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:: Friday, OCT. 23 - Thursday, OCT. 29 ::

CRUCIAL VIEWING

Abbas Kiarostami's SHIRIN and TEN (New/Contemporary Iranian)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Showtimes noted below 
Surely one of the major screenings of the year, this weekend the Film Center hosts the local premiere of Abbas Kiarostami's SHIRIN (2008, 91 min, HDCAM video; Saturday, 8pm and Sunday, 3pm), the director's first feature-length project in more than five years. Shot on digital video--like all his films since ABC AFRICA (2001)--SHIRIN is another chapter in Kiarostami's experimental film journey. The project is simple enough: a series of 112 close-ups of Iranian women (and Juliette Binoche) as they watch a film. The film, though based on an actual poem (a 12th century Persian epic titled The Story of Khosrow and Shirin), is in fact entirely fictional, existing solely as an elaborate soundtrack prepared by Kiarostami. By recording this soundtrack after shooting the close-ups, Kiarostami creates a provocation/game in the vein of the "conversations" in TASTE OF CHERRY and THE WIND WILL CARRY US that were shot one character at a time. As in all his work, the mystery of the present moment takes precedence over cause and resolution; as SHIRIN's moments are made of the most slender elements, the mysteries should be pretty vast, indeed.  Writing about the film for Variety last year, Ronnie Schieb interpreted it this way: "All the Sturm und Drang of the offscreen pageantry functions as mere pretext for the richness of emotions that flit across their watching faces. Kiarostami fabricates a fascinating tension between film narrative and film imagery, the spectators' closeups simultaneously reading as a ghostly reflection of theatrical artifice and as the story itself... SHIRIN [also] comes across as inescapably feminist, suggesting Kiarostami's personal stake in employing Iranian actresses whose talents he has never before tapped. The film also tips toward feminism in that the younger, prettier faces are not necessarily the ones that capture the eye." Kiarostami took his first steps toward experimental film as well as feminism in TEN (2002, 94 min, 35mm; Saturday, 6pm and Sunday, 5pm). Leave it to Kiarostami to make one of the decade's most contentious movies simply by fixing two cameras to the dashboard of a car, but TEN triggered numerous debates about authorship in digital cinema. Kiarostami structures the film as ten conversations between a modern woman of Tehran and the women she drives around the city; all of the conversations were rehearsed for weeks and then shot without Kiarostami present. What the film may lack in pictorial beauty it gains in documentary revelation, as the women speak with a candor virtually unseen in Iranian cinema. (Naturally, it was banned in Iran.) Concise in detail yet deliberate in its lack of resolution, TEN may be a frustrating experience but it is as unforgettable as any of Kiarostami's established masterpieces. BS
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


Jean-Pierre Melville's LEON MORIN, PRIEST (Classic Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Reader Movies for showtimes
 
France, the Occupation, black & white, a town like a rocky outcropping onto which the ocean washes up those with either the resolve or the luck not to drown. In a back room women plot to baptize their half-Jewish children like long-time crooks planning a heist. Part of what we love about crime films is that, in a sense, society turns us all into petty criminals of some kind; if not by laws, then by customs. Especially women. Emmanuelle Riva, atheist, decides to have a laugh at the expense of a poor abbé by confronting him at confession. But on the other side of the lattice is Leon Morin, a country priest with no use for a diary. They end up talking. "The presbytery is opposite the cinema," he tells her. He's giving directions, but we know what it means. The ultimate subject of movies is light, and for that reason filmmakers are so often attracted to darkness; the ultimate milieu of movies is the world, and for that reason filmmakers are so often attracted by the idea of church. The Film Center is right to make LEON MORIN, PRIEST the centerpiece of its short primer on iconic actor Jean-Paul Belmondo. Not just because it's a great film, and because it's a prime lesson in what makes Jean-Pierre Melville a great director, but because there's no Belmondo performance quite like it. It's he who plays Morin, with his usual cocky swagger transformed into an anarchic, absolute confidence. In Melville's body of work, out of all of those characters struggling to free themselves, he is the only one who's completely free, and it's because he is bound to a duty. (1961, 130 min, 35mm) IV 
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More info at
www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


Lars von Trier's ANTICHRIST (New Narrative)
Music Box - Check Reader Movies for showtimes

A cabin in the woods, a man and a woman, some fog: that's really all you need to make a horror film, right? The rest will come out of you--if not naturally, then it can be forced, vomited out, by sticking a finger down your throat. "The sleep of reason produces monsters," wrote Goya into a table above which he drew a picture of himself, surrounded by a cloud of bats and owls. We suppress the nightmares, and they only come back in greater numbers. ANTICHRIST, Lars von Trier's little monster, has the barest, though certainly not the humblest, of beginnings. A horror film, a scaffolding built out of twigs and bones, on to which von Trier can hang animal skins, human limbs, and the sickest jokes his head can brew up. The man is Willem Dafoe and the woman is Charlotte Gainsbourg. There's no monster; only the two of them, alone, with hammers, scissors and a few centuries worth of nightmares. This is a film made out of glistening bile. (2009, 109 min, 35mm) IV
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More info at
www.musicboxtheatre.com.

