An Interview with Gaspar Noé on Love (2015)

November 13th, 2015 by Patrick


By Kyle Cubr


KC – What movies inspired you to make this film?

GN – The lack of a movie like this inspired me. Life inspired me. It’s an addictive love story. Things like falling in love when you’re a teenager. You become blind to the world while going through the process. Your brain secretes dopamine, serotonin. It’s hard when your object of desire disappears. You lose control of the relationship. It’s a story of carnal addiction. Blue is the Warmest Color was similar but not a heterosexual relationship. I wept while watching it.

KC – Are any of Murphy’s experiences reflective of your own?

GN – It represents life that I’ve seen it. It’s not biographical. Some of the things I’ve seen or experienced. Friends losing girls they love, friends having accidental babies, etc.

KC – What made you decide to shoot Love in 3D?

GN – The fact that I used 3D at home. It creates an additional layer of intimacy. More real and more surreal. 2D does not change the story. It’s like listening to music in mono vs. stereo. It feels better in 3D.

KC – How did the actors respond to having to perform in graphic sex scenes?

GN – I proposed the idea to real couple but never found one. I met Karl and Aomi and we talked about desires and limits. It was done in a joyful way. Very sentimental.

KC – Was there any choreography involved in shooting these scenes?

GN – No. The actors just did what came naturally.

KC – This movie is very personal, what would you say its message about love is?

GN – Love is not only [a] state of ecstasy, it is [a] state of [the] world. There is a lot of joy and suffering unless you become an official couple. When you’re madly in love, it’s a big part of your brain. Some people are more addicted to love than others—genes, nature affect that. Having passionate love is a very shaky thing.

KC – What was the casting process like?

GN – I did not work with a casting director. I asked friends and friends of friends. In the restaurant, party or park, I found people. If they had a good look and seemed nice, I’d film them. Sometimes an assistant helped. I never filmed them naked, just shot close-ups to see how they looked and if they had charisma.

KC – Were there any other scenes that you shot and really liked but didn’t make the final cut?

GN – I did not have full script. Just a seven or eight page treatment. The scenes cut were not needed because it was long at 2 hours and 15 minutes. We were very lucky to find people that were charismatic.

KC – How do you respond to people’s controversy over some of the films posters?

GN – The official posters were females kissing or close-ups of a couple hugging. The additional posters were visuals that had been put in a file to convince distributors that the film had graphic elements. A hand is a hand, penis is penis, belly is a belly. I wanted to show the film was true to life. I didn’t want people to ask if I’d shoot a second version.

KC – Recent films like Nymphomaniac and Blue is The Warmest Color have enjoyed success, do you feel that Love will inspire people to create more erotic cinema?

GN – I don’t think it’s erotic. It’s sentimental, it’s carnal. Many films shot erotically aren’t like this. It’s just the act of sex, no kissing, just the act. Each person comes from one act from their parents. Genetic code is a force that replicates the species.

KC – What are your three favorite films?

GN – Murphy is like a cinematic brother. Many of the posters and films he mentions in Love are reflective of me, so 2001, hard to pick more. Maybe the old King Kong, Cinema Paradiso? There are too many good ones to choose.


“Mise-en-scène As Installation/Installation As Mise-en-scène”

November 1st, 2015 by Patrick

While discussing Agnès Varda’s installation, pithily titled Photographs Get Moving (potatoes and shells, too) and currently on display at the Logan Center Gallery (915 E. 60th St.), a fellow cinephile remarked that they “don’t know much about art.”

This cinephile is mistaken, as is any film lover who assumes these worlds are separate. To know Varda as a filmmaker is to know her as a photographer and a visual artist as well. These are the three lives that University of Chicago lecturer Dominique Bluher worked with Varda to depict in the exhibit; three self-portraits concisely represent her artistic endeavors, and they are mirrored by the exhibit centerpiece, a three-screen video installation combining footage of her beloved spuds with haunting sound design and a carpet of potatoes that cleverly juxtaposes the literal flatness of the imagery.

This is where Dominique and I began our conversation last Thursday. She was kind enough to speak with me at length about Varda’s work, though it’s clear that she genuinely enjoys discussing the artist and her many iterations. Because most who read this will likely already be familiar with Varda’s films, we instead focused on the exhibit. “I think what’s interesting in retrospect is that Agnès Varda’s film work presents already a lot of features that would lead naturally to installation,” Bluher said. “I’m personally very surprised that it was only when Hans Ulrich Obrist invited her to the Venice Biennale [in 2003] to participate in the show that she really took up this invitation and then started to be really interested in doing this installation work.

“I wanted to create a show around the topic of the still and moving image, because that is something that is running through her whole career.”

Self-Portrait, 1949
Agnès Varda In Venice in front of a Bellini Painting, 1962
Fractured Self-Portrait, 2009

Agnès Varda In Venice in front of a Bellini Painting, 1962

“These are the three lives, and more importantly, they are always interconnected. Three self-portraits, each time a self-portrait of an early stage in her life. First official self-portrait [titled Self-Portrait], and it’s a mosaic. The mosaic, the puzzle, has become a very important thing to her. It’s also already a reference. She was studying art. The mosaic is a reference to her love of art. Second self-portrait is of her when she was a young filmmaker. It’s in front of this Bellini painting. For me, this is a wonderful example of her way of doing visual commentary, because she places herself in front of a fraternity of wise men. So she, the woman, instead of putting herself in a group of women, she puts herself in front among a group of wise men. In the last one, it echoes in a certain way the first one. It’s her as a young visual artist at 81. We have again this puzzled, fragmented aspect that is in the first one. But I also think it’s interesting, if you compare the first and last, it’s reflecting on her trajectory, because in her very early films, it was very structured and you could identify very clearly the structure. But in the later films, the structure is very clear, but is not as visible as in the very early works. The structure is always there, but it loosens up into something that is more open in a certain way.”

, 2003

Pautatutopia at the CAFA Art Museum in China

“There are many levels to it. As she says, it is to free herself from the screen format in the movie theater that is one flat screen. This is a triptych, and a triptych is closely associated with Christian veneration, and so this is an homage to, as she says, ‘the most modest vegetable.’ Then you have this immersive aspect to it. And then another thing is that she also thought from the very start when she started working on installation work is that they’re relatively short. This is a kind of double. On the one hand, it is a time-based visual. They take time. So it really calls to your attention and you have to spend time with it. On the other hand, it’s not too long to be something that would be better shown in the movie theater where you have to sit down and watch something that lasts half an hour or longer. I think every piece is shorter than five minutes. It’s this immersive thing, too, that you have to invest yourself in. Also, this sound environment…as she said, this is the best installation of this piece because it’s really pulling you in, so that you’re drawn to these. She also wants these benches to give you the possibility to sit down and really contemplate, and not to be forced to stand. In terms of content, the beauty is already clear, but then it’s also this cycle of life. You have the possibility of showing that the rotten potatoes are not useless, that they have purity. And that what comes out of these potatoes, these sprouts, etc…, create a new form of life. She attempts to do the same with sound, to enhance the quality of something that seems to be dead, or useless, to show that it has qualities that can be emphasized once you pay attention to it. This is parallel to THE GLEANERS AND I. This is also something she uses quite a lot in her installations, to use organic material. Here we have this carpet of potatoes, so you have the contrast between the potatoes that are in the regular format, because we bought them in the food store, so they have no defects, they have the right form and shape and caliber, so the contrast are these heart-shaped monstrous beauties. On the other hand, they, too, start to rot. Luckily, we have some that have started to rot, and hopefully they will sprout before the end of the show. So again, there is this bringing again to life. You also have life in the sense of the editing in your mind of the different images that you’re watching, because even if you can embrace the whole thing, it’s the connection that you will draw between the three frames that is another form of activity that is taking place in this installation.”

Heart Potatoes Series,


“I consider them as portraits. Portraits of beautiful rotten potatoes. To make a portrait of a human is not surprising, but when you consider these as portraits, you are surprised by the individuality of each potato. It’s really an arrangement in order to bring out the potato idea. If you pay attention, each potato has a way to be cast and photographed in order to bring out its individuality. It’s always the same question about where lies the life and the movement. It’s the active gaze of the spectator that is crucial to it. If you don’t spend time with the still image, it doesn’t do anything. It’s only if you spend time, invest yourself in exploring the whole picture, that it becomes more and more meaningful. It calls your attention only if they encounter your attention and don’t appear as just spuds on the wall.”

Zgougou’s tomb, 2006

Zgougou’s tomb on display at Galerie Nathalie Obadia

“The cat was very present in many of her films. It’s in the opening credit for her film production company, Cine-Tamaris. In LE LION VOLATIL, she replaced the lion close to where she lives with the cat. There are many layers to it. In terms of still image and moving image, it is traditional animation. It is not digital animation, but it is image by image. So one shell, then another shell, and then another shell, and they were filmed one after the other, and the movement is created through the connection to the camera. And everything’s visible because of this filtration and the light and the shadows. Again, you have two projections. In the other one there are three, and here again there are two to get rid of the constraints of the movie theater, with these two possibilities to project on the floor and on the wall, and to have them overlapping. Here they have organic material, the sand, that is an ideal projection surface, especially the kind of sand that she has chosen. It’s shaped in a way to create this tomb that she created for her cat. At one moment, you see the actual grave on the island. So she made this grave, then she went away from the grave, and as she explains, this cat in a certain way becomes a little dot in a universe, like us all. Again, like the potatoes, because she pays attention to it, it gives us the opportunity to share this attention to the cat and connect emotionally, very strongly. As long as you have memories and share memories with other people, the memory will still be alive and shared. She doesn’t mention it, but for me, there’s also another connotation because of Jacques Demy.”

Walking Pictures, 1956-58

Photo of Maria do Alívio, a laundrywoman in the North of Portugal, and Sophia Loren

“How do we capture movement? How do we render movement? This one [above] in particular is probably the most clear example of what Henri Cartier-Bresson called ‘the decisive moment.’ But they’re all walking. They’re walking together, they’re walking away. They encounter each other. Also, the selection was meant to have a kind of similar composition, with the figure being relatively big, also with different variations in correspondence to the background. If you have seen VAGABOND, you have realized how important traveling shots are and the material she is walking on. Every travelling shot is of a different material. It goes from right to left and ends on construction that will be taken up in the next one. This is why I said her last self-portrait is also fragmented and structured. It has this looseness. It doesn’t spring at your eyes. Here we have different kinds of grounds on which these people are walking. Different kinds of backgrounds, different kinds of activities, and then also something that has a sculptural quality. Even if it is still, the way it is shot leaves another stillness, like a sculpture. To capture something, a particular moment of the movement, it gives another stillness because it is so expressive. And so paradoxically, it’s the stillness that brings out the strength of the movement.”

“Agnès Varda is not theoretical. We can theorize as much as we want, but I think that most important thing for me is the complexity of thought that she brings into composition, the lighting, the materiality. I think there is so much depth to it, but it is not something that I like to render in conception or jargon. I think it is not the way her intelligence works. I’d rather make an effort to be able to echo her intelligence, not in jargon, but in order to try to find a language to this, an artistic language in simple terms.”

“That is maybe also a reason why her art didn’t have the critical or scholarly attention that it deserves, because it seems so facile and straightforward, evident, but it’s only when you pay more attention and spend more time with it that you really get the complexity and the composition, the contradiction, the transformation, and the political, the sociological, the feminist, the societal…the implication of her work.”

The People on the Terrace
, 2007
Corbusier’s Terrace, 1956

Photo and video on display at the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo

“[Corbusier’s Terrace, left, is] a bit earlier than the [Walking Pictures].  Here we have a snapshot. She didn’t know anything about these people. She wondered what were the possible relationships between people whom she never talked to, whom she never met. And then she wrote this script [for THE PEOPLE ON THE TERRACE, right], which could possibly be the story. What I think is very important is that it includes the procedure of filming, so it’s not a simple confrontation. It includes dialogues and things that could come before but also beyond. It emphasizes that it is only a proposition. Again, it’s a way of stimulating the imagination of the spectator, because even if she gives a proposition, could we imagine what happens before they enter into the frame of the still photograph? In still photography, everything is contained in the frame. In cinema, you have the off-screen, and you can have the off-screen enter when you move the camera or when you have characters come in and leave. This can’t happen in still photography. We have also her voiceover, the commentary. This is another way of having another off-screen, so we don’t just have the off-screen that is the fictional story, but we have also the off-screen that is usually excluded in the representation of what is the ‘making of.’”

Marie in the Wind, 2014

Still photo of Marie in the Wind from Galerie Nathalia Obadia

“This is part of another series she started last year. It’s called Portraits à volets vidéo. It’s like the triptychs on the altar in a church. You have these two panels, like window shutters. It’s a series, and there’s still image in the middle and then the video, and it’s single video projection, and it’s a very complex work because you blank out the middle, you put in the still photography, and then you have video projection on both sides. Still image, moving image. I love this piece in particular because Marie, in the wind…there’s two ways the wind is captured. In her hair and in the pinwheel. So it’s very expressive and echoes in a certain way the still photography of the early 50s. Here the photograph was created already in thinking of the total piece. It’s not a photograph that preexisted the piece. It was made for this piece. You can only see the effect of the movement. It’s only when I stand in front of the piece can I wonder this contrast and opposition between the two media.”


10/9/15 – 10/15/15

October 12th, 2015 by Patrick
Chicago Guide to Alternative Cinema

Friday, October 9 - Thursday, October 15, 2015



Agnès Varda’s CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7 (French Revival)
- With Varda in Person

Music Box Theatre – Wednesday, 7:30pm

Cléo, a stupid and prodigiously influenced rising pop singer, believes she is dying of stomach cancer, a fear that overwhelms her for the majority of the film’s real-time running time and which functions as the movie’s primary organizing device. The opening scene features Cléo at a tarot reading (the only scene in color), setting up a kind of aesthetic thesis statement on Varda’s part: all of existence, in this work, is intimately orchestrated, choreographed, and meaningful, but, crucially, only for this one moment. The fortune-teller is no mere character but a marker for a structural division that cleaves the entirety of the film. The first two-thirds of it are intensely kinetic—mirrors everywhere, setting up bizarre pseudo-split screens, jump cuts unmotivated by plot or psychological concerns, self-reflexive insertions within the narrative (a song performance, a silent film)—and an effect of this is to make the film’s constructed nature unmistakable. As Cléo leaves the tarot reader’s apartment, for instance, her footsteps are in perfect synchrony with the nondiegetic music we hear, and in a remarkable move Varda repeats the same shot of her descending stairs multiple times in a row, drawing her film into the orbits of such hyper-controlled avant-garde artworks as Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase and Murphy and Léger’s 1924 film BALLET MÉCHANIQUE. But after a puzzling encounter with a friend who works as a nude model for sculpture students, Cléo enters a wooded park for the first time and meets a soldier on leave about to return to Algeria. Up until now, the film has been a city-bound labyrinth, filled with confusing and grotesque people, buildings, and images. But in the park and in the company of Antoine (the two share an almost instant connection) the film veers into romance. In a series of lyrical long takes and graceful, unobtrusive stagings, Antoine accompanies her to the hospital where test results await her, findings that she knows may well condemn her to death. And here Varda pulls her most brilliant structural play, for just as Cléo begins to contemplate what the doctor’s words mean to her future, the film ends, half an hour early. CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7 thus turns its protagonist’s melodramas into the stuff of deepest power, for the ending is not conclusion but a demand that each of us in the audience supply the missing minutes of Cléo’s life. Indeed, the final five minutes reveal the formal virtuosity of the preceding scenes to have actually been ruminations on the roles of fate, love, and death, and turn Cléo’s silly up-and-coming singer into a chanteuse of modernist melancholy. The ideal screening of this masterpiece would keep the lights low and theatre doors shut two quarter hours after the projectors were silenced, forcing the viewers to dwell in the same tenuous uncertainties that Cléo, freed now from her celluloid prison, no longer needs concern herself with. (1961, 89 min, DCP Digital) KB

Showing as part of CinéVardaExpo, see More Screenings below.

