Cine-Manifest’s NORTHERN LIGHTS (American Independent Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 3:15 and 7:45pm; Monday, 6pm
We usually assume that American radicalism reached its cultural peak in the late 1960s. Certainly that moment’s rapid breakdown of the sexual, racial, and political status quo merits prolonged study, but the aftermath too often receives short shrift. We treat the 1970s as a blinkered hangover on the road to Reaganism—a retreat that saw the hard hats put the feminists back in their place while the hippies themselves discovered the bourgeois pleasures of sobriety and the corporate boardroom. To judge by my record collection—which includes such contemporary artifacts as the Lesbian Concentrate compilation, the pioneering proto-rap of the Watts Prophets and the Last Poets, the awesome debut LP from Red Shadow (The Economics Rock ‘n’ Roll Band), and a number of albums from explicitly anti-capitalist labels like Paredon and Rounder—this era has been misapprehended. While the forces of reaction were indeed gaining strength, the period also saw a remarkable amount of grassroots activism and left-wing art-making. The slogans and psychedelia of the ’60s yielded a political vocabulary that had become quietly commonplace at church basements, union halls, community workshops, film societies, and dinner tables in the ’70s. Newly normalized feminist, Marxist, and post-colonial modes of analysis helped millions of people better grasp their everyday lives before these frameworks became the almost-exclusive province of academe. Which brings us, in a roundabout fashion, to NORTHERN LIGHTS—the absolutely essential independent feature that resurrected the history of North Dakota’s turn-of-the-century Nonpartisan League, the socialist farmer’s group spearheaded largely by poor Scandinavian immigrants. That a San Francisco-based collective managed to scrounge up public monies to reignite this particular Prairie Fire further testifies to the ideological complexity of the late ’70s. Screened on public television and projected extensively around the Midwest, NORTHERN LIGHTS epitomizes this forgotten chapter of unassuming radicalism. Although it somewhat resembles its contemporary DAYS OF HEAVEN in its milieu and its awe, NORTHERN LIGHTS is a closer descendant of the European strain of materialist period cinema exemplified by Bresson’s LANCELOT DU LAC, Brownlow and Mollo’s WINSTANLEY, and Rossellini’s history films. Like those films, NORTHERN LIGHTS treats historical milestones with present-tense aloofness, with the stirrings of revolution embroidered into the unremarkable daily slog. Few serious-minded films possess the confidence to interrupt their history lessons with scenes of yesterday’s heroes pawing at each other like horny greyhounds, but again, NORTHERN LIGHTS is something special. (1978, 95 min, Newly Restored 35mm Print) KAW
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Sex, Love, Pain: Works by Jennifer Chan (New Media)
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) – Saturday, 8pm
Jennifer Chan’s work is for everyone, in as much as the internet is for everyone. The ten pieces screening in the Sex, Love, Pain program run the gamut from commentary on international economics in INFINITE DEBT to explorations of art history in NEW AMERICAN CLASSIC to a literally two-word joke in CAT EARS, and roll through references at a breakneck pace. The work is eminently enjoyable, and easy to watch, but really processing it is surprisingly difficult. The cheesy editing, conspicuous consumption, and sexual navel-gazing that are the substance of much of the internet serve as trappings in Chan’s work, obscuring the ideas she is focused on, while illustrating them perfectly. It’s as though we’ve seen so much internet chaff that we can no longer consider the possibility that any wheat remains; we can hardly remember that wheat was once the object of our sowing. This anticipation of video uselessness finds its fullest voice in YOUNG MONEY, an eight-minute send-up of internet dudes: their pizza-loving, bong-smoking, horndog-ness that has so many substantive jokes it’s actual content is nearly as limitless as its veneer. Yet the film starts with a record of a glitchy Skype conversation (about pizza and weed, natch) that feels so natural (or realistic, since nothing on Skype feels natural) that it’s easy to fall into the trap of letting your eyes glaze over and accept the reality of what you see. This is one of Chan’s many strengths: letting the medium specificity of the internet work its insidious magic so that her work can be seen as either the smart critique that it is, or as an odd example of one of the tropes it sends up. Seeing this work out of its context (say, projected live in a screening with other viewers) is an ideal way to focus on the slippery nature of what it’s trying to tell you, and with Chan in-person (as she will be on Saturday) this is a great opportunity to ask her at least what one of her own videos asks: “Is your work sexy and dumb enough?” Chan in person. (2010-13, approx. 55 min total, Digital Projection) CAM
More info at http://nightingalecinema.org.
