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:: Friday, APR. 22 - Thursday, APR. 28 ::


Illuminating the Shadows: Film Criticism in Focus (Special Event)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) Friday and Saturday
Organized by Block Cinema film curator Mimi Brody (with help from yours truly), this three-day conference on film criticism features four panel discussions with more than twenty national and local critics (including Cine-File contributors Ben Sachs, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, and Christy LeMaster); and four screenings (it opened on Thursday with Errol Morris' TABLOID). On Friday, there are panels at 1 and 5pm and screenings of Raoul Walsh's SAILOR'S LUCK, introduced by the New York Times' Dave Kehr, at 3pm (see below) and Athina Rachel Tsangari's new Greek film ATTENBERG, introduced by the LA Weekly's Karina Longworth, at 8pm. On Saturday, there are panels at 1 and 5pm and a screening of the new documentary/essay film THE FORGOTTEN SPACE, introduced by Jonathan Rosenbaum, at 3pm (see below). PF
Raoul Walsh's SAILOR'S LUCK (American Revival) Friday, 3pm
Ah, the days when "sailors on leave" was considered box-office gold: James Dunn, Sammy Cohen, and Frank Moran play sailor pals who spend their days breaking chairs, stealing bananas, and chasing dames. Dunn falls for Sally Eilers; they dance, they swim, he spanks her, they dance some more. Like the best comedies of its (or any other) era, the film essentially involves the characters getting from point A to point B (but not before detouring to point Z) and ends exactly when it should; the Film Center's Marty Rubin pretty much hit the nail on the head when he described this as "freewheeling proletarian vaudeville." A hoot, a holler, a prime cut of pre-Code Walsh, a great big bar fight of a movie, this is one of the least politically correct films of the 1930s. Selected and introduced by the New York Times' Dave Kehr.† (1933, 81 min, archival 35mm) IV
Allan Sekula's & NoŽl Burch's THE FORGOTTEN SPACE (New Doc) Saturday, 3pm
THE FORGOTTEN SPACE plays like an immersive lecture, exploring and indicting virus-like capitalist growth and the global supply chain. More than this, however, the film ruminates on the ubiquitous (but largely unseen) container ships that ceaselessly move goods from impoverished nation-states to rich industrialized economies. Still photographer and essayist Allan Sekula (the film is based on one of his books) narrates rhetorical questions and contemplative asides while filmmaker/theorist NoŽl Burch's precise photography isolates and subtly unnerves the viewer. Images of driverless trucks in Rotterdam and idle crews on massive barges in Hong Kong are juxtaposed against interviews with the unemployed in Long Beach and archival footage of bustling stevedores in New York. The assemblage of disparate locations and themes is arresting and enlightening, unveiling anonymity in globalization that the system works so effectively to obscure. Reminiscent of Chris Marker's film essays, Sekula and Burch's film methodically extrapolates broader implications of Western industrialized society from these individual segments. Measured and lyrical, THE FORGOTTEN SPACE is an expansive discussion, moving in digressions that are both natural and deliberate. It exhaustively presents our supply chain to us, letting us breathe with it and—never dogmatically—implicates everyone in the faceless, machine-driven system. Selected and introduced by Jonathan Rosenbaum. (2010, 112 min, DigiBeta) BW
For more information and the complete schedule visit here.
Note: This event was co-organized by Cine-File editor Patrick Friel.

Alfred Hitchcock's UNDER CAPRICORN (American Revival)