ALSO RECOMMENDED

Premium & Miracle: Two Films by Ed Ruscha (Experimental Narrative)
White Light Cinema at The Nightingale
- Tuesday, 8pm 
There's a long history of established artists from other media attempting to extend their reach to the cinema. Sometimes this is a great thing (Warhol), but usually it is a maddeningly terrible thing (um, well, let's not start a fight).  The film work of Ed Ruscha happily falls on the side of good. While Ruscha doesn't probe too deeply into the potential of cinema as a plastic art, he does probe its frequent visual banality to create work that is meaningfully slick and purposefully artless. Shot in a style reminiscent of an after school special, his first film PREMIUM (1971, 24 min, 16mm) is a comical work featuring artist Larry Bell which mocks the pretensions of sexual gamesmanship. The film's gags are slow to come, but you'll be rewarded with ironies and oddness that the Brothers Coen would surely envy. (And Tommy Smothers is in it!) The stronger of his two films is the mysterious MIRACLE (1975, 28 min, 16mm), which is a simple story of obsession and American icons. A grubby mechanic sets up a date with a flirty girl (actress/singer Michelle Phillips) who strangely deems the mechanic worthy enough to be pulled away from her soap operas.  The mechanic proceeds to forget the date as he becomes fixated on the Ford Mustang in his shop--or, rather, on its carburetor. The rooms and the characters in MIRACLE slowly and almost imperceptibly morph throughout the film--seemingly giving technology a pervasive power to modify psychology, space, and sexuality. JM
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More info at
www.whitelightcinema.com or www.nightingaletheatre.org.
Note: this event was organized by C-F editor Patrick Friel.


Jacques Tati's JOUR DE FETE (French Classic)
Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 3pm

Orson Welles made a good joke about Jacques Tati once, something about how he was the only actor who disappeared in close-up. But of course for Tati, it was never about actors but action: an actor is alone, but one acts against something, even if it's just a wall or a fence. Comedy, Tati postulated, should involve as many people as possible; it's selfish for us to have "comedians" when so many people, the audience included, could take part in a joke. Tati's first feature, made before he invented his famous M. Hulot character, stars the director as a country postman, just one horse in a merry-go-round town on Bastille Day. Tati shot the film in an experimental color process, though only a simultaneously-made black & white version has been available for decades. The Film Studies Center's screening, though from video, will be of the original version, which has never been available in the US. Here's a good joke about JOUR DE FETE: it's the only film that seems less funny when you think of its individual gags. (1949, 79 min, digital projection) IV
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More info at filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu.


Godard's A WOMAN IS A WOMAN and PIERROT LE FOU (Classic Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Showtimes noted below 
One can almost appreciate Jean-Luc Godard's argument against film preservation considering how his own films have been "preserved." Designed as interrogations-cum-challenges of the then-current zeitgeist, Godard's great films of the 1960s are too often revived as nostalgia, their formal radicalism trivialized as the product of youthful "romanticism." (This turn is especially disappointing considering that Godard continues to make great movies that challenge the zeitgeist, albeit with fewer musical numbers, on an almost-yearly basis.) One benefit of film preservation and re-discovery, though, is that it can expand our understanding of film history as more neglected movies are resurrected. Case in point, two of the year's major cinema events--the traveling Nagisa Oshima retrospective that came to the Film Center in January and the Criterion Collection recently issuing Dusan Makavejev's first three films on DVD--show Godard to have been less of a singular figure of 60s cinema than generally believed. When one sees "Godardian" devices applied to, say, the Japanese or Yugoslavian working-class, then the heralded spontaneity and self-consciousness of Godard (derived from years of getting drunk on movies) seem more like calls for the audience to reorient itself in the world at large. In this light, A WOMAN IS A WOMAN (1961, 84 min, 35mm widescreen; Friday, 8:15pm and Monday, 6pm)--which famously juxtaposes hallmarks of Italian Neorealism (location shooting, hand-held camera, working-class milieu) and MGM musicals (bright colors, cheerful tone, singing and dancing)--resonates because of its sincere allegiance to the characters, working types who identify with the heightened emotions of musicals but never have the chance to act on them. And PIERROT LE FOU (1965, 110 min, 35mm widescreen; Saturday, 5:30pm and Thursday, 8:15pm), an unwieldy juxtaposition of multiple film genres, seems to cohere around the contemporaneous spectacle of Western intervention in Vietnam. These films screen as part of the Film Center's weeklong tribute to Jean-Paul Belmondo, an actor whose brash movements and introspective eyes were an ideal canvas for Godard's ideas at the time. BS
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More info at
www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


