out—as they meet the neighborhood's dogs, it emerges that Andy's more of a cat person, whereas Rob's a dog guy! As Andy and Rob, respectively, Rashaad Hall and Matthew Sherbach are so natural, charming, and funny that I not only wanted them to be a real couple, I wanted to be their friend. They run into Tess from COOL APOCALYPSE (Chelsea David), who's out walking Sophie the Shih Tzu, playing herself in a flawless method performance. When the gents get to the beach, there's a moving homage to the immortal "Lake Shore Drive" by the late Skip Haynes, to whom the film is dedicated. The third sketch, The End Is the Beginning, is the most minimalist. It features Nina Ganet, back as Julie from COOL APOCALYPSE. After a sudden, tumultuous rom-com breakup with Wyatt from MERCURY IN RETROGRADE (Shane Simmons), Julie finds herself alone again, but for us. Warming to us, she begins to fall in love with the camera itself: that is to say, with you and me. Since she's played by the sunny, freckle-faced Ganet, how can we resist falling in love back, at least a little? It's a remarkably benign, even celebratory, view of "the gaze." As Julie takes us in her arms to dance, we spin round and round, dizzy on the cusp of new love. As an Ohio boy who's lived in Chicago for 25 years now, I love the idea of doing for my adopted city what Rohmer did for Paris. My personal feeling is that the magic is always there in Chicago: you just need to know how to look. Perhaps the most valuable thing RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO did for me is to renew that feeling, after all these years. It's a vision to treasure: heaven might just be a beach on the shores of Lake Michigan, lolling away the afternoon with someone you love, in Chicago, Illinois. The Monday screening only will be followed by Haley McCormick's 2017 short film DANCER (7 min). Smith and various cast and crew in person at each show; check the Siskel website for details. (2018, 69 min, Digital Projection) SP
Carl Th. Dreyer's DAY OF WRATH (Danish Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Sunday, 7pm
Carl Dreyer's career is one of ebbs and flows, gaps and black holes. Most people know him for the handful of features he made between 1928 and 1964 (and one of those—1945's TWO PEOPLE—is virtually unknown), but he made an equal number of features in the short span between 1920 and 1926. While THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928) and VAMPYR (1932) have maintained consistent critical regard over the years, the WWII-era DAY OF WRATH seems to have lost its place as the "late-career" masterpiece it once held in favor of the even later GERTRUD. One of the great visionaries of cinema, he somehow managed to infuse his films with a definite style while simultaneously creating a minimal, almost austere, feeling. There is always an uneasy tension at work, which provides a sense of uncertainty and power. There is a constant feeling of remove. Cine-File contributor Kalvin Henely has noted that DAY OF WRATH "feels like it was made long before cinema was invented—if you've ever wondered what movies might have looked like in the 1600s, Dreyer comes close to taking you there." The story, about witch-hunts in 17th century Denmark, is a perfect vessel for Dreyer's career-long themes of religion, passion, ecstasy, love, and faith—and the mysteries and questions they all evoke. (1943, 110 min, 35mm) PF
Mani Haghighi’s PIG (New Iranian)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Saturday, 8:15pm and Sunday, 4:45pm
I’ve never seen another Iranian film like PIG, a violent satire that features two musical numbers, several dream sequences, and an infidelity subplot. Its primary target is the Iranian government’s persecution of filmmakers, but it also makes fun of pompous filmmakers and male vanity, suggesting that writer-director Mani Haghighi (MEN AT WORK, A DRAGON ARRIVES!) isn’t afraid to implicate himself in his own comic critique. The film’s antihero, Hasan, is a slovenly, self-important director who’s most famous for a movie called “Rendezvous at the Slaughterhouse.” At the start of the story, he’s in the middle of a ban from making films and having to direct an insecticide commercial to keep busy. The humiliations pile on from there. His former leading lady and current mistress (Iranian superstar Leila Hatami) is being courted by an even more pretentious filmmaker to act in an allegorical drama that represents Iranian art cinema at its worst. (In a clever in-joke, Hasan’s rival is played by actor-director Ali Mosaffa, Hatami’s real-life husband.) Hasan and his wife (who’s oddly accepting of his infidelity) are burdened with taking care of his senile mother, who mistakes every visitor to the house for a burglar and holds them at gunpoint. The director also has to fend off the attentions of a young female stalker. And to top it all off, there’s a serial killer on the loose in Tehran bumping off controversial filmmakers. Hasan at first fears for his life, but then takes offense when the killer doesn’t target him. Haghighi generates plenty of laughs from Hasan’s terminal self-involvement, but the greatest pleasure of PIG lies in its unpredictability. The storytelling is shaggy and freewheeling—the definitive moment may be when Haghighi calls a time out from the narrative to pay tribute to AC/DC. (2018, 108 min, DCP Digital) BS
Jamshid Mahmoudi’s RONA, AZIM’S MOTHER (New Iran/Afghanistan)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Saturday, 6:30pm and Sunday, 3pm