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J.L. Anderson’s SPRING NIGHT, SUMMER NIGHT (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Sunday, 5pm and Monday, 6pm
“It just ain’t right.” This simple logic, uttered by a man confronting the realities of an unwed pregnancy, is challenged throughout J.L. Anderson’s SPRING NIGHT, SUMMER NIGHT. Set in rural southeastern Ohio, it’s about a teenage girl who becomes impregnated by her maybe-half-brother. (The plot centers around the aforementioned man going around town trying to figure out who “did this” to his ex-wife’s daughter.) This inherently “hillbilly,” and thus “unsophisticated,” premise is paralleled by stunningly beautiful cinematography that evokes silent cinema, expressionism, and neo-realism: silent cinema in its occasional reliance on physical action to move the story; expressionism in its ashen depiction used to impart tone; and neo-realism in both how it looks and how it was made. Anderson had been hired to establish the film production department at Ohio University in Athens, and though he wasn’t from the Appalachian region he depicted in his film, he spent years exploring the area and becoming familiar with its idiosyncrasies. The three cinematographers responsible for the ghostly aesthetic were students of his, and most of the cast and crew were locals who had volunteered their time. Ross Lipman, Senior Film Restorationist at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, wrote that he’d “gradually been realising the existence of an unknown and completely accidental—but surprisingly coherent—body of American neorealism,” placing SPRING NIGHT, SUMMER NIGHT alongside such films as Charles Burnett’s KILLER OF SHEEP, Kent MacKenzie’s THE EXILES, Barbara Loden’s WANDA, Billy Woodberry’s BLESS THEIR LITTLE HEARTS, and Floyd Mutrux’s DUSTY AND SWEETS MCGEE. The subheader of Lipman’s Sight & Sound article refers to it as being part of “1960s indie neorealism,” a label that concisely—and perhaps arguably—conveys its distinction. Anderson’s first and only feature, it was supposed to screen at the 1968 New York Film Festival but was replaced at the last minute with John Cassavetes’ FACES. It was later acquired by exploitation distributor Joseph Brenner, who hired a young Martin Scorsese to consult on the re-edit. Lipman writes that, “according to legend, Scorsese told him the film was perfect as it was and should remain unchanged.” Despite this  recommendation, Brenner proceeded to have Anderson add a few nude scenes and changed its title to MISS JESSICA IS PREGNANT. Though it likely made for an artful soft-porn film, such additions could only reinforce the id rather than explicate it, as is accomplished by the original cut. In the Sight & Sound piece from a few years back, Lipman wrote that “as yet we have no funding to restore it.” Thankfully, the Packard Humanities Institute has since provided the funds, so we can all revel in the morally complex hillbilly classic (or, as Anderson referred to it, the “New Appalachian Cinema”) that is SPRING NIGHT, SUMMER NIGHT. (1967, 82 min, Newly Preserved 35mm Print) KS

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Anthony Mann’s MEN IN WAR (American Revival)

Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 6pm and Sunday, 3pm

When asked which of his films he liked best, Anthony Mann reportedly listed MEN IN WAR along with WINCHESTER ‘73, EL CID, and GOD’S LITTLE ACRE. It’s similar to the latter film in that both are one-offs within the scope of his career; GOD’S LITTLE ACRE is a bona fide literary adaptation, and MEN IN WAR was Mann’s only foray into a genre that would have seemed a natural fit for the director whom Andrew Sarris said directed action movies with a “tough-guy authority.” Set during the Korean War (on September 6, 1950, to be exact), the film is about a platoon that’s trying to reconnect with American forces after being cut off during battle. Robert Ryan plays Lieutenant Benson, who acts as a father figure to his troops, trying to protect them while likewise validating their importance as human beings in the face of mindless warfare. (He carries a little black book that he uses to keep track of his boys—alive and dead.) Benson and his men commandeer a jeep driven by a wayward sergeant (“Montana,” played by Aldo Ray) whose only desire is to get his shell-shocked colonel to safety. Benson is a born leader who thinks before he acts, while Montana reveals himself to be a natural soldier compelled solely by instinct. As in many of his films, Mann explores the relationship between these two characters within an overarching group dynamic. This is just one way in which he effortlessly merged aspects of art cinema with the audience’s relentless demand for entertaining stories; as critic and director Dan Sallitt once said, “Filming two people sitting in a room talking is the ultimate in cinema,” and this is what Mann touches on when he pulls out any two people from the group to emphasize their complex rapport. It’s further demonstrated through his masterful compositions. In her book on the director, film historian Jeanine Basinger writes that he “evolved the concept of the total image, one which contained story (content) and presentation of story with the tools of cinema (form) as a unified event.” That’s Mann in a nutshell, and it applies to MEN IN WAR no less than to his other more well-known films. One might argue that when specifically applied to the topic of war, such artfulness is the perfect visual representation of it. Close-ups and medium shots reflect both the foot soldier’s sense of impending doom and the nature of the relationships that feeling creates, while the occasional long shot conveys the natural isolation of combat. (Mann also utilizes nature to expert effect. The landscape doesn’t become a character so much as a monster that hides out in the open.) It’s based on the novel Combat by Van Van Praag, about which little information exists past its connection to the film. Legend has it that the credited screenwriter, Chicago-born Philip Yordan, may have been providing a front for the work of blacklisted screenwriter Ben Maddow. Regardless, it’s a Mann film through and through, even if it’s one of his most underrated. (1957, 102 min, Newly Restored 35mm Print) KS

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Buster Keaton’s BATTLING BUTLER (Silent Revival)

Music Box Theatre – Saturday, Noon

What influence could Buster Keaton’s BATTLING BUTLER possibly have had on Martin Scorsese’s RAGING BULL? Scorsese explains: “When I’d seen boxing matches between double features on Saturday afternoons as a kid, it was always from the same angle, and that’s why I became so bored. The only person who had the right attitude about boxing in the movies for me was Buster Keaton.” Though RAGING BULL is notably exhibitive of Scorsese’s cinephilia, it’s nonetheless ironic that a silent comedy should inform such an intense drama. But in much the same way that Scorsese and various other directors of boxing films utilize the ring’s potential as a metaphor for the harsh world, Keaton uses it to highlight the travails of a shiftless aristocrat. In BATTLING BUTLER, the Great Stone Face plays Alfred Butler, a complacent rich kid whose father sends him to the mountains on a hunting and fishing trip so that he may learn self-sufficiency. Naturally, he takes along his butler to arrange everything. There he meets a girl and becomes enveloped in a lie after her family allows her to marry him thinking he’s tough-guy boxer Alfred “Battling” Butler. He’s later caught flirting with the fighter’s wife, and the big lug decides to let the seemingly diminutive charlatan defend the championship for real—or so said charlatan is led to believe. BATTLING BUTLER was a box-office success, grossing nearly three-quarters of a million dollars, and Keaton often cited it as his favorite film. Sadly, it’s not much revered by critics; its position in Keaton’s filmography right before THE GENERAL probably doesn’t help much. But it’s well worth watching, if not for the laughs or its influence on other great cinema, then at least for Keaton’s striking physique. Live accompaniment by Dennis Scott. (1926, 77 min, 35mm) KS

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Luis Buñuel’s LOS OLVIDADOS (Mexican Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 6:15pm and Tuesday, 6pm
It is said that after Vittorio De Sica saw LOS OLVIDADOS for the first time he asked Buñuel, “Has society done something to you? Has it mistreated you? Have you suffered a lot?” De Sica, perhaps, could not see beyond the dirt-poor misery of the street kids in the film, so vividly rendered by Buñuel. He might have even foolishly taken the opening title card at face value: “This film is based on true facts. No character is fictional.” But in a 1953 essay Buñuel wrote, “Neorealist reality is incomplete, conventional, and above all rational. The poetry, the mystery, all that completes and enlarges tangible reality is utterly lacking.” In other words, realism is not sufficient to capture reality. That’s why, just as in his earlier “documentary” masterpiece LAS HURDES, he has no qualms about reshuffling real events and even inserting flashes of surreal fantasy to heighten the truth of the moment. And yet the film is the antithesis of the SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE approach, because his portrait of “the forgotten ones” fuses reality and mystery, but fastidiously avoids sentimentality. It’s one reason why, even 65 years later, his depiction of how poverty dehumanizes the poor is still so unnerving (and underseen). The Tuesday night screening will be preceded by Larry Jordan’s VISIONS OF A CITY (1978, 8 min, 16mm) which has been described by Gary Morris in Bright Lights Film Journal as “[A] gorgeously evocative record of [...] a city (San Francisco) seemingly made entirely of reflective surfaces.” The Tuesday screening also includes an introduction by critic and artist Fred Camper. (1950, 80 min, 35mm) RC

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Luis Buñuel’s ILLUSION TRAVELS BY STREETCAR (Mexican Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (Northeastern Illinois University, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) – Tuesday, 7pm
In his autobiography, Buñuel mentions this film only in passing; elsewhere he told critics Jose de la Colina and Tomas Perez Turrent, “I don’t like the title and didn’t choose it.” But even if the filmmaker himself didn’t seem to have much fondness for it, even minor Buñuel is worth seeing. The plotline, about two inebriated transit workers who commandeer the title conveyance for a late-night joyride, sounds almost like a Preston Sturges movie. And it certainly is one of the great surrealist’s most carefree works. Like many of Buñuel’s Mexican films, it was shot quickly and cheaply. Yet several critics have praised its mise-en-scene, particularly the way the characters interact within the crowded frame, which serves as proof of the director’s instinctual economy. When you’re working fast, every shot counts. Introduced by Paul A Schroeder Rodriguez, Professor of Spanish, NEIU. (1954, 82 min, 35mm) RC

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Gordon Parks’ SHAFT (American Revival)

Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 7pm

“Who’s the black private dick / who’s a sex machine to all the chicks? / Shaft! / Who is the man / who would risk his neck for his brother man? / Shaft! / Who’s the cat that won’t cop out / when there’s danger all about? / Shaft! / They say this cat Shaft is one bad mother— / SHUT YOUR MOUTH / I’m only talking about Shaft / THEN WE CAN DIG IT.” (Isaac Hayes) (1971, 100 min, 35mm)

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Lars von Trier’s THE BOSS OF IT ALL (Experimental Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) – Thursday, 7pm
At a 1967 symposium on the New American Cinema at the University of Cincinnati, John Cage, composer of 4’33″, delivered an extended riff on his art and its relationship to contemporary cinema: “To me, the essential meaning of silence is the giving up of intention. As we might expect, few films follow silence in renouncing intention: when one looks at films (and I here lump together art films and Hollywood films) one sees that intention is almost never renounced. I think that the closest to the renunciation of intention … would, in my experience, be through the films of Stan VanDerbeek, a renunciation of intention which is effected through the multiplication of images. In this multiplicity, intention becomes lost and becomes silent, as it were, in the eyes of the observer.” VanDerbeek was hardly the only avant-garde filmmaker to renounce intention. Barbara Rubin implored the projectionist to find a rockin’ local radio station to serve as the soundtrack for CHRISTMAS ON EARTH. Fred Camper leaves the selection of one of the reels of his multi-reel Super 8 work SN to a random number generator before each screening. Who’d ever think to put self-styled enfant terrible Lars von Trier in their company? Personally speaking, I get off the von Trier bus as it cruises the portentous path to MELANCHOLIA—is it wrong to prefer von Trier at his most self-effacing? The script for THE BOSS OF IT ALL is a good one, an incisive satire of corporate skullduggery that, but for its utter, deadpan absurdity, could court that fashionable Nordic Noir label. But von Trier righteously fucks it up with a sui generis cinematographic conceit: Automavision, a system of von Trier’s invention that produces a cacophony of random, computer-selected camera angles and movements. Von Trier described his new toy as “a principle for shooting film developed with the intention of limiting human influence by inviting chance in from the cold and thus giving the work an idea-less surface free of the force of habit and aesthetics.” As far as I can tell, Lars hasn’t sold any other filmmakers on his Automavision, but the process is uniquely suited to THE BOSS OF IT ALL—a work conceived in the crucible of an utterly irrational universe where even self-interest is never properly understood. Two years after the BOSS OF IT ALL shoot (and the bout of severe depression that followed), von Trier mused, “If you want bad framing, Automavision is the perfect way to do it. It was rather pleasant to lose control. In this case, I wanted to lose control 100 per cent.” When a filmmaker has nothing to say, but speaks anyway, that’s a bad film. When a filmmaker conceives and elaborates a system for negating himself, that’s a work of art. (2006, 99 min, 35mm) KAW
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Eric Rohmer’s PAULINE AT THE BEACH (French Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Monday, 7pm
The 15-year-old Pauline (Amanda Langlet) drifts through the background of countless shots in PAULINE AT THE BEACH, bearing witness to the romantic schemes played by the adults who occupy a seaside resort in Normandy. She, as it turns out, will not be impervious to these entanglements, later chastising her new boyfriend for his willingness to participate in what she calls, “their [adult] games.” This third entry of Eric Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs” series invents six distinct characters who all play a part in what turns out to be a traditional sex farce. The irony is that they each delude themselves into either fervently playing into or actively betraying the role that they identify themselves with. Despite the way that the film foregrounds the incongruities in a character’s spoken philosophies vs. their actions, Rohmer isn’t so much interested in parading their naïveté as he is in finding the small tragedies and ironies that occur in their various romantic involvements. A comedy that plays like particularly tantalizing gossip, PAULINE AT THE BEACH exhibits Rohmer at his most amusing. (1983, 94 min, 35mm) EF
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Archie Mayo’s THE PETRIFIED FOREST (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Sunday, 7pm
THE PETRIFIED FOREST did for Bogie what OF HUMAN BONDAGE did for Bette. After several years of bit parts on Broadway and in various films, and just before almost giving up on showbiz entirely, Humphrey Bogart received his big break playing against type…as a gangster. (He’d done a few such roles on film before, though nothing as substantial or impressive.) This is in large part due to his friend and co-star Leslie Howard, who appeared with him in the Broadway production of Robert E. Sherwood’s eponymous play. According to one biography, some theatergoers were so shocked that they audibly gasped upon seeing Bogart in such a brusque role as opposed to the lighter characters he’d played onstage before. But the show was a hit, and Warner Bros. soon acquired the film rights. However, the studio was reluctant to let Bogart reprise his role as the villain Duke Mantee, and it took Howard threatening to walk for them to allow it. But all’s well that ends well, as this role can undoubtedly be credited with relaunching Bogart’s stagnant film career. Unfortunately, his performance as the quietly complicated gangster is the most subtle thing about Archie Mayo’s stagy adaptation. Howard and Davis give it their all, but Bogart is more prophetic in his brevity than Howard is enlightened in his protracted monologues. The strength of Davis’ performance rests somewhere in between; sometimes a single look conveys a thousand words, while at other times it feels like she’s actually saying a thousand words. Both of the leads’ shortcomings are likely due to the too-faithful retelling and Mayo’s stodgy direction, though Bogart stands out more in light of these failings. Still, the lamentable histrionics and isolated setting lend a haphazard surrealism to an otherwise rote adaptation. It’s not great, but it’s good, and Bogart’s turn as a John Dillinger-esque gangster portends an illustrious career that was both singular and sweeping. (1936, 82 min, 35mm) KS

