Paul Sharits' SHUTTER INTERFACE (Experimental Revival/Film Installation)
Art Institute of Chicago (Modern Wing) — Through August 1
The inscrutable workings of the Society for Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago have managed to pull together some pieces under consideration for acquisition that should be of great interest to the readers of Cine-File, chief among them experimental filmmaker Paul Sharits' seminal work SHUTTER INTERFACE. Conceived as a locational gallery installation of four 16mm film projectors each projecting slightly overlapping film loops ranging in length from five to six minutes, the piece, like any elaborate work requiring careful staging, was rarely exhibited in Sharits' lifetime. His initial foray into art galleries came as a development of his ongoing ontological analysis of film's mechanisms and properties. Disassociating his work from the linear temporal-spatial confines of the cinema theater and its representational illusionism, these locational installations had no formal end or beginning but were designed to expand and collapse, through the exploration of film's material components, the mechanics that the means of apparent motion relied upon. With SHUTTER INTERFACE, Sharits' concern was in creating a metaphor for the central intermittency in cinema—the projector/camera shutter. By returning to his previous color flicker compositions as his basis, Sharits synced modulating tones to the singular black frames placed at irregular intervals between color swatches, which, when run through one of the four speakers placed beneath the projected image directly in front of each projector, signified the intermittent behavior of the projector's shutter. Of course, experientially, one does not interpret the installation as such, suggesting Sharits largely failed in his metaphorical attempts. Instead, one viscerally reads the work as an ever-shifting piece of visual music. Indeed, the musicality of SHUTTER INTERFACE cannot be overstated. The construction of the film loops is such that at any given moment complimentary gradients of color flicker in and combine together into color field "chords," with each rectangle of light as harmonizing and tenuous as a single note struck in a concerto. A prime concern for Sharits' locational installations was that a viewer should instantly glean the logic of the work upon entering the space, and on this level, SHUTTER INTERFACE succeeds wildly. One ineluctably understands a relationship between sound, image, and the columnar projectors in the center of the room, its complex beauty apparent immediately, as shimmering tones of color and sound modulate in seemingly infinite permutations. (1975, looped installation, 4 x 16mm) DM
Also on display in the Modern Wing via the SCA is filmmaker, musician, and artist Tony Conrad's 1973 paper work Yellow Movie 3/5-6/73, which, though not a moving image work, is cinematic in its inspiration.
More info here.
Eric Rohmer's THE SIGN OF LEO (French Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) — Thursday, 7pm
Always a bit of a goofball, Eric Rohmer made his feature directing debut with this broad fable about an American expat who believes he's inherited a fortune, spends money freely, and then ends up down and out on the muggy streets of Paris. While the movie bears little resemblance to Rohmer's subsequent work, its detailed mise-en-scene, 1930's-style acting, and limber camerawork all point to the appreciation for classical filmmaking that lay behind the French New Wave's radical innovations—not to mention the finely-tuned, subtle style Rohmer himself would later develop. Like Jacques Rivette's PARIS BELONGS TO US, which screened earlier in the same series, this was a commercial flop in its time; long neglected, it is ripe for re-appreciation. As was customary for the early New Wave films, the film is chock full of director cameos; look out for Jean-Pierre Melville, Alain Resnais, and perennial scene-stealer Jean-Luc Godard. (1962, 100 min, 35mm) IV
More info at www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu.
Lieh Lo's FISTS OF THE WHITE LOTUS and Yu Wang's MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (Kung Fu Revival/Double Feature)
Chicago Cinema Society (at the Portage Theater) — Friday, 7pm
Genre bingers will swoon over the Chicago Cinema Society's current double-header, a pairing of two rarely screened Kung Fu classics that highlight the best of their breed, from both inside the famed Shaw Brothers Studio and out. The evening kicks off with a decidedly domestic twist on martial arts in FISTS OF THE WHITE LOTUS (1980, 95 min, 35mm), which features Gordon Liu on a vengeful quest against a dangerous cult leader, played by actor/director/daredevil Lo Lieh. Worth your while not only for the fast-paced mindless fun of it all, but also for the unlikely opportunity to see Liu brush up on his embroidery skills, which it turns out, is good training if your aim is to acupuncture someone to death. If that sounds silly, it still has nothing on the hijinks of MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1976, edited and dubbed 81 min version, 35mm), a continuation of Jimmy Wang's adventures in ONE ARMED BOXER, this time produced independent of Shaw Brothers, but still chock full of Wang's set-piece shenanigans, from a fight with an elastic Indian yoga master to hot-boxed battle with a Thai boxer. In his previous film, Wang, the One-Armed Boxer, had trounced a pair of disciples of a notorious blind assassin. Here, the assassin is hot on his trail, and he's sporting the titular flying guillotine; a lethal, efficient, and wholly ridiculous weapon that he unleashes quite smugly on every unfortunate one-armed man who crosses his path. It's not long before he tracks Wang to a multi-national martial arts tournament—the film's sprawling centerpiece and a glorious carousel of technique and training—and from there, the plot grows sparse. But that's the beauty of MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE, a straight up shot of Kung Fu's freewheeling, style over substance bravado, here distilled down to a series of eccentric face-offs, back to back to back. In short, a grand argument for the joys of genre film viewing. The two flicks will be presented in tandem, with a talk in between from Dan Halsted, film preservationist and director of the 35mm Shaolin Archive. Catch it all for the price of one movie, and you have the perfect alternative Friday night excursion. TJ
More info at www.chicagocinemasociety.org.