Hou Hsiao-hsien’s FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI (Taiwanese/Japanese Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Monday, 7pm
Is it surprising that Hou Hsiao-hsien should pivot from a series of films exploring the reverberations of Taiwanese history (CITY OF SADNESS; GOOD MEN, GOOD WOMEN) to one of the most insular, claustrophobic, and beguiling period films ever made? Set in a high-end brothel towards the end of the 19th century, FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI refuses assimilation, refuses any convenient context or trajectory. (To paraphrase Joyce, history is a nightmare from which no one particularly cares to awake.) Perhaps its true place is alongside the virtuoso, set-bound films of earlier era: Sternberg’s THE SHANGHAI GESTURE and ANATAHAN, or Fejos’ BROADWAY. Despite its languorous obscurity, FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI exercised a profound influence over the festival cinema of the decade that followed: Wong’s IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE abandoned the hyperkinetic style of Christopher Doyle for the slow-burning ambiance of cinematographer Mark Ping Bin Lee, the place-bound rigor echoed throughout Tsai’s GOODBYE DRAGON INN and Nolot’s PORN THEATER, and Bonnello’s L’APOLLONIDE was essentially an R&B remix. Viewed today, FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI also seems like a particularly stubborn tribute to the hard physicality of celluloid itself—a delicately choreographed reverie of 19th century wonder with a world of unspeakable sex and violence just outside the frame. (1998, 125 min, 35mm) KAW
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Comfort Station (2579 N Milwaukee Ave) – Tuesday, 7:30pm (Free Admission)
Vanishing Neighborhoods is a program of three short films from the 60s and 70s, each dealing with issues of gentrification, demolition, and neighborhood change in Chicago. Kartemquin Films’ NOW WE LIVE IN CLIFTON (1974, 26 min, 16mm) is a documentary that explores the encroachment of DePaul University into surrounding West Lincoln Park through the perspective of children who are being displaced by the expansion. The kids speak with a surprising clarity about the radical changes happening around them. (Collectively directed by Jerry Blumenthal, Alphonse Blumenthal, Susan Delson, Sharon Karp, Peter Kuttner, Gordon Quinn, and Richard Schmiechen.) Stewart Hagmann and Maria Moraltes’ KALI NIHTA, SOCRATES (Good Night, Socrates; 1963, 34 min, 16mm) is a short narrative lamenting the destruction of a block in Greektown. The film features beautiful black and white photography of no longer existing sections of the area and a bizarre and unintentionally funny early 60s narration. DeWitt Beall’s A PLACE TO LIVE (1968, 28 min, 16mm) is the odd man out in the trio: a film sponsored by the Department of Urban Renewal which sings the praises of slum clearance and relocation. “Vanishing Neighborhoods” is co-presented by Preservation Chicago, the Chicago Film Archives, and Kartemquin Films. (1963-74, 88 min total, 16mm) ML
More info at www.chicagofilmarchives.org.
