Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, APR. 20 - Thursday, APR. 26 ::


Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin's CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER (French Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) — Friday, 7pm
Part ethnographic survey, part theoretical discourse, part filmmaking free-for-all, this seminal gabfest takes a documentary gimmick—set up a camera and a microphone on the street and then ask random passerby whether they're happy—and breaks it apart; the result is not only a revealing and important document of a time and a place, but also a landmark examination of how people perceive themselves and of how cinema works. Describing the project as "self-reflexive" would be an understatement; co-directors Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin employ a discursive structure that blends the increasingly candid and probing interviews with in-depth discussions of the interviewees' responses and comments on the film as a work-in-progress, in effect expanding its scope from everyday French life circa 1960 to the broader question of whether cinema is even capable of tackling such a subject. With its extensive use of handheld cameras and direct sound, this film helped legitimize cinema verité as a genre, though it doesn't completely adhere to that—or any other—documentary technique; part of what makes this so enthralling as filmmaking is the way Rouch and Morin leap from approach to approach, seemingly willing to try anything in order to answer the ambitious questions they pose for themselves. Introduced by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. (1960, 85 min, Restored 35mm Print) IV
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Patrick Wang's IN THE FAMILY (New American)
Music Box — Check Venue website for showtimes
With its epic three hour runtime, its no-name creator displaying Wellesian hubris as writer-producer-director-lead actor in his feature debut, and its chimeric blend of languid art house camera technique with rigorously concise stage caliber dialogue, who knows exactly why Patrick Wang's first feature was passed over by 30 major film festivals before he settled for self-distribution. Do not make the same mistake as the professionals; this is one of the most exciting and thoughtful American indies to emerge in recent years. Wang spins an ambitiously original tale of a gay Asian man in Tennessee who suffers the sudden death of his Caucasian partner, and then must battle the partner's relatives for custody of their son. The ripe-for-melodrama scenario defies expectations at several critical stages, eschewing rote exposition for long take interior scenes that pick up nuances in the spatial relations between characters, continually placing its minority protagonist on the margins of the frame or facing away from the camera, as if he were on the verge of being squeezed from his own story. Wang's signal-jamming performance combines facial inexpressiveness with a boisterous folksy drawl, an affectation ripe to be judged, as it is by those around him. Very few films have simultaneously explored race and sexuality conflicts with such nuance—setting them in motion without succumbing to moralistic conclusions—topped by a lengthy, heartfelt climax that gives a brilliant new twist on the old courtroom battle motif. A shining example of filmmaking for our times: what the new American cinema can and should be. Check the Music Box schedule for details on two screenings with Patrick Wang in person on Friday and Saturday. (2011, 169 min, 35mm) KBL
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Films by Les Blank (Documentary Revivals/Special Events)
The Nightingale and Columbia College Chicago — Dates and showtimes listed below
For those who missed the screenings of work by famed documentarian Les Blank at CIMMFest last weekend, or for those who saw them and are wanting more, you are in luck. The multi-venue retrospective continues this week at The Nightingale and Columbia College. Included is a particularly rare 1970's feature that, due to legal constraints, Blank is only allowed to show in person and with no public listing of its title or subject. We can say it's about a well-known rock musician (still touring, ahem!) and that if you are curious, a bit of Googling will reveal the mystery. It's showing (DigiBeta Video) on Saturday at 7pm at Columbia College's Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash Ave., 8th Floor). Up first, though, is one of Blank's most loved films, GARLIC IS AS GOOD AT TEN MOTHERS (1980, 51 min, 16mm; showing with CHICKEN REAL, 1970, 23 min, 16mm), on Friday at 8pm at The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee). The retrospective concludes with a double feature of two shorts programs on Monday at Columbia. At 6pm, the program features Blank's classic doc THE BLUES ACCORDIN' TO LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS (1969, 31 min, DigiBeta Video) and the companion dramatization of an event in Hopkins' childhood, THE SUN'S GONNA SHINE (1969, 10 min, DigiBeta Video). The show ends with SPROUT WINGS AND FLY (1980, 31 min, DigiBeta Video), about Appalachian fiddler Tommy Jarrell. At 8pm, it's a grab bag of three films with very different subjects: GOD RESPECTS US WHEN WE WORK, BUT LOVES US WHEN WE DANCE (1968, 20 min, DigiBeta Video), about the hippies and flower children at the 1967 LA "Love-In," WERNER HERZOG EATS HIS SHOE (1979, 22 min, DigiBeta Video), with Werner Herzog, well, eating his shoe, and GAP-TOOTHED WOMEN (1987, 31 min, DigiBeta Video), about, well, you can figure it out... Les Blank in person at all four screenings. PF
