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:: Friday, MAY 9 - Thursday, MAY 15 ::

CRUCIAL VIEWING

This is Called Moving: Film & Video by Abigail Child (Experimental)
Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) – Saturday, 7pm (Recent Work)
Cinema Borealis (1550 N Milwaukee) – Sunday, 8pm (Classic Work)
A figure of staggering importance, filmmaker, critic, theoretician, documentarian, poet, and installation artist Abigail Child is coming to Chicago this weekend to present two programs of her film and video work: first, a selection of recent pieces, made between 2004 and 2006, some of which were intended for gallery viewing (ca. 75 min, various formats); and second, an unmissable tour through Child's work between 1978 and 2001 (ca. 77 min, various formats), including three sections of Child's early opus, made up of seven "detachable" shorts, IS THIS WHAT YOU WERE BORN FOR? (1981–1989). Child's best-known work consists of distressed footage from a panoply of sources (industrial, commercial, and home movies all receive airings), selected and assembled with a sureness of touch more akin to the making of a mosaic than a familiar film-collage; these images combine with carefully composed and layered soundtracks (sometimes sampled, sometimes provided by collaborators from New York's Downtown Zorn-Axis) and snippets of dialogue or recitation to form startling new nexuses of implication regarding gender, memory, genre, history, and image itself. Even if Child were not herself gracing the screenings, each of which will be followed by a Q&A session, these events would be the very definition of crucial viewing for Chicago cinephiles. JD
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Exceprts of WHAT WERE YOU BORN FOR? at www.ubuweb.com/film/child.html.
Visit Abigail Child's webiste at abigailchild.com.

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James Whale's THE GREAT GARRICK (Classic Revival)
Doc Films – Sunday, 7pm
The title character is a well-regarded British actor of the 18th century, a real-life figure who inspired the Ernest Vajda play Ladies and Gentlemen, on which this film is based. In this fictional story, the egotistical Garrick is subjected to an elaborate prank by a group of vindictive French actors—who are, in turn, unaware that he’s in on the joke. When this 1937 comedy was last screened in Chicago a year ago, Cine-File contributor Ignatius Vishnevetsky wrote, “The multiple layers of truth at play in [the] reflexive yet extremely entertaining scenario become poignant analogies for audiences’ acceptance of narrative form and cinematic ‘reality.’” This screening is certainly a high point of DOC’s ongoing series of Whale’s non-horror films, an invaluable revival of a neglected oeuvre. Sophisticated in both their style and their understanding of adult relationships, Whale’s best work stands tall among the American films of its era. Last year’s blurb singled out among the director’s greatest qualities “a theatrical penchant for mood and atmosphere”—which is but one more reason why THE GREAT GARRICK shows Whale at the height of his powers. (1937, 89 min, 16mm). BS
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
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Sci-Fi Spectacular (Cult Marathon)
Music Box – Saturday, 12pm
The second annual Music Box "Sci-Fi Spectacular" is a particular joy, programmed as it is with nary a clunker on the bill: seven films, and seven opportunities to catch classics of the genre (and/or its kissing cousin, kitsch) on the big screen, bracketed with vintage trailers, memorabilia sales in the lobby, and an appearance by actress and painter Mary Woronov—who, aside from a staggering list of small roles in both television and film, holds the not-insignificant distinction of having been a star and muse for both Paul Bartel and Factory-era Andy Warhol.
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First, and of particular note, is the wonderful ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932, 70 min; 12pm), the first and best screen adaptation of H. G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau, with a screenplay co-written by scabrous pulp philosopher Philip Wylie (Generation of Vipers). SOULS features the one and only Charles Laughton in the role of the good doctor, while Bela Lugosi almost steals the show as the chilling and pathetic Sayer of the Law ("Are we not men?"). This cheerful pre-Code endorsement of miscegeny is itself worth the price of admission. Next up are two films from 1956 illustrating two markedly different approaches to sci-fi, and the alien-invasion trope in particular: EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956, 83 min; 1:45pm) gives us shock and awe, with landmarks being burned to rubble by animator Ray Harryhausen's deadly saucers. Contrasting with these easily combated tactics, however, are the far more pernicious methods of the pod people in Don Siegal's seminal treatise on paranoia and conformity, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956, 80 min; 3:35pm)—in a race to see who could "liberate" Earth the fastest, there's no doubt which species would come out ahead. (In fact, they're already here.) The invasions are followed by STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982, 113 min; 5:30pm), surely one of the highlights of the franchise, having taken the rather sensible course of introducing elements of horror and genuine pathos to the otherwise antiseptic Roddenberry universe. A vehicular twofer is begun with Paul Bartel's DEATH RACE 2000 (1975, 84 min; 7:40pm), positing a quintessentially Bartellian (i.e., garish and sadistic) take on the popular sci-fi trope of a totalitarian government ruling via entertainment, followed up by George Miller's classic THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981, 94 min; 10pm). WARRIOR may not equal the terrifying vision of things to come that is Miller's masterpiece, BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, but it remains a hell of a ride, having more or less defined all post-apocalyptic sci-fi since its release. Finally, master filmmaker/pornographer Paul Verhoeven's ROBOCOP (1987, 102 min; 12:15am) closes the evening in a hail of bullets, misanthropy, and good-naturedly anti-corporate satire. (All films 35mm) JD
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More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
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ALSO RECOMMENDED