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Ingmar Bergman’s SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT (Swedish Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Wednesday, 7 and 9:15pm
Falling on the lighter side of Ingmar Bergman’s oeuvre, SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT is atypical of his darker, religiously symbolic films that followed. Deeply personal with latent sexually frustrated undertones, it alternates between comedy and romance. Lawyer Fredrick Egerman (Gunnar Björnstrand) lives with his much younger virginal second wife, Anne (Ulla Jacobsson), his seminary school enrolled adult son, Henrick (Björn Bjelvenstam), and their promiscuous maid, Petra (Harriet Andersson). Fredrick’s former mistress, Desiree (Eva Dahlbeck), comes back into his life, and the two quickly rekindle their old flame. It is found that she is currently the mistress to another married man, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Jarl Kulle). All of the aforementioned characters come together at Desiree’s mother’s house for a dinner party where a tangled web is woven. SUMMER NIGHT calls to mind Renoir’s THE RULES OF THE GAME wherein their respective high society aristocrats frequently cheat on one another and everyone wants to be with someone else. They are the antithesis of what is expected of them. Fredrick and Malcolm’s terse rivalry pits the two against one another for Desiree’s affections. Both men’s virility is compared to an animal—Fredrick, an old wolf and Malcolm, a tiger. Their prey are any of the nubile women around them, and both men are ravenous. The crescendo occurs at the film’s climax when a game of Russian Roulette is decided upon as the only way to solve their quarrels. Bergman brilliantly likens sexual release to the gun firing, as one man lands the object of his affections and the other is left emasculated. SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT is a masterwork on sexuality, interpersonal relationships, and virtues versus vice; it is the personification of summer turning to fall.
(1955, 108 min, 35mm) KC

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Wim Wenders’ KINGS OF THE ROAD (West German Revival)

Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 3pm and Wednesday, 6:30pm

The quintessential Wim Wenders movie—an epic fusion of cinephilia, chic existentialism, hanging out, observations about the Americanization of Europe, boredom, and bad-ass rock and roll. It is a road movie without a destination—another Wenders specialty—but one with deep feeling for transience: Robbie Müller’s claim to have taken inspiration from Walker Evans’s photographs of Depression-era America is in no way pretentious. (The slightly grainy, though rich-in-depth black-and-white photography is so masterful that KINGS can be described as the quintessential Müller film, too.) The movie concerns a traveling projectionist and the bourgeois dropout who decides, on a whim, to join him on his tour of servicing rural cinemas. Their journey lopes from one poignantly observed ghost town to another, a perfect landscape on which to depict the men’s alienation with contemporary life. (Appropriate for a work about aimlessness, Wenders wrote much of the film during shooting, a method that anticipates the films of Wong-kar Wai.) The film’s outlook is very much in keeping with the political defeatism of the New German Cinema, yet it would be inaccurate to describe KINGS OF THE ROAD as a pessimistic work. Wenders achieves a universal melancholy here, which makes the moments of humor and innocence that much more cathartic. Especially impressive is a scene in which the protagonists perform a shadow play on a blank movie screen for a group of schoolchildren in a town where they’re working. It is a sweet, impassioned reminder of why movies exist and it alone is worth the cost of admission. (1976, 175 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) BS

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Martha Coolidge’s REAL GENIUS (American Revival)

Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 9:15pm

Martha Coolidge’s fastidious reproduction of the fraternal patriarchy of Caltech high-energy physics research in REAL GENIUS may as well be the pinnacle of naturalism. Usually (and understandably) thought of as a comedy, REAL GENIUS in retrospect is one of the most fully realized cinematic critiques of both the military sponsorship of the physical sciences and the nerd zeitgeist that provides its unreflexive labor pool. From the obnoxious celebrity R1 professor to the sycophantic and cutthroat Ph.D. students; the naïve teen prodigies and basement-dwelling wingnut dropouts; and finally the titular legitimate thinkers who can no longer accept the fundamentally amoral terms of their profession, the film presents a synchronic snapshot of a completely self-reproducing social order. For the young Mitch Taylor, the supersenior Chris Knight, and the enterprising recluse (and ultimate millionaire) Lazlo Hollyfeld are, in fact, all manifestations of the same man. (1985, 108 min, 35mm) MC

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Leo McCarey’s AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (American Revival)

Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) – Wednesday, 1 and 7:30pm

Leo McCarey’s superb AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER is the perfect reminder that still waters run deep. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are as cool a romantic couple as you can have—for much of the film they are awkwardly trying to ignore their feelings for one another. Their careful and reserved manner is complimented by McCarey’s subtlety and formal restraint. He realizes that a quick glance or tiny gesture can be more emotionally devastating than tear-jerking bombast. It is through this simplicity of style and performance that McCarey builds a raw, palpable tension between Grant and Kerr that becomes near-anxiety for the audience—the waiting game for some kind of resolution is almost unbearable. Finally, when emotions are allowed to break free, it is cathartic and achingly right. (1957, 119 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) PF

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Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s THE TRIBE (New Ukrainian)

Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Saturday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 3:45pm

Don’t look now but Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s THE TRIBE might be the most ambitious and original film to be released this century. What makes Slaboshpitsky’s film so unique is that it is entirely silent except for ambient noise and performed entirely in sign language. No music, no dialogue–just background sounds and unsubtitled signing. It is truly remarkable the effect silence has here. Emphatic signing, facial gestures, and body language say more than any words ever could in this tour de force. The story centers on Serhiy (Grygoriy Fesenko) as he joins a boarding school for the deaf and assimilates into the gang that seemingly runs everything. Serhiy is initiated slowly into the nefarious group with simple cons and robberies, but things take a much darker turn when violence and prostitution are introduced. TRIBE’s dark and nihilistic tones are further heightened by Slaboshpitsky’s use of the long take. Lingering on a man being beaten or teenage girls being pimped out to truckers at a rest stop, these lengthy takes unflinching depict the sinister side of humanity. The film’s bleak, muted color scheme instills the viewer with unsavory memories of an endless Chicago winter. These dreary images serve as a reminder of how cruel life can be. Slaboshpitsky’s scenes are constantly open to multiple interpretations due to the nature of their content. Short of knowing Ukrainian sign language, each viewer will surely have a slightly differing opinion on what is being communicated between characters, rewarding multiple viewings. THE TRIBE is filmmaking in its purest and emotionally resonant form. (2014, 132 min, DCP Digital) KC

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Geeta and Ravi Patel’s MEET THE PATELS (New Documentary)

Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes

Meet Ravi, a twenty-nine year old Indian-American actor who has just broken up with Amanda, his girlfriend of two years (a relationship that’s been kept secret from his parents). Shortly after, he goes on a trip to India with his father Vasant, mother Champa, and sister Geeta (co-director of the film). Ravi agrees to have his family help arrange a woman to marry for him and has his biodata (essentially a dating resume, filled with facts such as caste, education, hobbies, known acquaintances, etc.) sent out to the entire extended Patel clan. As the matchmaking starts, he is soon set up on numerous dates that don’t go anywhere beyond the initial meetings. Ravi tries a myriad of other methods to meet women, from online dating sites to weddings to attending the annual Patel convention in Philadelphia. The narrative crafted by Patel is lighthearted and humorous as Ravi is stuck in the middle between his parents’ traditional arranged-marriage Indian culture and his own American culture of dating in order to find the one. The talking-head sequences are all done as animations, which is in keeping with the playful tone of the film and also allows for flashbacks and previous conversations to be visualized. MEET THE PATELS strongly challenges the traditions of one’s heritage and how they evolve from one generation to the next. What worked for his elders doesn’t necessarily work for him. The four principal Patels are portrayed as a loving and supportive family who all want the best for one another. Ultimately, this documentary shows that there is no secret recipe to finding love and that sometimes all you can do is be open and wait for it to come to you. (2014, 88 min, DCP Digital) KC

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The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) at the Logan Center for the Arts presents CinéVardaExpo, a series of events celebrating acclaimed French filmmaker Agnès Varda, who will be in person at several of the events. Note that many of the programs are SOLD OUT (some have waiting lists available). Checkévardaexpo-chicago for the most up to date ticket availability information and for complete details. All events at the Logan Center and Black Cinema House are free admission (but ticketed); the screening at the Music Box Theatre is $12. All films at the Logan Center and the Music Box are showing from DCP Digital, except for THE BEACHES OF AGNES, which is 35mm. The format for THE GLEANERS AND I is not confirmed, but likely a digital format.


At the Logan Center: My Three Lives: An Artist Talk by Agnès Varda (In Person) (Friday); Playing Colors (Shorts Program; Saturday); Women Reply (Shorts Program; Saturday); VAGABOND (1985, 105 min; Saturday); Jessica Stockholder and Agnès Varda in Conversation (In Person) (Sunday); Still Photography and Moving Pictures (Shorts Program; Sunday); Installation As Mise-en-scène (Shorts Program; Saturday); and THE BEACHES OF AGNES (In Person) (2008, 110 min, 35mm; Thursday).

Plus off-site: THE GLEANERS AND I (2000, 82 min) is at the Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) on Monday at 7pm, with Varda in person. Advance reservations for this event are now FULL. A waiting list will be available at the door beginning at 6:30pm; and CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7 (1961, 90 min) is at the Music Box Theater on Wednesday at 7:30pm, with Varda in person.

Plus, an exhibition of Varda’s still photography, Photographs Get Moving (potatoes and shells, too), is on view through November 8 at the Logan Center Gallery. A reception is on Friday from 5-9pm.

Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: Joan Jonas: Myths, Mirrors & Monitors is on Friday at 7pm. The screening features four of Jonas’ video works: ORGANIC HONEY’S VISUAL TELEPATHY (1972, 17 min), DUET (1972, 4 min), DOUBLE LUNAR DOGS (1984, 24 min), and VOLCANO SAGA (1989, 28 min). Jonas also gives a Talk on Saturday at 2pm at the Norris University Center (McCormick Auditorium, 1999 Campus Dr.). Free admission for both.

The Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center presents The Animated Films of Suzan Pitt on Thursday at 6pm (Suzan Pitt is unable to attend, as originally scheduled; she will be introducing and doing a Q&A via Skype). Screening are three films showing in newly restored prints from the Academy Film Archive, WHITNEY COMMERCIAL (1973, 16mm), ASPARAGUS (1979, 35mm), and JOY STREET (1995, 35mm), and two recent digital works, VISITATION (2011) and PINBALL (2013).

At and presented by Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) this week: Pistols and Stamen: Ellen Nielsen & Leslie Rogers, a program of work by local artists and videomakers Nielsen and Rogers, is on Saturday at 8pm, with the artists in person. The program repeats on Tuesday at 6:30pm at Columbia College (Hokin Hall, 623 South Wabash Ave.); local filmmakers Mary Fishman’s 2012 documentary BAND OF SISTERS (88 min) is on Sunday at 2:30pm at Loyola University (Damen Student Center, First Floor,
6511 N. Sheridan Rd.), with Fishman in person; and A New Black Cinematic Vernacular: Kinfolk Collective is on Thursday at 7pm at Columbia College (Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.).

Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents a double feature of Arn McConnell and Todd Rutt’s 1987 film SHOCK! SHOCK! SHOCK! (60 min, Digital Projection) and Christopher C. Frieri’s 1990 film THE ORBITRONS (60 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 8pm. Free admission.

Screening at (but not presented by) Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) this week: On Friday at 8pm is a double feature of Cosmotropia de Xam’s 2015 film INFERNO VENEZIANO (67 min) and Jason Bognacki’s 2014 film ANOTHER (78 min), with Bryan Martinez’s short GELATO GIALLO screening in between; and on Sunday at 6pm is a screening of Amir George’s 2015 short documentary EL STORIES: ART ON TRACK (33 min) and another short titled THE GAZE (no information available), followed by a panel discussion.

The Chicago International Film Festival opens on Thursday with Nanni Moretti’s 2015 French/Italian film MIA MADRE (106 min, Digital Projection). Details and full schedule at

Filmfront (1740 W. 18th St.) screens a film by Chantal Akerman (title not announced) on Sunday at 7pm. Digital Projection.

Also at the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: Woody Allen’s 2015 film IRRATIONAL MAN (95 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 2 and 7:30pm. Free admission.

Also a the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Kate Geis’ 2014 documentary PAUL TAYLOR CREATIVE DOMAIN (86 min, DCP Digital; Geis in person at the Friday screenings) and Yury Bykov’s 2014 Russian film THE FOOL (121 min, DCP Digital) play for a week; and Takashi Miike’s 2015 film YAKUZA APOCALYPSE (115 min, DCP Digital) screens on Friday and Thursday at 8:15pm, Saturday at 8pm, and Monday at 7:45pm.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: George Roy Hill’s 1969 film BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (110 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday at 1:30pm; and Ekachai Uekrongtham’s 2007 Singaporean film PLEASURE FACTORY (88 min, DVD Projection) is on Tuesday at 7pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Douglas Tirola’s 2015 documentary DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: THE STORY OF THE NATIONAL LAMPOON (98 min, DCP Digital) opens; Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s 2014 Austrian horror film GOODNIGHT MOMMY (99 min) continues; Hiroyuki Yamashita’s 2015 Japanese animated film BORUTO: NARUTO THE MOVIE (100 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday and Sunday at Noon, Saturday at Midnight, and Monday at 7:20pm; Maria Matteoli’s 2013 film THE WINE OF SUMMER (90 min) is on Sunday at 9:45pm; Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s 2014 film WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (86 min), along with the short film AFRONAUTS, is on Thursday at 7pm; Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper’s 2015 documentary T-REX (91 min), along with the short films WORLD OF TOMORROW and SUBMARINE SANDWICH, is on Thursday at 9:20pm; and Jason Lei Howden’s 2015 film DEATHGASM (86 min) is on Friday at Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Arne Birkenstock’s 2014 German documentary BELTRACCHI: THE ART OF FORGERY (93 min, Unconfirmed Format) and Colin Healey’s 2014 film HOMEMAKERS (85 min, Unconfirmed Format; Healey in person at the Friday 7:30pm and Saturday 5:45 and 7:45pm screenings) both play for a week.




Julius Cæsar (3311 W. Carroll Ave.) continues a show of work by video maker and artist Shana Moulton. The show features Moulton’s video installation MY LIFE AS AN INFJ (2015) and the single channel video MINDPLACE THOUGHTSTREAM (2014).

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Im Reich der Sonnenfinsternis (In the empire of the solar eclipse), an installation by Belgian artists Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, which is comprised of paintings, sculpture, photography, drawings and a 25 minute video entitled DAS LOCH (THE HOLE). On view through January 17.



Chicago Public Library screenings: Due to the frequency of late-additions (past our deadlines) and to their frequent inability (due to licensing restrictions) of publicly listing the titles of films they are screening, we will no longer be listing specific CPL screenings. Check their website for any films that may be showing.

The Patio Theater and the Portage Theater calendars have been confusing and constantly shifting—adding and removing events with little notice—and reportedly have been unexpectedly closed for scheduled events. We will no longer attempt to list any screenings there.