Darkly becoming, RONA, AZIM’S MOTHER stands out due to its quietly devastating story and the baroque efficiency of its images. Directed by Jamshid Mahmoudi and produced by his brother Navid (the Iranian-Afghan duo frequently work on each other’s films in various capacities), it follows Azim, an Afghan immigrant living with his family in Iran, as he strives to care for his ailing mother, Rona, amidst domestic turmoil. It’s simple, and not deceptively so—the storytelling and craftsmanship imbue the straightforward narrative with a poignancy that’s often difficult for filmmakers to substantiate. Most striking is Koohyar Kalari’s cinematography, the widescreen aspect ratio more a storytelling device than a technical one, framing the characters in such a way that meaning is conveyed through the images as much as it is through dialogue. Shots of Rona, suffering from untreated diabetes, stretched out on her floor-laden sick bed, fill the screen, the family’s matriarch an overwhelming presence, while shots of various characters from outside windows and behind doorways hint at the private strife inside every household. A political subtext can be deduced (the film starts with a conflict over Azim’s brother smuggling himself and his family out of Iran, sans their mother), though it doesn’t belabor any broader implications. Instead the film focuses, as the title indicates, on one family, the struggle of Rona and her kin perhaps a metaphor for all those like them. As Rona, first-time actress Fatemeh Hosseini is heartbreaking, the pain of an entire people evident in her wizened facade. (2018, 89 min, DCP Digital) KS
Norman Foster's KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Friday, 9:30pm and Sunday, 1:30pm
Well, if the movie itself doesn't quite live up to that title, how could it? Norman Foster's taut crime movie KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS is still a tough, crisp picture, great to look at. Leonard Maltin concisely dispatches with the plot, and the movie itself, as follows: "Disappointing romance-thriller follows the plight of two lost souls, lonely nurse/war widow [Joan] Fontaine and deeply troubled ex-POW [Burt] Lancaster, who's on the lam for murder in London. Some potent scenes and good Miklos Rozsa score cannot salvage tepid film." He's also tickled, as was I, by the "hammy" performance by Robert Newton, as a cockney black market blackmailer. Still, his take rather underrates this exciting, moving B-movie melodrama. Film noir is one of my favorite film worlds to enter, and KISS THE BLOOD offers so many of the pleasures of entering that world. The first film produced by Lancaster's own Norma Productions, the mood is appropriately dark, bleak, and tormented, and an opening chase scene offers a masterclass in classic Hollywood filmmaking. Nighttimes of the soul swim in the expressive eyes of Lancaster and Fontaine. Unable to control his temper, Lancaster's brawny traumatized sailor accidentally kills a man with his fists in the first few moments. Yet he's a survivor, getting by on animal cunning more than wits: Lancaster, remarkably, lets us see how scared this man really is. (The scene where he receives 18 lashes from the cat o’ nine tails is as visceral as something out of ROME, OPEN CITY.) Fontaine gives us a lonesome yet independent-minded heroine, in the same year that she worked with Ophuls on LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN WOMAN. In fact, one interesting way to interpret the movie is as an example of a "women's picture noir," where, as Kathleen Geier writes, the elemental noir style is melded with romance, and we get not the femme fatale but "the homme fatal: the seductive man who may not be what he seems." The black and while photography by Russell Metty is evocative. Though this London is a Hollywood set, that only allows the filmmakers a certain precision in creating this world of shadows, urban alleyways, rain-soaked pavements, hats, and cigarettes. During a sequence on a train, I could almost imagine the Cahiers critics thrilling in their seats. As for Rozsa's score, it's so vivid the conductor is almost a physical presence, wielding his baton and working the orchestra into a frenzy. By the time Foster made this film, his career had already followed a circuitous path. After making Mr. Moto pictures with Peter Lorre and a few Charlie Chans, he directed the Orson Welles production JOURNEY INTO FEAR, and he worked on directing the "My Friend Bonito" segment of what would have been Welles' IT'S ALL TRUE. Here, he develops a visual motif of cages and bars to suggest that Fontaine and Lancaster are trapped by fate (and their own weakness) all along. Yet he also shows a rare redemptive mercy for his people, caged animals in a cynical noir world. (1948, 79 min, 35mm) SP
Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto, and Gustavo Steinberg’s TITO AND THE BIRDS (New Brazilian Animation)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Check venue website for showtimes