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Jack Smight's HARPER (American Revival)
Music Box — Saturday, 11:30am
Based on a novel by Ross Macdonald and considered by some to be the first neo-noir, Jack Smight's HARPER both subverts and embraces the tropes of the classical noir blueprint. Taking cues from Howard Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP, the film follows private detective Lew Harper (deftly played by Paul Newman) as he is recruited to track down a missing millionaire named Sampson. Newman's versatility as an character actor is in full effect; at times the performance feels borderline schizophrenic as Harper seamlessly shapeshifts from one personality to another. This is mirrored by the film's mutable identity, which often strikes a wacky, yet unsettling balance between comedy and thriller (think Stanley Donen's CHARADE). Noir heavyweights Shelly Winters and Lauren Bacall turn in superb supporting performances as washed-up, tainted versions of their former golden age selves. Bacall is particularly sinister as Sampson's reptilian wife, who is rarely removed from the glow of her tanning lights/life support system. The set design in the first half of the film verges on surreal, including Sampson's astrology themed boudoir and a nightclub decorated with pirate paraphernalia. Above and beyond the most bizarre image in HARPER is the Jodorowsky-esque "temple in the clouds," a mountain hideaway home to a new age mystic who is obliquely involved with the mystery, but also commands a small army of illegal immigrants that he orders to attack Harper in what is one of the film's best/weirdest scenes. Additionally, whether it was Smight's intention or not, his use of "day for night" amplifies the film's offbeat aesthetic. At the core of HARPER is a theme familiar to the noir genre: the fallibility of love. Not only is romantic love unattainable, but familial love, or even platonic love between two old war buddies is out of reach. Harper's soon to be ex-wife goes so far as to describe love as a loathsome disease. While archetypal noir protagonists struggled with the ineluctable forces of fate, Harper resigns himself to an absurdist, almost nihilistic outlook. With this attitude, he becomes a key influence for other cynical neo-noir characters, most notably the Philip Marlowe of Robert Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE. Beneath the outlandish, comic surface of HARPER is a bleak, post-war landscape in which a clear-cut breakdown of morality is impossible and love, once a source of redemption, now fails to exist altogether. (1966, 121 mins, 35mm) HS
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Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL (British Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Wednesday, 7 and 9:45pm
Terry Gilliam and Sam Lowry—two impossible dreamers haplessly lashing out against the powers that be—are the twin heroes of BRAZIL, one behind the camera and the other before it. The behind the scenes narrative of this dystopian masterpiece has attained mythic status, with Gilliam locked in heated battle against Universal over their insistence on a more audience-friendly cut of the film, all while the fate of put-upon office drone Lowry (played with beleaguered bafflement by Jonathan Pryce) hangs in the balance. In fairness, it's not hard to see how a studio would look askance at the film before them. Gilliam takes his budget and constructs what is essentially just a child's blanket fort on the largest scale imaginable; a bureaucratic quagmire built of tubes and cardboard, at times dangerously close to coming apart at the seams. It's a world where instability is constantly threatening to undermine the tightly wound internal logic that governs everything, where loose cogs in the machine like Sam Lowry become threats simply because the system isn't wired to accommodate them. Under these conditions, there's a very thin line between getting imaginative and getting mad, so it's little wonder Gilliam followed a similar path to his protagonist. BRAZIL, among the most fantastically dark and detail-rich science fiction flicks ever, was—and remains—a visionary work worth fighting for. (1985, 131 min, 35mm) TJ
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Deborah Stratman's O'ER THE LAND (Experimental Documentary)
Roots & Culture (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) — Sunday, 7pm
UIC professor Deborah Stratman's staggering treatise on technology and violence in American mythology is strong on all fronts. Pairing subtle yet complex sound design with some otherworldly visuals of American weapons at work and play, Stratman finds people completely outside of her art audience's usual experience but avoids contextualizing them as the other. At the heart of O'ER THE LAND is the nearly unbelievable account of Col. William Rankin's emergency ejection from his fighter jet. Forced to bail at 48,000 feet, Rankin spent 45 harrowing minutes negotiating his parachute through the strong winds of a powerful thunderstorm before landing in a tree. Also screening is a selection of new short work. Showing with Tom Palazzolo's short film LOVE IT/LEAVE IT. Stratman in person. (2008, 52 min, 16mm/1973, 15 min, 16mm) CL
More info here.

