SPECIAL MEMORIAL SCREENING
Many of us at Cine-File knew Todd Lillethun, personally, professionally, or both, and his passing last year is still felt by all of us and in the wider independent film community in Chicago as well. We want to make note of this remembrance/tribute screening of his own film work, and to give it special placement, separate from our usual groupings below.
Todd Lillethun Retrospective (Special Event)
Chicago Filmmakers (5720 N. Ridge Ave.) – Saturday, 7pm
Todd Lillethun passed away of glioblastoma late last year at far too young an age. In the Chicago film scene, he bolstered developing filmmakers both in his four-year stint as Program Director at Chicago Filmmakers, and as an Assistant Director of career services for film students at Northwestern University. Outside the arts community, he was a longtime social worker, caseworker for the formerly homeless, and housing advocate. He was an enthusiastic, gracious, and playful person—and these qualities showed through clearly in his movies, which are being shown as part of a memorial screening at his former workplace this weekend. GOD IS A CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM CAKE WITH VANILLA FROSTING (2000) is a student film made at Columbia College. It's a sharply written monologue from a young man recently returned from fat camp telling his story, making promises to his mother, and using inspirational platitudes against temptation. The story is illustrated with absurdist visuals of random items being taken out of and placed into an oven and food being thrown around the room. The visuals mock the idea of restraint, and ultimately the story just dives head first into desire and indulgence—which is a theme that will reoccur throughout his narratives. Professionally Todd worked in documentary for a large part of his career, and the program contains his short doc NIGHT BUS (2009), which follows the Night Ministry team as they drive around dispensing assistance to the city's most vulnerable populations. The film doesn't shy away from the pressure felt by the staff and treats everyone on screen with equal generosity. Finally, SAFE WORD (2014) and THE QUIT (2018) are light relationship comedies that played extensively on the LGTBQ festival circuit. THE QUIT is about an obsessive man given permission to be an "asshole" to help his partner quit smoking, which he immediately and much-too enthusiastically overdoes to an absurd conclusion. SAFE WORD is likewise about a minor rift in relationships blowing out of control. A confident and adventurous man pushes his uncomfortable partner into role-playing situations. But the rules and reality itself get thrown out the window when jealousy and intercepted text messages turn things sour, then playful, then violent, then everyone just abandons control and (mostly) just decides to have fun. (2000-18, approx. 84 min total, Digital Projection) JBM
Sean Baker’s THE FLORIDA PROJECT (Contemporary American)
The name “Florida” conjures images of a paradise of lush greenery, coral birds, blue skies, and white-sand beaches. Its inviting motto, “The Sunshine State,” bathes the mind in a golden, cheerful glow. Who wouldn’t be happy to find themselves in such a place? Understandably then, Walt Disney Productions found Florida to be the ideal location to build Disney World, a newer, more expansive version of Disneyland, the self-dubbed “Happiest Place on Earth.” Known within Disney during its planning stages as The Florida Project, Disney World now costs hundreds of dollars for admission alone, but that doesn’t stop more than 20 million people a year from visiting. Ironically, in Sean Baker’s THE FLORIDA PROJECT, the children who play along U.S. Route 192, the main tourist strip leading to Disney World, may never pass through its magical gates. For them and their impoverished families, finding the money to pay their week-to-week rent in the resort-town version of an SRO can be an all-consuming task. Veteran filmmaker Baker, whose 2015 iPhone-lensed feature TANGERINE was his breakthrough success, says that he is inspired by location. It shows. Route 192 clearly telegraphs the specifics of his main interest—the children of poverty in a playground of plenty lined with day-glo, kitschy buildings and Disney-inspired names in a story with something of an arc, but no real plot. THE FLORIDA PROJECT is filled with moments that are “the thing itself”—a rainbow, some sandhill cranes leisurely walking in a parking lot, a birthday celebration held by the side of the road in sight of Disney’s nightly fireworks display. Our central protagonist, 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), lives in the Magic Castle Inn with her unemployed mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite). When she is not helping her mother illegally solicit customers to buy cut-rate perfume in the parking lots of Orlando’s fancier hotels, Moonee is running around