Fear influences life in many ways. It can be used to control people, cause people to never venture outside their comfort zones, and cause people to irrationally hate things that they do not understand. But what if fear manifested as a literal disease and physically-altering pandemic? TITO AND THE BIRDS explores all of these ideas. Tito is a young boy living with his parents; his father, an inventor, is building a machine to understand the language of birds because, “Since the dawn of times, birds have been saving men from catastrophes.” When an accident occurs with the machine because he was too afraid to help, Tito is injured and his father is kicked out of their home. After this day, Tito vows never to be afraid again. A few years later, Tito seeks to complete the machine is father started for his school’s invention contest. Meanwhile, a nefarious media-real estate magnate is shown constantly on the television fear mongering about an “Outbreak” of fear that causes humans to grow bug-eyed, their limbs shrivel, and then turn into large rocks. His propagandistic push not only causes more of the population to develop Outbreak but also drives sales to his biodome housing communities that promise their inhabitants protection from the unclean and this ailing from the disease. TITO AND THE BIRDS is animated in a beautiful post-impressionist oil painting style with swirling textures for its backgrounds and soft-edged computer animation for its characters to tell a cautionary tale that is relatable to both young and old. Its theme of the dangers of fear is equal parts 1984 and an amalgamation of alarmist propaganda from the past one hundred years. While it has its predictable moments, TITO AND THE BIRDS provides comfort in understanding fear in these uncertain global political times and in realizing that one of humanities greatest strengths is in persevering through difficulty. (2018, 73 min, DCP Digital) KC
Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s WEST SIDE STORY (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Thursday, 7pm
The United States is a young country with an old history. Rising to the highest heights of power in the blink of an eye through rapid expansion across a broad land rich in natural resources, achieving unity far before the much more ancient Europe even made a start at it, and now prematurely gray as it struggles to adapt to a global economy and a shattered self-image, the American story has been a tough one to tell. Perhaps with the exception of the Great American Novel, Huckleberry Finn, no work of art has broken through as a wide-ranging reflection not only of who we want to be, but also of who we really are. So it may be a bold declaration to make, but if I had to pick the one work that has been and will continue to be the greatest telling of the Great American Story, it would be WEST SIDE STORY. Riding on the timeless popularity of tragic love as rendered by William Shakespeare in Romeo & Juliet while delivering that play’s crucial message about the costs of hate, WEST SIDE STORY poses a direct challenge to the complacent belief in the American Dream and the elusive principle for which it stands, “liberty and justice for all,” through the most American narrative of all—immigration. Director Harold Robbins (Robert Wise was brought in when Robbins was fired), composer Leonard Bernstein, book writer Arthur Laurents, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim—all members of despised and persecuted groups in American society—crafted a coming-of-age tale for America itself and those who would lose themselves in its myth through its focus on adolescents struggling to mature and find a place for themselves in the world. The creative team centered the rivalry among the children of poor European immigrants precariously established in New York City and those from the American territory of Puerto Rico who moved to the mainland during the 1950s. As Sondheim’s lyrics to “America” ironically suggest (“Nobody knows in America/Puerto Rico’s in America”), the members of the Sharks might have an earlier claim to being American than do the teens who make up the Jets. This conflict already distinguishes WEST SIDE STORY from Shakespeare’s blood feud of two aristocratic families as a pointedly American concern. The film features a magnetic cast of dancers and actors, with George Chakiris and Rita Moreno as standouts. Natalie Wood was put in the unfortunate position of being an Anglo playing a Latina and disliking costar Richard Beymer, the man she was supposed to be passionately in love with, but her professionalism (if not her dismal Puerto Rican accent) carry the day. All of the singing was dubbed, with veteran singing double Marni Nixon taking on Maria’s songs and Jimmy Bryant taking on Beymer’s. This is understandable considering the difficulties of Bernstein’s operatic score and does not, in my opinion, detract from the overall effect. The otherwise soundstage-bound film opens up in the “Prologue,” which was shot on location in New York, thus creating a mise en scène of the contested turf that lingers in the audience’s mind as the rest of the film progresses. Robbins, comfortable with stage choreography, manages to combine the best of both worlds throughout the film. His work in the opening “Prologue” illustrates the Jets’ exuberant dominance of their turf. Robbins moves them wordlessly from playground, to street, to basketball court in a combination of random, everyday movements by individual Jets that build to a coordinated dance. Jets leader Riff (Russ Tamblyn) whoops happily as some children run past on the street and leaps joyfully with his gang, only to run immediately into Sharks leader Bernardo (Chakiris). Bernardo handles their taunts, only to strike an obviously symbolic red stripe on a wall with his fist. Small gestures again build, this time menacingly, and the “Prologue” ends in an all-out brawl. Camera cuts, overhead shots, close-ups of smug and resentful looks form a dance of their own, one the dancers assault by running directly at the camera lens, forcing it to cut away. Robbins may have been a novice filmmaker, but his dancer’s understanding of space and how a frame can open and choke