John Woo's HARD BOILED (Hong Kong Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Thursday, 9:30pm
Somewhere between silly and sublime, the pièce de résistance of John Woo's Hong Kong career turns pulp cheese into pop ballet—fluid, extravagant, and totally enamored with its own sense of cool. Chow Yun-Fat stars as Tequila (a name that only John Woo—or a ten-year-old boy—could love), a clarinet-playing cop who teams up with an undercover loner (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) to take down a triad boss (Anthony Wong), shoot a lot of people, and rescue some adorable babies. Woo's worldview—overwrought, slightly homoerotic, with some entry-level metaphysics and psychology thrown in for good measure—may be reductive, but damn if it doesn't have a certain brutal grace to it; the way he turns the characters into bodies in motion—charging at one another, leaping through space, getting showered with shards of glass—is engrossing and often just plain beautiful. (1992, 126 min, 35mm) IV
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Michael Haneke's CACHE (Contemporary French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Friday and Tuesday, 6pm
In Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke's CACHE, an unidentified person films aspects of the daily lives of a married Parisian couple, Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche), without their knowledge. This person sends the videotapes to the couple, who interpret them as "a campaign of terror." Before long, the tapes lead Georges back to the massacre of two hundred Algerians in Paris in 1961 and to his short relationship with one of its indirect victims. CACHE centers not only on the unknown filmmaker, but also, and more importantly, on the unknown image. In addition to the series of tapes that structure the film, such images include news footage, public television programs, photographs, drawings, memories, dreams, and the film itself. In watching CACHE, the viewer does not always know when he sees a tape in contrast to Haneke's film. (Although, in fact, he can see both.) For instance, both the real filmmaker (Haneke) and his anonymous fictional filmmaker shoot in high-definition video. Often, a television set does not frame a tape, but Haneke's camera occasionally pulls back to reveal Georges and Anne watching it on their TV. Due to the frequent lack of framing and other devices, the viewer questions who captures what and why. With CACHE, Haneke constructs a film in which we distrust him, and ultimately ourselves. Does an image hide its meaning from us? For Haneke, we must find what we hide from ourselves to see the world around us. SAIC Professor Dan Eisenberg lectures at Tuesday's screening. (2005, 117 min, 35mm) CW
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Jean-Luc Godard's VIVRE SA VIE (French Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) — Thursday, 7pm
If you think Godard's theoretical approach to filmmaking always outshines his ability to produce portraiture that is believable and emotional and not just one of political or allegorical types, then check out VIVRE SA VIE, showing in a new print. His fourth feature tells the tale of a working class young woman, Nana (Anna Karina), as life goes from bad to worse. Despite the breakdown into chapters (complete with title cards) the film is at first an unstructured manifesto intended to convince the audience that capitalism only leads to the commoditization of all things, but this is merely a thread in the complex nature of the film. Communication is flawed, character and cinema are experienced and molded, and there are more than thirteen ways to look at ones wife through a viewfinder. At times Godard is mimicking the tropes of documentary, at others he is relying on overt reference (Dreyer's THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, for example), and at others he is doing what he does best (using framing and composition to make sure that no one present misunderstands the emotional distance a character feels). One would he hard pressed to find another film with such an abrupt and sad ending that still makes one leave the theater with a smile. Poetic, beautiful, and concise. (1962, 85 min, 35mm) JH
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Joaquim Pedro de Andrade's MACUNAÍMA (Brazilian Revival)
The Whistler (2421 N. Milwaukee Ave.) — Saturday, 7pm
Joaquim Pedro de Andrade's MACUNAÍMA is an absurd and orgiastic amalgam of high camp and leftist agitprop. Funneling its satirical rage into the form of the mock epic, it follows the eponymous antihero from the moment he is born fully-grown (to an elderly woman played in drag by the same actor who will later portray the film's villain) to his death at the hands of a cannibalistic mermaid. Andrade based the film on the classic novel of the same name by the great modernist polymath Mário de Andrade (no relation) and borrowed heavily from both the spirit and the letter of the seminal "Cannibalist Manifesto" of Oswald de Andrade (again, no relation). Despite it's barely concealed anti-government message, the film passed censors with almost no alterations (some of the nudity was excised) and met with enormous critical and commercial success. The allegorical substructure relating to 1964 military coup and the 1968 hardline "coup-within-the-coup" will likely be lost on most American viewers, but Andrade's flashy and fleshy kitsch mania is unmistakable and irresistible. (1969, 110 min, DVD Projection) PR
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The Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Portage Theater) screens Alfred Hitchcock's 1955 film THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (99 min, 35mm) on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Showing with an unannounced short subject.