with her playmate, Scooty (Christopher Rivera), and teaching a timid new friend, Jancey (Valeria Cotto), how to beg and generally raise hell. Route 192 is full of places to explore. The kids weave through overgrown lots and play hide and seek among the adjacent motels. Moonee shows Jancey and Scooty a door at the Magic Castle they’re not supposed to enter and says excitedly, “Let’s go anyway!” Shortly thereafter, the entire motel loses power. In their most spectacular stunt, they burn down an abandoned house in a failed real estate development. Among the adults is a certain esprit de corps fostered by interdependence. Parenting duties are shared and occasionally taught, as when Jancey’s grandmother (Josie Olivo) insists to a disrespectful Halley that Moonee and Scooty clean off the car they have been spitting on. Trying to hold everything together is Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the Magic Castle’s manager. He collects the rent, handles maintenance for the aging property, and watches out for the residents. But he also has a job to do. Although he feels compassion for his tenants, he threatens to toss them out for various infractions and nonpayment of rent. Occasionally, reluctantly, he does just that. Baker grew up loving The Little Rascals—he dedicates the film in part to Hal Roach and Spanky McFarland—and only realized as an adult that the Rascals were poor. He hoped to capture the energy and comedy of those earlier films while underlining the precariousness of his characters’ existence. The film was shot on 35mm by Alexis Zabe, who was responsible for the remarkable look of Carlos Reygadas’ SILENT LIGHT (2007) and POST TENEBRAS LUX (2012). Here Zabe finds a balance between haunting beauty and bright pop, and his night shooting is particularly lush. In the end, Baker returns to his iPhone to shoot his final scene—a mad, magical dash through The Florida Project. It’s the perfect ending to a deeply humane film. Preceded by Gus Meins’ Our Gang short THE FIRST ROUND UP (1934, 20 min, 16mm). Baker in person. (2017, 112 min, 35mm) MF
Martha Coolidge’s VALLEY GIRL (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre — Sunday, 7pm
Director Martha Coolidge has often been tapped for fare directed at teens and young adults, and VALLEY GIRL may be the reason. Recalling the 1982 Frank Zappa tune “Valley Girl” and aided by a sharp script by Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford, winning performances by a smart cast, and great location shooting in and around Los Angeles, Coolidge celebrates the timelessness of teen life and young love in a dead-on satire of Southern California culture in the 1980s. This update of Romeo and Juliet pits the bubblegum culture of the San Fernando Valley against the punk rock rebels of Hollywood High. Julie (Deborah Foreman), the leader of the popular girls of Valley High, is shopping at the mall with her best friends, Suzi (Michelle Meyrink), Stacey (Heidi Holicker), and Loryn (Elizabeth Daily), picking through plastic bracelets and mugging with kicky shoes and cotton jersey tops. Julie, who is dating superhot Tommy (Michael Bowen), complains that he takes her for granted, “like I’m an old chair. I definitely need something new.” Julie runs into Tommy going in the opposite direction on the mall escalator. A short argument ensues as Tommy reverses course on the moving staircase. When they both reach solid ground, Julie says, “I’m so totally not in love with you anymore,” and gives Tommy back his ID bracelet. The movement on opposite sides of the escalator is one of the careful set-ups Coolidge uses to suggest that Julie’s course is shifting away from the familiar. Julie’s rendezvous with destiny happens when punk rocker Randy (Nicholas Cage) and his friend Fred (Cameron Dye) crash a Valley party. The horror of the Valleyspeak teens for the “grody to the max” punks rules all but a curious Julie. In a scene stolen from Franco Zeffirelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET (1968), a person at the party steps out of Randy’s field of vision, revealing Julie in a romantic, Edwardian-style blouse standing alone in the middle of the room. VALLEY GIRL is perhaps best known as the film in which Nic Cage had his first starring role, but there is so much more to this humorous, sobering, and wise movie. There are a number of well-executed subplots. For example, boy-crazy Loryn is used and abused by Tommy, and we see that her promiscuity masks a deep insecurity. Elizabeth Daily is superb in this part of the naïve/wise teen who eventually understands why Julie rejected Tommy. Suzi finds herself competing for Skip (David Ensor), a boy she likes, with her widowed stepmother, Beth (Lee Purcell), who arranges a sexual rendezvous with the clueless lad. As Skip circles on his bike in front of Suzi’s house muttering “this is ridiculous” under his breath, his dilemma is perfectly communicated by the Sparks