it is second only to Gene Kelly’s. Many music scholars have commented on Bernstein’s use of tritones—playing a key note followed by a note three whole tones away from the key note—which is an important method of introducing dissonance in Western harmony. During the Middle Ages, tritones were considered diabolus in musica (“devil in music”) for being hard to sing in tune. While many people consider “Maria” one of the most beautiful songs in the score, it is sobering to realize that its first two notes form a tritone; considering that Maria’s admonishment to Tony to stop the rumble ends in the deaths of her brother, Tony’s best friend, and Tony himself, she certainly does seem to have done the devil’s work, however unwittingly. Again and again, the songs and characters of WEST SIDE STORY communicate the need to belong. Maria and Tony, caught in the ethnic divide, find their sense of place in each other, which they affirm in the moving “Somewhere,” a place that is destroyed when Tony is gunned down by Maria’s formerly gentle suitor Chino (Jose De Vega). And a very interesting character nicknamed Anybodys (Susan Oakes) exemplifies a different kind of exclusion; dressing and acting like a boy, she rejects society’s assigned role for her and is, in turn, rejected by the Jets. But she refuses to go away or give up on being a part of the action. At a time of great social foment, WEST SIDE STORY offered a narrative to help Americans find a new, more worthwhile image for a more mature and realizable Great American Story. (1961, 153 min, DCP Digital) MF
Jean-Luc Godard’s THE IMAGE BOOK (New Swiss/French)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Check venue website for show times
When I screened A MAN ESCAPED in an Intro to Film class a few years ago, one particularly bright student seemed riveted by Bresson’s radical and extensive use of first-person voice-over narration, close-ups of hands at work, and the unusual way these elements interacted with each other. In a post-screening discussion, he made the salient point that “It was as if Lieutenant Fontaine’s hands were doing the thinking and the talking.” I was reminded of this remark at the beginning of Jean-Luc Godard’s THE IMAGE BOOK when a close-up depicts a man’s hands splicing together two shots of 35mm film at an editing table. On the soundtrack, Godard’s 87-year-old voice, now a sepulchral whisper, informs us that “man’s true condition” is to “think with hands.” This is shortly followed by what appears to be a documentary image of a concentration-camp victim’s emaciated fingers. Hand imagery from a variety of sources – from a shot of Bunuel wielding a straight razor in the opening of UN CHIEN ANDALOU to the detail of an index finger pointing upwards in Da Vinci’s painting John the Baptist – proliferates in the early stages of THE IMAGE BOOK. This serves to introduce the film’s structure (“five chapters like the five fingers of a hand”) and overall aesthetic strategy (mixing excerpts of narrative films with documentaries, high art, cell-phone videos, etc.); but, more importantly, it reminds us of Godard’s belief that a filmmaker is ideally someone who works with his or her hands, operating “small instruments” like the analog equipment on which Godard begins the process of slicing and dicing the contents of his vast image data bank before passing that footage on to his cinematographer/co-editor Fabrice Aragno for a digital upgrade. After this brief prologue, THE IMAGE BOOK proper begins: The first four “chapters” feature Godard’s associative montage at its most rigorous – he traces various images, ideas and motifs throughout film history (water, trains, war, the concept of “the law,” etc.) in a manner not unlike that of his mammoth video essay HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA. But, even when it feels most familiar, these passages in THE IMAGE BOOK still show Godard to be a restless experimenter: The famous scene in Nicholas Ray’s JOHNNY GUITAR where Sterling Hayden implores Joan Crawford to “lie” by professing her love for him (a scene Godard has already quoted in several other films) gets a new look by the introduction of a black screen during what should be a shot of Hayden, so that viewers only see the corresponding reverse-angle shot of Crawford in their charged dialogue exchange. Another new trick up the director’s sleeve is the way he presents shots in a deliberately incorrect aspect ratio (i.e., the images appear horizontally stretched) before having them “pop” into the proper ratio, an amusing and oddly satisfying poetic effect. The film’s darker and more disturbing elements, on the other hand, have caused some critics to categorize it as a “horror movie.” In one instance, Godard provocatively juxtaposes an execution scene from Rossellini’s PAISAN, in which Italian partisans are drowned by their Nazi captors, with eerily similar, non-fiction footage of recent ISIS executions. Elsewhere, he juxtaposes images of exploited performers – intercutting shots of a grinning “pinhead” from Tod Browning’s FREAKS with someone performing anilingus in a pornographic film of unknown origin (the latter is identified only as “PORNO” in the lengthy bibliography that makes up most of the closing credits). But it’s the fifth and final chapter, taking up almost the entire second half of the film, that sees Godard boldly striking out into truly new territory: This section examines how Western artists frequently misrepresent the Arab world by depicting it in simplistic and reductive terms (i.e., as either “joyful” or “barbaric”). Godard