Chicago Filmmakers presents Short Story Film Showcase (Video Projection - Unconfirmed Formats) on Friday at 8pm. The films screening are: THE DOCTOR'S WIFE (Julian Grant), LEFT ALONE (Seth Boggess), ELEMENTS: SPRING TO SUMMER TO AUTUMN (Dave Schmudde), THE LATHE OF MALDOROR (Kevin B. Chatham), SCAVENGER (Jason Pan), I NEVER MET A BRANDY I DIDN'T LIKE (Victor Spatafora), WHO IS STEVE SCHUBERT? (Jonny Diaz), ANNABEL (Daniel Izui), and THE MYSTIQUE (Nick Vassil).

Prime Real Estate [R3AL-T1M3 3V3NT!!!] takes place on Saturday from 8:30pm to 2am at 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd Floor. The event, described as "RealTime performances, video installation and musical accompaniment. As well as a DJ after party///////DANCE PARTY???" features real time audio/video performers and artists Yolk, Glitchard Nixon, Square Square, Jon Satrom, Sam Mewton, Alfredo Salazar-Caro, Ben Baker-Smith, and Saul Rojas.

Local filmmaker Lori Felker gives an Artist Talk at the Apple Store (801 W. North Ave.) on Tuesday at 7pm. She will be showing clips from new work, giving a tour of the Variable Area Television Network, talking about being a filmmaker/teacher/projectionist/programmer, and explaining her interest in multiplicity.

Mofest7 takes place at the Portage Theater on Saturday (beginning at 6pm) and Sunday (beginning at 4pm). Screenings and other activities both days, though details were not available.