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CINE-LIST: October 9 – October 15, 2015


CONTRIBUTORS / Kian Bergstrom, Michael Castelle, Rob Christopher, Kyle Cubr, Eric Fuerst, Ben Sachs,  Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal, Darnell Witt

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CINE-LIST: Friday, JULY 17 – Thursday, JULY 23

July 17th, 2015 by Patrick

:: Friday, JULY 17 – Thursday, JULY 23 ::


Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes (Animated Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Saturday and Sunday, 11am (Free Admission)
The Music Box rolls out a generous (and free!) nearly three-hour selection of 24 Warner Bros. cartoons, 16 featuring Bugs Bunny (they’re calling the screening “Bugs Bunny and Friends”), and most directed by the legendary Chuck Jones—and all in 35mm! Here are a few noteworthy entries (all by Chuck Jones except BUGSY & MUGSY). In THE RABBIT OF SEVILLE (1950), Bugs Bunny is chased by Elmer Fudd onto the stage where an opera is being performed. Their antics are accompanied by the music from The Barber of Seville. Mel Blanc’s staccato singing voice blends well with the furiously fast-paced animation of Bugs acting as Elmer’s barber. Daffy Duck’s greedy personality is on full display in ALI BABA BUNNY (1957) as he and Bugs stumble upon a cave of treasures. A common theme of these cartoons is explored as the duo must go up against an oaf. Another frequent theme touched on is Daffy’s karmic punishment for his overzealousness. DUCK AMUCK (1953), a surrealist Daffy Duck vehicle, toys with the typical rules of animation, with Daffy expecting one scene to act in front of, only to have it quickly change to something else. A dizzying, dreamlike effect is achieved. As Daffy finds both himself and the background constantly erased and redrawn, the unexpected and bizarre occur. In BUGSY & MUGSY (1957, Friz Freleng) Bugs finds himself living under the floorboards of two crooks on the lam from the law, Mugsy and Rocky. An homage to the early days of gangster cinema, Mugsy clearly parodies Edward G. Robinson in LITTLE CAESAR. Short in stature and big on talk, he intimidates his doltish partner through threats and mild violence. The final shot harkens back to the neon sign from the original SCARFACE, replacing “The World is Yours” with “Rocky’s Hideaway”. The more famous of the two operatic films showing, WHAT’S OPERA, DOC? (1957), also includes the most memorable songs in Looney Tunes history, “Kill the Wabbit,” which is sung to the tune of “Flight of the Valkyries”. What makes this short so special is the way it flips the typical Bugs/Elmer dynamic on its head with Elmer finally getting the upper hand. Subtly riffing on FANTASIA, this is Chuck Jones’ magnum opus. Many of the other shorts not mentioned above are classics in their own right; all of which are worth seeing (which should go without saying). Also screening are the following (all directed by Chuck Jones, except where noted): BEDEVILLED RABBIT (1957, Robert McKimson), DEVIL MAY HARE (1954, Robert McKimson), DUCK RABBIT DUCK (1953), OPERATION: RABBIT (1952), RABBIT HOOD (1949), BILL OF HARE (1962, Robert McKimson), FOR SCENT-I-MENTAL REASONS (1949), RABBIT FIRE (1951), THE FOGHORN LEGHORN (1948, Robert McKimson), DUCK DODGERS IN THE 24 1/2TH CENTURY (1953), FORWARD MARCH HARE (1953), HARE LIFT (1952, Friz Freleng), MY BUNNY LIES OVER THE SEA (1948), REALLY SCENT (1959, Abe Levitow), LITTLE BEAU PEPE (1952), NO BARKING (1954), ONE FROGGY EVENING (1955), RABBIT SEASONING (1952), and THERE THEY GO GO GO (1956). (1948-62, approx. 170 min total, 35mm) KC

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THE ISLAND OF ST. MATTHEWS and Other Recent Work by Kevin Jerome Everson (Experimental Documentary)

The Nightingale and Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) – Monday, 7pm

For almost twenty years, Kevin Everson has been documenting personal and neglected aspects of the black experience in America, primarily in the South and Midwest (he was born in Ohio and live and teaches in Virginia). The dedication and sheer quantity of his films and videos transforms this project into a political act—even if the works themselves are not overtly so. Everson focuses on issues of labor—of work—and the ways in which place shapes people. The two films in this program are telling examples of both these issues. The longer of the two, THE ISLAND OF ST. MATTHEWS (2013, 64 min, Digital Projection), is about the citizens and environs of the small community of Westport, Mississippi. Specifically, about the region’s relationship with the Tombigbee River and a major 1973 flood.  Everson combines long takes of the river and the locks, scenes of work and activity involving the river (a locks operator, river baptisms, water skiing), other scenes of work (a cosmetology school, an insurance agent, a preacher), and reminiscences of locals about the 1973 flood. It’s a quiet, measured film that allows the river its time and the people to speak at their own pace. Work, leisure, faith, and environment are inseparably entwined. Also showing is FE26 (2014, 7 min, Digital Projection), a short that moves the exploration of labor and place to the urban setting of Cleveland. Two men make their living off of the blight of abandoned houses and the streets themselves, as they strip buildings of copper and sidewalks of manhole covers. Even the depressed inner city can provide work, albeit illegal, and physical labor provides a relationship with place. Attendees will receive a printing of A Girl’s Youngtown by Jacqueline Marino courtesy of Belt Magazine. Post-screening discussion moderated by Belt Magazine Editor, Martha Bayne. PF

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Ingmar Bergman’s SUMMER WITH MONIKA (Swedish Revival)

Northwest Chicago Film Society at Northeastern Illinois University (The Auditorium, Building E. 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) – Wednesday 7pm
That the story of a willful teenager and her summer romance was picked up by Kroger Babb (the man behind such titles as SHE SHOULDA SAID NO) and distributed in the U.S. as an exploitation film should come as no surprise. The film was recut, with emphasis on Harriet Andersson’s scandalous nudity, and retitled MONIKA: THE STORY OF A BAD GIRL. “Naughty and Nineteen” promotional posters declared. Monika is a rebellious, sexually experienced teenager who winds up pregnant. We even see her ass. It’s not a tough sell. But this is Bergman. Andersson’s Monika isn’t offered up to the audience as an object for its salivation and sanctimony. She is never really punished for her “sins”—not cowed into domesticity or subjected to whatever horrors typically await “bad girls.” She is triumphant to the end. It is she who chooses Harry Lund, as if at random, to provide her with a light and a date to the cinema that first night. “I’m crazy about you,” she says, addressing Harry but gazing at her own reflection. She is a fervent consumer of love on screen and in print, and she has decided to embark on a summer romance of her own. Harry Lund, a shop clerk from a petit bourgeois home, is not exactly the stuff of dreams. Next to Monika, he is about as charismatic as a pat of butter. But he has a nice face and a kind demeanor, and, most importantly, he’s game. Monika has enough life for the both of them. She commands the screen. Yes, we see her ass, but she also holds our gaze in a radically drawn out extreme close-up. At about 30 seconds, it’s long enough that we can’t help but feel her mind churning, blood pumping, and life bursting just below the surface. What are we to think of Monika? Is she really so bad? So she chooses to spend a summer on a boat cruising along the Swedish coast, bathing naked in tide pools and dancing on piers. Given the opportunity, what sort of soulless monster would do otherwise? And what’s her alternative? To work in some cold cellar, selling dry goods to leering customers. What we see of her life in working class Stockholm puts into sharp relief the couple’s idyllic summer days (captured in all their sun-dappled glory by Gunnar Fischer). Her romanticism won’t allow her to accept the everyday drudgery that’s her lot. She is, at times, vulgar and petulant, self-absorbed and needlessly cruel—a typical teenager. But even at her worst, she’s captivating. Monika is as much Andersson’s creation as she is Bergman’s. For the director no other actress could have played the part. No other girl “could be more Monika-sh.” Andersson imbues the role with an energy that is both preternatural and wholly organic. When Harry jumps and shouts and acts wild, it’s a performance. He is playacting rebellion. Monika seems at home in that wildness. Freedom suits her. However we might judge her final act, it’s impossible to spend an hour and a half watching her live, so naturally and irresistibly, and wish to see that freedom tempered.
(1953, 97 min, 35mm) EJC

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Dudley Murphy’s THE EMPEROR JONES (American Revival)

Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Wednesday, 7pm

Eugene O’Neill’s one-act from 1920 was instrumental in making his career, and Paul Robeson, plucked from relative obscurity to star in a revival of it four years later, rapidly because a stage superstar. In eight scenes, the play follows the titular Brutus Jones as he tries to escape through a moonlit jungle from a mob of Caribbean islanders out to kill him. Six of these scenes comprise a massive monologue by Jones interspersed with hallucinated dumbshows illustrating an unreliable version of his life’s story. Through equal parts cunning and cruelty, Jones has managed to set himself up as dictator of a small, impoverished nation, after having killed at least two people in the United States and escaped from prison. Now, having amassed a fortune safely stored offshore, Jones tries to slip out of the country before his subjects murder him. It’s a great play: astonishingly intense, emotionally complex, boldly experimental in form. It’s also a work of truly repulsive bigotry. Its lines written in a nauseating, dehumanizing dialect and its central character shown as only barely human in intellect, urge, and appetite, O’Neill’s play is as flatly indefensible today as a blackface routine. The movie is a different thing altogether. Radically expanded in scope, the movie dramatizes much of what is implied or suggested in the play, invents new characters, scenes, and a decade’s worth of backstory for Jones that simply doesn’t exist in the O’Neill. Paul Robeson, brought into the production to reprise his role as Brutus Jones, was quite simply the best American actor alive at the time, and he captivates the eye and dominates the frame like a typhoon conquers a beachhead. The way Robeson plays Jones, every muscle, every tendon is stretched as though his body knows what his mind does not–that every coming second could mean either flight or death. The film is built around Robeson’s amazing talent, building a mesmerizing, shifting chiaroscuro that surrounds and imprisons him, showing all the world as a dizzying labyrinth of power and betrayal and hubris. Dudley Murphy, a truly great and undersung director (THE SOUL OF THE CYPRESS, BALLET MÉCHANIQUE, BLACK AND TAN, ONE THIRD OF A NATION) stages each scene as a tragedy, each shot as a secret. He has the supporting characters move through space as though they’re haunting it, rightfully focusing his incredible kinetic gifts on Robeson, who, under Murphy’s direction, creates a Brutus Jones who isn’t just tragic but also pitiable, not a caricature or stereotype but an Everyman. Shortly after it was completed, a variety of censorship boards demanded severe cuts, and despite a restoration effort by the Library of Congress, several key sequences have been lost, perhaps permanently. This adds a choppy confusion to quite a few scenes, particularly toward the end, but in no way diminishes the power of Murphy and Robeson’s collaboration. (1933, 105 min, Archival 35mm Print) KB

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Orson Welles’ THE TRIAL (International Revival)

Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 5:30pm and Thursday, 6pm

Casting a glib and voluble Anthony Perkins in the role of Josef K., a man compelled to court by a nebulous governmental authority who is ignorant of any crime, provides for a decidedly strange and personal adaptation of Kafka’s unfinished story. At times a confounding film, Orson Welles’ loose adaptation offers an unsettling and haunting expression of the modern experience. By putting K—and by extension the audience—into byzantine governmental systems, nightmarish and anonymous spaces, and contact with people sometimes better described as moving bodies, Welles “confronts the corruptions and self-deceptions of the contemporary world.” Iconic images abound through Welles’ aesthetic mastery, using sets and later (when the money ran out) abandoned locales in Paris, Zagreb, and Rome; the scale of an office floor the size of an airplane hangar is astonishing. Welles himself—also appearing as K’s lawyer—is monumental in scale as well, looming over the picture in all his anxiety and discontent. (1962, 118 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) BW

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The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) and The Chicago 8 Small Gauge Film Festival present Life Without Buildings: Super 8mm Films by Steve Polta on Sunday at 7pm, with San Francisco-based experimental filmmaker Polta in person. Screening are a selection of Polta’s Super-8mm films (and one 16mm) from 1996-2011. Unconfirmed running time.

South Side Projections presents Everything Must Come to Light: The Films of Mpumi Njinge on Saturday at 7pm at the Hyde Park Free Theater (1448 E. 57th St.). This screening of two short documentaries by the late South African clothing designer, actor, and filmmaker Mpumi Njing features MY SON THE BRIDE (2002, 24 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format), about the first same-sex marriage between black men in South Africa, and EVERYTHING MUST COME TO LIGHT (2002, 25 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format), about three lesbian sangomas (traditional healers) in Soweto. Followed by a discussion led by Andrew Brown, who is finishing a PhD in performance studies at Northwestern University. Free Admission.

Also at The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) this week: Basement Media #5: Lo Fi-Lo Def-Lo Tech Moving Image Works (approx. 79 min, Various Formats) is on Saturday at 7pm, with curator LJ Frezza in person. With work by Yates, Jarrett Hayman, John Wilson, Amelia Johannes, Eric Stewart, Paul Turano, Jared Hutchinson, Hannah Piper Burns, Henning Frederik Malz, and Felipe Steinberg.

Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) presents 2014 CDMPF Award Winners Exhibition on Saturday at 8pm, with select filmmakers in person. Screening are excerpts of the awarded projects by Logan Jaffe and Zachary Sigelko, Leon Kelsick, Laura Stewart, Anuradha Rana and Doris C. Rusch, Benjamin Jaffe, Kyle Henry, Robert Carnilius, Fahima Mohamood, Tirtza Even, Bob Hercules and Gordon Quinn, JoAnne Smith, and Manual Cinema and Ben Kauffman. The screening repeats, with select filmmakers in person, on Wednesday at 6:30pm at Columbia College (Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan Ave.). Free admission for both screenings.

Transistor Chicago (3441 N. Broadway St.) screens Abel Ferrara’s 2005 film MARY (83 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 8pm. Introduced by local film writer and instructor Michael Glover Smith. Free admission.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Alexander Hall’s 1934 film LITTLE MISS MARKER (80 min, Restored 35mm Print) is on Saturday at 3pm and Monday at 6pm; Philippe De Broca’s 1961 French film FIVE DAY LOVER (95 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Friday and Tuesday at 6pm; Kim Farrant’s 2015 film STRANGERLAND (112 min, DCP Digital), Shawn Rech and Brandon Kimber’s 2015 documentary A MURDER IN THE PARK (93 min, DCP Digital; check the Siskel website for in person appearance details), and Lucie Borleteau’s 2014 French film FIDELIO: ALICE’S ODYSSEY (97 min, DCP Digital) all play for a week; and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1951 film TALES OF HOFFMANN (135 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Sunday at 3pm and Wednesday at 6pm.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Gerald Cargl’s 1983 film ANGST (83 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 7 and 9pm; Hal Needham’s 1977 film SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (96 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 7 and 9pm; and Enzo G. Castellari’s 1967 film ANY GUN CAN PLAY (105 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 7pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Sean Baker’s 2015 film TANGERINE (88 min) opens; Matthew Heineman’s 2015 documentary CARTEL LAND (98 min, DCP Digital), Crystal Moselle’s 2015 documentary THE WOLFPACK (80 min), and Carol Reed’s 1949 film THE THIRD MAN (104 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) all continue; Penelope Spheeris’ 1998 documentary THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART III (86 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 film THE ROOM (99 min, 35mm) is on Friday at Midnight; and Jim Sharman’s 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Pablo Fendrik’s 2014 film ARDOR (101 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week’s run.

The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Brad Bird’s 2004 animated film THE INCREDIBLES (115 min, DCP Digital) on Wednesday, 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission.

The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 200) screens Andreas Dresen’s 2010 film CLOUD NINE (100 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.

The Chicago Cultural Center presents a screening of Chicago youth-made and other work selected by Cultural Center Artist in Residence Cheryl Pope on Sunday at 3pm; and hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of Sudabeh Mortezai’s 2013 Austrian film MACONDO (98 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission for both.

Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents an outdoor screening of George Chesebro and Bruce Mitchell’s 1925 silent film WOLF BLOOD: A TALE OF THE FOREST (approx. 68 min, Digital Projection) is on Wednesday at sundown (approx. 8:30pm), with live music by The Gothsicles. Free admission.




The Zhou B Art Center (1029 W 35th St.) is presents the exhibition -scape, curated by Mo Chen and Snow Yunxue Fu, from July 17 to August 28. Opening Reception Friday from 7-10pm. The mixed-media show includes several moving image works. The exhibiting artists are Jon Cates, Mo Chen, Snow Yunxue Fu, Philip Hanson, Max Hattler, Alan Kwan, and Philip Vanderhyden.