quotes extensively from authors I haven’t read (e.g., Edward Saïd and Albert Cossery) but the overall meaning is clear in an extended scene that focuses on a fictional Arabic country named Dofa whose “underground has no oil” but whose Prime Minister nonetheless dreams of submitting all Gulf countries to his rule. What’s incredible about this sequence is the startling way Godard conveys the “story” solely through his narration while the image track is comprised of a cornucopia of found footage from movies by both Western and Arabic filmmakers (not to mention some hyper-saturated shots apparently captured by Godard and Aragno on location in Tunisia that are the most visually ravishing in the film). That it’s often difficult to determine where these shots came from is, of course, part of the point. In an otherwise war-and-death-obsessed work that feels even more despairing than usual for this gnomic artist, Godard does, however, express hope for the possibility of a new poetics of cinema, one in which Middle-Eastern and African filmmakers might discover new ways of seeing and hearing themselves. The wild sound design, always a highlight in late Godard, reaches new levels of expressiveness here as voices, sounds and snippets of music aggressively ping-pong back and forth between multiple stereo channels – essentially doing for the ears what the groundbreaking 3D of GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE did for the eyes. In a lengthy post-credits sequence, Godard’s voice-over eventually devolves into a coughing fit while a rhapsodic dance sequence from Max Ophuls’ LE PLAISIR gets the final word on the image track. In spite of what some of his detractors think, Godard still believes in the elemental power of cinema, which is why the mesmerizing IMAGE BOOK is a more accessible work than even many of its champions would have you believe. Spotting references and decoding meanings is ultimately less important than the sensorial experience of simply vibing with the uniquely romantic/pessimistic tone engendered by this giant of the medium’s total mastery of “image et parole.” Note: The Siskel Center has installed a 7.1 surround-system solely for the purpose of accommodating Godard’s ambitious 7.1 stereo soundtrack. (2018, 90 min, DCP Digital) MGS
Ben Niles’ THE 5 BROWNS: DIGGING THROUGH THE DARKNESS (New Documentary)
Facets Cinémathèque — Check venue website for showtimes
Two years after #MeToo was coined and 10 years before it went viral, Desirae, Deondra, and Melody Brown revealed to each other that their father, Keith, had sexually abused them repeatedly from their early teen years until, one by one, they and their two brothers, Ryan and Gregory, moved from their home in Salt Lake City to New York to attend Juilliard. Stories of child sexual abuse are all too common these day, but abuse in a family as much in the public eye as The 5 Browns, who parlayed their familial ties, musical talent, and unique repertoire built around classical pieces and popular soundtracks arranged for five pianos, brings another layer of complexity to an already pernicious crime. Using family photos and home videos, footage from their tours, television appearances on such shows as Good Morning America and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and present-day footage and interviews, director Ben Niles skillfully paints a portrait of a close-knit group of siblings driven by their mother to succeed in the music industry and pushed by their father-manager to work to the point of collapse to garner the fame and fortune he wanted so badly. Parents Keith and Lisa Brown come off as narcissistic, clueless, and unapologetic. By contrast, the siblings are revealed to be devoted to their Mormon faith, quite intelligent and thoughtful, and determined to put an end to their father’s abusive behavior—the sisters turned him over to the police in 2010 when it became clear that he was targeting other girls by offering to manage their musical careers. Thankfully, THE 5 BROWNS doesn’t offer prurient details about what the girls experienced; it’s enough to witness the pain that they and their brothers continue to process as they try to save their family, their working relationship, and others who have experienced child sexual abuse. Along the way, it’s a privilege to watch them make music that inspires and heals. (2016, 108 min, Video Projection) MF
Paweł Pawlikowski’s COLD WAR (New Polish)
Music Box Theatre — Check venue website for showtimes
Whether inspired by a clichéd romantic notion of doomed love or by an interest in examining historical epochs, storytellers have long fixated on relationships unfolding during times of sociopolitical tumult. The juxtaposition of the personal and the political allows for all manner of parallels and convergences to illuminate the human tolls of social upheaval; the intensity of romance, in particular, comes to seem like a particularly resonant analog of a world sometimes literally on fire. But whereas many films in this subgenre-of-sorts take a conventionally epic tack, charting the psychological and erotic development of a relationship across historical backdrops as vast as the films’ running times are long, Paweł Pawlikowski’s COLD WAR opts for a defiant austerity. Taking place across four countries in postwar Europe, it condenses 15 years of turbulent romance and geopolitical strife into a terse 80 minutes minus credits. Or, more appropriately, it suggests these things through omission. Indeed, as trite as it might be to say, Pawlikowski’s film is as much about what’s not shown as