Doc Films (University of Chicago) Wednesday, 7 and 9:15pm
Perhaps the most overlooked of Hitchcock's films (not least by its director, who dismissed it as a failed experiment), this is in every way a deepening of the formal tactics first attempted by Hitchcock in ROPE. As in the previous feature, much of the film transpires in long-take tracking shots; what's different here is that Hitchcock often marries these shots to ambitious crane movements, resulting in complex manipulations of time, space, and emotion every bit as astonishing as those achieved by Max Ophuls at his peak. (The use of color, also Hitchcock's second, is remarkable as well, which makes this 35mm print—direct from the BFI—a major screening.) The film also bears resemblance to Ophuls' major late features (LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN, LA RONDE) in that it employs an expressive style to depict the repressive social codes of an earlier period: It is a work of ironic, often heartrending beauty. The setting is Australia in the early colonial era, when much of the population consisted of British prisoners working off their sentences. It's an ideal backdrop for Hitchcock, one of the most incisive filmmakers on the subject of guilt; and though UNDER CAPRICORN isn't a traditional suspense movie, Hitchcock's personal investment can be felt in every scene. The film's emotional impact nonetheless hinges on Ingrid Bergman's central performance (her last for Hitchcock), as the noblewoman driven mad by her loyalty to her husband (Joseph Cotten), a commoner who committed murder for her. It's a demanding performance, no less challenging than her subsequent work for Roberto Rossellini; as in her landmark performances in STROMBOLI and EUROPA '51, it requires that she evolve from a despair to a near-transcendental state. "The secret subject of this drama is confession," wrote Jacques Rivette in the early 1950s. His peers Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer later added, in their seminal book Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films, "Hitchcock embroiders the motif with a second idea: that of disintegration, of a taint which contaminates the soul and the body. This concept of a close affinity between the flesh and the spirit, a concept on which all western art is based, is much despised by our moderns: but suddenly the cinema, by simply presenting the evidence, furnishes it with a contemporary and irrefutable foundation." (1949, 117 min, 35mm) BS
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Robert Bresson's DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (French Revival)
Music Box Check Venue website for showtimes
It would seem likely that a film about the frustrations of a Catholic priest in provincial France made during the high period of postwar French existential hand-wringing would lose some of its appeal over the last six decades. Yet it is impossible not to be overawed by the absolute economy of means, singularity of vision, moral seriousness, and unfaltering confidence that are everywhere on display in this early Bresson masterpiece. With DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST, Bresson was first able to strip away all the elements of traditional filmmaking that he found inauthentic, ineffectual, theatrical. This meant shooting on location, restricting camera movement and contrast, casting primarily non-professional actors, and dictating minutely their every action and expression. This last gamble paid off richly with Claude Laydu, who portrays the inner turmoil of the neurasthenic unnamed priest without ever lapsing into melodrama or shallow psychologism.†The plot is rather dire: the†young priest arrives at a small parish in northern France, struggles with the apathy and spiritual lethargy of his parishioners, runs afoul of the local nobility, is tormented by the students of his catechism class, and suffers from an increasingly debilitating stomach ailment.†But while the narrative charts the priest's physical deterioration and social isolation, the major events in this film are redemptive in the strictest sense: moments of unprepared for, unexpected, and inexplicable grace. This is an icon of a film, a demonstration of transcendence, and an act of devotion.†Bresson set out to rid filmmaking of all dependence on theatrical forms.†What he achieved was even more unlikely: the revivification of that ur-theatrical form, the medieval mystery play. [Editor's note: we are only listing this in Also Recommended rather than in Crucial Viewing due to the fact that it will be shown from digital projection instead of 35mm. A quirk of booking prevented the Music Box from securing the single new print.] (1951, 115 min, digital projection)†PR
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Robert Woodburn's†CORN'S-A-POPPIN' (Cult Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) Thursday, 9:30pm
Perhaps the strangest American regional feature film ever made, this otherwise unavailable†1956 country and western musical about popcorn will be screened from what is the only known print.†The simple plot†involves the exploits of kindly popcorn manufacturer†Thaddeus Pinwhistle having his company overtaken by a crooked city slicker.†One of the most unsettling musicals ever made,†the film is brimming with delightful songs about space travel, picnics, and of course popcorn.†Filmed by a local television crew in Kansas City, what makes this incredibly bizarre movie even stranger†is that it was written by Robert Altman. Yes, THAT Robert Altman.†(1956, 58 min, archival 35mm) JR