Roman Susan (1224 W. Loyola Ave.) continues the exhibition Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney: havoc and tumbled from through 25. The show features video, 16mm film, sound, and painting by the collaborative local artists.

Deadly Prey Gallery (1433 W. Chicago Ave.) presents the exhibition Action-Packed & Horrible, featuring contemporary (1990s-present) hand-painted movie posters from Ghana. The show runs through July 24.

The exhibition Frances Stark: Intimism is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through August 30. The show is a comprehensive survey of Stark’s video and digital production.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents an exhibition of nine video works by artist Keren Cytter. On view through October 4.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents German artist Clemens von Wedemeyer’s HD video installation Muster (Rushes) (2012). On view through July 26.




Chicago Public Library screenings: Due to the frequency of late-additions (past our deadlines) and to their frequent inability (due to licensing restrictions) of publicly listing the titles of films they are screening, we will no longer be listing specific CPL screenings. Check their website for any films that may be showing.

The Patio Theater and the Portage Theater calendars have been confusing and constantly shifting—adding and removing events with little notice—and reportedly have been unexpectedly closed for scheduled events. We will no longer attempt to list any screenings there.



CINE-LIST: July 17 – July 23, 2015


CONTRIBUTORS / Kian Bergstrom, Elspeth J. Carroll, Kyle Cubr, Kathleen Sachs, Brian Welesko


CINE-LIST: Friday, JULY 3 – Thursday, JULY 9

July 3rd, 2015 by Patrick

:: Friday, JUNE 12 – Thursday, JUNE 18 ::



Anthony Mann’s MEN IN WAR (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Wednesday, 7pm
When asked which of his own films he liked best, Anthony Mann reportedly listed MEN IN WAR along with WINCHESTER ‘73, EL CID and GOD’S LITTLE ACRE. It’s similar to the latter film in that both are one-offs within the scope of his career; GOD’S LITTLE ACRE is a bona fide literary adaptation, while MEN IN WAR was Mann’s only foray into a genre that would have seemed a natural fit for the director whom Andrew Sarris deemed a “tough-guy authority.” Set during the Korean War (on September 6, 1950, to be exact), the film is about a platoon that’s trying to reconnect with American forces after being cut off during battle. Robert Ryan plays Lieutenant Benson, who acts as a father figure to his troops, trying to protect them while likewise validating their importance as human beings in the face of mindless warfare. (He carries a little black book that he uses to keep track of his boys—alive and dead.) Benson and his men commandeer a jeep driven by a wayward sergeant (“Montana,” played by Aldo Ray) whose only desire is to get his shell-shocked colonel to safety. Benson and Montana come to represent opposite ends of the spectrum; Benson is a born leader who thinks before he acts, while Montana is a natural soldier compelled solely by instinct. As in many of his films, Mann explores the dynamic between these two characters within the overarching group dynamic. This is just one way in which he effortlessly merged aspects of art cinema with the audience’s relentless demand for entertaining stories; as critic and director Dan Sallitt once said, “Filming two people sitting in a room talking is the ultimate in cinema,” and this is what Mann touches on when he pulls out any two people from the group dynamic to emphasize their complex relationship. This is further demonstrated through his masterful compositions. In her book on the director, film historian Jeanine Basinger writes that he “evolved the concept of the total image, one which contained story (content) and presentation of story with the tools of cinema (form) as a unified event.” This is Mann in a nutshell, and it applies to MEN IN WAR no less than to his other more well-known films. One might argue that when specifically applied to the topic of war, such artfulness is the perfect visual representation of it. Close-ups and medium shots reflect both the isolation of combat and the nature of the relationships it creates, while the occasional long shot conveys the foot soldier’s sense of impending doom. (Mann also utilizes nature to expert effect. The landscape doesn’t become a character so much as a monster that hides out in the open.) It’s based on the novel Combat by Van Van Praag, about which little information exists past its connection to the film. Legend has it that the credited screenwriter, Chicago-born Philip Yordan, may have been providing a front for the work of blacklisted screenwriter Ben Maddow on both this film and GOD’S LITTLE ACRE. Regardless, it’s a Mann film through and through, even if it’s one of his most underrated. (1957, 102 min, 16mm) KS

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Eric Rohmer’s FULL MOON IN PARIS (French Revival)

Gene Siskel Film Center – Sunday, 5pm and Thursday, 6pm

The final film in Eric Rohmer’s Comedies & Proverbs series, FULL MOON IN PARIS begins with a quote: “With two women, a man loses his soul. Two houses, a man loses his mind.” However, the main character of this film is not a man, but a woman, played by Pascale Ogier who, at 25, would die a year later from a drug overdose on the eve of her 26th birthday. She only appeared in a handful of films, but this one, along with LE PONT DU NORD by another New Waver, Jacques Rivette (which she co-wrote along with her mother, Bulle), would solidify her position in the canon of young French actresses (the filmic mainstream talks of Binoche and Huppert, but what of Bonnaire, Berto, and Ogier?). Ogier plays a young woman (Louise), living in the suburbs with her boyfriend, who yearns for the freedom to stay up late, come home when she wants, and be alone when she wants, all the while maintaining the stability of her relationship. After a moment of strife, the couple reaches an agreement; she will maintain her small apartment in Paris, and he will maintain his house in the French suburbs, and their relationship will blossom. As the months pass by and the young woman comes back into contact with the life she knew before she met her boyfriend, she becomes steeped in her new existence, and this is when the film makes a subtle shift in tone, turning into an almost-“detective story,” similar to Rohmer’s previous film, THE AVIATOR’S WIFE. The young woman starts to suspect her boyfriend may have taken a lover, now that her newfound freedom extends to him as well. The film not only wraps itself in Louise’s behavior, but also in the mysterious ambience of Paris in the wee-hours, haunted by the affective glow of the full moon, anticipating the solar energy of his next film, THE GREEN RAY. The men in Louise’s life try to trap her, keep her within an arm’s reach, but the film goes beyond the usual stale-trappings a male filmmaker often treads trying to harness the “unknowable force” that propels a young woman, often encased in the husk of half-baked Flaubert, and instead renders the character completely human, as her moral fabric starts to loosen its thread and she comes to see the reality of her choices; and just as the movie opens with a quote, another line is uttered towards the end: “One has to choose. It’s painful.” (1984, 102 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) JD

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Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS & Joseph Zito’s INVASION U.S.A. (American Revivals)
Northbrook Public Library (
1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) – Wednesday, 1 and 7:30pm (Free Admission) (Batman)

Music Box Theatre – Friday and Saturday, Midnight (Invasion)
There are genres that depend on a kind of implicitly moral worldbuilding. It’s often been said that the detective genre is inherently conservative in form. A crime is committed, a violation to the status quo, and it is the job or duty of the detective to return society to proper working order, usually by uncovering the identity of the killer or thief and arranging for that miscreant’s proper punishment. When the detective film values law and order it does so because in the world of that film, law and order are right, good, just. The superhero film, however, does not value law and order, does not find resolution in the wheels of justice. The superhero film finds civilization an encumbrance, a deep-seated problem that a grand hero must transform, and these two great Reagan/Bush I era movies embody two divergent ways to respond to that problem. Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS (1992, 126 min, 35mm) is a vision of sexual expansiveness, one of the dirtiest PG-13 films ever made. Easily the best Batman movie, BATMAN RETURNS follows a secretary, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), who stumbles on to her boss’s plot to rob Gotham City of its electricity.  He promptly murders her, but, possessed by a feline spirit of some sort, she returns to seek vengeance on him and all men who exploit women. Her violent, erotically charged vigilante spree through the city brings her to the attention of a brutal, thuggish man in a rubber bat costume with a savior complex and a deformed aquatic bird fetishist intent on mass murder. Burton’s oiled, diseased, leather-clad architecture, Weimar-derived style, and grisly sense of humor are at their height here: the sets sweat, the costumes are some nightmarish combination of S&M magazine and Barnum & Bailey dumpster, and the unctuous, evil little plots the villains set threaten equal parts bloodlust and wicked comeuppance. It’s the perfect atmosphere to stage a vicious feminist assault on the patronizing Good Guys vs. Bad Guys for the sake of Our Women bullshit that still haunts our movies today like a fart in an elevator. Kyle in her new guise as Catwoman is neither hero nor crook but a woman hell-bent on playing by a different set of rules. BATMAN RETURNS is an anarchic, transgressive morality tale in which the conventional crime fighter and his conventional foe are equally in the wrong, in which the city is saved by the destruction of the order it tried so hard to enshrine. In contrast, Joseph Zito’s INVASION U.S.A. (1985, 107 min, 35mm) is its political opposite, a reactionary, elegiac murder-fest in which an army of terrorists invades the United States and begins an all-out offensive within our national borders. They blow up suburban homes, shoot out Miami street corners, plant bombs on school buses and in shopping malls. The government, weakened by the need to police minorities and harass photojournalists, is powerless. Only one man can stop them: Matt Hunter, played with Affleck-like subtlety by Chuck Norris, a former CIA operative now hunting alligators in the Everglades. Hunter’s response? Blow every terrorist on U.S. soil to smithereens, preferably with automatic machine guns. INVASION U.S.A. was the second collaboration between Norris and director Zito, following the previous year’s MISSING IN ACTION. Zito, given a very free hand, imbues the film with a melancholic, despairing air that is deeply at odds with the fascistic horrors enacted on screen. His shots of Florida’s swamps are richly beautiful, a natural world soon to be incinerated in a hail of rocket propelled grenades, knives through hands, and car chases. Zito takes pains in every shot to ground the absurd action in a fully living, breathing environment of life, life that must be defended against the terrorists and from which the hero, Hunter, emerges. Throughout, Hunter is made explicitly a force of nature, a man who comes from outside the bounds of society to save us, but who can have no true place within it. BATMAN RETURNS sees a rotting darkness at the heart of the city and metaphorically burns the city to the ground in response, setting the darkness free. INVASION U.S.A. sees that same darkness, and leaps in after it, pouring hot lead and fire after itself to seal the darkness in. KB

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Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (British Revival)

Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes

Carol Reed and Graham Greene’s THE THIRD MAN stars Joseph Cotton as Holly Martins, an American writer of “cheap novelettes” such as Oklahoma Kid and The Lone Rider of Santa Fe. In 1949, Martins goes to Vienna to visit his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) and soon finds out that he is dead. In an international zone designated for police at the center of the city, the British Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and his officers investigate Lime’s recent death and his role in selling diluted penicillin on the black market. Martins also begins to look into whether the death was an accident or murder only to inadvertently discover that Lime is alive and hiding out in the Russian sector. (Although Welles spends very little time onscreen, Harry Lime is his most celebrated performance after Charles Foster Kane; in fact, Andre Bazin said that the role made Welles into a myth.) Similar to Vittorio De Sica’s THE BICYCLE THIEF (1948) and Jean Cocteau’s ORPHEUS (1950) in its semi-documentary quality, THE THIRD MAN captures Europe in ruins after the second war to end all wars. Following the February 1948 coup that brought the Communists to power in Czechoslovakia, the film’s producer Alexander Korda asked Greene to go to Vienna and write a screenplay on the city’s occupation by the Americans, Russians, British, and French. According to Lime’s associate “Baron” Kurtz (a reference to the corrupt ivory trader in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness), all of the Viennese are now at the mercy of the black market. Robert Krasker’s camera often catches their faces in close-up as they watch what happens on the city’s streets; they rarely, if ever, make the mistake of speaking about it. Toward the end of the film, Martins meets Lime at an empty carnival in Prater Park. While going around on the Ferris wheel, Lime reveals to his friend, “You’re just a little mixed up about things in general. Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat. I talk about the suckers and the mugs. It’s the same thing.  They have their five-year plans, so have I.” THE THIRD MAN is one of the great works of British film noir that considers what, if anything, is left of morality for those who were spared by the Second World War. (1949, 104 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) CW

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Mia Hansen-Løve’s EDEN (New French)

Music Box Theatre – Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

It is a remarkable (albeit Francophilic) fact that one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers–Claire Denis–and one of the world’s greatest up-and-coming filmmakers–Mia Hansen-Løve–are, more-or-less, serious aficionados of club music, a relentless, ecstatic, and sometimes melancholic variety of genres which, to be honest, is poorly matched to many other emotions conventionally provoked by cinema. But like her protagonists in EDEN, Hansen-Løve has thrown caution to the wind and built an epic 21-year audiovisual mixtape around the prolonged young-adulthood of her brother, Sven Løve, a Parisian DJ whose social circle was obsessed with the soulful, vocals-heavy style of the 1980s-era Paradise Garage nightclub in New York (located around the corner from Film Forum). Her staging thrives in the events’ thresholds–in those tunnels and stairways of echoing (and frequently Chicago-manufactured) basslines, spaces sometimes more memorable than the parties themselves–for those were the corporeal and mundane passages through which an apolitical generation in Europe and England found a temporary transcendence. But radically, EDEN’s story is told less through plot and dialogue than in the gospel-influenced lyrics of the wall-to-wall soundtrack, stylistically constrained to express love, heartbreak, isolation, and communion. The addresser and addressee of these songs, once representing a choir speaking to god, comes to represent the voice of a lover to another; or from dancer to anonymous dancer; or from the DJ to the dance floor. “Follow me, where we can be free”; “Let’s get close, closer than close”; “I’m trying to hold on to your love”; “One more time, one more time, one more time, one more time.”  (2014, 131 min, DCP Digital) MC

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The Northwest Chicago Film Society, in their new home at Northeastern Illinois University (Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.), presents Michael Ritchie’s 1975 film SMILE (113 min, 35mm) on Wednesday at 7pm.

The Sulzer Regional Library (4455 N. Lincoln Ave.) presents a screening of soundies, TV ads, and movie trailers from the collection of artist and filmmaker Heather McAdams on Thursday at 7pm. The screening is in conjunction with an exhibition of McAdams’ cartoons, drawings, needlepoint, and other art, which runs through July 31. All 16mm. Free admission.

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Radius GRIDS: GRIDS Book Release and FLEETING COMPONENTS Screening on Tuesday at 7pm. The book release of GRIDS, which documents the activities of the experimental radio broadcast platform Radius, will be accompanied by a new film by Stephanie Acosta, FLEETING COMPONENTS.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Peter H. Hunt’s 1972 musical 1776 (166 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Friday at 3pm and Monday at 6pm; Richard Lester’s 1964 musical A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (87 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Friday at 6:15pm, Saturday at 3pm, and Tuesday at 6pm; Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s 2010 Japanese animation THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY (94 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 3pm (subtitled), Saturday at 5pm (English dubbed), and Wednesday at 6pm (subtitled); Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s 2014 Japanese animation WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (103 min, DCP Digital; check website for subtitled vs. dubbed screenings), Eran Riklis’ 2014 Israeli/German/French film A BORROWED IDENTITY (104 min, DCP Digital), and Josh Lawson’s 2014 Australian film THE LITTLE DEATH (96 min, DCP Digital) all play for a week.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Neena Nejad and Xoel Pamos’ 2014 documentary PRICE OF HONOR (118 min, DVD Projection) is on Thursday at 7pm, with Pamos in person for a post-screening panel discussion. Free admission.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Crystal Moselle’s 2015 documentary THE WOLFPACK (80 min) continues; Julie Taymor’s 2014 film A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (148 min) is on Sunday at 11:30am and Tuesday at 7pm; Michael Curtiz’s 1942 musical biography YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (126 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 11:30am, preceded by a holiday sing-along; Dito Montiel’s 2014 film BOULEVARD (88 min) screens on Wednesday at 7pm as part of the occasional New York Film Critics series; and Joseph Zito’s 1985 film INVASION U.S.A. (107 min, 35mm) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Kenny Riches 2014 film THE STRONGEST MAN (99 min, Unconfirmed Format) and Billy Senese’s 2014 film CLOSER TO GOD (82 min, Unconfirmed Format) for week long runs.

Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents John Woo’s 1997 film FACE/OFF (139 min, Digital File) on Friday at 8pm. The screening features live commentary by local comedians; Ernest J. Ramon’s 2015 compilation film CRITICAL PARANOIA 2: DARK NIGHT RISING (87 min, Digital Projection) is on Tuesday at 8:30pm, screening outdoors; and an outdoor screening of Marshall Neilan’s 1918 silent film STELLA MARIS (80 min, Digital Projection) is on Wednesday at sundown (approx. 8:30pm), with live music by The Passerines. Free admission for all three events.

The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of Chi-Jan Hou, Ko-Shang Shen, and Yu-Hsun Chen’s 2010 Taiwanese film JULIETS (106 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.




Deadly Prey Gallery (1433 W. Chicago Ave.) presents the exhibition Action-Packed & Horrible, featuring contemporary (1990s-present) hand-painted movie posters from Ghana. The opening is Friday from 7 to 11pm and the show runs through July 24.

The exhibition Frances Stark: Intimism is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through August 30. The show is a comprehensive survey of Stark’s video and digital production.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents an exhibition of nine video works by artist Keren Cytter. On view through October 4.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents German artist Clemens von Wedemeyer’s HD video installation Muster (Rushes) (2012). On view through July 26.




Chicago Public Library screenings: Due to the frequency of late-additions (past our deadlines) and to their frequent inability (due to licensing restrictions) of publicly listing the titles of films they are screening, we will no longer be listing specific CPL screenings. Check their website for any films that may be showing.

The Patio Theater and the Portage Theater calendars have been confusing and constantly shifting—adding and removing events with little notice—and reportedly have been unexpectedly closed for scheduled events. We will no longer attempt to list any screenings there.


CINE-LIST: July 3 – July 9, 2015


CONTRIBUTORS / Kian Bergstrom, Michael Castelle, John Dickson, Kathleen Sachs, Candace Wirt, Darnell Witt


CINE-LIST: Friday, JUNE 19 – Thursday, JUNE 25

June 19th, 2015 by Patrick

:: Friday, JUNE 12 – Thursday, JUNE 18 ::



Frederick Wiseman’s NEAR DEATH (Documentary Revival)
Beguiled Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) – Sunday, 3pm
Legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman is famous for his thoroughness and objectivity even if he’s not quite as unimpeachable in these areas as some of his partisans claim; 2013’s AT BERKELEY, for instance, gave surprisingly short shrift to the title university’s professors while letting its administrators ramble on forever. 1989’s NEAR DEATH, however, has both of these qualities in spades and is a monumental achievement of the documentary form. The rare opportunity of seeing it projected on 16mm in its six-hour entirety should make for one of the most important local film events of the year (it has never, in fact, been projected on celluloid in Chicago at all). This screening, which will occur at Chicago Filmmakers, is an encore to the ambitious, recently-concluded Doc Films series “Frederick Wiseman: An Institution” programmed by Beguiled Cinema (aka the Chicago Reader’s Ben Sachs and Cine-File’s own Kat Sachs). NEAR DEATH takes as its subject the medical intensive care unit of Boston’s Beth Israel hospital but, unlike many of Wiseman’s most well-known films, does not focus on the organizational/bureaucratic aspects of the hospital as “institution” (Wiseman already made that film with 1970’s HOSPITAL). Instead, the narrow and immersive focus here is, as the title implies, on the human dynamics between terminally ill patients and their loved ones and the doctors and nurses who care for them. While the epic length might seem daunting to those unfamiliar with Wiseman’s work, the running time is not only justified but ends up feeling practically required by the subject matter, and the experience of watching the film is as easy as breathing (Errol Morris has even said that he thinks it is too short). Wiseman presents the ICU as a kind of self-enclosed world and structures the film around lengthy passages devoted primarily to three different intubated patients, all of whom are experiencing various degrees of internal-organ failure. These interior scenes are occasionally punctuated by shots of the mundane world outside—cars in traffic, a Citgo gas station sign—that only serve to heighten the hermetic, sealed-off quality of the ICU. Wiseman’s distanced, observational camera is aided by the Academy aspect ratio and grainy, black-and-white film stock, both of which reduce the amount of visual information available to the viewer—purifying the images and allowing one to focus on what’s most important: Wiseman’s profound exploration of ethical questions (chiefly, to what extent is it worth keeping someone alive who has no quality of life left?) as well as the emotions swirling around the circumstances of the dying patients, an approach that ends up feeling exhaustive. Seemingly every perspective on the sometimes-harrowing subject is covered and the middle third of the film is taken up by a particularly gripping series of scenes where two doctors have differing interpretations of whether an elderly female stroke victim who has difficulty communicating is telling them that she does or does not want to be resuscitated. The most emotional scenes, however, are saved for last, as the grieving wife of a man suffering from lung disease has a couple of long conversations with one Dr. Taylor, a man so compassionate and patient that he will singlehandedly increase your respect for the medical profession. (1989, 358 min, 16mm)  MGS

More info at


Chicago Curiosities: Resek + Palazzolo + McAdams (Documentary)
Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) – Saturday, 8pm and repeated on Wednesday, 6:30pm, at Columbia College (
Hokin Hall, 623 S. Wabash Ave.)
On more than one occasion I’ve witnessed a person whip out their smartphone to sneak a picture of someone who’s rather unusual or eccentric, typically with little to no regard for what makes them so unique. Such occurrences are often more shocking than whomever they’re attempting to photograph, as the pursuit of the perfect shot comes to represent a society lacking empathy for what we don’t understand. Nonetheless, it’s important that these sights are captured for posterity, to live on as relics of the wonderful weirdness that surrounds us—but who among us can be entrusted with this responsibility? I won’t pretend to have the answer to that question; if anything, I’d say you can only know that an artist is worthy upon viewing their work. To that end, this program features several short films from Chicago artists whose sympathetic dispositions likely qualify them to capture such curiosities. Filmmaker Andy Resek does commercial film work across the country as part of Winter Beach Productions, which he co-founded with his wife, editor Ellen Castleberry. On the side, however, he makes documentary vignettes about various people and places in Chicago. This program features four of his short films (2011-14, 26 min total, Digital Projection) about topics ranging from juggalos attending a concert in Logan Square to acclaimed Chicago street artist Don’t Fret (depicted in FUNHOUSE and GOIN’ BROKE GOING FOR BROKE, respectively). The other films are just as disparate, including one about the Paramount Tall Club of Chicago and another about a Mexican ranch family that splits their time between here and their ranch in Rensselaer, Indiana. Some of the films were made as part of cooperative multi-media installation projects, further adding to the characterization of his subjects as art. Regardless of how one feels about who or what he’s portraying, there’s no doubt that Resek appreciates them as more than just mere subject matter. The same could be said of both Tom Palazzolo and Heather McAdams, a few of whose films are also included in the showcase and will be projected in their original 16mm formats. Palazzolo’s HE (1966, 8 min, 16mm; Restored Print) and THE TATTOOED LADY OF RIVERVIEW (1967, 14 min, 16mm; Restored Print) are decidedly vintage, providing a nice juxtaposition to Resek’s modern equivalents. McAdams’ THE LESTER FILM (2000, 15 min, 16mm) is a documentary portrait of artist and cross dresser Lester/Letuska, and as Cine-File editor Patrick Friel wrote on this very site several years ago, it “demonstrates McAdams’ understanding of and sensitivity for outsiders and people living on the margins (without losing an eye for the humorous and ridiculous).” (1966-2015, approx. 63 min total, Digital Projection and 16mm) KS

More info at


Orson Welles’ TOUCH OF EVIL (“Preview Version”) (American Revival)

Music Box Theatre – Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

The film opens with a close-up of a time bomb. A doomed couple crosses the border from Mexico to California with ticking death in the trunk of their convertible. Another doomed couple moves with them, on foot. In a moment, all the world will explode. But this isn’t a film about explosions and death. It’s a film about violence, about the horrifying disconnect between words and deeds, about betrayal and lies. As the racist bully of a policeman, Hank Quinlan, Welles exudes grotesquery, sweating bullets of injustice and bigotry with every wheezing step. He blunders through the film, a monstrous presence prepared to do anything to enact his vision of law and order, willing to frame a man for murder just because he doesn’t like his attitude. All is transient, in flux, not merely taking place on the border but being about borderlines themselves. Where do we draw that line between interrogation and torture, between investigation and harassment, between evidence and supposition, between the friend and the foe? TOUCH OF EVIL is a film of cold fury, one that gives us a vision of existence as a permanent state of emergency, in which all that was previously thought solid has not just melted but burst into flames. The film begins with a bomb in a bravura long-take that falsely shows the world as whole, coherent, legible, only to destroy that world, to show it as always having been destroyed just moments before. But it ends with a sequence of crushing beauty: Quinlan, pursued through a wasteland of Mexican architectural filth by the mock-heroic Vargas (Charlton Heston), finally learns that in this space of nihilism, where things themselves can lie (a stick of dynamite, a photograph, a corpse) his own words are the only things he cannot escape. Objects are mere opportunities for deceit here, and space just a field of power, mastered by evil and oppressive, corrosive, of the genuine. Only words, perversely, can be trusted, and it’s through words, finally, that the monster will be slain, though it’s a meaningless victory: the man Quinlan framed has been tortured into confessing anyway. Marlene Dietrich’s famous line of elegy, ‘What does it matter what you say about people?’ is the loveliest and bleakest affirmation of the indefatigability of injustice ever put on celluloid. The preview version of TOUCH OF EVIL, discovered in 1973 in Universal’s vaults, is a messy affair: scenes run on a bit too long, are placed in illogical contexts, veer out of control in tone, even in quality. It is a film in the process of getting lost: neither the hyper-controlled precision of the 1998 Murch/Schmidlin re-edit nor the dirty, B-movie madness of the original release, but something importantly unshaped, rough and splintery. While the preview version cannot be the most satisfying of its incarnations, in seeing it this way it becomes clear that the movie TOUCH OF EVIL resembles most is Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT, another misshapen, unfinished masterwork fascinated by the rotting core of America and the monstrous crimes those in power are willing to commit to keep the machinery of civilization churning along. Especially in this, its most broken form, TOUCH OF EVIL is a time bomb that mirrors the one in its opening shot, ready to detonate just after it gets under our skins. (1958, 108 min, 35mm)  KB

More info at




Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS (American Revival)

Music Box Theatre – Saturday, 2pm

Slavoj Žižek wrote, “In order to unravel Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, one should first imagine the film without the birds, simply depicting the proverbial middle-class family in the midst of an Oedipal crisis—the attacks of the birds can only be accounted for as an outlet of the tension underlying this Oedipal constellation, i.e., they clearly materialize the destructive outburst of the maternal superego, one mother’s jealousy toward the young woman who tries to snatch her son from her.” That Hitchcock conceived of (and plotted) THE BIRDS as a comedy shows his gleeful perversity. It also goes a long way towards explaining the film’s enduring fascination. Most disaster movies simply revolve around the spectacle of things blowing up; if they make any room at all for humor or interpersonal relationships it’s usually of the throwaway or half-hearted variety. It’s just window dressing for explosions. But in his own crafty way, Hitchcock shows us that comedy, not tragedy, can be the best way to reveal the layers of a character while, crucially, misdirecting the audience’s attention. Using a meticulously scored soundtrack of bird effects in lieu of traditional music cues, paired with George Tomasini’s brilliant picture editing, heightens the feeling of disquiet. It all culminates in the stunning final shot: the superego has saturated the entire landscape. Introduced by Field Museum ornithologist Josh Engel. (1963, 119 min, 35mm) RC

More info at

Mel Stuart’s WATTSTAX (Documentary Revival)

Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St., Univ. of Chicago) – Saturday, 5:30pm (Free Admission)

Nominally an archival documentary of the Wattstax Music Festival in 1972, the best sequences have nothing to do with the musicians on stage. Yes, there’s Isaac Hayes, bedecked in a vest of golden chains, singing a languid version of “Theme from Shaft” to a filled Los Angeles Coliseum. And there’s a fire-eyed Rufus Thomas performing “Do the Funky Chicken” before conducting the crowd back to their seats. But these performances act as a platform for a thematic distillation of black identity during the Black Power movement, seven years after the Watts Riots. Between freewheeling concert footage, Stuart (FOUR DAYS IN NOVEMBER, WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY), or more likely his black cameramen, ventured into Watts to interview its residents about their thoughts on love, the blues, language, style, and life in the neighborhood after the riots. The interviews feel as if they hit each touchstone of stereotypical black culture: a man’s afro is preened in a barbershop while another discusses the power of Christ. One particularly gripping and frantically shot sequence features churchgoers brought to tears and delirious convulsions by The Emotions’ rendition of “Peace Be Still.” At the concert, Stuart’s use of the zoom lens isolates women’s curves and intricate Black Power handshakes from across the Coliseum, as if studying a new breed with a new language. All this might be unseemly were it not for WATTSTAX’s purposed assertion that “Black is Beautiful.” It is a refrain heard in Jesse Jackson’s recitation of “I Am – Somebody” and rounded by Richard Pryor’s withering, humorous critiques of the stereotypes portrayed. Followed by a brief discussion about how music can affect social change. (1973, 103 min, Unconfirmed Format) BW

Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM (Cult Revival)

Music Box Theatre – Friday, Midnight

A woman announces, “Well, the results came back – I definitely have breast cancer,” and that’s the last we ever hear of it. A group of men don tuxedos for no apparent reason and then toss around a football. A drug dealer threatens to kill someone and then disappears for the rest of the movie. Upon awaking, a man picks up a rose from his night table, smells it, and throws it on top of his sleeping girlfriend. A recurring rooftop “exterior” is obviously a studio set, with a backdrop of the San Francisco skyline digitally composited behind the action. Accidental surrealism can be even more potent than the conscious kind, and THE ROOM is some kind of zenith of its type, the equal to anything Ed Wood committed to celluloid. Although what’s on screen looks like it cost about $14.99, the actual budget was upwards of $6 million, in part because actor/producer/writer/director Wiseau shot simultaneously in 35mm and HD (supposedly he didn’t understand the differences between the two formats). Now the film has become a worthy successor to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, with enthusiastic fans performing a series of rituals at each screening. Ross Morin, assistant professor of film studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, calls it “one of the most important films of the past decade. Through the complete excess in every area of production, THE ROOM reveals to us just how empty, preposterous and silly the films and television programs we’ve watched over the past couple of decades have been.” (2003, 99 min, 35mm) RC

More info at




Michael Snow’s 1967 experimental film WAVELENGTH (45 min, 16mm) screens at the Art Institute of Chicago (Price Auditorium) on Thursday at 6pm. Free with museum admission.


The Nightingale and Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) screen Anlo Sepulveda and Paul Collins’ 2014 documentary YAKONA (85 min, Digital Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Monday at 7pm in the monthly Run of Life Experimental Documentary series. A discussion will be moderated by Anthony Cefali, Policy and Planning Specialist for Friends of the Chicago River.

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents former Chicagoan Will Goss’ new feature HUNTING (2015, 67 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 7pm, with Goss in person. Preceded by a musical set by Goss, Ed Crouse, and Chris Sullivan; and on Sunday at 7pm it’s the next installment of the multi-part series Follow Focus: Daviel Shy and THE LADIES ALMANACK -
Summer Screening: Dailies from Paris.