Joseph H. Lewis' TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN (American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Portage Theater) — Wednesday, 7:30pm
This sublime Western oddity was the last film directed by Joseph H. Lewis, one of the true, undisputed artists of the American B film. The script, by blacklistee Dalton Trumbo, is pure Lefty pulp: a harpoon-toting Swede (Sterling Hayden) must defend the hardworking people of his frontier hometown against a rotund, waistcoat'd capitalist (Sebastian Cabot) and his black-gloved henchman. Lewis' expressive, exaggerated, slightly nightmarish style renders everything in outsize, cartoony dimensions; it's a film of big faces, big gestures, and big empty spaces—all best appreciated on a big screen. Showing with Chuck Jones' 1951 Daffy Duck cartoon DRIP-ALONG DAFFY (7 min, 16mm). NOTE: This film replaces the previously scheduled THE HALLIDAY BRAND, which was unavailable at the last minute. (1958, 80 min, 35mm) IV
More info at www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
We're Still Afraid: Three Films about Uncertain Futures (Documentary/Experimental Revivals)
South Side Projections (at Little Black Pearl, 1060 E. 47th St.) — Wednesday, 7pm
In keeping with the recent NATO frenzy and the reawakening of the Occupy Movement, South Side Projections presents a diverse trio of 1960s-era films that urge us to question the degree of progress made since the turbulent events of that decade. Brian Frye's ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY (1999, 10 min), the most enigmatic film on the program, recontextualizes outtake footage from an amateur 1960's film made by a Kansas City chiropractor into an experimental meditation on the repetitiveness of existence. It's surprising to learn that Frye, who purchased the footage in the 90s, did nothing to alter its original order, a factoid that adds to the film's hypnotizing mystique. The actors involved resemble a pack of Beckettian ghosts trapped in a post-apocalyptic limbo, frozen in their stances and forced to repeat the same fragmented lines of dialogue ad nauseam as part of an infinite feedback loop. Norman Fruchter and Robert Machover's documentary TROUBLEMAKERS (1966, 54 min) focuses on the Newark Community Union Project, an activist municipal group with SDS affiliations. Though the group tries to operate within the parameters of the system, they are met with little enthusiasm and grow increasingly impatient with the status quo. Ralph Arlyck's renowned student film SEAN (1970, 14 min) features an illuminating interview with a precocious four-year-old who muses on topical subjects like drug culture, police brutality, and atheism. Sean embodies the liberal open-mindedness and impish anti-authoritarianism of the counter cultural movement, in addition to its naiveté. The film is mostly light in tone, but the ennui of a post-68 zeitgeist lingers as Arlyck interpolates footage of the San Francisco State riots, creating a sobering counterweight to all of the cuteness. When asked about the state of the future, Sean responds by saying that nothing will change—it's an innocent, yet eerily prophetic answer. Indeed, the prevailing feeling that runs through all three films is one of powerlessness in the face of seemingly immutable forces. "We're Still Afraid" plays as part of the Contemporary Arts Council's forthcoming show "The Tipping Point of Me and We." (1966-99, approx 78 min total, 16mm) HS
More info at www.southsideprojections.org.
Wes Anderson's MOONRISE KINGDOM (New American)
Landmark Century Centre — Check Venue website for showtimes
If MOONRISE KINGDOM is any indication of Wes Anderson's future trajectory as a filmmaker, then making FANTASTIC MR. FOX may prove to have been decisive. The medium of stop-motion animation has a unique set of demands. For starters, a scene is not included unless it's already been thoroughly pondered, discussed, dissected, and designed; if a scene isn't integral to the story or at least the characters, it's usually jettisoned before it's even executed, no matter how clever or colorful the ideas behind it might be. In the world of animation, it's simply too laborious and expensive to go off on a tangent. That way of working seems to have spurred Anderson to create his most focused film since RUSHMORE. It's about the same length as THE DARJEELING LIMITED, yet feels much tighter, and he's chosen a story that's simple and sweet in all the ways that THE ROYAL TANENBAUMS was rococo and acrid. His trademark whimsy is still there (the non sequiturs, the natty production design, the carefully curated soundtrack, and so on). But, crucially, this time around those elements actually tell us something about the characters and their environs, rather than just serving as evidence of Anderson's exquisite taste. The bric-a-brac feels charming, not heavy-handed. As usual, Anderson has summoned a brilliant cast. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, awkward and tentative, are perfect as the runaway youngsters. Standing out from the rest of the excellent star-studded ensemble is Bruce Willis, at long last given another chance to do the kind of the comedy he does best: his wry, earthy, low-key performance is exactly the kind of humble grit that keeps MOONRISE KINGDOM anchored to recognizably human characters. (2012, 94 min, Unconfirmed Format) RC
More info here.