song “Eaten by the Monster of Love.” The entire soundtrack is full of ’80s gems from the likes of Modern English, Men at Work, the Psychedelic Furs, and the Plimsouls, and Josie Cotton offers a memorable onscreen performance during the climactic Valley High prom. If there is a lesson to be learned, it comes when Julie is pressured by her friends to dump Randy. Julie turns to her father (Frederic Forrest), a flowerchild from the ’60s, for advice. She wants to be with Randy, but she doesn’t want to have any problems. “Now there’s the rub,” her father says in perfect Shakespearean form. Subtly coaxing her away from the group-think of the Valley, he says, “Let me know when YOU decide.” Fer sure. Totally. Introduced by Mike "McBeardo" McPadden, author of the new book Teen Movie Hell. (1983, 99 min, 35mm) MF
Věra Chytilová's DAISIES (Czech Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday, 8:30pm and Wednesday, 8pm
Věra Chytilová's films have earned her acolytes and enemies at an equal rate—particularly DAISIES, an anarchic, poetic, visually exhilarating film lacking in any affirmation whatsoever. In more recent years, it has cemented Chytilová's stature as an avant-garde genius, a feminist icon, and a major influence behind films such as CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING and MULHOLLAND DRIVE. In the period immediately following its release, Chytilová was marked as both a dangerous dissident (by the Czechoslovak government, who unofficially blacklisted her) and a political traitor to the Left (by Godard, who made her the central figure of his anti-Soviet/Czechoslovak documentary PRAVDA). During one of the first screenings of her work in France, audience members walked out, complaining that "they shouldn't make that kind of film. It undermines people's faith in socialism. If that is the way it really is, then none of it is worth it at all." DAISIES leads with exactly this kind of "objectionable" nihilism, opening with the two protagonists deciding that "the world is spoiled; we'll be spoiled, too." These two teenage girls, both named Marie, spend the rest of the film on a hedonistic rampage of consumption and destruction, in no particular order, culminating in a banquet scene that merges both tendencies to an apocalyptic conclusion. Marie and Marie do everything that decent women shouldn't (cheat, steal, make messes, advertise casual sex without following through, overeat, etc)—and care about precisely nothing. They speak in nonsensical, non sequitur dialogue that seems like it could have been randomly generated ("Why say 'I love you?' Why not just 'an egg?'"), but was actually carefully curated by Chytilová to serve as "the guardian of meaning" for her "philosophical documentary." During production, the only thing that she insisted remained untouched was the original script; everything else was up for grabs. Her production team took full advantage of this freedom in depicting the Maries' nihilistic spree, resulting in a surreal and stunning display of meaningless excess at every turn. Most notably, Jaroslav Kucera, the film's cinematographer (and Chytilová's husband), shot the film as one of his famous "colour experiments," and Ester Krumbachová, the film's costumer, styled the Maries in trendy mod bikinis and minidresses as often as elaborate sculptural outfits made from newspaper and loose wires. (1966, 74 min, 35mm) AO
Judith Helfand’s COOKED: SURVIVAL BY ZIP CODE (New Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes
As much as we’d like to think that we become unified—"one nation, under god"—when disaster strikes, it would seem, as evidenced by Judith Helfand’s insightful documentary COOKED: SURVIVAL BY ZIP CODE, that we can’t even agree on what constitutes a disaster. The film puts into perspective, and ultimately contradicts, the seemingly undivided approach we take with regards to calamities, the responses to which, for better or worse (probably worse), have come to characterize our nation. Drawing inspiration from Eric Klineberg’s book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, Helfand uses her family’s experience during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to consider the 1995 Chicago heat wave, when over 700 people, largely older minorities, died. She doesn’t pull her punches—that’s to say, she addresses the situation head-on, explaining the real reasons why so many people died during this little-recognized disaster, chief among them segregation and poverty. (Many of those affected didn’t have air conditioning or even windows, or, if they did have windows, were afraid to open them because of crime.) Far and above this disaster, Helfand examines how we as a nation address these events—including ‘disasters’ which are generally excluded from the definition, specifically those, such as segregation and poverty, that primarily affect non-white populations. Much like documentary-provocateur Michael