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Elia Suleiman's THE TIME THAT REMAINS (New International)†
Gene Siskel Film Center
Wednesday, 7:45pm†
The second half of the film's title is technically "CHRONICLES OF A PRESENT ABSENTEE," which appears indiscriminately throughout the official coverage of Suleiman's latest work about Palestinian life in Israel—or to put it in his preferred terms, life as an Israeli Arab. This subtitle is a clarification in some ways of Suleiman's multivalent role as director, star, and subject. Like his previous films about the same subject (CHRONICLE OF A DISAPPEARANCE and DIVINE INTERVENTION), THE TIME THAT REMAINS is semi-autobiographical, based on Suleiman's father's diaries, his mother's letters, and his own childhood recollections of the region and its politics. Here, he plays a version of himself who never speaks, and his silence implicates him as the film's (sub)titular absentee as he wordlessly recounts his life story and observations. This isn't to say that Suleiman's voice is entirely absent from the film: nearly every review to date notes his distinctive sense of humor, whose light touch and dark overtones have earned him innumerable comparisons to Keaton and Tati. And nearly every critic recognizes the implications of this kind of humor on Suleiman's feigned apoliticism, drawing a straight line from form to function. In his review for Film Comment, Joumane Chahine makes this exact connection between Suleiman's lack of direct commentary and the ironic distance of his humor and aesthetic: "The project is epic, but the execution is minimalist and almost monastic in its simplicity, unfolding, as it does, in Suleiman's characteristic non-narrative style, through a series of self-contained, carefully constructed, and generally dryly comic vignettes—a fragmented structure to capture a fractured region." This kind of tepid assessment of the film's political content is common enough to assume that Suleiman's distanced approach has the odd effect of generating further silence. Either that, or it has done an outstanding job of demonstrating the extent to which Middle Eastern politics have become shorthand for anything too complex to be commented on at all. (2009, 109 min, 35mm) AO
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John Boorman's DELIVERANCE (American Revival) †
Gene Siskel Film Center
Friday and Tuesday, 6pm†
Since the plot of this film is so widely known, let's talk about the artists and the issues. Ned Beatty was never better, Jon Voight showed us that MIDNIGHT COWBOY was not a fluke, and Burt Reynolds played the hell out of the most perfect role he was ever given. But they all had to kick back and watch when Ronny Cox and Billy Redden gave us the most iconic bluegrass jam ever to grace the silver screen. These performances were buttressed by the impeccable authenticity that cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond delivered, making use of natural lighting almost throughout. Danger and moral ambiguity are still tangibly felt upon repeat viewings, owing mainly to the depth of James Dickey's script (and not hurt by his appearance as the Sheriff of Aintry, GA). It could be labeled a celebration of machismo, earned through a journey of conquest and killing—an appeasement of the male ego through self-reflexive masochism. Of course the film does this as a questioning of the position of men in white, suburban America in the early '70s. As Stepanie Farber said in her 1972 New York Times review: "In the film the journey has no purpose; nothing is achieved, nothing gained. The last images express a sense of total desolation. There is no sentimentality in the film; it is a serious and meaningful challenge to the belief in rites of manhood." SAIC professor Jim Trainor lectures at the Tuesday screening. (1972, 110 min, 35mm) JH
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Matt Porterfield's PUTTY HILL (New American)
Gene Siskel Film Center Check Venue website for showtimes
With its northeastern setting, lower-middle-class milieu, and melodramatic elements, Matthew Porterfield's second feature has much in common with the work of Maine-based independent Todd Verow (SHUCKING THE CURVE, A SUDDEN LOSS OF GRAVITY).†But where Verow's proud amateurishness suggests an effort to dramatize ineloquent characters on their own terms, Porterfield brings an aestheticized distance to PUTTY HILL.†Porterfield frequently breaks the action to interview characters as if for a TV news broadcast; at other moments (generally more effective), he frames them architectonically against their environment as though he were an ethnographer of Baltimore. Organizing this loose collection of scenes is a young man's death by heroin overdose, which brings his dissolute family back to the dead-end town where he died. The subjects include ex-convicts, skateboarders, and (perhaps inevitably) Teenage Girls Precociously Interested in Drinking and Sex, none of whom seem especially excited about being alive. PUTTY HILL isn't a provocation like Larry Clark and Ed Lachman's KEN PARK nor a poetic meditation on former working-class America like David Gordon Green's ALL THE REAL GIRLS, though the film's exhibition-hall-style photography often evokes both of them. The film is fascinating primarily for its ambivalence; the finest scenes eschew plot and even dialogue entirely for curious observation.†The climax is a series of karaoke performances by the (perhaps inevitably) non-professional actors at the boy's funeral. Better yet is an earlier scene in a makeshift tattoo parlor, where the seedy, concentrated action is improbably scored to R. Kelly's 2009 remix of "Birthday Sex." (2010, 87 min, 35mm) BS
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Michael Madsen's INTO ETERNITY (New Danish Documentary)†
Gene Siskel Film Center Saturday, 3:30pm; Tuesday, 8pm; Wednesday, 6:15pm
Can you imagine what the human race will be doing in 100,000 years? Will there be war and struggle? Will there be literature and art? What will they know about us? About our intelligence, our technology, our hubris? And how can we protect them, and their world, from our nuclear waste? These are the existential questions that the scientists and engineers who are building Onkalo, a massive underground fortress cum disposal facility in western Finland, are forced to confront on a daily basis. Shot and edited to feel like science fiction, Danish director Michael Madsen interviews many of the minds behind the worlds first full-scale structure designed to last 100,000 years. Descending over 500m down to the bedrock of the European continent, the series of tunnels are scheduled to start taking on waste about 2020, and to be completely filled and sealed off about a hundred years after that. It is a massive undertaking, with a planned lifespan that cannot really be conceived of in any sort of human terms. The talking heads that populate the film speculate on the best way to ensure that this storage is "permanent." Emphasizing the gravity of these decisions are digitally crisp, high-contrast, slow-motion shots of the workers who drill the tunnels, set the charges, and spend countless hours in the darkness of the tunnel. True to the sci-fi genre, their world is void of definition, and full of shadow and mystery, and is sharp, vast, and eerie. The soundtrack contains constant ominous tones, and the intertitles that separate the chapters of the story look like flashing warning signals, more ALIENS than STAR TREK. As a framing device, the director appears in a dark tunnel, lights a match near his face, and addresses questions to the future visitors who will uncover this curse. It is clear that Madsen is skeptical that the technology of the tunnel will last without repairs, and that future generations can be trusted to preserve the knowledge of what lies beneath the surface, or leave it alone if they did. (2010, 75 min, DigiBeta) JH
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Stephen Silver's THE BANG BANG CLUB (New South African)†
Music Box
Check Venue website for showtimes†
An utterly unsophisticated B "issue film" with no aspirations to be a Great Work of Art (I'm lookin' at you, MIRAL) that, though a tight focus on its characters—and they are really characters, and not just mouthpieces for the themes—becomes a feature-length study of the peculiar human ability to fuck things up. Silver, a documentary filmmaker by profession, tightens in on four photographers (Joao Silva, Ken Oossterboek, Greg Marinovich and Kevin Carter; the latter two won Pulitzer Prizes for their work) who covered violence in South Africa in the early-to-mid 1990s, and, instead of merely paying lip service to the various moral problems inherent in making a living off of other people's suffering, he makes the moral problems the backbone of the plot. Sure, the cast's a little too good looking (especially Ryan Phillipe as the paunchy-and-balding-in-real-life Marinovich) but the stubborn ugliness of the characters shines through.†(2010, 114 min, 35mm)†IV†
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Charles Ferguson's INSIDE JOB (New Documentary)†
Doc Films (University of Chicago) Saturday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 3pm
Unlike most of the current-events documentarians working today, Charles Ferguson makes few pretenses toward making art. His two features, NO END IN SIGHT and now this, are constructed to advance their arguments as clearly as possible, with few stylistic frills to get in the way. His straight-ahead approach is most welcome in INSIDE JOB, a film whose material could have easily inspired agitprop or a simple arc of rage and catharsis. The subject is corruption in the investment banking industry, whose pervasiveness, Ferguson argues, was responsible for recent economic crises around the world. Like NO END IN SIGHT, the film presents hordes of information but does so in such a way that it never overwhelms the spectator. The film even manages to explain the derivatives market clearly—a true accomplishment considering the market seems devised in a way that would confuse ordinary people. It's hard to watch INSIDE JOB without often feeling enraged: Over and over again, the film exposes the industry's contempt for all but the super-wealthy—as well as its lobbying efforts to install this bias at the heart of U.S. economic policy. Yet Ferguson's levelheaded approach demands that one understand the subject before responding to it emotionally. (The director shows discerning reason even in his choice of interviewees: Whenever possible, he defers to someone with first-hand experience of the topic; political commentators are kept, graciously, to a minimum.) This may not be crucial cinema, but it is crucial information, and Ferguson's conviction that it should be more widely known makes INSIDE JOB a worthy act of citizenship, too. (2010, 108 min, 35mm) BS
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On Friday at 8pm, Chicago Filmmakers presents On a Phantom Limb: New Films by Nancy Andrews, featuring recent animations by the former Chicagoan. Screening are 2009's ON A PHANTOM LIMB and 2010's BEHIND THE EYES ARE THE EARS.†

The Experimental Film Society (SAIC, 112 S. Michigan Ave., Rm. 1307) presents two programs of work by LA experimental filmmaker Betzy Bromberg this week. On Sunday at 3pm Bromberg's 1996 hour long film DIVINITY GRATIS is screening; and on Tuesday at 4pm, co-presented by the Eye & Ear Clinic series, two shorter films are showing: 1981's MARASMUS and 1988's BODY POLITIC.†

On Saturday at 7pm, The Nightingale presents Performance Post Appropriation: Exchange Screening Berlin & Chicago, a program of performance-related video works by Andrew de Freitas, Elizabeth Wurst, Eric Fleischauer, Jon Rafman, Zachary Fabri, Inez de Vega, Michelle Teran, Nicolas Provost, Jacob Tonski, Cari Freno, Hugh Walton, Ben Kinsley, Jesper Just, and David Sherry. Curated by Rebecca Loyche, organized by Eric Fleischauer, and introduced by Jason Burgess from MMX in Berlin.†

The series of events under the title Japanese Magic Lantern: The Minwa-za Company of Tokyo and the Art of Utsushi-e concludes on Friday and Saturday at 7pm with two performances at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel (University of Chicago). For more information and to RSVP visit here.

Happy Dog Gallery (1532 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents VideoVerses, an evening of video installations, on Friday from 5-10pm. Artists included are Karina Fisher, Rami George, Haley Martin, Benny Dale, Eunhye Hong Kim, Chelsea Welch, Bbibim Jiyeon Lim, Elyse Mack, Cait NiSiomon, Victor De Casteja, Emily A.H. Rawdon, Edward Rossa, Alfredo Salazar-Caro, and Sydnee Stratman.†

The Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Portage Theater) screens a 35mm print of Ernst Lubitsch's 1931 film THE SMILING LIEUTENANT on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Also showing is the 1933 Dave Fleischer cartoon SNOW WHITE.†

The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) presents Cinema as a State of Mind - Past and Future: An Evening with Walter Murch on Saturday at 7:30pm, with the famed film editor in person. This event is listed on the FSC website as having no more seats; you can chance going and see if there are wait list openings.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Tariq Tapa's 2008 Indian film ZERO BRIDGE plays on Sunday and Monday; 38th Annual Student Academy Awards: Regional Winners screens on Thursday at 6:30pm (pre-show reception at 5:45pm); The 10th Annual Chicago Palestine Film Festival concludes this week with INTO THE BELLY OF THE WHALE (plus additional shorts), FRAGMENTS OF A LOST PALESTINE, SAZ: THE PALESTINIAN RAPPER FOR CHANGE (plus shorts), LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM, and the closing night film THE TIME THAT REMAINS (see above); The documentaries ON COAL RIVER, LUNCH LINE, BAG IT, URBAN ROOTS, PLANEAT, and VANISHING OF THE BEES all screen in the Do Something Reel Film Festival, sponsored by Whole Foods Market.†

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: John Cameron Mitchell's RABBIT HOLE screens Friday night and Sunday afternoon; Michael Powell's 1937 film EDGE OF THE WORLD plays Sunday night; Films by Harry Smith and Storm de Hirsch (including Smith's great HEAVEN AND EARTH MAGIC) screen Monday in the Avant-Garde series; Arnold Laven's 1958 film ANNA LUCASTA is on Tuesday; and the documentary A FILM UNFINISHED, with director Yael Hersonski in person, is on Thursday at 7pm.†

Also at the Music Box this week: Apichatpong Weerasethakul's UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES continues on a limited schedule through Sunday only; Stuart Rosenberg's 1972 film POCKET MONEY kicks off the weekend matinee series on Terrence Malick (he scripted this one) on Saturday and Sunday; James Gunn's SUPER and Michael Schultz's 1985 film THE LAST DRAGON screen as the Midnight movies on Friday and Saturday.†

Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: filmmakers Michael Graziano and Ernie Park will be in person to present their 2010 documentary LUNCH LINE on Thursday at 6:30pm††††††††

Facets CinťmathŤque screens Todd Berger's 2008 comedic murder mystery film THE SCENESTERS this week.

The Logan Square International Film Series (3421 W. Medill Ave.) screens the animated feature PAPRIKA on Sunday at 7pm (from DVD).†

Saturday Cinema continues with two new films by Aline Cautis: escape strategies 001 & escape strategies 003. The minute-long films will be shown continuously looped, from 8pm-Midnight on Saturdays through April 23. View from the street: 2nd Floor window at 1369 W. Chicago Ave.

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CINE-LIST: April 22 - April 28, 2011


CONTRIBUTORS / Michael Castelle, Rob Christopher, Josephine Ferorelli, Jason Halprin, Anne Orchier, Peter Raccuglia, Joe Rubin, Ben Sachs, Brian Welesko, Darnell Witt

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