UHF (Cult Revival)
Music Box – Saturday & Sunday, midnight
One of the few satires to best its target, "Weird Al" Yankovic's sole feature unpacks the chic cynicism of NETWORK (itself on loan from A FACE IN THE CROWD) and replaces it with warmhearted democratic bliss. The parody-friendly premise has an unemployed Al inheriting his uncle's decrepit UHF station and refashioning it as a TV funhouse for the most unhinged batch of showboating misfits this side of the forthcoming MISTER LONELY. Like any good-natured freakshow, it's a smash success, and like any underground sensation, its corporate competition (Kevin McCarthy, hero of the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) hatches a scheme to engulf and destroy it. As with any Yankovic product, not all the jokes work - for every Conan the LIbrarian there's a Twinkie Wiener Sandwich, though audiences may differ on which of those is the knee-slapper (actually, they both are). Like Michel Gondry's similarly utopian D.I.Y. "take back the media" rallying cry, BE KIND REWIND, UHF critiques not the mindlessness of popular entertainment, but the passivity with which it is consumed; Yankovic's earnest paean to the now-dying eccentricity of locally produced television should ring especially true for residents of the town that spawned Bozo the Clown, Svengoolie, and Chic-A-Go-Go. (1989, 97 min, 35mm) MK
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Full details at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
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Bill Stamets's CAMPAIGN TRAIL DOCUMENTS (Experimental)
The Nightingale – Friday, 8pm

Chicago based filmmaker and critic Bill Stamets brings his Super-8 Sound Projector to the Nightingale on Friday night to present three short documents from the '88, '92, and '96 presidential campaign trail. Crashing the mobile press core, Stamets captured the action on the periphery of the daily main stage press events. Incisively edited, these vérité styled bits deliver funny and unforgiving glimpses into the horse race antics of the contemporary press-politics symbiosis—a world where even the faces from twelve years ago are ominously familiar. (1988-1996, Super 8 sound and DV) CL
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Venue info here.

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The Actuality Show (Special Event)
Sonotheque / Chicago Cinema Forum Wednesday, 8pm
Continuing its ongoing series of silent classics with live, contemporary musical accompaniment, Forum presents this showcase of early "actuality films"—the crude, straight-forward style of documentary that predominates the first decade following the invention of cinema—with live scores performed by students in Columbia College's MFA Music Composition for the Screen program: "THE ACTUALITY SHOW takes a look at three phenomena [occurring in actuality filmmaking] from 1893-1905: the invention of the tracking shot by mounting cameras to trains and other movable machinery; the unpredictable, astonishing presence of nature and wildlife that found its way into the early cinema frame as a testament to the power of documentary; and the human kiss as an electrifying presentiment of the power of a new art form to inspire love and change." ($7 cover; 21+)
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More info at www.chicagocinemaforum.org.

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Romanian Cinema Rising (Foreign Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center Showtimes noted below
There’s a burgeoning international interest in Romanian cinema thanks to recent films like THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU, CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’, and 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS. For the next two months, the Siskel Film Center will give local audiences a chance to broaden their knowledge of this nation’s cinematic output with the traveling series "Romanian Cinema Rising," originally organized by the Film Society of the Lincoln Center and the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York. The first month’s program focuses on older titles, starting with FOREST OF THE HANGED (1964, 158 min, 35mm; Sunday, 2:30pm & Tuesday, 6:30pm) and SUNDAYS AT SIX (1965, 102 min, 35mm; Monday, 6pm & Wednesday, 8pm). FOREST OF THE HANGED , an epic drama set in the trenches of World War I, won a prize for director Liviu Ciulei (an honored veteran of Romanian theater) at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival. It’s said to balance rich historical detail with a comparable sense of character—which makes sense, as it’s based on an acclaimed novel. SUNDAYS AT SIX, on the other hand, is an entirely cinematic affair: Its director, Lucian Pintilie, is said to be one of Romanian cinema’s first auteurs, with a style that draws from neorealism and brings stunning immediacy to found locations. This film, Pintilie’s first, is a thriller of sorts about a young couple who must conduct their affair in secrecy lest they get found out by their underground political cell. BS
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Venue info at www.siskelflimcenter.org