The Chicago Jewish Film Festival runs from June 20-28 at various Chicago and suburban locations. Complete schedule and more info at

Black Cinema House presents an outdoor/temporary installation screening of Marco G. Ferrari’s new video work SURFACES, which will be projected as a continuous loop on the Saint Laurence School building (1392 E. 72nd – corner of E. 72nd and S. Dorchester, one block east of Black Cinema House) on Sunday from 9-11pm.  Preceded by an Open House at Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) from 8-9pm.  Free.

Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Robert Smithson’s 1970 film SPIRAL JETTY (32 min, Digital Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 8pm; and LiMe Nites, a program of short films selected and presented by the Little Mexico Film Festival and Promofest, on Wednesday at 8pm. Free admission.

Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria, UIC) hosts Sistah Sinema Chicago’s screening of Blair Doroshwalther’s 2014 documentary OUT IN THE NIGHT (75 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm.

At the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Max Ophüls’ 1940 French film FROM MAYERLING TO SARAJEVO (97 min, 35mm; New Print) screens on Friday at 6pm, Saturday at 3pm, and Thursday at 6:15pm; Frédéric Tcheng’s 2014 documentary DIOR AND I (90 min, DCP Digital), Olivier Assayas’ 2014 film CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (124 min, DCP Digital), and Michael Winterbottom’s 2014 film THE FACE OF AN ANGEL (100 min, DCP Digital) all play for a week; Axelle Ropert’s 2013 French film MISS AND THE DOCTORS (102 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 3pm and Monday at 6pm; Rebecca Zlotowski’s 2013 French/Austrian film GRAND CENTRAL (94 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 5pm and Wednesday at 6pm; and Jirí Mádl’s 2014 Czech film TO SEE THE SEA (91 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 5:15pm and Tuesday at 8pm, with Mádl in person at the Tuesday show.

At Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Claude Miller’s 2007 film A SECRET (105 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7pm; and Roy Boulting’s 1943 WWII documentary DESERT VICTORY (62 min, 16mm) is on Thursday at 7pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Crystal Moselle’s 2015 documentary THE WOLFPACK (80 min) opens; Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon’s 2014 film THE FAREWELL PARTY (95 min) and Andrew Bujalski’s 2015 film RESULTS (105 min) are both held over; Albert Maysles’ 2014 documentary IRIS (83 min) screens on Friday (3:30pm), Saturday (11:30am), and Sunday (11:30am and 3:30pm) only; Liz Garbus’ 2015 documentary WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? (101 min) is on Tuesday at 7:30pm, with a post-screening discussion with Bobbi Wilsyn, jazz-blues vocalist and voice studies coordinator and instructor (Columbia College Chicago); Benjamin Statler’s 2015 documentary SOAKED IN BLEACH (89 min) is on Wednesday at 7:45pm; Guillermo Amoedo’s 2014 film THE STRANGER (93 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; and Jim Sharman’s 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Laura Nix and The Yes Men’s 2014 documentary THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING (90 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week’s run.

The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of Dong-Hoon Cho’s 2012 South Korean film THE THIEVES (135 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.




The exhibition Frances Stark: Intimism is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through August 30. The show is a comprehensive survey of Stark’s video and digital production.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents an exhibition of nine video works by artist Keren Cytter. On view through October 4.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents German artist Clemens von Wedemeyer’s HD video installation Muster (Rushes) (2012). On view through July 26.




Chicago Public Library screenings: Due to the frequency of late-additions (past our deadlines) and to their frequent inability (due to licensing restrictions) of publicly listing the titles of films they are screening, we will no longer be listing specific CPL screenings. Check their website for any films that may be showing.

The Patio Theater and the Portage Theater calendars have been confusing and constantly shifting—adding and removing events with little notice—and reportedly have been unexpectedly closed for scheduled events. We will no longer attempt to list any screenings there.

The Northwest Chicago Film Society will be resuming screenings in July.


CINE-LIST: June 19 – June 25, 2015


CONTRIBUTORS / Kian Bergstrom, Rob Christopher, Kathleen Sachs, Michael G. Smith, Brian Welesko, Darnell Witt

Interview: Brent E. Huffman on SAVING MES AYNAK

June 1st, 2015 by Patrick

Interview: Brent E. Huffman on SAVING MES AYNAK

by Kathleen Sachs


Tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 2) as part of their popular Docs at the Box series, the Music Box Theatre will present the Chicago premiere of SAVING MES AYNAK. The screening takes place at 7:30pm and includes a panel discussion with the filmmaker and other distinguished guests.

Directed by filmmaker and Northwestern professor Brent E. Huffman and produced in part by the estimable Kartemquin Films, it’s about a 5,000-year-old archaeological site in Afghanistan that’s at risk of being destroyed for its valuable copper deposits. Huffman focuses on the archaeologists whose livelihood and lives are threatened by Taliban forces, while also examining the effects of aggressive economic development on the beleaguered country.

Huffman has also created a Saving Mes Aynak crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo and is hosting global #SaveMesAynak Day on July 1. VIP tickets to Tuesday’s screening and VHX streaming access for the July 1 event are available as donation incentives.

We spoke with Huffman about his film and the future of Mes Aynak.

Cine-File: How did you get involved with this project and what made you decide to cover this particular site and its dire situation?
Huffman: I actually made a bunch of films in China before about ethnic minority groups and became interested in China’s economic push in other countries, usually for resources. I made a film about China and Africa, I’m making a film about China and Pakistan right now, so initially that’s what was interesting to me, especially because this Chinese government-owned company would basically be the biggest foreign investment in Afghanistan’s history and they were proposing to work in Taliban country. There was a New York Times story back in 2010 that had suggested that the U.S. military was helping to support and protect this Chinese company and get them set up, and it just really piqued my interest. It was only later that I found out that in addition to this bizarre situation, the Chinese company would have to destroy a massive 5,000-year-old city in order to mine for copper, which seemed outrageous and incredible. I had done documentary work in Afghanistan before. I had covered the first presidential elections and I’d worked in Kabul, so I had some connections. I basically went to Kabul and found a way–with the help of a local translator–to get to Mes Aynak, in a rented taxi, and see the site for myself. And then I really fell in love with the site and the Afghan archaeologists risking their lives to try to save this ancient city. They’re getting heat from the Taliban and they go months at a time without being paid. It’s just a really harrowing story and situation.

CF: You said that you eventually found out about the site, but what were the circumstances around which you came into contact with the archaeologists? After figuring out the broad idea, what made you focus on these groups?
Huffman: The film tries to tell the overall story, but it does focus on the Afghan archaeologists doing this work. I would have loved to tell more of the Chinese story, but access was impossible. No one would give me permission; even the interview with the head of the Chinese mining company was really difficult. In a lot of ways, it’s a film that shouldn’t exist. But when I first came to the site, on day one, I met Qadir Temori, who becomes the main character in the film. I was just inspired by his passion and the risks he was willing to take to save his country’s heritage. The destruction of Mes Aynak would almost be as if this heritage, these parts of history, never existed at all. Like just erasing the history of Afghanistan off the face of the earth. And in many ways, the film focuses on one site, but I hope that the film suggests something bigger, that this is the wrong direction for the country to go in, basically sacrificing history for a quick buck. I think the money from this deal will be lost in corruption. I don’t think Afghanistan will ever see any benefit. They’ll lose the resources, they’ll lose the copper, then they’ll lose their history, which is irreplaceable. My big fear is that this process will just replicate. There’s supposedly $3 trillion worth of resources all over Afghanistan, and where there used to be priceless world heritage and Buddhist statues and ancient Buddhist cities, there’ll be toxic craters where no one can ever live again. I think it’s a fight that the whole country should rally behind and support.

CF: Going back to the corruption you mention, the scenes that stuck out for me were the ones where they’re talking about how much funding the dig was supposed to receive and how it’s currently the most expensive dig in the world, yet the archaeologists didn’t have the right tools and technology. Were you meaning to suggest that there was some corruption involved with the original $20-30 million allocated for the dig? I’m sure many people who will see the film will be wondering where that money went.
Huffman: Basically the World Bank pledged millions of dollars and from what I saw, none of it reached the Afghan archaeologists. This happens in a lot of countries where corruption in a big problem. The money just seems to hit this wall and doesn’t actually benefit the people it’s supposed to reach. Unfortunately, I think this happens in Afghanistan all the time. So not only is it that the archaeologists aren’t being paid, they’re sleeping on the ground, they don’t have one computer, they don’t have one digital camera, they don’t have the necessary chemicals and tools that you need to properly dig and excavate. I initially did a Kickstarter where we raised money to finally buy them laptop computers and cameras. I just thought it was crazy that they were working without these essential tools. And right now we’ve actually launched a new IndieGoGo campaign to kind of do the same thing: raise awareness for the site and provide some more funding for the Afghan archaeologists. In terms of where did the money go, I think it went into the pockets of corrupt Afghan government employees, ministry workers and things like that, and never actually reached the Afghan archaeologists for whom it was intended.

CF: I thought what was excellent about your film was the comparison between the effects of the Taliban on the dig and also both the Chinese mining company and the general mindset of economy over everything else. Was that intentional?
Huffman: Yeah. The situation at Mes Aynak is very complex. I’m not anti-China, it’s not just that this evil Chinese company is destroying history. It’s really much more than that. It’s that this Chinese company is doing what the Afghan government is letting them do. With the Taliban members that I’ve talked to, there isn’t a sense that they want to destroy objects because they’re Buddhist. I never experienced that religious intolerance. It’s all about money. So you have basically all these different groups out for the same thing. The Taliban, the Chinese company, the Afghan government–all trying to secure access to this huge amount of money. In my experience, the Afghan archaeologists were the only ones trying to do something selfless and save this enormous archaeological site, and really do something for their own country.

CF: When you say that the Taliban was primarily interested in money, do you mean with bribes?
Huffman: Yeah, exactly. They know that there’s supposedly a $100 billion worth of copper at Mes Aynak. They want to bribe anyone they can and they do that through the threat of violence. “We’ll kidnap you, we’ll place landmines on the road.” All of that stuff was happening while I was there, but it was not happening because they hate the archaeologists or they’re anti-Buddhism or something. It was all really based on the bottom line.

CF: That’s ironic considering what we hear nowadays about the Taliban’s motivations. To hear that in this particular instance their motivations are not ideological but instead monetary, similar to the Chinese mining company and various industries around the world, was interesting. It’s a brave stance because in this day and age people are very black and white about good and bad, with terrorism being bad and economic development being good, while here you have a situation that shows both of these things as existing in a grey area.
Huffman: Yeah, it’s very complicated. There’s no kind of easy answer either. The film doesn’t try to say, “Here’s what I think we should do,” because I do think it’s really complicated and I didn’t want the film to have to have that burden of being the solution. But I think people in the film offer solutions. It is a difficult situation.

CF: Especially in a country that’s been so economically inhibited. There are opportunities, but at the same time those opportunities are destructive in so many more ways, and as you pointed out, frequently involve corruption. It seems like a no-win situation.
Huffman: That was tough, too. I didn’t want to make a hopeless film, but it’s hard not to feel at least frustrated by the process. There is good news. Afghanistan has a new president who I think is much more receptive to it. He’s a former anthropologist, he’s much more receptive to these kinds of things. I think there’s a process that’s underway now to rebuild the Bamiyan Buddhas that you see blown up in the documentary. In 2001, the Taliban blew up these incredible, towering Buddha statues from the sixth century. But right now UNESCO is making that a World Heritage site and turning it into a museum, and they might rebuild the statues. I’m not exactly sure what the plan is, but there is this idea to turn one of these amazing sites into a tourist destination. We’ll see if it’s successful. That would bring money into Afghanistan and I do have high hopes that the same thing could happen at Mes Aynak. Mining could happen in a different way, in a different area. They wouldn’t have to destroy the site and they could open it up for tourism. I don’t think it’s hopeless. I do think a horribly destructive open pit, a toxic open pit, is a much worse scenario. Destroying the area, destroying the mountain range, so no one can ever live up there again. That sounds like a doomsday scenario to me.

CF: As a filmmaker, who or what has inspired you?
Huffman: That’s a great question. Honestly, I’m actually not that influenced by films that do activism. Though I do like films like THE COVE where it’s kind of hard not to be one-sided in that sort of situation. Like do we really want to hear from the person who thinks dolphin slaughter is a good idea? I think that about this film, too. I don’t think somebody could come on camera and say, “Destroying 5,000 years of history is the right thing to do for Afghanistan’s future.” I think that just sounds absurd. I think the film itself takes less of an activism stance than the actual movement that’s happening around the film. I do think it’s hard to see the other side, even though I do talk to the mining company and  the Ministry of Mines. I always think it’d be hard to show that side that thinks destruction of the site is the right thing to do. But back to your question, I’m a huge cinéma vérité fan, so the work of Fred Wiseman and the Maysle brothers probably influenced me more than anything else, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that SAVING MES AYNAK is like a vérité film. But I did want to make the story of Mes Aynak a character-based story as much as I could so that there was some emotional resonance between the site and the human beings. Finding Kadir, the archaeologist, and letting him be the thread was important so that it wasn’t just a narrated film with a lot of beautiful pictures. I wanted it to be a character-based story of someone who’s passionate, like I am, that believed in the site and that was fighting for it, who could tell the insider, personal story of why this is important.

CF: I was struck by the cinematic quality of what is a relatively straightforward documentation of these people in this situation. I notice in particular that you utilize color and scale very well. There was one scene where you zoom in and it seems like what you’re showing is actually very big, but then you pull back into a medium shot that shows it as actually being relatively small in comparison to the previous shot. I thought that incorporation of scale really exacerbated the awe of the situation. I don’t frequently see that in documentaries that have a clear standpoint on a certain subject. Was any of that intentional?
Huffman: This is a film made out of constant difficulty and access issues. There were things I would have loved to have done that just had to be done in other ways. I would have loved to have filmed from a helicopter flying over the site to really show how big it is and how grand it is, but a helicopter would have been shot down by the Taliban. I was making due with what I had. Just trying to be creative under immense limitations. I was constantly told, “You can’t do this.” I was at the site for only four hours at a time. As soon as the sun started to set, I had to get out of there. I think in terms of color, I used to be an impressionist painter, so some of that is carried over to the composition and the use of color.

CF: I read that you did everything involved with the actual filming. It’s interesting that you mention Wiseman, because he pretty much does everything himself as well. When I read in the press release that you had essentially been a one-man crew, I was reminded of him and his do-it-yourself mentality.
Huffman: Activism is certainly a part of the film, but I think there are institutional problems that you see in SAVING MES AYNAK that are things you’d see in a Wiseman film. Like here’s all the players and all the everyday headaches of trying to run something like this. It’s all extreme in Afghanistan where you may not come home, or you may come home in pieces. I would like to think the film has some of those subtle Wiseman touches, this examination of one location and things happening in this one area in this very complex way. Like Wiseman, I tried to include as many players as possible to tell the story. In an interview for Gawker, Wiseman talks about his films being time capsules, which I think is a great description. Worst case scenario, SAVING MES AYNAK is like that, a time capsule that’s trying to capture this story of people risking everything to save this ancient site. And it may be the only visual record of the site that will live on. We’re fighting so that’s not the case, but that was part of my thinking, that my film might be the only evidence of Mes Aynak that’s left. There’s a great quote, I can never remember who said it, but it’s basically “A country without documentaries is like a family without a photo album.” Without them, there’d be no way to remember the past.

CF: Going back to Mes Aynak, what’s happening as of this interview?
Huffman: We’ve launched this IndieGoGo campaign to raise awareness and hopefully give back some money to the Afghan archaeologists, and to send me to Kabul again to show the film to the new president. Mes Aynak could be destroyed at any time, and there’s a lot of pressure from the local government to make them start as soon as possible. Most of the foreign archaeologists have left, so there’s a skeleton crew working at the site. I’ve heard reports that looting is happening at night when the site isn’t being watched, so it desperately needs our help right now at this moment.