what is. Although we see the material effects of World War II and the subsequent Soviet dominion over Eastern Europe, it is in the elided swaths of time that transpire between the film’s starkly unsentimental cuts to black when we know the greatest tragedies have occurred. The absences are structuring, making the images and sounds we are privy to all the more bittersweet for their (fleeting) presences. And what images and sounds they are: Pawlikowski, reteaming with IDA cinematographer Łukasz Żal in the same 1.37:1, black and white aesthetic, creates visuals that gleam. One could be forgiven for mistaking the film for an actual postwar European opus from a Resnais or a Bresson, so remarkable is its sensuous evocation of this cinematic idiom, architectural rubble and chic modern surfaces finding equal purchase in fastidiously composed frames. The soundtrack, meanwhile, is filled with the Polish folk songs and midcentury jazz performed by the film’s protagonists Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot). The film is almost a musical in the way it uses song to illustrate both their (d)evolving relationship and the changing culture they navigate, acting as commentary on the ravages of national politics and self-failings alike, with escape from either becoming an impossibility. Call it a European art-house A STAR IS BORN and you wouldn’t be too far off, except here, the romance between Zula and Wiktor, too impeded by circumstance to ever reach consummation, is less a fully formed relationship than a metonymical tool to reflect a continent riven by political conflicts. This symbolic function, combined with Pawlikowski’s rigorously pared-down form, has the effect of denying their stormy romance much heat, or psychological realism. But this was a COLD WAR, after all, and catharsis wasn’t in the cards. By the end, the film’s abbreviated runtime seems to communicate less time racing by than time stolen. (2018, 85 min, DCP Digital) JL
Michael Curtiz's CASABLANCA (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre — Sunday, 2pm
A strong candidate for the most entertaining movie ever made, CASABLANCA irresistibly weds the theme of self-sacrifice for a greater good to a love story set against the backdrop of wartime intrigue. Mix in Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at their most iconic, deliciously witty dialogue, a cast of colorful supporting characters played by unforgettable character actors and the able craftsmanship of director Michael Curtiz and you have Exhibit A for anyone looking to understand the genius of Hollywood's old studio system. You must remember this: Bogie as Rick Blaine, the American nightclub owner living in Morocco, whose cynical exterior conceals a sentimental heart; Bergman as Ilsa Lund, the Norwegian woman he loved and lost in pre-World War II France, only to find again under less-than-ideal circumstances in the Vichy-controlled title city. Out of all the gin joints in the world, why did she have to walk into his?! Thank God for the sake of movie lovers that she did. They'll always have Paris—and we'll always have CASABLANCA. (1942, 102 min, 35mm) MGS
Gordon Quinn and Gerald Temaner's INQUIRING NUNS and Gordon Quinn’s ’63 BOYCOTT (Documentary Revival / New Documentary)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Friday, 7pm
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. (1968, 66 min, DCP Digital) DM
’63 BOYCOTT is a timely look backward as the U.S. public education system stands vulnerably in the crosshairs of public officials who seem determined to destroy it. Archival footage and current interviews with some of the organizers of and participants in the boycott tell the story of a separate and unequal Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system they maintain was created and perpetuated by then Mayor Richard J. Daley. Schools in black neighborhoods were overcrowded and underresourced. Black students used outdated textbooks, and adding insult to injury, they had to share them. Modern scientific equipment and teaching aids found in white schools stood in stark contrast to the lack of any equipment available to black students. The final outrage was the appointment of Ben Willis as Superintendent of Schools. Accused of being a segregationist and a racist, Willis proposed to “relieve” overcrowding not by moving black students to nearby white schools, but rather by turning mobile homes into classrooms situated in school parking lots. Under pressure to resign over this “Willis wagon” plan, his probably insincere offer to step down was rejected by the school board. The time to boycott—and cost CPS hundreds of thousands of dollars in state aid—had arrived. ’63 BOYCOTT offers footage and still photos of various activists and activities, including the sit-in at the Board of Education and alternative Freedom Schools set up to teach black history. These images are intercut with footage of protests that broke out in 2013 when Mayor Rahm Emanuel ordered the closing of 54 schools, the bulk of which served students of color. The images are remarkably similar, sadly emphasizing that battles fought years ago have never really been won. Still, it is worth taking heart. Sandra Murray, a bright African-American student in 1963 who was told to forget her ambition to be a research scientist went on to earn a doctorate in biology, win National Science Foundation grants for research into cell biology and endocrinology, and taught in various universities in the United States and in Ethiopia. (2016, 30 min, DCP Digital) MF
Gordon Quinn in person.