The Chicago Cinema Society and the Logan Theater (2646 N. Milwaukee Ave.) present Midnight screenings of Kinji Fukusaku's 2000 cult film BATTLE ROYALE (114 min, Blu-ray Projection) on Friday and Saturday.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, and Tono Errando's 2010 Spanish/UK animated film CHICO & RITA (94 min, 35mm) screens for a week. Gereon Wetzel's 2010 German documentary EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS (108 min, HDCam Video) has five screenings. Douglas Tirola's 2009 documentary ALL IN: THE POKER MOVIE (109 min, HDCam Video) screens on Monday at 8:15pm, with author, poker-player, and SAIC professor or writing James McManus in person. The Palestinian Film Festival opens this week, with MAN WITHOUT A CELL PHONE (showing with NO WAY THROUGH, both DigiBeta), THE KINGDOM OF WOMEN (DigiBeta, showing with ISTHMUS, DVCam), LOVE DURING WARTIME (DigiBeta, showing with BEFORE YOU IS THE SEA, Mini-DV), and ENEMY ALIEN (DigiBeta, showing with JUST ANOTHER DAY, Mini-DV).

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Oliver Stone's 1994 film NATURAL BORN KILLERS (118 min, 35mm) screens Friday at 7, 9:15, and 11:30pm and Sunday at 1pm; Lynne Ramsay's 2011 film WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (112 min, 35mm) is Saturday at 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday at 3:30pm; Ray Enright and Busby Berkeley's 1934 musical DAMES (91 min, 35mm) is Sunday at 7pm; Films by George Kuchar (all 16mm) on Monday at 7pm includes PAGAN RHAPSODY (1970), WILD NIGHT IN EL RENO (1977), THE MONGRELOID (1978), and FOREVER AND ALWAYS (1978); Andrei Tarkovsky's 1986 film THE SACRIFICE (142 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; and Bong Joon-ho's 2006 Korean monster movie THE HOST (119 min, 35mm) is Thursday at 7pm.

Also at the Music Box this week: Kevin Macdonald's new documentary MARLEY (145 min, Unconfirmed Format) opens. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's THE KID WITH A BIKE (87 min, Blu-ray Projection) is held over as a Saturday and Sunday 11:30am matinee only; local filmmaker Wendy Jo Carlton's 2011 lesbian romantic comedy JAMIE AND JESSE ARE NOT TOGETHER (95 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) screens Thursday at 8pm ($18 admission includes an after party and partially benefits the Lesbian Community Care Project of Howard Brown Health Center); and the Midnight films are Ralph Bakshi's 1972 animated film FRITZ THE CAT (78 min, 35mm) on Friday, Jim Sharman's 1975 THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) on Saturday, and Dean Shull's 2012 CALIFORNIA 90420 (83 min, Blu-ray Projection) on both Friday and Saturday.

Facets Cinémathèque screens Robert Greene's acclaimed 2011 wrestling documentary FAKE IT SO REAL (94 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week run. The final Facets Night School screening for this "term" is Bob Rafelson's 1968 Monkees' film HEAD (86 min, DVD Projection) on Saturday at Midnight, with an introduction by Joel Wicklund. On Tuesday at 7pm, the Facets Film Dialogue series presents the human rights documentaries EDUCATION UNDER FIRE (Jeff Kaufman, 2011, 30 min, Unconfirmed Format) and IRANIAN TABOO (Reza Allamehzadeh, 2011, 76 min, Unconfirmed Format), with Dr. Elise Auerbach of Amnesty International in person.

The Chicago Latino Film Festival continues through April 26 at various locations. Complete festival schedule at

Transistor (3819 N. Lincoln Ave.) screens Marcel Carné's 1939 classic LE JOUR SE LEVE (93 min, DVD Projection) on Monday at 8pm.

The Goethe Institut-Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave.) screens Daniel Junge's 2007 documentary IRON LADIES OF LIBERIA (52 min abridged version, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Monday at 6pm.

The Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Eric Lartigau's 2001 French film MA FEMME EST UNE ACTRICE (95 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday, with a wine reception at 6pm and the film at 6:30pm. Guest speakers are Chicago-based actress Barbara Robertson and Park Krausen from le Théâtre du Rêve in Atlanta.

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CINE-LIST: April 20 - April 26, 2012


CONTRIBUTORS / Jason Halprin, Tristan Johnson, Kevin B. Lee, Christy LeMaster, Peter Raccuglia, Harrison Sherrod, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Candace Wirt, Darnell Witt

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