Moore (but more humbly so), Helfand investigates the inanity surrounding the emergency management industry, one that makes millions, if not billions, of dollars catering to people for whom disaster is merely a hypothetical scenario, but who have the resources to prepare themselves against speculation. Also guilty of this is our own government, which likewise spends significant amounts of taxpayer money preparing for the most random disasters. Case in point: a painfully detailed training exercise Helfand stumbles across here in Chicago, testing out capabilities in preparation against… tornadoes. In and around Chicago—which, the film elucidates, kill on average one person per year. Meanwhile, federal and local governments continue to disinvest from rectifying or even preventing disasters affecting vulnerable populations. Helfand maps out—literally—how the most pervasive disasters, things like gun violence, school closures, and heart disease, affect certain areas, and how something as insubstantial as one’s zip code can be a matter of life or death. “If black people in Chicago had the same death rates as white people, 3,200 fewer black people, in just one year, would have died,” Steve Whitman, former Director of Epidemiology for the City of Chicago from 1990 to 2000 (and who quit because of said inequality), tells a group of people at a public health teach-in. “What number is 3,200?,” he asks. “A very prominent number, in currency, in this country.” Upon someone in the audience understanding his train of thought, he confirms: “The number of people who died on 9/11. Now just think about our response to 9/11. Literally billions, even trillions of dollars spent, and yet here’s 3,000 deaths in just one [year]. Ten years, that’s 32,000 deaths. Just from racism in the city of Chicago.” Whitman is one among several erudite interviewees who speak passionately about their respective area of expertise. Contrast any of them with Brigadier General John W. Heltzel, Deputy Commander of the Kentucky National Guard, who, after launching a full-scale earthquake emergency response exercise (and using the “bootstraps” adage without irony), says, perhaps insincerely, “Now, if you change the laws, and we get people to agree that we want to change the world we live in, kind of the holy grail, right? Go for it. I’m right behind you.” (Can a camera roll its eyes?) Helfand, having previously won a Peabody Award for her film A HEALTHY BABY GIRL, as well as being nominated for a host of other awards, organizes all the information expertly, with her own curiosity and fervor on display. Hers become an almost philosophical investigation into the concept of disaster, suggesting that those that affect us the most aren’t always natural, but rather man-made, disasters of our own making. Helfand and members of the production team in person at various showings (check the Siskel website for details). (2018, 82 min, DCP digital) KS
Preston Sturges’ THE PALM BEACH STORY (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 5:15pm and Tuesday, 6pm
Preston Sturges made one of the most revered screwball comedies, THE LADY EVE, in 1941 and continued his string of 1940s masterpieces in 1942 with another screwball classic, THE PALM BEACH STORY. The zany montage sequence set over the opening credits (scored with a speedy version of the “William Tell Overture”), tells viewers to expect a wild ride. Tom Jeffers (Joel McCrea) is an inventor living with his wife Gerry (Claudette Colbert) in New York. As financial burden sets in for the couple, Gerry comes up with the crazy idea to divorce Tom in order to marry someone rich, who will invest in one of Tom’s inventions. She travels to Florida via rail to file for the divorce and serendipitously finds someone who could help, J.D. Hackensacker (Rudy Vallée). Throw in love-triangled Tom, a quail-hunting club, and a mysterious subplot alluded to during the opening credits, and THE PALM BEACH STORY becomes an absurd juggling act orchestrated by Preston Sturges' dexterous hands. It wouldn’t be a Sturges film without whipcrack dialogue, and both McCrea and Colbert’s ability to perform physical comedy while delivering such ahead of their time lines is remarkable. The plot doesn’t have to make sense in a traditional way to make sense—the ride is worth the price of admission. (1942, 88 min, 35mm) KC
Preston Sturges' THE LADY EVE (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday, 4:15pm, Saturday, 3:15pm, and Thursday, 6pm