Michael Mann's THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (Contemporary Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Monday, 7pm 
The last part of the last reel of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS stands as one of Michael Mann's greatest achievements. Meaning, also, one of the great achievements of modern American cinema. It wasn't until Mann revised MOHICANS for DVD release that the film's ending acquired its apocalyptic dread, but in the theatrical version, which Doc Films will be presenting, it retains its primacy. Conflict has been reduced to a level even more direct than the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott Westerns; it is action (and, by extension, emotion--there's little difference between the two in this film) of the most completely physical kind. What precedes it is a damn good adventure movie full of clever conceits (the waterfall, for one) and intense images (the musket fire here is as alien as the Tommy Guns in PUBLIC ENEMIES). But those last moments, that rocky precipice and that violence, make Daniel Day-Lewis's acting and the siege at the fort seem inconsequential. (1992, 112 min, 35mm widescreen) IV 
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More info at
www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


François Truffaut's MISSISSIPPI MERMAID and
STOLEN KISSES & ANTOINE AND COLETE (Classic Revival) 
Siskel Film Center / Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Showtimes noted below 
François Truffaut: shy and outspoken, conservative and angry, humanist and misanthrope, romantic and doomed, in love with cinema and haunted by literature, in love with the world and haunted by the past. It's often said that there are at least two Truffauts, the man who could make a film like CONFIDENTIALLY YOURS and the man who could make a film like THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR, but there is really just one. Had he been the protagonist in a movie, reviewers would have complained about the inconsistency of his characterization. He was, fortunately, a person, and one who was a lot more difficult than people would like to think. In MISSISSIPPI MERMAID (1969, 123 min, 35mm; Film Center, Saturday 3pm and Tuesday 8:15pm), Jean-Paul Belmondo is unsure whether he's just a pawn in Catherine Deneuve's game, though the audience can be sure that both actors are just pawns in Truffaut's. But for all of Belmondo's charm and Deneuve's half-innocence, how can they really compete with Jean-Pierre Leaud? Leaud, with his slight frame, a face like a silent comedian and a voice like a cross between a violin and a flute, only needs to run his fingers through his hair to remind you why he remains one of the most fascinating, infuriating, beautiful presences in cinema. At Doc, which is running a Truffaut series all season, there's a double feature of STOLEN KISSES and ANTOINE AND COLETTE (1968/1962, 90 min/32 min, 35mm; Wednesday, 7pm and 9pm), the third and second (respectively) entries in Truffaut's Leaud-starring, career-long Antoine Doinel cycle. STOLEN KISSES, the most picaresque of the Doinel films, follows Leaud as he transitions from soldier to detective to television repairman; its beauty lies in the fact that, like Leaud and Truffaut's Doinel himself, it doesn't seem to know where it's headed until the last few minutes. ANTOINE AND COLETTE was shot as part of an international anthology feature, though for the last few decades it's almost always been screened (and treated) as a short film. It's possibly Truffaut's best film, its only real competition being another TWO ENGLISH GIRLS. The film finds an 18-year-old Doinel living on his own, getting a job, and falling in love. Like all of Truffaut's films centering on young people, it isn't so much about youth as the memory of youth. The director, who turned 30 the year he made it and was already a father of two, seems to be trying to recapture the moments that disappeared without his noticing. IV 
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More info at
www.siskelfilmcenter.org and www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