Cheryl Dunye's STRANGER INSIDE (American Revival)
Chicago Filmmakers (5720 N. Ridge Ave.) — Saturday, 8pm (7pm social hour)
Prison films, and especially Women in Prison films, are an exploitation genre. Your protagonist is lovable but flawed. The plot is "get out of prison" or "fight the rival" or "do one last job for a big haul!" STRANGER INSIDE is a prison film, and falls within some of its genre confines, but thankfully not all. Our main character, Treasure Lee, is a tough young prisoner who wants nothing more than to know her mother, a woman serving life-without-parole, and to prove herself. The film falls somewhere between the average "prison film" and the reality of prison life (with its vast racial disparity) partially because while writing the film Dunye worked with inmates at the Shakopee Women's Correctional Facility, and absorbed their stories into the texture of her fiction. The result is something strangely heart-wrenching: obviously a bad end is coming, the state penitentiary rarely leads to any other kind, but you can't help but wince for Treasure Lee and hope for her to somehow forge a kinder path for herself. Even redemption is bleak. Note: also features photographs by Catherine Opie. Showing as part of Chicago Filmmakers’ monthly “Dyke Delicious” series. (2001, 97 min, Digital Projection) CAM
Ida Lupino's THE HITCH-HIKER (American Revival)
Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) — Wednesday, 1 and 7pm (Free Admission)
"This is the true story of a man and a gun and a car. The gun belonged to the man." The film belongs to Ida Lupino, gravel-voiced actress and one of the rare female directors in classic Hollywood. Produced under her short-lived The Filmakers banner, THE HITCH-HIKER alternates between sensory deprivation and overload. After a dazzling credits sequence awash in disembodied limbs and darkness punctuated by gun blasts, Lupino toys with the viewer like her psycho protagonist (William Talman) toys with the hapless fishermen (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) who make the mistake of offering him a ride. Noir-veteran cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca (OUT OF THE PAST) spends much of the brief running time right up in the three men's pores. Meanwhile, Lupino's script almost daringly switches allegiance from psycho to victim to viewer, featuring extended scenes in unsubtitled Spanish and a hilarious meta moment when it acknowledges its debt to previous insane-hitchhiker movies. In an era when "noir" gets stamped on any black-and-white film that takes place outside of the drawing room, this is a wallow in real darkness. The prologue warns that, "What you will see in the next seventy minutes could have happened to you"; by the fadeout, it felt like it had happened to me. (1953, 71 min, Digital Projection) MP
David Lean's DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (UK/Italian/US Revival)
or many years my mom insisted that the Universal Studios tour used to include a walk through the Varykino "ice-palace" from DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, an apocryphal assertion I haven't been able to corroborate. If I had to guess I'd say she made the whole thing up, perhaps triggered by years of unpleasant piano lessons as a teenager when she was forced to learn to play "Lara's Theme" by Maurice Jarre. If it once balanced on the knife's edge of kitsch, somewhere between soapy romance and ambiguous Cold War commentary, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO has improved with age. Lean's superlative storytelling skills, which balance a marvelous sense of sweep and scope against a fine-honed depiction of personal cruelty, are aided and abetted by his gift for choosing just the right cast. Only Lean could cast an Egyptian as a Russian doctor and make it work. And then there's the editing, with some of the most exhilarating scene transitions in his filmography (such as the famous clank/streetcar edit singled out by Spielberg). Though Lean's latter films are studded with brilliant moments, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is his last great film. (1965, 192 min, Digital Projection) RC
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) presents Another Void: In Memory of Paul Clipson (1990-2017, 98 min, 16mm except where noted) on Friday at 7pm. The program includes five films the late San Francisco-based experimental filmmaker along with selected works by friends and those influenced by him, including Konrad Steiner, Zach Iannazi, Dicky Bahto, John Davis, and Nathaniel Dorsky, with Bahto in person. The five Clipson films showing are: SPHINX ON THE SEINE (2008), CHORUS (2009), UNION (2010), ANOTHER VOID (2012), and LIGHT YEAR (2013); the additional titles are: DEMOLISHED EVERY SECOND (John Davis, 2014, Video Projection), ONCE, MAYBE TWICE; OR, THE CLOCKWORK OF SUMMER (Dicky Bahto, (2013/17), REMAINS (Konrad Steiner, 1990), OLD HAT (Zach Iannazzi, 2016), and INTIMATIONS (Nathaniel Dorsky, 2015). Free admission.