Preston Sturges' THE LADY EVE may be one of the best revenge movies ever made. Jean (Barbara Stanwyck) is a beautiful con artist; Charles (Henry Fonda) is a wealthy snake enthusiast. They fall in love aboard an ocean liner, only to break up when he learns of her cardsharp predilections. She gets her revenge by posing as an English aristocrat—Lady Eve—and seducing him into (another) marriage proposal. They wed, and hilarity ensues. By the end, Jean has likewise exacted her revenge and gotten exactly what she'd wanted, leaving the audience as smitten and bewildered as Charles. Sturges' nimble direction lends itself to the narrative finesse of this befuddling romantic comedy, which, as the title suggests, is a play on Adam and Eve, the snake and the apple, and the rest of that Biblical nonsense. But the moral lesson at its core doesn't warn against temptation. Rather, it warns against judgment and an inability to forgive, though it's not beyond reproach—Jean makes her swindler self seem more appealing by having Lady Eve be something of a floozy. On one hand, it's sort of a backhanded commentary on censorship; on the other, it's odd to see sl*t shaming in a film that's arguably sexier than it is humorous—and it's pretty darn funny. But I don't mean sexy like Marilyn Monroe in SOME LIKE IT HOT is sexy; I mean sexy as in ‘I can imagine them having sex,’ something I can't say about many other films. Sturges expertly balances the sensuous, screwball comedy and the straight-up slapstick that further complements the sexiness. For example, Charles can't seem to stop falling over things when in Jean/Eve's presence, which is not only humorous, but also emphasizes the strength of their attraction. Whereas Lubitsch had his touch—and Wilder his slap—writer-turned-director Sturges seems to abide by Jean's father's motto: "Let us be crooked but never common." Some of it may be crooked, but, certainly, nothing in the film is common. (1941, 94 min, 35mm) KS
William Wyler's JEZEBEL (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am
JEZEBEL is a genteel William Wyler-directed Southern Gothic potboiler starring Bette Davis as Julie, a debutante run amuck in the antebellum South. Julie insists on wearing red instead of virginal white to the Olympus ball, leading to her shunning by the whole of New Orleans high society. Her banker beau, Preston Dillard, played by Henry Fonda and his pompadour, flees to the North. He returns with a Yankee bride one year later, on the eve of an outbreak of yellow fever. Everything falls to pieces around Julie—a duel in her honor, abandonment by her fiancé, and lots of foreboding palaver about Southern honor, Northern greed, and meddling abolitionists. This framework allows the movie to indict the gentility while still basking in its fallen woman narrative. The looming Civil War hovers in the background. JEZEBEL keeps historical criticism and its pulpier elements at the edge of frame, primarily constructing itself as a Bette Davis showcase. She pouts, cries, twirls, and collapses through Wyler’s crisp deep focus frames. Davis is terrific, simultaneously petulantly self involved and tragically outraged. (1938, 104 min, 35mm) BM
Fritz Lang's THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 7 and 9:30pm
The first thing that strikes you about WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is that you're expected to believe that Edward G. Robinson is a fogeyish square in baggy trousers and striped socks; this movie's a parade of physiognomies (just look at the membership of the club Robinson hangs out in--one fat, one short, one lean...), and E.G.R.'s harsh face hints otherwise. But maybe that's because WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is a film that intends to make us see through the way the characters present themselves and how they rationalize their actions. After all, if they're so erudite and educated, why are Robinson and his friends so struck by a kitschy portrait? If they're real intellectuals, then why does the intellectualism they practice consist of sitting around in armchairs smoking? If Dan Duryea's supposed to be such a smooth operator, why does he wear that ridiculous boater that makes his ears look like snowshoes? If Joan Bennett is so universally beautiful, why does she put on so much make-up? The truth is that in this movie, everything's a sham, especially the ending. It is, along with CLASH BY NIGHT, one of the cruelest of Fritz Lang's American movies, which Cine-File's Rob Christopher succinctly dubbed "majestic downers" when writing about SCARLET STREET (made the next year with the same cast and a similar set-up). Maybe the cruelest aspect of WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is that the camera always moves a beat too early, as though in anticipation of the next step. And it always guesses right. (1944, 99 min, 16mm archival print) IV
Nicholas Ray’s WIND ACROSS THE EVERGLADES (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 7pm