Visit the film’s website here.




May 12th, 2015 by Patrick

An Interview with Ernest J. Ramon

By Kathleen Sachs


Conspiracy theories certainly aren’t a new concept, but the advent of the internet has made them more prevalent than ever. Every 24-hour news cycle breeds fresh paranoia, which then makes its way to sites like Reddit and YouTube. The former has produced a new type of amateur detective, while the latter has cultured a new type of amateur filmmaker who uses thought-provoking editing techniques to put together the pieces of their paranoid puzzle for similarly skeptical audiences.

In his first film, CRITICAL PARANOIA: CONSPIRATORIAL MEMES, ALTERNATIVE HISTORIES, AND DISINFORMATION, which played at CUFF last year, Ernest J. Ramon culled together clips from various conspiracy videos on YouTube, with subject matter ranging from Stanley Kubrick to the Discovery Channel. His second film, CRITICAL PARANOIA: DARK NIGHT RISING, focuses on Christopher Nolan’s 2012 Batman film and the conspiracy lexicon that surrounds it.

Ramon’s work is both engaging and entertaining, but it raises more questions than it answers, most specifically about the filmmaker’s intent. We talked to him about CRITICAL PARANOIA and how editing a film is a bit like piecing together a conspiracy theory.

Cine-File: Describe yourself and your work.
Ernest Ramon: I’m sort of obsessed with old episodes of UNSOLVED MYSTERIES , IN SEARCH OF…,  and RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT, and highly interested in“conspiracy theories” of all shapes and sizes. But most of all I’m a total disciple to the spirit of the Craig Baldwin school of no-to-low-budget filmmaking.

CF: What motivated you to make this movie?
The “Batman Conspiracy” is a sort of enigma I’ve been data mining for a few years now. At first my interest in the subject and ambition for the project was for a PowerPoint presentation/lecture/zine, but the project eventually took on a life of it’s own and snowballed into an 87-minute feature.

CF: How is it connected with CRITICAL PARANOIA 1?
ER: Part 2 is a direct sequel to Part One. Most of the themes from part one reappear again in DARK NIGHT RISING. They’re both made so that you can watch them back to back as one superlong face-melting conspiracy pageant.

CF: What do you hope audiences will take from it?
ER: I’m interested is in exploring Batman as a modern mythology and archetype, My hope is that the audience will not only enjoy the playful presentation  but maybe come away with a better understanding of the complexity of the Batman gestalt as it pertains to capitalism, the military industrial complex, and a greater conspiratorial history of America.

CF: How much of CRITICAL PARANOIA 2 do you truly believe? (There are quite a few conspiracies packed in there, hence why I’m wondering if there are certain things you believe more than others versus not believing some of it at all.)
I don’t know if I believe-believe any of the Batman conspiracies. I certainly have my suspicions about some of the mass-shooting inconsistencies, and I do think a lot of these ideas deserve a spot in the pantheon of egregoreical qualities of Batman as an archetype, but overall, no, I don’t really think Batman is a harbinger of the end times.

CF: You mention that you’re interested in mythology and archetypes. I wonder if you’re not also interested in puzzles? One thing I thought about while watching it is that even if I didn’t agree with some of the conspiracies being put forward, the “making of” them sure seemed interesting.
Yeah, you know, I first got into reading about conspiracies mainly because they’re such a rich source for ideas and generating material, for writing speculative fiction and comics books. Also, I was really into Raymond Chandler-hardboiled detective stuff when I was a kid, and always wanted to be a private eye, so I think there’s a lot of wanting to do that mixed in with a love for campfire tales and urban legends. We humans have an innate  and uncontrollable compulsion to put puzzles together, it’s one of the things that separates us from the animal kingdom. The term “Critical Paranoia” comes from a method employed by Salvador Dali which basically equates to looking up into the clouds and seeing a dragon or a castle or something. We’re always trying to make sense of stuff even when there’s clearly nothing there. I think most filmmakers, or at least editors, have to love putting puzzles together, the whole process is just one giant moving jigsaw puzzle.


Critical Paranoia: Dark Night Rising plays at part of the 2015 Chicago Underground Film Festival on Thursday, May 14 at 9pm at the Logan Theatre.  More info at


An Interview with Director Leslie Buchbinder on the New Documentary HAIRY WHO & THE CHICAGO IMAGISTS

May 16th, 2014 by Patrick

By Harrison Sherrod


Harrison Sherrod: Toward the end of your documentary, the curator of the Art Institute suggests that the Imagists shouldn’t necessarily be thought of as a unified collective. What is the benefit of grouping these artists together? Other than a shared time and place, is there something they have in common?


Leslie Buchbinder: This group/non-group issue is always a conundrum for artists of any time and place. The commonalities include the resource materials that they called upon in their work, from the Art Institute, the Field Museum, Maxwell Street, films, cartoons, tattoos, alleyways. Those things all contributed to the works, but they took these source materials and processed them into very different kinds of iconography. There are overlaps of lexicons between these artists, but they’re definitely distinct. Ed Paschke was the only one really into the nightlife, which separates him from the group. They were all dealing with a certain element of fringe. They took popular culture and used it in a very different way than the New York or L.A. artists. For example, Lichtenstein’s riff on cartoons was cool and detached, whereas, to quote Sue Ellen Rocca, “They were cool and we were hot.”


HS: The Imagists are normally relegated to a footnote in textbooks. Why has the traditional art history discourse ignored the Imagists until recently?


LB: Any dialog within any area of discourse – whether its film, art or politics – certain artists or people are privileged. New York was very much the dominant force at that time, and still is to some extent. It’s just how the art world mechanism functions. It’s a dialog about what came before and what people in a given place want to see next. What New York wanted to see next wasn’t what the Imagists wanted to see next. In New York surrealism was so uncool. The feeling was: “We’ve been there, done that, don’t go there.” But in Chicago, it was a different environment where surrealism had always been a very important part of the collector’s world, so these artists were seeing a lot of surrealism and it was being embraced. The reason why these artists are coming to the fore again is because there are so many ways in which what they were doing then is very much a part of the contemporary dialog, whether you’re in New York or Japan. Takashi Murakami, KAWS – all of these people are riffing on the Imagists.


HS: Exactly – artists like Mike Kelly and Paul McCarthy seem to have a very sincere, positivist relationship to mass culture in a way that the pop artists didn’t.


LB: Right. It’s get dirty, funky, and down with it. Get into the ribald aspects, the very dark side of what comics are. To echo John Ruskin, the grotesque has a humorous side to it, but also a profoundly dark side to it. And that quote would apply to the Hairy Who and Chicago Imagists. The power of this kind of art is that, if you’re really addressing it, you can’t escape the extremities of what’s provoked.


Jim Nutt, Drawing for Wiggly Woman, 1966

HS: Do you feel like the lack of a robust Chicago art scene in the 1970s paradoxically provided the Imagists freedom to experiment irrespective of market forces?


LB: Of course. If you don’t have the klieg lights shinning on you all the time, than you’re going to do what you want. When people go to New York, there are tremendous advantages and there are tremendous disadvantages. As Bernie Sahlins, the co-founder of Second City said, “[in Chicago] you have room to fail, you have room to play, you have room to succeed in ways that aren’t part of the normative conversation.”


HS: Compared to most of the abstract expressionism that was in vogue during the 40s and 50s, Imagist art signaled a return to figurative forms and was remarkably low concept. Do you think the accessibility of the Imagists hurt its cachet?


LB: Here’s the double-edged sword to that: in a way it’s so easily graspable because it’s in your face, but at the same time, there are tremendous subtleties and concerns with formal aspects, but they are there to serve to the subject matter. In New York, it was all about all of the artists saying: “Metaphor is done – let’s deal with form.” That was not the foremost concern of the Imagists. But one of the problems is that people sometimes make the mistake that it’s naive, or uninformed, or doesn’t reflect on art historical references. It’s very smart, but it didn’t wear its intellect on its sleeve.



HS: Several of the Imagists seemed to be associated with underground filmmakers like Tom Palazzolo, who is interviewed in the documentary. Roger Brown has a handful of paintings depicting moviegoing. Is there a link to be made between cinema culture and the visual vocabulary of the Imagists?


LB: Absolutely. Karl Wirsum said, “I always wanted to paint the blues.” Jim Nutt said he always wanted to paint the experience he had while watching film. He wanted to replicate that while making art. They all went to the Clark theater, which was in walking distance from the Art Institute and showed a lot of European films. Roger Brown, Barbara Rossi, and Ed Paschke all worked with different theaters. making different sets and consumes. Live theater and the quietude of film are really important aspects of [the Imagists’] work.


HS: Gary Panter says that the Chicago Imagist aesthetic couldn’t be co-opted even though it relied on the appropriation of pop iconography. Do you agree with his statement?


LB: I think I do agree. For him, everything is contextual in terms of time. The Hairy Who was so important to him as younger artist before his Pee Wee Herman days. One of the things that fascinates a lot of artists like Gary and Chris Ware is the role of the Hairy Who comics. The Hairy Who comics for those 60s shows were early zines. It really offered a different way of relating to an exhibition and to the experience of art. It wasn’t being posed as something grand – it wasn’t being posed at all. The Hairy Who used all of their resources like sausage makers – it was the fat, the grist, the grime.


HS: Chicago seems to be experiencing a moment in the art world. There are nearly twenty local artists feature in current Whitney Biennial. What’s changed since the heyday of the Imagists?


LB: In Chicago the backlash against the Imagists was very strong for a while. We’re much more polyglot now. The discourse seems to be embracing many different things at once. Things that were of interest and rejected are now of interest again.


HS: Can you identify any contemporary artists who you feel are kindred spirits of the Imagists?


LB: Take a look at the After Image exhibit at DePaul Art Museum. There are a lot of young people embracing the Hairy Who and Chicago Imagists. As Amy Cooper and Marc Bell said, “This is the stuff we want to be doing.”




HAIRY WHO & THE CHICAGO IMAGISTS screens at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago on Tuesday, May 20 (but is sold out) and also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) on Friday, June 6.


Interview with Christina Rice – Author of “Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel”

April 24th, 2014 by Patrick

April 23 and 24, the Northwest Chicago Film Society and the Park Ridge Classic Film Series present two classic films starring Ann Dvorak, with Dvorak’s biographer Christina Rice on hand to discuss her new book, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. On April 23 at the Patio Theater (6008 W. Irving Park Rd.), the Northwest Chicago Film Society present a 35mm print of Michael Curtiz’s 1932 pre-code crime drama THE STRANGE LOVE OF MOLLY LOUVAIN <> , and April 24, the Park Ridge Classic Film Series (at the Pickwick Theatre, 5 S Prospect Ave, Park Ridge, IL) will show Howard Hawks’ 1932 classic SCARFACE.

We spoke with Christina Rice about her book, her continued fascination with Ann Dvorak, and what could’ve been for the forgotten rebel had she played it safe.

Kathleen Sachs: Over the past year I’ve written about HEAT LIGHTNING and MASSACRE for Cine-File, and I was also very taken with Ann Dvorak. In your book, you mentioned how and why you got into her. Would you care to go more in-depth as to what it was about Ann in particular that made you fall in love with her?

Christina Rice: The first film I ever saw of hers…this was gosh, maybe 1995…was THREE ON A MATCH. I checked it out from my local library hoping to spend an hour watching a fun film, and that would be it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so blindsided by a performance the way I was with Ann. I subsequently watched her in SCARFACE and G MEN with James Cagney not realizing she was in those, but there she was. I kept running into this actress who was just beautiful and her acting seemed more contemporary and I was curious as to why she wasn’t a bigger star. At the time I very naively assumed every film actor had a book written about them because anytime I wanted to read about Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Errol Flynn, they all had books about them. When I went to find a book about Ann, there wasn’t anything. So eventually, I decided if nobody’s going to research this actress, then I should be the one to do it. Never guessing it would take me 15 years to actually accomplish that, but it did.

KS: What is your favorite role of Ann’s, and if not the same as the role you think is her best, which would you think is her best and why?

CR: My personal favorite is THREE ON A MATCH because that was the role that introduced me to her. That’s usually the one I recommend for people. I think that’s probably my personal favorite. As far as her best….I think Cesca Camonte in SCARFACE. That’s actually a really strong role. And Mary Ashlon in a 1950 MGM film, A LIFE OF HER OWN. She’s in it for about 10 minutes and she really walks away with that movie. I honestly think that’s the one film she should have gotten an Oscar nomination for.

KS: Per your book and your blog, you have an impressive collection of Ann Dvorak memorabilia. What has it been like amassing a collection of memorabilia for an actress who, as your book title suggests, has unfortunately been largely forgotten by film history?

CR: That was actually how I really got started. I was interested in Ann, but I also realized that I could afford to collect on her. I couldn’t afford to collect on the Marx Brothers, but I could afford to collect on Ann because nobody else was. It didn’t matter how low-budget the movie was, there was still a ton of memorabilia that was produced- lobby cards, photos, posters. For me to amass the collection that I have really wasn’t that difficult because I never had much competition. At this point it’s pretty substantial. I have over 1500 pictures of her, hundreds of posters and lobby cards. I don’t find stuff as much as I used to, but even though the book’s done, I’m still buying stuff whenever I find it.

KS: I went through your blog and saw that even after the book was published, you were showing some photos you found after the fact, so it seems like there’s still so much out there. And also about Ann’s mother, Anna Lehr, it seems like every so often there’s a new discovery with her. [Ann’s mother, Anna Lehr, was also an actress who notably appeared in Will Rogers’ first film, LAUGHING BILL HYDE.)

CR: It’s not as often as I’d like, being a collector. Being a collector is kind of a weird, defensive thing. It’s almost like being a junkie, I guess. I’m dying to find new things, and I don’t find as much as I used to, but yeah, I also do what I call my fringe collecting by buying thing related to Anna Lehr, her mom.

KS: As detailed in your book, Ann certainly had a very interesting life and even if she sometimes sacrificed her career to live it, it makes her different than most other starlets in that her professional life wasn’t so glamorous, but her personal life was lived to the fullest. It’s not a question persay, but I’d like to get your input on what it was like for an up-and-coming starlet to lose out on fame and fortune because she instead chose to have a fulfilling personal life. [This question mostly references Ann’s first marriage to actor Leslie Fenton, who starred with her in THE STRANGE LOVE OF MOLLY LOUVAIN. During their 13-year marriage, Ann walked out on her contract with Warner Bros. to take an extended honeymoon in Europe and later joined Fenton overseas when he enlisted in the British Royal Navy during World War 2.]

CR: Ann started off as a chorus girl at MGM, and she did that for about two and a half years and grew very frustrated with it and wanted to move up and have better roles. MGM didn’t give her anything, but the first big role she did end up getting was SCARFACE. But I think she’s different from a lot of those starlets in that she had this kind of A-list spotlight role right out of the gate. And even though she worked her tail off as a chorus girl for a couple of years, I don’t know if maybe fame and some legitimacy as an actress made it seem a little bit too easy for her, which is why she didn’t have a problem turning her back on it. If I could ever ask Ann a question, that’s one I’d ask: was it worth it? Was it worth cashing in your professional career to have this offscreen life? That was something I never thought I would have the opportunity to have answered, but in that same collection of items I bought that included the honeymoon scrapbook, there was a journal from 1977, which was about two years before Ann died, and there was only one entry in this journal, but in it she is looking back at her life and actually expresses a great deal of regret at not having the career she should have had. It was definitely a tradeoff. I don’t know if it was a great tradeoff, I don’t know if she thought it was a great tradeoff, but it was the trade off that she made. It made for very good storytelling as well. At least there was that. Ann wasn’t boring, that’s for sure.

Visit Christina Rice’s blog ( on Ann Dvorak.