Expressive Media Express (New Media/Special Events)
The Nightingale
- Friday through Sunday
This weekend-long series of screenings, installation, performance, and workshops is organized by jonCates (SAIC), Nicholas O'Brien (Columbia College), and Christy LeMaster (The Nightingale - and Cine-File contributor). The goal, in their words, is to "encourage creative use of digital tools and simultaneously showcase Chicago's energetic New Media community." Things begin Friday (8pm) with the two-part program "Screen.Grab2 | CHIcast." Part one features new media work by Nick Briz, jonCates, Jake Elliott, Arend Gegruyter-Helfer, Emily Kuehn, Jesse McLean, Michael Morris, Jon Satrom, and Micah Schippa. If the "Screen.Grab1" program earlier this fall is any indication there should be some quite interesting work here. Part two is live new media performance work by Rainbo Video, Tyler St Clair (Stagediver/Dispyz), Aaron Zarzutzki, and Mark Beasley and Tamas Kemenczy. On Saturday and Sunday there are two kids workshops: "Bent Box" (Saturday, 10am) and "Stepmania" (Sunday, 2pm)--check the Nightingale website for details. Throughout the weekend there will be an interactive installation on the history of electronic arts in Chicago on display. PF
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More info at
www.nightingaletheatre.org.

The Bruce Conner Prospective (Experimental)
Eye and Ear Clinic at SAIC (112 S Michigan Ave, Rm 1307) - Monday, 6pm

One of the great accidents of Art History is that Bruce Conner did not invent the found-footage film. Sure, Joseph Cornell made ROSE HOBART in 1936 and Eisenstein et al were rumored to have rearranged THE BIRTH OF A NATION while teaching themselves the art of montage in the 1910s, but Conner did it better. In his first major film, simply titled A MOVIE (1958, 12 min, 16mm) he displayed a knack for gluing the scraps of civilization together to create both a humorous and scathing visual commentary on society at large and Hollywood idioms. As the title indicates, this was a generalized version of the more mind-numbing fare that is arguably still the norm: sex, explosions, racism, and sexy racist explosions. In REPORT (1967, 13 min, 16mm) he used the news coverage surrounding the Kennedy assassination, shot off his own TV set, to explore the media's obsession with violence and celebrity. Again Conner uses a medium of mass communication as the message, but shows more sensitivity as he explores his own feelings about an event that defined a generation. Craig Baldwin's TRIBULATION 99 (1992, 48 min, 16mm) is a film that is epic in scope and archival in source material. Taking a different approach to appropriation, Baldwin braids 99 different conspiracy theories into a narrative. With footage mainly from B-movie clips and educational films, he explains in half-whispered narration not just who killed JFK, but what it had to do with the Mayans and aliens. Baldwin shows a sensitivity to the societal fringes that incubated these theories, and you get the sense that although he doesn't believe them, he knows they're onto something. Also screening: Brian Boyce's SPECIAL REPORT (1999, 3 min, video), Kent Lambert's SEPTEMBER SICK SEMPER TYRANNIS (2008, 4 min, video), and Jesse McLean's ONLY WE KNOW (2009, 5 min, video). Lambert and McLean person. JH


Werner Herzog's NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (Classic Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday and Tuesday, 6pm 
The latest installment of the Siskel Film Center's series of remakes, NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE, is Werner Herzog's homage to F.W. Murnau's glooming, swirling, haunting masterpiece--the 1922 original, NOSFERATU, A SYMPHONY OF HORRORS. As moody as its predecessor, this NOSFERATU dwells in the caverns and misty crossings of Herzog's Caspar David Friedrich-esque film landscapes. The centerpiece is Klaus Kinski's performance as Count Dracula--a limping, aching vampire who has lured an ambitious gentleman to his castle. Though radically differing from the original, NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE does represent an interesting moment in the history of German cinema. Herzog, perhaps more than his contemporaries, is credited with bridging the gap of the so-called "lost years" of German cinema--those between Expressionism and the Neue Deutsche Film. Despite this film and his admiration of Murnau, Herzog has distanced himself from his esteemed predecessor in German film: "SUNRISE is a great movie... but there's really no connection." Agreed. Sara Hall lectures at the Tuesday screening. (1979, 107 min, 35mm) LN
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More info at
www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


Nicholas Ray's REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (Classic Revival)
Music Box - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

James Dean wearing a fire engine red jacket and a look as smoldering as the cigarette he's holding is one of the true iconic images of movie history. But beyond the surface image of cool is a roiling romantic fatalism that is both timeless and of its time. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE is that rare bird: a perennially fresh classic. Even today it's impossible to make a movie about teenagers without at least unconsciously stealing from it. Period. Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo are alienated teens struggling to make sense of life, and a very young Dennis Hopper plays a jack-booted thug. If you've never seen this movie on the big screen in all of its CinemaScope glory you are missing out. (1955, 111 min, 35mm widescreen) RC
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More info at
www.musicboxtheatre.com.


MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS: 
 
The Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center screens legendary Dutch filmmaker Johan van der Keuken's 1981 documentary THE WAY SOUTH on Thursday at 6pm. Introduced by SAIC professor Daniel Eisenberg. 
 