WIND ACROSS THE EVERGLADES was a troubled film before the cameras even rolled. Nicholas Ray—who made this right after one of his best films, BITTER VICTORY—found Budd Schulberg’s script to be ponderous and overlong, while Schulberg, accustomed to working closely with directors after his collaborations with Elia Kazan (ON THE WATERFRONT, A FACE IN THE CROWD), resented Ray for refusing his input and for being generally bellicose. (According to several sources, Ray was drinking heavily and possibly using heroin when this was being shot.) The movie was made entirely on location in and around the Florida Everglades, which was hit by one of the coldest winters in decades during the shoot, causing the production to fall behind schedule. After the cast and crew deemed Ray too crazy to continue directing, they directed the final scenes themselves in an anarchistic manner, with everyone offering suggestions and Schulberg trying his best to oversee the chaos. The film opened in America to poor box office and reviews, though it fared better in France, where the longtime Ray supporters at Cahiers du cinéma named it one of the best of the year. Given this backstory, you’d expect WIND ACROSS THE EVERGLADES to be an utter mess, yet it contains passages of tremendous beauty and power, and Ray’s distinctive vision shines through for much of the running time. Christopher Plummer (in one of his first screen performances) stars as a game warden trying to curb the widespread poaching of exotic birds in the Everglades around the beginning of the 20th century; Burl Ives plays his rival, the self-proclaimed chief of the backwoods hunters who are driving the birds extinct. Ray’s feeling for misfits and unhealthy passions can be felt the most strongly during the scenes of Ives lording it over his gang and during the heated encounters between the two leads. The supporting cast is so eclectic that it often draws attention away from the story: Gypsy Rose Lee plays the hostess of a music hall, author MacKinlay Kantor turns up as a judge, and among Ives’ gang are former boxer Tony Galento, former circus clown Emmett Kelly, and a young Peter Falk. The Technicolor photography is eye-catching as well—even the B roll footage of the Everglades looks beautiful, and the dialogue scenes maintain a visual intensity thanks to Ray’s brilliant sense of color coordination. (1958, 93 min, 16mm) BS
John Cameron Mitchell’s HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH is a magnificent, glam rock, genderbending film adaptation of an off-Broadway musical by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask. Mitchell and Trask co-wrote and produced the songs together, and the soundtrack is electric, emotive, cinematic, and unforgettable. Mitchell wrote, directed, and starred in HEDWIG as the titular transgender woman from East Berlin. Hedwig grew up daydreaming about David Bowie and Lou Reed in dreary communist housing with her single mother. A failed misfit at university, Hedwig (then Hansel) is swept off her feet by American Sgt. Luther Robinson, a smooth-talking man who convinces Hansel to leave a little...something...behind in order to get married and emigrate to the US, which had been Hansel's dream. One botched sex change operation and failed relationship later, Hedwig finds herself in a singlewide trailer in the midwestern prairie wondering just what to do with her life. The number "Angry Inch" describes her operation to the extreme discomfort of unsuspecting patrons at the seafood restaurant chain where Hedwig regularly performs with her band, followed by "Wig in a Box," a fantastic number about the iconic women who inform Hedwig's feminine persona as she picks herself back up again. Hedwig's life changes dramatically when she begins babysitting an angsty 17-year-old who becomes Tommy Gnosis under her careful tutelage. They fall in love, Tommy catapults to fame, and he leaves his co-writer and lover in the dust. Hedwig has to pick herself back up once again, re-examine her Platonic ideals (her obsession with Greek and German Idealist philosophy shines through the song "The Origin of Love" and her dissertation title: "You Kant Always Get What You Want"), and figure out what she really wants to do with her life and career. HEDWIG shifts from comedy to pathos with masterful ease, despite this being Mitchell's first movie. He workshopped the script at the Sundance Labs and went on to win a string of awards, including three at Sundance Film Festival. It's not difficult to see why, with the fabulous score, cinematography, acting (Miriam Shor is especially wonderful as Yitzshak, Hedwig's disgruntled, scruffy present-day husband who yearns to don drag himself), and a beautiful animation sequence by Emily Hubley. In the 17 years since I was in high school, when I drove two hours away to Madison, Wisconsin to see HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH and left the theatre feeling exuberant, understood, thrilled, and wonderfully alive, this movie has shaped my understanding and appreciation of the film musical. I am happy to say that it still holds up. After seeing many more musicals since HEDWIG, I am convinced that it is one of the most skillful, gorgeous, and effective film adaptations of a stage musical ever made. This may seem ambitious, but I would count this