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a weekly guide to alternative cinema- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
:: Friday, OCT. 10 - Thursday, OCT. 16 ::

CRUCIAL VIEWING

WILD COMBINATION: A PORTRAIT OF ARTHUR RUSSELL (New Doc)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday & Monday, 8pm & Tuesday, 6:15 pm

New York filmmaker Matt Wolf didn't set out to make a documentary when he began researching the late Arthur Russell. He had hoped to use Russell's beautiful and distinct body of music as a backdrop for a series of experimental movies and that original impulse is what makes WILD COMBINATION such an effective and sensual work. As a musician Russell was in turn a fixture in NYC's avant-garde scene and Musical Director at The Kitchen in the 1970s and '80s, an early collaborator of David Byrne, and a disco auteur whose odd dance tracks arguably grandfathered contemporary house music. As an individual he was introverted, eccentric, and uncompromising, which often stimied his career aspirations, leaving his extraordinary body of work virtually unknown outside of his niche until nearly a decade following his untimely death of AIDS in 1992. Because archival footage of Russell is scarce, Wolf and cinematographer Jody Lipes shot impressionistic reinactments on VHS and Super 8, using Russell's actual personal effects in some instances to create a seamless visual foundation for the ample music samples that guide the film. Wolf's balances Russell's musical significance and personal story well, focusing heavily on his enviable romance with long time boyfriend Tom Lee. Wolf allows the people closest to Russell (mainly Lee and Russell's parents) to tell the story of his atypical life and music. WILD COMBINATION may be one the best music docs in recent history, because it is first what its title advertises: a full portrait of a person. (2008, 70 min, HD Cam Video) CL
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.

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Sidney Lumet's FAIL-SAFE (Classic Revival)
Music Box – Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

Released the same year, based on a strikingly similar premise, and realized in an equally stark, monochromatic palette, Sidney Lumet's 1964 Cold War nuclear mishap thriller FAIL-SAFE has for too long lived in the shadow of Stanley Kubrick's DR STRANGELOVE. At times Lumet can be stagey, hyper-literal, and self-serious to a fault, but his uncluttered vision and uncompromising critical stance have informed some of the most soul-rattling moral dramas of the past six decades (and FAIL-SAFE is arguably the pinnacle). Kubrickian parody was one inspired response to the absurdity of dual civilizations on the brink of mutual destruction, but Lumet and screenwriter Walter Bernstein's insights into the ideological horrors of the nuclear age run deeper. Walter Matthau puts on the show of a lifetime as a fascinatingly brusque embodiment of right-wing intellectualism, and Henry Fonda takes patriotic hyper-sincerity to surrealistic new heights (imagine the Young Mr. Lincoln multiplied by the activist juror in 12 ANGRY MEN) as an incorruptible Chief Executive ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the species. So dark a movie would seem an odd choice for a weekend matinee, but FAIL-SAFE is utterly devastating and oddly life-affirming in equal measure. It's a largely overlooked but critical piece of American mythology, which deserves every inch of the big screen treatment it will receive this weekend at the Music Box.
(1964, 111 min, 35mm). DW
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More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
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Andy Warhol’s SLEEP (Avant Garde)
Doc Films
(University of Chicago)
– Thursday, 7pm
One of the legendary films of the avant-garde—more referenced and discussed than seen—SLEEP is an intimate and surprisingly delicate film on an epic scale. Notorious for its length—depending on the projection speed it clocks in between four and a half to five and a half hours—it is another of Warhol’s explorations of portraiture—this time of his then-lover poet John Giorno. Contrary to much of the literature on the film it is not a chronological six uninterrupted hours of Giorno sleeping. Rather, it is composed of dozens of short sections, just several minutes each, which move back and forth through time and which chart a geography of Giorno’s body—almost caressing it as he sleeps. Warhol’s gaze here is the most personal of his career and it is a tender sort of voyeurism. Shot in a grainy black-and-white and often focusing on the shadowy spaces found in the nooks and crannies of Giorno’s body, SLEEP might well be compared to the paintings of Caravaggio rather than the pop-art sensibilities Warhol was known for. If you can spare your own sleep or don’t have to work on Friday, this is a rare, beautiful, and exhilarating film and should not be missed. (1963, 285 min, 16mm) PF
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
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ALSO RECOMMENDED

Phil Solomon x 2 (Experimental)
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"Film and Video by Phil Solomon"
The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) – Friday, 7pm

While Conversations at the Edge focused more on Solomon’s recent Grand Theft Auto-derived digital video works, this screening features four of Solomon’s gorgeous and “other worldly” (in a very different way from the GTA works) 16mm films. Solomon is part alchemist and celluloid wizard, and his films continually elicit “how did he do that?” thoughts and the emulsion slips and bubbles, oozes and shakes and cracks. His THE SECRET GARDEN (1988) is one of the wonders of the contemporary avant-garde; an ode to childhood that evokes the nostalgia and awe of those young years, but remembers that it could also be a dark and strange world as well. Also screening are REMAINS TO BE SEEN (1989/1994); THE EXQUISITE HOUR (1989/1994); TWILIGHT PSALM II: WALKING DISTANCE (1999); and the Grand Theft Auto digital work REHEARSALS FOR RETIREMENT (2007). Solomon in person. PF
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Seasons with Stan: An Evening with Phil Solomon
White Light Cinema at The Nightingale – Saturday, 8pm