Todd Haynes’ I’M NOT THERE (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 9:15pm
I’ve long felt locked out of Bob Dylan’s enchanted garden, prevented from entering by the quality of his voice that’s a little like having your nose hairs pulled, and by the imposing bulk of his catalog. It always seemed I’d have to be a dogmatic digger if I was going to be a lover of Dylan. That is, until I accepted Todd Haynes’ generous invitation of a film, I’M NOT THERE. Haynes has always bravely followed his own idiosyncratic taste, trusting that his enthusiasm for cryptic public figures and suffering housewives will welcome viewers to places they wouldn’t find alone. Instead of telling The Story of Bob Dylan, Haynes uses his own mastery of the Dylan discography and biographical trivia as a starting-off point to dream, riff, theorize, and tinker with the mechanics of a pop-culture myth. He offers six flavors of narrative, each its own aesthetic world, ranging from a Behind-the-Music send-up with cameos by Julianne Moore and Kim Gordon to a baroque country-western hallucination that conjures gruesome lyrical metaphor as reality. Ambiguous sexuality, a bigger theme for Haynes than for Dylan, propels the film throughout, from Cate Blanchett’s stunning lothario Dylan to the girl-dog named Henry. An interrogated character named Arthur Rimbaud (BRIGHT STAR’s Ben Wishaw) performs a list called “seven simple rules for life in hiding,” the last of which is “never create anything. It will be misinterpreted. It will chain you and follow you for the rest of your life. And it will never change.” I’M NOT THERE is a gleeful explosion of this grumpy outlook; Dylan’s entire public life is the raw material, but Haynes uses his own passions and fascinations to free both Dylan and viewer from the burden of ‘the truth,’ and welcome them into a bigger world. (2007, 135 min, 35mm) JF
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Mike Gray and Howard Alk’s AMERICAN REVOLUTION 2 (Documentary Revival)
Intuit (756 N. Milwaukee Ave.) – Thursday, 6pm
Early footage of the violence of the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests turns to the comparatively quieter world of revolutionary discourse, capturing the wide array of progressive talk in groups large and small in neighborhoods around Chicago. From Black Panther gatherings to house parties and Young Patriots rallies, Alk and Gray document some of the different communities who, in response to severe police brutality, were ready to meet violence with violence. A detailed and intriguing look at the people who wanted a new America desperately, how they tried to build it, and the language they used to envision it, the film displays the often rough and chaotic ways disparate groups of the engaged left aimed to unite themselves into one committed voice of dissent. Alk is unafraid to let long takes expose the complex arguments that arise when Black Panthers speak to an awakening middle class at a council meeting, or when a circular disagreement about Vietnam takes over an apartment party. AMERICAN REVOLUTION 2 assumes its audience is as engaged in these ideas as its subjects. Co-presented by Chicago Film Archives. Film Group member Bill Cottle, who served on the crew for AR2, in person. (1969, 85 min, DVD Projection) CL
More info at www.art.org and www.chicagofilmarchives.org.
Terrence Malick’s DAYS OF HEAVEN (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 6pm and Saturday, 5:15pm
Who would have predicted that DAYS OF HEAVEN would be the most influential American film of the past ten years? A number of movies would be almost impossible without its influence—THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, THERE WILL BE BLOOD (which tipped its hat by employing DAYS’ ingenious production designer, Jack Fisk), most of the work of David Gordon Green—that Malick’s unprecedented approach has come to seem almost familiar. But seen in a theater, DAYS OF HEAVEN is forever new. Malick’s poetic sensibility, which combined an absurdist fascination with the banal with an awestruck view of open landscapes, renders the past era of pre-Dust Bowl Heartland America a gorgeous, alien environment. The film is structured around his lyrical observations, jutting forward in unexpected sequences like a modernist poem. More than one set piece (including the locust infestation and the bizarre entry of a flying circus troupe) has become a little classic in itself; it’s easy to forget the primal romantic tragedy, which Ray Pride once likened to a Biblical fable, that gives the movie its towering structure. It is this feeling for eternal narratives—rooted, perhaps, in Malick’s study of philosophy—that distinguishes the film from any of its successors, which could never replicate Malick’s spiritual orientation. (1978, 95 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar’s A TOWN CALLED PANIC (New Animation)
Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) – Wednesday, 8:30pm (Free Admission)
2009 witnessed a welcome pushback against the traditional children’s movie with WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson’s THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX. Both films rely heavily on nostalgia, using well-loved children’s books for content and outmoded techniques to create their visual worlds. The resulting films are clever and engaging but they are films for adults that children might like. The ingenious A TOWN CALLED PANIC also partakes in this pushback but its real strength lies in its divergence. The zany world of this film is a constant chaotic chase. The plot takes absurd nonsensical shifts that resemble more a story told by a child rather than winking adult irony. It is reinless, funny, and whimsical. Commonplace plastic toys Horse, Cowboy, and Indian are the main characters. They are roommates who inadvertently bring their small town to the brink of destruction and must scramble to save it. The solution takes them to wild house parties, an underground ocean, and arctic landscapes where mad scientists travel in giant mechanical penguins, and back again. (2009, 75 min, DVD Projection) CL
More info at www.facebook.com/squarelogan.