Film Rescue and Channels: A Quarterly Film Series present Tale of the Tape on Monday at 7pm at the UIC Art and Exhibition Hall (400 S. Peoria St.). Screening are PEN POINT PERCUSSION (Norman McLaren, 1951, 6 min. 16mm), DAUGHTER RITE (Michelle Citron, 1978, 53 min, 16mm), and FRANK FILM (Frank Mouris, 1973, 9 min, 16mm). Free admission.
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens Hubertus Siegert’s 2001 German documentary BERLIN BABYLON (88 min, DCP Digital) on Friday at 7pm; and Bryan Forbes’ 1975 film THE STEPFORD WIVES (115 min, 35mm) on Thursday at 7pm. Free admission.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Home Video Day on Friday at 6pm, in conjunction with Media Burn Archive, Video Data Bank, and local video archivists and experts. You can bring your own home movie videotapes, or just watch. Free admission.
The Poetry Foundation (61 W. Superior St.) screens David Fenster’s 2018 film THE TRIP (unconfirmed running time, Video Projection) on Tuesday at 7pm, with Fenster and subject poet Eileen Myles in person. Free admission.
Black Cinema House (at the Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave.) screens Kevin Macdonald’s 2018 documentary WHITNEY (120 min, Video Projection) on Sunday at 1pm. Free admission, but RSVP at www.eventbrite.com/e/whitney-r-registration-55389787345.
The Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Juan José Campanella’s 2009 Spanish/Argentinean film THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (129 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 7pm; and Samir Oliveros Zayed’s 2017 Columbian film BAD LUCKY GOAT (76 min, DVD Projection) on Wednesday at 6pm. Free admission.
Also at the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: Bryan Singer’s 2018 film BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (134 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 2 and 7pm; and Kirby Dick’s 2015 documentary THE HUNTING GROUND (103 min, Video Projection) is on Monday at 7pm, followed by a discussion. Free admission.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Jacques Rivette’s 1966 French film THE NUN [LA RELIGIEUSE] (140 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Joel Edgerton’s 2018 film BOY ERASED (115 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 4pm; Cheryl Dunye’s 1996 film THE WATERMELON WOMAN (90 min, DCP Digital) is on Tuesday at 7pm; David O. Russell’s 2004 film I HEART HUCKABEES (107 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7 and 9:30pm; and Joseph Losey’s 1968 film BOOM! (113 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 10pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Oscar-Nominated Documentary Short Films opens; Shawn Convey’s 2016 documentary AMONG WOLVES (94 min, DCP Digital) opens, with director Convey in person at all shows; Mamoru Hosoda’s 2018 Japanese animated film MIRAI (98 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 9:30pm and Monday at 7pm; Julius Avery’s 2018 film OVERLORD (110 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; Sidney Pollack’s 1973 film THE WAY WE WERE (118 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 11:30am; Alix Blair, Jeremy Lange, and D.L. Anderson’s 2016 documentary FARMER/VETERAN (65 min, Digital Projection) is on Sunday at 9:30pm, with co-director Anderson in person; James Demo’s 2018 documentary THE PEACEMAKER (90 min, DCP Digital) is on Monday at 9:30pm, with Demo in person; and Rob Reiner’s 1987 film THE PRINCESS BRIDE (98 min, DCP Digital) is on Wednesday and Thursday at 7pm.
Also at Facets Cinémathèque this week: Cheng Wei-Hao’s 2017 Taiwanese film WHO KILLED COCK ROBIN? (118 min, Video Projection) plays for a week-long run.
At the Chicago Cultural Center this week: the Chicago Latino Film Festival presents Rosario García-Montero’s 2011 Peruvian film THE BAD INTENTIONS (107 min, Video Projection) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.
The DuSable Museum screens David Weathersby's 2018 documentary THE COLOR OF ART (60 min, Digital Projection) on Saturday at 2pm, with Weathersby in person. Free admission.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
Isaac Julien’s 2007 video installation THE LEOPARD (WESTERN UNION: SMALL BOATS) is on view at the Block Museum (Northwestern University) through April 14.
Currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago: Naeem Mohaiemen’s 2017 three-channel video installation TWO MEETINGS AND A FUNERAL (88 min) is on view through March 31 in the Stone Gallery; 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 (1979, 6 min loop, two-channel video) is in the second floor corridor.
CINE-LIST: February 8 - February 14, 2019
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Rob Christopher, Kyle Cubr, Marilyn Ferdinand, Jonathan Leithold-Patt, Chloe A. McLaren, Doug McLaren, Scott Pfeiffer, Michael W. Phillips Jr., Michael Glover Smith