wacky cult classic alongside FUNNY GIRL and CABARET as successful adaptations that use elements specific to the medium of film to amplify powerful moments within the drama and intensify the intimate connection we as audience feel with the protagonist. Like Barbra Streisand's first semi-sarcastic look in the mirror ("Hello, gorgeous!"), Hedwig's semi-panicked-but-pleased look in the mirror after she dons her Farrah Fawcett wig speaks to something tentative and tenacious in us as we don tenuous personas to tackle our quotidian lives. Though Hedwig's experience is strange and unusual and a general audience may not relate to her particular gender odyssey, the intimacy created by the most cinematic and theatrical moments of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH makes her quest for self-realization magnetic and compelling. Much like Minnelli's musicals, HEDWIG even seems to veer into the protagonist's mind in the final sequence, bringing an actualized self to life through music. I dare you to watch the final number of this movie and not feel chills. (2001, 95 min, DCP Digital) AE
Kenji Mizoguchi’s UGETSU (Japanese Revival)
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Wednesday, 8pm (Free Admission; Outdoor Screening)
For most Western moviegoers, UGETSU is the best-known film by Kenji Mizoguchi, as its awesome tracking shots (which connect past and present, fantasy and reality, in single movements) are regularly presented in introductory film courses as exemplifying the form. This ubiquity has brought some cinephiles to underrate it in recent years (much as they underrate the similarly masterful and over-taught CITIZEN KANE), but its power remains undiminished. Adapting a pair of popular ghost stories from the 19th century, Mizoguchi created a personal statement on some of his favorite subjects: greed, spiritual transcendence, and women’s capacity for selflessness. Formally, it is indeed close to flawless—besides the aforementioned tracking shots, the film’s mise-en-scene demonstrates limitless imagination in evoking the feudal era—so if you haven’t seen this on a big screen, you owe it to yourself to go. (1953, 93 min, 16mm) BS
Nancy Schwartzman’s ROLL RED ROLL (New Documentary)
Chicago Cultural Center - Saturday, 2pm (Free Admission)
Any time I forget how so many people could vote for a candidate who was caught on tape describing how sexual assault is part of his nature, all I’ll have to do is watch ROLL RED ROLL again. Here, in graphic detail, is a portrait of rape culture in Steubenville, Ohio—a community like so many across the country and around the world that prizes feeling like a winner above all else. Big Red, the Steubenville High School football team, is the squad of virile young men whose athletic feats form the glue that holds this small, economically depressed town together. When word filters out through social media that some players on the team raped a drunk-to-unconscious 16-year-old girl, the town soon finds itself embroiled in a controversy so incendiary that it makes news around the world, even earning an intervention from the international hacktivist group Anonymous, which makes a video of the rape public. In her first feature-length documentary, Nancy Schwartzman covers a lot of ground—chilling recordings of the calls the boys made to each other, text messages and social media posts, footage of police interrogations of the boys involved in the crime, and especially the work of real crime blogger Alexandria Goddard, who captured all of the fast-moving activity online before it could vanish into the ether. Schwartzman’s interviews with townspeople, girls who knew the victim, and friends of the perpetrators show a town completely in denial about the seriousness of the boys’ actions and working hard to blame the victim for her predicament so as not to tarnish the local heroes. ROLL RED ROLL lays bare what society values and considers expendable, training boys to find monstrous behavior acceptable and teaching girls that they are wholly responsible for any sexual predation they attract. This film, by turns fascinating and horrifying, is vital watching for all, but especially for parents, who have the power to model better attitudes and actions for their impressionable children. Followed by a discussion. (2018, 80 min, Video Projection) MF
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
Cinema 53 (at the Harper Theater, 5238 S. Harper Ave.) presents the Silver Room Block Party Film Fest on Saturday from Noon-10pm. The day-long set of screenings features blocks of shorts selected by Black Harvest Film Festival, Collected Voices: Chicago's Ethnographic Film Festival, The Chicago South Side Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival's Black Perspectives, and Open TV, and will also include highlights from the South Side Home Movie Project. A full schedule is available on Cinema 53's Facebook page. Free admission.