The Polish Film Festival in America continues at Facets Cinémathèque and other venues through November 24. Full schedule at www.pffamerica.org.
The Logan Center for the Arts (University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th St.) presents the Global Health Film Festival on Saturday from Noon to 11pm. Schedule available at http://arts.uchicago.edu.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Black Cinema House (6901 S. Dorchester Ave.) and the Chicago Film Archives present Gordon Parks: Start of Motion, a rare screening of Parks’ first films, on Sunday at 4pm. Screening are Josef Filipowic’s 1968 documentary DIARY OF A HARLEM FAMILY (20 min, 16mm), which Parks narrated and photographed; and Parks’ own films FLAVIO (1964, 12 min, 16mm) and WORLD OF PIRI THOMAS (1968, 60 min, 16mm). Free admission, but seating is limited; RSVP at the BCH or CFA websites.
FVNMA Media Archeologies Institute at SAIC presents Nick Briz: Piracy for Posterity “how to make your own net art archive” on Wednesday at 4:30pm at SAIC’s Flaxman Library Special Collections (37 S. Wabash Ave., 5th Floor). Free admission.
Museum of Contemporary Photography (600 S. Michigan Ave.) presents Video Playlist: Gravitational Pull on Wednesday at 6pm. The program will include work by Basma Alsharif, Cameron Gibson, David Oresick, Kera Mackenzie, Ana Vaz, and others. Free admission.
The Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Gene Siskel Film Center) presents Mitchell Leisen’s 1943 film NO TIME FOR LOVE (83 min, 35mm) on Sunday at 11:30am. Note new location, day, and time.
The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) presents Interiors and Exteriors on Friday at 5:30pm at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.). The program features Jacques Baratier’s 1950 documentary DESORDRE (Disorder, 18 min, 35mm) and Maurice Lemaître’s 1969 film MAI 68: SOULEVEMENT DE LA JEUNESSE (May 68: Youth Uprising, 28 min, 16mm). Free admission.
The Museum of Contemporary Art screens Sarah Morris’ 2011 documentary CHICAGO (Unconfirmed Running Time and Format) on Tuesday at 6pm, followed by a conversation between Morris and MCA curator Dieter Roelstraete.
Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) screens Al Santana’s 1985 documentary VOICES OF THE GODS (60 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 7:30pm; and again on Wednesday at 6:30pm at Columbia College’s Ferguson Theater (600 S. Michigan Ave.). Screening as part of the Blacklight Cinema Series.
The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Adrian Lyne’s 1987 film FATAL ATTRACTION (119 min, 35mm) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Independent filmmaker Reid Schultz will discuss the entire Women Over the Edge film series after each screening. Free admission. www.northbrook.info/events/film
The Chicago Cinema Society presents Andrew J. Morgan and Nicholas Nummerdor’s 2013 documentary VANNIN’ (60 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 7pm at the Patio Theater, with filmmakers Morgan and Nummerdor and vanners Howard Furtak and David “Matchstick” Brooks in person. http://chicagocinemasociety.org
The Chicago Palestine Film Festival presents a screening at Moraine Valley Community College (9000 W. College Pkwy., Palos Hills) on Wednesday at 6pm. Screening are the 2012 short NATION ESTATE and the 2012 documentary feature THE WAR AROUND US.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Megumi Sasaki’s 2008 documentary HERB & DOROTHY (91 min, HDCam Video) is on Friday at 6pm and Saturday at 5:15pm and Sasaki’s 2013 follow-up documentary HERB & DOROTHY 50X50 (87 min, DCP Digital Projection) plays for a week, with Sasaki in person at the 8pm Friday and 3pm Saturday screenings; Fernando Meirelles’ 2002 Brazilian film CITY OF GOD (130 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7:45pm and Tuesday at 6pm, with a lecture by Lawrence Knapp at the Tuesday show; Claire Denis’ 1994 film I CAN’T SLEEP (112 min, Archival 35mm Print) is on Sunday at 3pm and Thursday at 8pm; and Denis’ 2001 film TROUBLE EVERY DAY (101 min, New 35mm Print) is on Sunday at 5:15pm and Monday at 8pm.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Darren Aronofsky’s 2008 film THE WRESTLER (109 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7, 9:15, and 11:30pm and Sunday at 1pm; Ryan Coogler’s 2013 film FRUITVALE STATION (85 min, Unconfirmed Format) is on Saturday at 7 and 9pm and Sunday at 4pm; Gus Van Sant’s 1995 film TO DIE FOR (106 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 7pm; Miguel Gomes’ 2012 film TABU (118 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; John Cassavetes’ 1976 film THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE (135 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7 and 9:45pm; and we’re informed that Olivier Assayas’ 1997 documentary HHH: A PORTRAIT OF HOU HSIAO-HSIEN (91 min, DVD Projection) is on Thursday at 7pm (despite PARIS AT DAWN still being listed on the Doc website at press time).
At the Music Box Theatre this week: Jem Cohen’s 2012 film MUSEUM HOURS (107 min) opens; Randy Moore’s 2013 film ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW (90 min) and Bill Siegel’s 2013 documentary THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI (94 min) both continue; Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 film THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (152 min) is on Monday at 2pm; Mark Robson’s 1971 film HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WANDA JUNE (105 min) is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am; and the Midnight films are VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (73 min, Imported 35mm Archival Print) on Friday only, Mike Mendez’s 2013 film BIG ASS SPIDER! (80 min) on Friday and Saturday, and Jonathan Lynn’s 1985 film CLUE (94 min) on Saturday only. All Unconfirmed Format except where noted.
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens Trent Harris’ 2000 film THE BEAVER TRILOGY (83 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 7pm. Originally announced in person, Harris is unable to attend.
The Logan Theatre screens Jerry Zucker’s 1990 film GHOST (127 min, Digital Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 10:30pm; and John Huston’s 1948 film THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (126 min, Digital Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 10:30pm.
The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 200) screens Kurt Maetzig’s 1947 film MARRIAGE IN THE SHADOWS (105 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm.
The Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Wim Wenders’ 1989 documentary NOTEBOOK ON CITIES AND CLOTHES (79 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6:30pm.
The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave.) screens Alessandro Angelini’s 2009 film RAISE YOUR HEAD (87 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm.
Sentieri Italiani (5430 N. Broadway Ave.) screens Ferzan Ozpetek’s 2012 film MAGNIFICA PRESENZA (105 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 4pm.
The Patio Theater hosts WTTW’s “Wild Chicago” Digital Release With Ben Hollis In Person on Sunday at 3pm.
The Chicago Cultural Center screens Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini’s 2013 documentary THE STATE OF ARIZONA (90 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm. Free admission.
The Chicago Public Library (West Town Branch, 1625 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Suree Towfighnia’s 2006 documentary STANDING SILENT NATION (53 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 6pm. Free admission.
The DuSable Museum screens Janks Morton’s 2012 documentary HOODWINKED (87 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 6:30pm, followed by a Q&A with Morton.
The Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents a double feature of James Frawley’s 1976 film THE BIG BUS (88 min, DVD Projection) and Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar’s A TOWN CALLED PANIC (75 min, DVD Projection), see More Screenings above, on Wednesday at 7pm (BUS) and approx. 8:30pm (PANIC). Free admission. www.facebook.com/squarelogan
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
Iceberg continues an exhibition of work by local filmmaker and artist Melika Bass on through December 16. Showing is the “immersive multi-channel video installation” Slider Chamber.
The Portage Theatre remains closed for the foreseeable future.
The Patio Theater has discontinued its regular programming and seems to only be hosting irregular special events. Note that the Northwest Chicago Film Society screenings for the remainder of 2013 have moved to Sundays at the Gene Siskel Film Center (11:30am or 7:30pm – check the NWCFS website for details).