On Saturday at 8pm Chicago Filmmakers presents the acclaimed new documentary about Sidney, Ohio, 45365, by sibling filmmakers Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross. 
 
Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week is Canadian video artist Mike Hoolboom presenting his 2003 work IMITATATIONS OF LIFE on Friday; legendary documentarian Emile de Antonio's 1973 film PAINTERS PAINTING on Wednesday; and Barry Jenkins' MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY in the Mumblecore series on Thursday. 
 
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: On Sunday is Frank Capra's 1931 film THE MIRACLE WOMAN; THE KITCHEN PRESENTS TWO MOON JULY, featuring Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, and other 1980's downtown NYC artist, shows Tuesday; also Tuesday at 9pm is Basil Dearden's 1961 film VICTIM, showing for LGBTQ History Month; on Thursday in the Charles Laughton series is Robert Siodmak's 1944 noir THE SUSPECT (early show) and in the Apocalypse series is Paul Bartel's 1975 dark comedy DEATH RACE 2000 (late show). 
 
Facets Cinémathèque
hosts the Burning Fuse Film Festival this week, which presents six recent documentaries. Of particular note is FAUBOURG TREMÉ: THE UNTOLD STORY OF BLACK NEW ORLEANS, by Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie. Also showing this week: On Monday it's the 2002 documentary INTO THE FIRE: AMERICAN WOMEN IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR, with director/producer Julia Newman in person; and in the Facets Night School series is Nicolas Roeg's DON'T LOOK BACK on Friday, with a talk by Dan Mucha, and Guillermo del Torro's THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE on Saturday, with a talk by Michael Smith. These two at midnight and showing from DVD. 

The Film Studies Center at the University of Chicago screens a 35mm print of Japanese erotic film director Wakamatsu Koji's 1965 work SECRETS BEHIND THE WALL on Friday at 7pm, with an introduction by assistant professor Michael Raine.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Jean-Pierre Melville's classic French noir LE DOULOS screens Sunday and Wednesday; Finnish-American photographer Liisa Roberts presents her 2004 film WHAT'S THE TIME IN WYBORG? on Wednesday at 6pm; POINT OF VIEW: JOE SEDELMAIER, a new documentary on the Chicago-based television commercial director, screens along with several of his short films. Director Marsie Wallach and Joe Sedelmaier in person; and the fashion documentary VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR returns for a handful of screenings. 

Also at the Music Box this week: the anime feature EVANGELION 1.0 YOU ARE (NOT) ALONE opens (and plays in the midnight slot as well Friday and Saturday); GHOSTBUSTERS is the other midnight film Friday and Saturday, and also shows Saturday and Sunday in the 11:30am matinee slot. WE LIVE IN PUBLIC is held over for 3:40pm screenings on Saturday and Sunday only. 

At the Portage Theater this week: On Saturday at 7:00pm is the documentary film YOU WEREN'T THERE: A HISTORY OF CHICAGO PUNK 1977-1984; on Friday and Sunday it's a Monster Film Festival, with the 1931 version of DRACULA (Friday, 7pm), ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (Sunday, 1pm), and THE CREATURE FORM THE BLACK LAGOON (Sunday, 2:30pm); beginning Monday and continuing through Friday is "Halloween Havoc 2," with Hitchcock's THE BIRDS and PSYCHO (Monday), John Carpenter's THEY LIVE and THE THING (Tuesday), DR.GIGGLES and HALLOWEEN II (Wednesday), and CHILD'S PLAY 2: CHUCKY'S BACK and PHANTASM II (Thursday). 
 
The Bank of America Cinema plays Richard Boleslawski's 1935 version of LES MISERABLES on Saturday at 8pm.  
 
The DuSable Museum of African American History screens local filmmaker Carolyn Okafor's new feature A MAN'S IMAGE on Friday at 7:30pm, with Okafor in person; on Sunday at 2pm is the recent documentary MAKE NO LITTLE PLANS: DANIEL BURNHAM AND THE AMERICAN CITY, with director Judith P. McBrien in person. 
 
Mess Hall screens (from DVD) Margarethe von Trotta's ROSA LUXEMBURG on Friday at 7:30 and, in the "Film, Cities and War" series, Edgar Reitz's 2ND HEIMAT on Thursday at 8pm (with a discussion by Enos Williams).

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CINE-LIST: October 23 October 29, 2009

MANAGING EDITOR / Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Rob Christopher, Jason Halprin, Christy LeMaster, Liam Neff, Josh Mabe, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

> Editorial Statement -> Contact