The Beverly Arts Center screens George Tillman Jr.'s 2018 film THE HATE U GIVE (133 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 7:30pm.
Full Spectrum Features presents Emerging Women Filmmakers, in their ongoing Cuban Visions series, on Friday at 7pm at the Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N. Southport Ave.). Screening are Carla Valdés León's 2016 documentary DECEMBER DAYS (45 min) and Sheyla Pool's 2018 narrative short FRAGILE (15 min). More info at tickets at www.fullspectrumfeatures.com/cuban-visions.
The Windy City International Film Festival continues through Sunday at the Victory Gardens Theater (2433 N. Lincoln Ave.). Full schedule at http://windycityfilmfest.com.
The ReelAbilities Film Festival presents Disability Shorts: Friends without Barriers (52 min total, Digital Projection), the first of six programs running through August 22, on Thursday at 6pm at the Chicago Public Library’s Hall Library (4801 S. Michigan Ave.). Admission is free. RSVP and more info at https://reelabilities.org/chicago.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Joel Hopkins’ 2017 UK film HAMPSTEAD (103 min, DCP Digital) and Gerald Fox’s 2004 documentary LEAVING HOME, COMING HOME: A PORTRAIT OF ROBERT FRANK (86 min, DCP Digital; accompanied by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie’s 1959 short PULL MY DAISY, 28 min, Digital Projection) both play for a week; David Morris and Jacqui Morris’ 2018 documentary NUREYEV (109 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 4pm, Sunday at 1pm, and Tuesday at 6pm; and Hu Bo’s 2018 Chinese film AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL (234 min, DCP Digital) is on Monday at 6pm.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Asghar Farhadi, 2018 Spanish/French/Italian film EVERYBODY KNOWS (133 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:30pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Lynn Shelton's 2019 film SWORD OF TRUST (89 min, DCP Digital) opens; Quentin Tarantino's 2019 film ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (161 min, 70mm) begins a limited run on Thursday at 4 and 8pm; Boaz Davidson's 1982 film THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (92 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 9pm, introduced by Mike "McBeardo" McPadden, author of the new book Teen Movie Hell; Pollyanna McIntosh's 2019 film DARLIN' (101 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; Tommy Wisseau's 2003 film THE ROOM (99 min, 35mm) is on Friday at Midnight; and Jim Sharman's 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight.
Facets Cinémathèque screens David Fairhead's 2019 documentary ARMSTRONG (100 min, Video Projection) and Sujewa Ekenayake's 2018 film WEREWOLF NINJA PHILOSOPHER (72 min, Video Projection) for weeklong runs. WEREWOLF director Ekanayake in person for all screenings Friday-Monday; and actor Art Shrian Tiwari in person for all screenings Friday-Sunday.
Also at the Chicago Cultural Center this week: the Cinema/Chicago screening of Chang Tso-Chi's 2013 Taiwanese film A TIME IN QUCHI (109 min, Video Projection) is on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.
The Millennium Park Summer Film Series (at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion) presents an outdoor screening of Morton DaCosta's 1962 film THE MUSIC MAN (151 min) on Tuesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
Also 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).
CINE-LIST: July 19 - July 25, 2019
MANAGING EDITOR // Patrick Friel
ASSOCIATE EDITORS // Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal
CONTRIBUTORS // Kyle Cubr, Alexandra Ensign, Marilyn Ferdinand, JB Mabe, Ben Medina, Anne Orchier, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky