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:: Friday, OCT. 21 - Thursday, OCT. 27 ::

CRUCIAL VIEWING

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's WORLD ON A WIRE (German Revival) 
Gene Siskel Film Center — Check Venue website for showtimes 
Perhaps the key stylistic flourish in the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder is an exquisite, Old Hollywood-style tracking shot around actors who are in stasis or else performing simple actions with mechanical precision. This strategy, which became central to Fassbinder's cinematic language early in his career and would persist until the end, conveys one of the director's most enduring themes: that modern life suppresses individual emotion through a punishing, economic-based concept of social utility. Yet these moments also reveal Fassbinder's underlying romanticism, his belief in the freedom that could exist in art where it could not in real life. These are among the cinema's most crystallized expressions of cinephilia, as well as the most impassioned: Only someone who loved movies as much as Fassbinder would feel so brutally betrayed by the systems that made their beauty impossible in life. WORLD ON A WIRE, the two-part film Fassbinder made for German television in 1973 and which is now circulating in a new restored print, is rife with shots like these; the cinematographer, Michael Ballhaus, was surely the most ingenious of Fassbinder's cameramen when it came to realizing grandiose ideas on very small budgets. (He would go on to shoot several of Martin Scorsese's most visually impressive features, including AFTER HOURS and GOODFELLAS.) It's one of Fassbinder's most allusive works, incorporating science fiction, a detective story, melodramatic romance, and even a few musical numbers. The story, appropriately, concerns fantasies within fantasies, as a government employee working on a secret virtual reality project discovers that his world is itself a projection. Once aware of his life's artificiality, he attempts a doomed mission to disseminate this knowledge, only to become a pariah hounded by the authorities. Broadly speaking, the film follows a narrative arc identical to that of the more realistic ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL, which Fassbinder would make later that year. WORLD ON A WIRE can be read as epic allegory, though much of it plays as straight-ahead genre storytelling. (As Christian Braad Thomsen notes in his critical biography Fassbinder: The Life and Work of a Provocative Genius, Fassbinder approached TV as a means of connecting with a larger audience than he did through his plays and theatrical films.) The final hour consists largely of chase scenes and conspiratorial revelations that wouldn't be out of place in, say, an Alan J. Pakula movie. But even here, Fassbinder makes the material entirely his own, developing an odd, languid pace that emphasizes the film's eerie unreality. Some have criticized the film's conclusion—incidentally, one of the few happy endings in Fassbinder's oeuvre—as failing to resolve the numerous themes introduced in the densely packed first half. That's a fair criticism to level at a work by a 28-year-old filmmaker directing at least half-a-dozen scripts a year, as Fassbinder, extraordinarily, was doing at this time. Still, there's no denying this remarkable work ethic also produced a feeling of urgency (as well as a tense paranoia) that's still palpable four decades after WORLD ON A WIRE was made. No less than any other film of his career, it illustrates the radical will behind Fassbinder's art. As he would describe it, "[My films] developed out of the position that the revolution should take place not on the screen, but in life itself, and when I show things going wrong, I do it to make people aware that this is what happens unless they change their lives... I never try to reproduce reality, my aim is to make mechanisms transparent, to make it obvious to people that they must change reality." (1973, 205 min, 35mm) BS
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org. 


Pedro Costa's COLOSSAL YOUTH (Contemporary Portuguese Revival)  
Music Box — Friday, 5:30pm 
Pedro Costa's entrancing, nearly three-hour feature solidified his Stateside reputation, transforming the Portuguese filmmaker from a critical cause célèbre into a bona-fide cinephile mystery religion. It's not hard to see why: though Costa's guiding principles are as old as (or in some cases older than) cinema itself, his techniques and choice of marginalized subject matter—in this case, Cape Verdean immigrants preparing to move into a Lisbon housing project—feel completely new; like a car's rear-view mirror, COLOSSAL YOUTH reflects the past—early cinema and its precedents in painting and theater—while moving continuously into the future. For all of the film's evocations of classicism (Jacques Tourneur and Johannes Vermeer being two big points-of-reference), its production would've been impossible without digital technology; the distinctive cinematography—largely lit, like the studios of Renaissance painters, with reflected sunlight—represents the high-water mark of Mini-DV as a shooting format. A cast of non-professionals play fictionalized versions of themselves, but instead of using these actors to lend the film a sense of naturalism or verisimilitude, Costa pares down their performances into a series of controlled movements and recitations; the result is a heightened, poetic sense of purpose, aptly summed up by Nathan Lee in The Village Voice as "raw existential intensity." (2006, 156 min, 35mm) IV 
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More info at 
www.musicboxtheatre.com. 


Chicago 8: A Small Gauge Film Festival (Experimental/Festival) 
Cinema Borealis (Friday) & Chicago Filmmakers (Saturday and Sunday) —
Check Festival website for showtimes 
This new festival, dedicated to films shot on Super-8 or Regular-8mm film, organized by three local Super-8 filmmakers (Karen Johannesen, Josh Mabe, and Jason Halprin), presents seven programs of new and retrospective work over three nights.
GGGG 
Opening night takes place at Cinema Borealis starting at 8pm with an overview of Chicago-made Super-8 films, featuring an impressively curated list of filmmakers, including Adele Friedman, Saul Levine, Michael Robinson, and Lori Felker. Also included is Karen Johannesen's ecstatic LIGHT SPEED (2007), a domestic flicker film that creates a rapturous moment of drawing the blinds on one's window. The 9:30pm program is a retrospective of Dutch filmmaker Jaap Pieters' work with the enigmatic artist in attendance. Pieters' films, often confined to the 3-minute length of a Super-8 roll, use a temporal limitation to frame and observe the daily routines of Amsterdam's residents. Many of those documented are transient or otherwise eccentric people, and Pieters' filming style (often from 3/4 overhead shots or in full-body direct framing) allows for the eccentricities of each subject to develop alongside a humanist pathos with which Pieters clearly aligns himself. Jaap travels with a large collection of his films from the past three decades, and each screening is culled from this traveling repository, augmented by Pieters' mid-show commentary, creating for the audience something between watching a slideshow in your grandparents' attic and listening to a DJ's killer mix. This particular screening will feature experimental musical accompaniment by Travis Bird and Evan Lindorff Ellery. 
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The rest of the festival takes place at Chicago Filmmakers, beginning at 6:30pm Saturday with a group program bookended by two excellent Brian Frye films, EARTH VS THE GIANT SPIDER VS THE WITCHES (1996) and LADIES DAY (1997), and includes work by Rob Todd, Chris Kennedy, and Steve Polta, as well as retired Northwestern professor and filmmaker Chuck Kleinhans' STOPPING BY THE TOLL ROAD (1981). San Francisco-based Janis Crystal Lipzin is the featured filmmaker for the 8pm screening, featuring selections from her twenty-five years of Super-8 filmmaking. Steve Anker (CalArts) writes that Lipzin's work "[combines] a sharp eye for cultural observation and social critique as revealed through the personalizing small-gauge camera." Saturday's closing program features more work from Rob Todd, Chuck Kleinhans and Brian Frye, as well as LEGEND OF PARTS (1988), an early work from Julie Murray.  
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Sunday's 6:30pm screening is the final group show of the festival and it boasts work from Steve Polta, Rick Bahto, and Paul Clipson. It also includes the wild, geometric S8 SKETCHES #1-5 (2005/07) by the excellent Japanese filmmaker Tomonari Nishikawa. SKETCHES is just that—a loose collection of ideas that Nishikawa is working through with the smaller, cheaper, and more mobile Super-8. The navigations of space and the planar rotations of shot composure achieved at the frame level are perhaps more proficiently executed in MARKET STREET (2005), his similar 16mm project, but with SKETCHES, Nishikawa allows for a more free-form exploration that often proves to be the livelier expression of this technique. The closing program at 8pm is a reprise of last year's wildly popular "Super 8 Rides Again" event held at Chicago Filmmakers, in which local filmmakers were each given a roll of Super-8 film on the condition that all editing would be done in-camera and no previewing of work would be allowed. The lineup of filmmakers tapped for this year's edition is duly impressive: Xan Aranda, Ben Balcom, Jeremy Bessoff, Adebukola Bodunrin, Lilli Carré, Thomas Comerford, Mary Helena Clark, Carolyn Faber, Lori Felker, Scott Foley, Amir George, Jason Halprin, Lyra Hill, Karen Johannesen, Kent Lambert, Jared Larson, Josh Mabe, Kate Raney, Jerzy Rose, Bill Stamets, Alexander Stewart, Ted Tremper, and Chi Jang Yin. DM
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More info and complete festival schedule at chicago8fest.org.

ALSO RECOMMENDED

Luke Fowler's A GRAMMAR FOR LISTENING (Experimental)
Conversations at the Edge at the Gene Siskel Film Center — Thursday, 6pm
Luke Fowler must be an aficionado of modern science—or at least of the physiology of perception. Pristinely composed and sometimes breathtakingly delicate, his compositions often obscure the whole for a field of texture, or small rays of vibrating light. Fowler's close inspection is not quite the microscopic focus employed by, for example, Robert Todd; but his work has a similar way of distilling everyday places into their elemental components of light, sound, color, and vibration. In A GRAMMAR FOR LISTENING PARTS 1-2, Fowler pairs these sorts of images with the abstract work of experimental musicians: his collaborator on PART 1, Lee Patterson, uses homemade hydrophones to capture underwater noise, and Eric La Casa, of PART 2, uses geographic tools to locate and record auditory drift. Still, these pieces retain a documentary feel aided by Fowler's clear familiarity with his locales. THE TENEMENT SERIES, a collection of 3-minute portraits of four of Fowler's neighbors who all live in the same building, moves further in this localized direction. More about the spaces they live in than the people themselves, each portrait quickly establishes an inventive visual inquiry and engaging soundscape; in all of these works, Fowler's seemingly scientific inquiry consistently manifests itself in a very unscientific sense of wonder and discovery. Co-presented with the University of Chicago's Film Studies Center, which will screen a second program of Fowler's films on Friday, October 28. Fowler in person. (2007-09, approx. 75 min, 16mm & Video) CL  
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More info at 
http://blogs.saic.edu/cate/current-season. 


Roman Polanski's THE TENANT (French Revival) 
Gene Siskel Film Center — Friday and Tuesday, 6pm 
Originally released with the unfortunate tagline "No one does it to you like Roman Polanski," THE TENANT was poorly received at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival and failed to attract a popular audience upon wide release. The movie recast themes and images from Polanski own REPULSION and ROSEMARY'S BABY in an absurd, exaggerated manner—while, remarkably, preserving their inherent suspense and creepiness—leading critics to accuse him of repeating himself or sliding into self-parody. But what first appeared an exercise in narcissism has become ever stranger with age: Comparable to Orson Welles' MR. ARKADIN, the film is not so much a reflection as a refraction of the filmmaker's persona, using the system of a bizarre plot to split it into mysterious new directions. Polanski plays the title character, a nervous and lonely man who rents a Paris apartment in which the previous tenant had committed suicide. Like Mia Farrow's Rosemary, he begins to suspect his weirdo neighbors of harboring a conspiracy against him; and like Catherine Deneuve's Carole, his paranoia will steer him to madness. But where Rosemary's suspicions were proven correct and Carole's delusions were the product of a believably disturbed mind, Trelkovsky seems to go crazy simply because it's expected of him. It's this quality that makes the film so memorably bizarre as well as darkly funny; indeed, this may be the most Kafkaesque of all his feature films. James Morrison wrote of THE TENANT in his 2007 study of Polanski: "The plot is treated with a corrosive, insidious irony, as if it were best understood as a[n]... impudent gloss on Polanski's themes rather than an actual illustration of them. In truth, no Polanski film can be called 'personal' in the sense of being directly self-revealing, but THE TENANT, perhaps the most flagrant gesture of aggression against the audience of all of Polanski's films, initiates a tendency in some of his later work (BITTER MOON, THE NINTH GATE) toward a scabrous self-reference that actually conceals the self in a webwork of vagrant citation." There's more to Polanski's webwork than just citation; the intricate mise-en-scene and camera movement, which also tie Polanski to the Wellesian tradition, offer plenty to get lost in. Pamela Robertson Wojcik lectures at the Tuesday screening. (1976, 126 min, 35mm) BS
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


John Landis' AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (American Revival) 
Terror in the Aisles 9 at the Portage Theater - Friday 9pm 
Maybe a little too funny for hard-core Horror fans, and a little too creepy for your average moviegoer, this might be the best werewolf film ever made. Sparse on bloodshed, Landis' tale of a college-aged American who gets infected by a lycan while backpacking through the moors of Scotland has aged quite well. We don't get bogged down with too much "legend of the beast" talk, and the love story between David (David Naughton) and his nurse (Jenny Agutter) fits naturally into the plot. Killed in the original werewolf attack, David's friend Jack (Griffin Dunne) appears as a mauled and decomposing corpse who warns him that at the next full moon he will change into an animal. Much of the film's humor is derived from this continual repetition of a chummy but stern berating delivered by the progressively-less-flesh-covered apparition. Some of the film comes out of left field, and the ending is a bit abrupt, but those things can be easily excused. The real highlights are David's transformation scenes and Jack's prosthetics, both of which were so well done the Academy had to create a new awards category (Outstanding Achievement in Makeup) just for them. Comparing them to the VFX of today makes you long for a time before CGI supplanted the art of fake blood and body parts. Actor David Naughton in person (1981, 97 min, 35mm) JH
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More info at www.portagetheater.com. 


Paul W.S. Anderson's THE THREE MUSKETEERS 3D (New American) 
Various Venues — Check Reader Movies for theaters and showtimes 
Paul W.S. Anderson—"one of the last fully committed genre filmmakers in captivity," per Dave Kehr—makes ridiculous, lively B flicks marked by cartooniness, narrative compactness, and an extensive use of large, cavernous spaces; an imaginative formalist fixated on "coolness" the way filmmakers of previous generations were fixated on "beauty," he's more or less the Josef von Sternberg of video game adaptations. If comparing Joe von S. with the guy behind RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE sounds like a stretch, then consider THE THREE MUSKETEERS 3D: a lurid, silly "adaptation" of the Dumas novel that serves as little more than a vehicle for Anderson's aesthetic fetishes, cast with actors whose mismatched accents—American, English, German—recall THE SCARLET EMPRESS. And if you squint, Milla Jovovich looks a bit like Marlene Dietrich. All the knotiness and ambiguity of Dumas' novel is stripped away in favor of a deluge of sailpunk bric-a-brac—air ships, flamethrowers, mechanical traps—shot in punchy, deep-focus 3D; artistic visions don't get more obsessive, or more ludicrous. (2011, 102 min, digital 3D) IV 


Art House Auteurs Go A-Haunting! (Shorts Revival) 
Facets Cinémathèque — Friday, Midnight
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James Whale's THE OLD DARK HOUSE (American Classic) 
Facets Cinémathèque — Saturday, Midnight 
If you haven't gotten enough Monte Hellman after the recent revival of TWO LANE BLACKTOP and this summer's local premiere of ROAD TO NOWHERE, tonight you can see his recent short STANLEY'S GIRLFRIEND (2006) at Facets' midnight program, playfully named Art House Auteurs Go A-Haunting! (1967-2006, approx. 75 min, DVD Projection). The movie, made for the tepidly received anthology feature TRAPPED ASHES, is a horror story set in the 1950s that centers on a promising young filmmaker modeled after Stanley Kubrick. While Hellman shares with Kubrick an ability to make banal moments seem indelibly foreboding, his loose, amiable style couldn't be any more different than Kubrick's rigid formal control—which means this meeting of two unlike personalities could yield some pretty interesting results. Also on the program is David Lynch's early short THE ALPHABET, Tim Burton's early short VINCENT (presented in honor of what would be Vincent Price's 100th birthday), and Federico Fellini's TOBY DAMMIT. The last of these titles, surely one of the most psychedelic horror films ever made, stars Terence Stamp as the eponymous movie star trapped in his own private hell. For some, it represents Fellini at his most imaginative; for others, it shows the maestro at the height of self-parody. In any case, it makes for fine late-night viewing and it should make for a solid program with the Hellman. Curated and introduced by Joel Wicklund. Saturday night offers more tongue-in-cheek horror with a screening of James Whale's THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932, 71 min, DVD Projection). The film stands tall in the lineage of haunted mansion horror, even though it's also a parody of that sub-genre—but leave it to Whale to make a movie that succeeds at multiple, often contradictory, purposes. As demonstrated by THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) and lesser-known masterworks like WATERLOO BRIDGE (1931) and ONE MORE RIVER (1934), Whale was capable of covering a wide range of styles and emotions within relatively short running times: of all the directors to make their greatest films in the 1930s, he remains one of the most modern and thoroughly surprising. The cast, playing well in Whale's refined style adapted from early 20th century British theater, includes Boris Karloff (in his first major role after FRANKENSTEIN), Gloria Stuart, and Charles Laughton. In an example of Whale's subversive gender politics (which were at least four decades ahead of their time), this also features the stage actress Elspeth Dudgeon playing a man. Introduced by Michael Smith. BS
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More info at www.facets.org.  
      


Sidney Lumet's CHILD'S PLAY (American Revival) 
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7 and 9:30pm 
Following last week's rare revival of THE DEADLY AFFAIR, Doc Films' Sidney Lumet series screens another forgotten collaboration between Lumet and the great James Mason. The film is one of the director's many stage adaptations—a body of work that ranges from his definitive production of LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (1962) to inconsequential exercises like EQUUS (1977) and DEATHTRAP (1982). All of these films reflect an ongoing project to bring what was popular on the New York stage to the attention of the American mainstream—a worthy if occasionally misguided endeavor. Case in point: the Robert Marasco play on which this was based ran on Broadway for over a year and received a Tony nomination in 1970 for Best Production. Yet in spite of some grisly revelations suggesting the presence of Satanism or even demonic possession, critics and audiences found the material too talky and rhetorical to work on film. This should be interesting, however, as a product of its era, as it apparently tapped into some timely concerns about education and Catholic repression. The central conflict focuses on two theoretically opposed teachers at a Catholic boys school: a hated disciplinarian played by Mason versus a progressive, sensitive type played by Robert Preston. (1972, 115 min, 35mm) BS
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


Ridley Scott's ALIEN (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 7pm
The history of horror films in America—which can currently be sampled at will with week-long Halloween-themed retrospectives at both the Music Box and the Portage (see More Screenings and Events below)—is basically a history of self-reflexive cultural negotiations regarding the appropriate monstrous representation of sublimated, dead labor (from industrial-era vampires to post-industrial/consumerist zombies, for example). The serial killer, in particular, is a monster born of the late 1970s, a time of increased independence and employment for women, as well as of increased corporate diversification. Emblematic here is Ridley Scott's ALIEN, in which a crew of highly-skilled co-ed journeyman space-laborers for the (presumably monopolistic) "Company" are obliged by their weak contracts into dangerous, unpaid overtime work exploring a nearby crashed spacecraft—resulting in one worker's being literally raped by an articulated organism of unknown origin. Left in a coma, his body immobilized by a unremovable death grip to the face—also known as your cubicle's computer screen—this employee violently gives birth to the titular illegitimate xenomorphic slasher, an outrageous H.R. Giger creation best described as a toothed vagina on a penis inside a toothed vagina on a penis. Its savage hypersexuality is in striking contrast to the celibate and demoralized crew, who in turn discover (as we all someday must) that their employer—mediated by a bureaucratic artificial intelligence system—considers them essentially disposable in the face of true biomechanistic innovation. ALIEN's innovative, languorously developed, and politically relevant narrative structure is also accompanied by simultaneously punishing and dazzling sound-effects work, romanticizing the harsh interstellar environment with a progressively intense and surprisingly passionate lullaby of humming, clicking, whirring, dripping, hissing, and shrieking noises. (1979, 119 min, 35mm) MC
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


Lech Majewski's THE MILL AND THE CROSS (New Polish) 
Music Box - Check Venue website for show times 
In his latest film, the prolific Polish filmmaker, painter, and poet Lech Majewski brings to life Pieter Bruegel's sixteenth century masterpiece, The Way to the Calvary, through a series of exquisite tableaux, examining both Bruegel's painting and the time in which he lived. (Majewski also created a work of video art based on the film and titled BRUEGEL SUITE, which was exhibited at the Louvre in February and at the 54th Venice Biennale beginning in June.) Adapted from the book of the same name by art critic and historian Michael Francis Gibson, THE MILL AND THE CROSS surveys Bruegel's 500 characters, including Jesus Christ; the film depicts the daily lives and deaths in Flanders, then occupied by the Spanish. Foregoing a traditional narrative in favor of often-wordless tableaux, the film's little dialogue comes from Bruegel (Rutger Hauer), his patron Nicholas Jonghelinck (Michael York), and the Virgin Mary (Charlotte Rampling). According to Majewski, Bruegel constructed an amorphous space of seven differing perspectives, rather than a Euclidean one, within The Way to the Calvary; such a complicated space necessitated Majewski to apply layers of computer-generated effects, painted backdrops, and location shots from Europe and New Zealand in order to restage the 1564 painting. (Majewski himself painted large-scale replicas of Calvary to serve as backdrops.) Both the painting and the film focus on the religious persecution of the Flemish people; the Spanish Inquisition brutally repressed the Protestant Reformation throughout the Low Countries. Bruegel conflated Christ's Passion with the suffering of his own people at the merciless hands of the Spanish militia. In an interview earlier this fall, Majewski made a provocative statement on Bruegel's place within the history of art, "Compare [Bruegel] to any of the painters of the twentieth century. This art is idiotic, mostly. It's just a put-on, it's a ridiculous joke. And the joke is fine, providing it's done by Duchamp or something. But it's going on and on and on for a hundred years and there's nothing new in it. And if you meet a giant like Bruegel, basically your knees give out." THE MILL AND THE CROSS provides the very rare opportunity to almost step inside one of history's masterpieces and meet the Old Master in a world of his own making. (2011, 92 min, 35mm) CW
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More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com. 


Edgar G. Ulmer's THE BLACK CAT (American Revival)
Music Box - Thursday, 5:30pm
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 9:30pm
The biggest budget film of his career, Edgar G. Ulmer's virtually in-name-only adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's classic story THE BLACK CAT is instead an incredibly stylish and haunting study of the power struggle between two friends, which, accidentally or intentionally, mirrors the vicious jealousy between the film's two stars, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. A young American couple, traveling in Eastern Europe, gets stranded at the mysterious villa of a world famous architect (Karloff) and his visiting friend, Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi). Soon Karloff begins to psychologically torment the doctor with dark secrets from each of their pasts. Full of clear visual allusions to both Murnau and Lang, Ulmer presents a dark portrait of post-war trauma set in a world that only looks modern, but is actually still fighting decades-old moral demons. If nothing else, THE BLACK CAT is a masterpiece of lighting, with many scenes cloaked half in darkness, allowing only fragments of the "truth" to be seen. Karloff and Lugosi's intense hatred for each other adds such a powerful undercurrent of unease to the film that one wonders if they were cast in opposing roles for just that reason. (1934, 65 min, 35mm at the Music Box/16mm at Doc Films) JR
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu and www.musicboxtheatre.com. 


Woody Allen's BANANAS (American Revival) 
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Friday, 7, 9, and 11pm; Sunday, 1pm 
Doc Films continues their Woody Allen retrospective with his second effort, a loosely plotted and zany collection of scenes from an emerging filmmaker that is, well, hilarious. Often compared to the films of Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers, BANANAS is an onslaught of sight gags and hallucinatory scenarios. With the intention of impressing a woman, Fielding Mellish—Allen's schlemiel stand-in—involves himself with a revolutionary militia in the fictional South American dictatorship of San Marcos. Allen's genius is on display: a New York deli take-out order for fifteen-hundred revolutionaries highlights his penchant for the absurd, and an quartet sans instruments in the dictator's palace hints at surrealism. Nevermind that the instruments hadn't arrived when it came time to shoot, BANANAS succeeds in its high concept spirit despite its fly-by-night production. Ralph Rosenblum, editor of several of Allen's early films, wrote of working with the new director, "In BANANAS, I was fighting to keep material in. He wasn't prepared to deal with all the film he photographed. He didn't know any of the nuances of cutting, what to leave in, what to leave out...He was shooting skits. And he was less sure of himself." While BANANAS may not be much to look at—Allen spoke of subordinating sets, cinematography, and plot to The Laugh—it is a relentlessly funny movie, and early inexperience aside, that's exactly what Allen set out to do. (1971, 82 min, 35mm) BW
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu. 


Douglas Freel's FIX - THE MINISTRY MOVIE (New Documentary)
Music Box — Thursday, 9:15pm
Premiering earlier this year at Chicago's International Movies and Music Festival, the presumably long-awaited FIX - THE MINISTRY MOVIE ambiguously documents the late-90s incarnation of Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker's pioneering Chicago pop-industrial music act. Famously integrating thrash guitar, popular-film vocal samples, and slapdash appropriation of biblical, Nazi, and cowboy genre elements to vaguely allude to American political hegemony, the band's mid-period discography (recorded at the Groupon-née-Cabrini Green-area Chicago Trax studio) offered something for anyone willing to get down in a homosocial Caucasian mosh pit. Director Douglas Freel provides a combination of dreary, vulgar green-room antics; comparatively highbrow talking-heads interviews with the likes of Jello Biafra, Trent Reznor, and a couple ex-Warners/Sire Records execs; and requisite concert footage of various hits from 1996's "Sphinctour." Far from fully embracing the charismatic Jourgensen substance-abuse mythology, the film takes on a vaguely reflexive EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP/I'M STILL HERE quality during interviews (apparently) featuring heroin injection as well as hang time with Timothy Leary (uncharacteristically clad in a Blackhawks jersey); mimicking the strategy of Ministry's own success, FIX ultimately seems thoroughly aware that a rhetoric of drug use might influence aesthetic validity far more than drug use itself.  (2011, 95 min, BluRay) MC
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More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com 


Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING (American Revival) 
Chicago History Museum (on the Uihlein Plaza) - Wednesday, 7pm
 
Though it had been made famous already by ROCKY, it wasn't until THE SHINING that the Steadicam yielded an aesthetic breakthrough in movies. Garrett Brown's innovation—a gyroscope mounted to the bottom of a camera, which allowed cinematographers to create hand-held tracking shots that didn't record their own movement—became in Kubrick's hands a supernatural presence. The film's justly celebrated Steadicam shots evoke a cruel, judgmental eye that does not belong to any human being, a perspective that's harrowing in its implications. (GOODFELLAS, SATANTANGO, and Gus Van Sant's ELEPHANT, to name just three examples, are inconceivable without the film's influence.) In this regard, the horror of THE SHINING makes manifest one subtext running through all of Kubrick's work: that humanity, for all its technical sophistication, will never fully understand its own consciousness. Why else would Kubrick devote nearly 150 takes to the same scene, as he did several times in the film's epic shooting schedule? With the only exceptions being other movies directed by Stanley Kubrick, no one moves or speaks in a film the way they do in THE SHINING. Everything has been rehearsed past the point of technical perfection; the behavior on screen seems the end-point of human evolution. What keeps it all going? (To invoke another great horror film of the era: the devil, probably.) The demons of the Overlook Hotel may very well be a manifestation of the evil within Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who once nearly beat his four-year-old son to death. Or they could be, like those Steadicam shots, evidence of an alien consciousness here to judge the vulnerabilities of mankind. Kubrick never proffers an explanation, which is why THE SHINING is one of the few horror films that actually remains scary on repeated viewings. Nearly every effect here prompts some indelible dread: the unnatural symmetry of Kubrick's compositions; Shelly Duvall's tragic performance (which suggests that horrible victimization is always just around the corner); and the atonal symphonic music by Bartok, Lygeti, and Penderecki that make up the soundtrack. (1980, 142 min, DVD Projection) BS 


Jules Dassin's RIFIFI (French Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Tuesday, 7pm
Though not made in the US, RIFIFI is possibly the greatest byproduct of the Hollywood blacklist. Exiled to France, American director Jules Dassin landed his first film in five years (after a string of gritty late 40's noirs) when Jean-Pierre Melville gave him the script for the film. The plot is classically Melville: an old crook... honor among thieves... one last score... etc., etc. In many ways Dassin likely empathized with the main character of RIFIFI: an aging professional, suddenly irrelevant and in surroundings he can't control, with a crew he does not know, just hoping he can still pull it off. Today the film is most famous for the riveting heist sequence, a gorgeous and tense half-hour spent breaking into a jewelry store in total silence, the hushed robbers agonizing over the slightest sounds they make. Complications arise (don't they always?) and our man finds himself embroiled in the underworld intrigues of nightclub owners, junkies, and the woman he loved before he went to prison. Will he make it to the end? There is a likely-apocryphal story surrounding RIFIFI, from Jules Dassin's screening of the first cut for critic André Bazin. When the lights came up in the theater, Bazin supposedly said to Dassin: "Hitchcock makes the same film over and over, and he is Hitchcock. Keep making this film, Jules, and you'll be Dassin." (1955, 122 min, 35mm) LN
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu. 


Tommy Wiseau's THE ROOM (Cult)
Music Box - Friday, Midnight
A woman announces, "Well, the results came back - I definitely have breast cancer," and that's the last we ever hear of it. A group of men don tuxedos for no apparent reason and then toss around a football. A drug dealer threatens to kill someone and then disappears for the rest of the movie. Upon awaking, a man picks up a rose from his night table, smells it, and throws it on top of his sleeping girlfriend. A recurring rooftop "exterior" is obviously a studio set, with a backdrop of the San Francisco skyline digitally composited behind the action. Accidental surrealism can be even more potent than the conscious kind, and THE ROOM is some kind of zenith of its type, the equal to anything Ed Wood committed to celluloid. Although what's on screen looks like it cost about $14.99, the actual budget was upwards of $6 million, in part because actor/producer/writer/director Wiseau shot simultaneously in 35mm and HD (supposedly he didn't understand the differences between the two formats). Now the film has become a worthy successor to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, with enthusiastic fans performing a series of rituals at each screening. Ross Morin, assistant professor of film studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, calls it "one of the most important films of the past decade. Through the complete excess in every area of production, THE ROOM reveals to us just how empty, preposterous and silly the films and television programs we've watched over the past couple of decades have been." (2003, 99 min, 35mm) RC
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More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.


MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS 
 
South Side Projections (along with the Pullman State Historic Site and the Bronzeville/Black Chicagoan Historical Society) presents Kartemquin Films 1984 documentary THE LAST PULLMAN CAR at the Pullman State Historic Site (Clock Tower Building, 11057-59 S. Cottage Grove Ave.) on Saturday at 4pm. Directors Gordon Quinn and Jerry Blumenthal and members of labor unions, Pullman Car porters, and neighborhood residents will be in person for audience discussion. 
 
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at Cinema Borealis, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., 4th Floor) presents Peter Whitehead's 1966 Rolling Stone's documentary CHARLIE IS MY DARLING and Jacques Bensimon's 1973 music doc ROCK-A-BYE on Sunday at 8pm. 
 
The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) presents the new documentary EMPTY QUARTER on Thursday at 7pm, with filmmakers Alain LeTourneau and Pam Minty in person. 
 
Local non-profit music camp Girls Rock! Chicago presents a video screening of GIRLS ROCK! THE MOVIE (2007), a documentary featuring Portland, Oregon's Rock 'n' Roll Camp For Girls, at West Logan Square record store saki (3716 W. Fullerton), on Friday at 7:30pm. Seating is BYO pillow with free popcorn and gifts, dance party to follow." 
 
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Carl Colby's new documentary THE MAN NOBODY KNOW: IN SEARCH OF MY FATHER, CIA SPYMASTER WILLIAM COLBY has six screenings this week, with Colby in person for select shows (see the Siskel website for details); Maryam Keshavarz's CIRCUMSTANCE plays in the Iranian festival on Saturday, Sunday and Monday; and David Serrano's 2009 film WITH OR WITHOUT LOVE opens the "Festival of New Spanish Cinema 2011" on Thursday at 8:15pm, with Serrano and star Quim Gutiérrez in person. 
 
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: the new animated feature WINNIE THE POOH screens Saturday night and Sunday afternoon; the Kartemquin Films documentaries GOLUB and VIVA LA CAUSA show on Sunday at 7pm; and Zhao Hau's 2009 Chinese documentary TRANSITION PERIOD is Monday night at 7pm. 
 
Also at the Music Box this week is the rest of the Universal Horror series (see THE BLACK CAT above): IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, THE INVISIBLE MAN, THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS, CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN, THE WOLF MAN, DRACULA, THE MUMMY, FRANKENSTEIN, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN; also this week is Frank Tuttle's 1942 noir THIS GUN FOR HIRE and THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE in the Saturday and Sunday matinee slots; Tom Six's THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II (FULL SEQUENCE) on Saturday Midnight at 9:40pm daily; and Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. 
 
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) hosts an advance screening of Sean Durkin's new film MARTHA MARCY MAY MARELENE on Wednesday at 7pm. On Thursday at 7pm, it's Heather Courtney's new documentary WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM, which will be followed by a panel discussion with director Heather Courtney; Brent E. Huffman, documentary filmmaker and NU assistant professor of journalism; Michael J. Allen, historian of war and politics in the twentieth-century and NU associate professor of history; and the film's co-editor and NU assistant professor of film production, Kyle Henry.        
 
Facets Cinémathèque opens the 28th Annual Chicago International Children's Film Festival on Friday at its own space and with selected screenings at selected other venues around town. Runs through October 30. 
 
From Monday through next Friday, the Portage Theater presents Halloween Havoc 4 featuring Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO and FRENZY (Monday), John Carpenter's THE THING and William Peter Blatty's EXCORSIST III (Tuesday), Sam Raimi's ARMY OF DARKNESS and Tom Holland's CHILD'S PLAY (Wednesday), Joe Dante's GREMLINS and Michael Winner's THE SENTINEL (Thursday), and a quadruple feature on Friday, November 28: Erle C. Kenton's 1944 HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Fred Dekker's THE MONSTER SQUAD, Robert Wise's 1963 THE HAUNTING, and Rob Zombie's THE HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES
 
The Chicago Cultural Center screens FLYING SAUCERS ROCK!, the video version of Rocktober Magazine author and publisher Jake Austin's new book Flying Saucers Rock 'n' Roll, on Tuesday at 6:30pm. The event features a reading by Austin from his book and a live performance by Milt Trenier and his band. 
 
On Thursday at 8pm, Heaven Gallery hosts a screening of the documentary IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO BE WHAT U MIGHT HAVE BEEN - THE MAKING OF NOEL GALLAGHER AND HIS HIGH FLYING BIRDS, presented by Filter magazine.  
 
The Logan Square International Film Series (Comfort Station Logan Square, 2579 N. Milwaukee) screens a double feature of HALLOWEEN TREE (an animated film for kids/family) and Shin'ya Tsukamoto's 1989 Japanese sci-fi film TETSUO THE IRON MAN (definitely not for the kids) on Tuesday starting at 8pm. From DVD. 
 
On Friday, the Portage Theater hosts TERROR IN THE AISLES 9. The evening begins at 7pm, with Trailer Trash, a collection of horror and sci-fi shorts and trailers, and continues with Edgar Wright's 2004 film SHAUN OF THE DEAD at 7:30pm. At 9pm it's AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (see Also Recommended above), followed by Gregg Bishop's 2008 film DANCE OF THE DEAD at 11pm (with Bishop in person), and Lamberto Bava's 1985 film DEMONS at 1am. 
 
On Monday at 8pm, Transistor (3819 N. Lincoln Ave.) presents Francis Ford Coppola's 1874 thriller THE CONVERSATION (from DVD).

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CINE-LIST: October 21 - October 27, 2011

MANAGING EDITOR / Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Michael Castelle, Jason Halprin, Christy LeMaster, Douglas McLaren, Liam Neff, Joe Rubin, Ben Sachs, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Candace Wirt, Darnell Witt

> Editorial Statement -> Contact