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ALSO PLAYING AT DOC FILMS (University of Chicago)
DOC’s series of 40s Mexican melodramas continues with an archival print of LA PERLA (1947, 85 min, 35mm; Thursday, 7pm), an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novella The Pearl—which was itself inspired by a Mexican folk tale about indigenous sea divers. Steinbeck assisted with the film adaptation, which was directed by Emilio Fernandez, an remarkably prolific filmmaker in the Mexican studio system (He’s credited with over 20 films in the 1940s alone!) Fernandez was highly regarded in Mexican cinema for his collaborations with the industry’s top cinematographers, but he remains best known to American cinephiles for assisting John Ford with his Mexican-set THE FUGITIVE, also from 1947. Also playing this week: John Huston’s adaptation of Malcolm Lowry’s UNDER THE VOLCANO (1984, 112 min, 35mm; Monday, 7pm), starring Albert Finney in one of cinema’s greatest characterizations of an alcoholic; LE CIEL EST A VOUS (1944, 105 min, 35mm; Tuesday, 7pm), a reportedly proto-feminist drama about a female aviator, directed by Jean Grémillion, a former composer whose idiosyncratic films have never gained a large American following; THE IPCRESS FILE (1965, 109 min, 35mm; Wednesday, 7 & 9:30pm), a spy thriller that was a major early hit for Michael Caine; and THE LOST WORLD (1925, 105 min, 35mm; Thursday, 9:15pm), an early dinosaur-themed adventure story, which will be screened from a newly remastered 35mm print from the George Eastman House. BS
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Full details at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.

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THIS WEEK AT BLOCK CINEMA (Northwestern University)
In conjunction with Northwestern University Library's new bicycle-history exhibit "Life Turns on Two Wheels," Block Cinema will be presenting a Saturday matinee double feature of classic films that establish man's powerful emotional engagement with the bicycle through the plot device of its theft. As the respective narrative journeys taken by Antonio of LADRI DI BICICLETTE (BICYCLE THIEVES) (1949, 93min, 35mm; Saturday, 1pm) and Pee-Wee Herman of PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (1985, 90min, 35mm; Saturday 3pm) in their attempt to recover their cruisers differ wildly, the films are perhaps best connected through their emotionally powerful soundtracks: Alessandro Cicognini's pervasive melodramatic cues in LADRI helped define the sentiment of Italian neorealism, and Danny Elfman's bombastic Nino-Rota-meets-Carl-Stalling score for PEE WEE can perhaps be seen as a continuation of that tradition into a more contemporary genre of postmodern camp. As a reprieve to all the noise, Block will also be screening the recent, critically-acclaimed DIE GROßE STILLE (INTO GREAT SILENCE) (2005, 169min, 35mm; Thursday, 8pm), a transcendent, meditative Dogma-style ethnography of a Carthusian monastery high in the French Alps. Also this week: an extremely rare (and FREE) stateside screening of Brit Les Blair's part-improvised post-apartheid Johannesburg drama JUMP THE GUN (1997, 124 min, 35mm; Wednesday, 8pm). MC
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More info at www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu.
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New Documentaries at the Film Center
Gene Siskel Film Center – Showtimes noted below
The Film Center hosts the Chicago premiere of three new docs this week, all with special guests in attendance. MARIA TALLCHIEF (2007, 57 min, Digibeta Video; Saturday, 3pm & 5:15pm) by Sandra Osawa highlights this exquisite dancer's journey from the Osage Reservation to center of the international ballet world. At the 3:00 show, the statuesque Ms. Tallchief will be in attendance to answer questions and to allow moviegoers to awe at her neck and shoulders, along with the director and her daughter, Elise Paschen. Next, Stephen Fischler tackles the "Godfather" stereotype with BEYOND WISEGUYS: ITALIAN AMERICANS & THE MOVIES (2008, 60 min, DVCAM Video; Saturday 5:15pm). Chock full of celebrity interviews, this doc explores the popular/problematic onscreen persona of the Italian Gangster. Post-screening discussion will be led by Fred Gardaphe of Queens College, a leading authority on Italian American Studies. Also on Saturday, HOOP DREAMS directors Steve James and Peter Gilbert will present their new doc AT THE DEATH HOUSE DOOR (2008, 98 min, HD video; Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm & 5 pm, Monday - Wednesday at 6pm & 8pm), the story of a Texan death row chaplain's transformation into an outspoken anti-death penalty activist. CL
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More info at www.siskelflimcenter.org
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MORE SCREENINGS & EVENTS:

This week Facets presents the US premiere of MONSTER CAMP by Cullen Hoback. World of War Craft gamers gather in a Seattle forest to participate in a 48 hour live action game complete with costumes and characters inspired by the computer game. More info here.X

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CINE-LIST: May 9 15, 2008

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS / Jeremy M. Davies, Michael King, Ben Sachs
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ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS / Michael Castelle, Christy LeMaster

MANAGING EDITOR / Darnell Witt

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