From the White Light Cinema website: Phil Solomon “will be presenting a very special program about his collaborations and friendship with Stan Brakhage. In addition to films Solomon and Brakhage made together and a few solo-Brakhage films, Solomon will also be sharing some tantalizing rarities.” Works to be shown include Solomon’s rare ROCKET BOY VS. BRAKHAGE (1973-88); the Solomon and Brakhage collaborations SEASONS… (1998) and CONCRESCENCE (1996); and Brakhage’s CHARTRES SERIES (1994) and STELLAR (1993). Plus rare home movie footage and audio recordings of Brakhage from the 1940s-on. Solomon in person. Note: WLC is the project of CF’s managing editor, who compiled this description.
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See venue links for more information.
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19th Annual Festival of Films From Iran (New Iranian)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Reader Movies for showtimes

In its second week, the Siskel Center’s annual series of Iranian cinema will introduce Chicagoans to two young directors who have received much acclaim at home but are only starting to gain attention abroad. The 34-year-old Abdolreza Kahani, represented by his latest, OVER THERE (2008, 75 min, 35mm; Saturday, 6pm & Sunday, 3pm), has been well-known in Iran for at least 20 years, having directed his first short at 15 and then going on to be a respected stage director shortly thereafter. OVER THERE is a domestic drama shot in moody black-and-white; its premise (highly theatrical in nature) is of a young man who has ten days to decide whether he wants to return to the U.S. and renew his Green Card or stay with his wife in Iran. On the other end of the spectrum is LOOSE ROPE (2008, 82 min, 35mm; Saturday, 8pm & Sunday, 5pm), which deals with the cultural divide between rural and urban Iran that’s become an enduring theme in the national cinema. Two young men from a countryside animal market are given one day to deliver a wounded cow to Tehran. Director Mehrshad Karkhani traces their unpredictable journey with humor and rich social observation. BS
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.

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Joanie 4 Jackie: The Lady Glitterati of the New Movie Uprising (Experimental)
Conversations at the Edge (Gene Siskel Film Center) – Thursday, 6pm
In 2005, when Miranda July swept festivals with her debut feature ME YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, many female experimental film and video makers took note that one of their own had taken the top prize at Cannes. Ten years earlier July, disappointed by the lack of women images makers in the curriculum, left film school for RRIOT GRRL-centric Portland. She created Big Miss Moviola, a video chianletter; she invited ladies all over the country to send in their videos and in return they received a visual mix tape of their movie plus the work of nine other women. The project, now called Joanie 4 Jackie and organized out of Bard College, continues to be an inspirational DIY community of female makers. CATE this week offers several shorts from the recent retrospective of J4J and a short documentary made by July and co-curator Shauna McGarry. This program is sure to be full of hard to find early work by plenty of ladies you may now have heard of. (1983-2003. 90 min, various formats) CL
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.

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More from the Gene Siskel Film Center
George Cukor’s SYLVIA SCARLETT (1935; Friday and Wednesday, 6pm; Jonathan Rosenbaum lectures on Wednesday) features Katherine Hepburn in male-drag and a young Cary Grant. A strange work for all involved, it has become both a touchstone film for queer and feminist studies. The Russian series spotlights a respected silent, Abram Room’s BED AND SOFA (1927; Saturday, 3pm), and an unknown Russian Civil War “western,” AT HOME AMONG STRANGERS, STRANGER AT HOME (1974; Monday, 6pm and Thursday, 8:15pm), by Nikita Mikhalkov. Wim Wender’s much-loved BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB (1999; Tuesday, 8pm) screens in support of a new CD release of the group’s Carnegie Hall concert. The new documentary FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER (2008, 93 min, 35mm), by Irena Salina, receives a week-long run. The film explores many of the environmental, political, and business issues surrounding our most important resource. PF
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.

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Also Playing at Doc Films
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Edgar G. Ulmer's BLUEBEARD – Sunday, 7pm
"The first of three masterpieces Ulmer would make while working at the poverty row studio Producers Releasing Corporation, [a] Victorian Gothic potboiler, about a Parisian puppeteer whose search for the ideal beauty leads to the death by strangling of many a failed candidate."
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Julien Duvivier's TALES OF MANHATTAN – Monday, 7pm
An American film by the director of PEPE LE MOKO.
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Umberto Lenzi's PARANOIA – Tuesday, 7pm
A giallo classic from the director of CANNIBAL FEROX.
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Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING
– Wednesday, 7pm & 9pm
"In his first of many collaborations with master cinematographer Sven Nykvist, Bergman returns to medieval Sweden for this tale of a young peasant girl who is murdered in cold blood by two goat herders."
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MOTL THE OPERATOR (Thursday, 7pm)
"A tearjerking old-time melodrama reminiscent of the Second Avenue Yiddish theater scene and popular with the Jewish masses, Motl der Operator is an important historical document which illustrates the difficulties of the Jewish immigrant experience in New York City."

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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.

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MORE SCREENINGS & EVENTS:

More from the Music Box: THE GODFATHER II (Restoration), SAVE ME, BILL & TED's EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Check Reader Movies for showtimes and reviews.

This week at Facets Cinémathèque: COZY DENS, INTIMIDAD. Check Reader Movies for showtimes and reviews.

This week at Block Cinema (Northwestern University): Polanski's KNIFE IN THE WATER, THE TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON, BUNGALOW. Check Reader Movies for showtimes and reviews.

The Horror Society Film Festival screens this Saturday at The Portage. Check website for details.

Bank of America Cinema screens THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR, Saturday at 8pm.

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CINE-LIST: October 10 October 16, 2008

MANAGING EDITOR / Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Christy LeMaster, Ben Sachs

CONSULTING EDITOR & DESIGN / Darnell Witt

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