SPECIAL SECTION: CUFF
The Chicago Underground Film Festival
Gene Siskel Film Center — Through Thursday
The 19th edition of the Chicago Underground Film Festival opened last night and continues through Thursday at the Gene Siskel Film Center. We're spotlighting four films below, but there are many other programs of note, in particular Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt's hour-long Portuguese film PALACES OF PITY, which won a top prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival and has terrific word-of-mouth, and a special presentation of local filmmaker Xan Aranda's recent documentary ANDREW BIRD: FEVER YEAR. Additionally, CUFF always features an eclectic mix of shorts that should not be overlooked. I've not previewed any shorts programs in their entirety, but individual films I have seen that are stand-outs include Jesse McLean's REMOTE, Mary Helena Clark's BY FOOT-CANDLE LIGHT, Luis Arnías' THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, Fern Silva's PERIL OF THE ANTILLES, Robert Todd's UNDERGROWTH, Ben Russell's RIVER RITES, Bobby Abate's THE EVIL EYES, and Ross Nugent's TEAR IT UP, SON! PF
More info and the full schedule at www.cuff.org.
Ben Rivers' TWO YEARS AT SEA (Experimental Documentary)
TWO YEARS AT SEA, a loose, airy non-narrative production, marks UK filmmaker Ben Rivers' first feature-length film. Shot in Rivers' recently-favored, though difficult to correctly project, anamorphic 16mm format, the film casually follows frugal woodsman Jake Williams as he lives through all seasons in his remote cabin. We've met Jake before, in Rivers' THIS IS MY LAND (which played at CUFF in 2007), but now the longer running time allows us to experience time as Jake does, a patient phenomenon far removed from 21st Century living. His homestead is a surreal fantasy world, filled with inventions of his own creation, from an improvised shower to a backyard sound-system. Ben Rivers' hand-processed black-and-white imagery alludes to a kinship with Jake's self-crafted world, while the anamorphic lensing captures the pastoral lyricism inherent in this isolated wilderness. The nearly wordless portrait captures moments of profound beauty as they slowly unfold during the idiosyncratic projects Jake undertakes. Some moments, like a camping wagon floating blithely up through the tree line, suggest a haunted majesty to these Scottish woods, underscoring the fantastic life Jake has created for himself, one that Rivers allows us to indulge in for a gratifyingly long time. Though the film was originally blown up to a sumptuous widescreen 35mm print, due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict (an unexpected theatrical run in London, with only one print), the film will be projected digitally. Still, its wild expanse is best seen on a large screen, making this screening well worth the time in any format. (2011, 86 min, Digital Video Projection - unconfirmed format) DM
Sabine Gruffat's I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A DREAMER (Experimental Documentary)
Sunday and Tuesday, 8pm
Sabine Gruffat's heterogeneous works include functional objects (like portable speaker belts), live-mixed video performances, and a wide range of films and videos. Her latest is a feature-length experimental documentary about Detroit and Dubai. The city portraits overlap and push against one another, revealing the tensions between two distinct eras of rapid development and their cultural contexts. Between the booms and the busts, the workers and the developers, the immigrants assimilating and the immigrants in ten-to-a-room villas, the construction of factories, high-rises, and images reveal each city's character. Conversations with artists, workers, and thinkers who live in these cities provide insights into the multivalent forces that led them here. There are many subtle mirrors invoked and discovered between these strange titans and with them moments of incredible beauty. One levitating shot follows a board as it is passed from worker to worker up the tall scaffolds hugging a (becoming-a-) building. Detroit's sections bear the clarity and nuance of someone who has spent an amount of time there, someone who knows the people striving to enact positive change in their communities. The scenes of Dubai take place closer to the surface, which feels natural for a city in which—according to the film—over 80% of its inhabitants hail from elsewhere. Showing with Kevin Jerome Emerson's smashing new film CHEVELLE (2012, 8 min, 35mm). Gruffat in person. (2012, 78 min, HDCam Video) JM
Robert Todd's MASTER PLAN (Experimental Documentary)
A year after the wounds of Cabrini-Green have turned into but a scar between Chicago's ever-expanding River North and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, CUFF brings in Robert Todd's exploration of housing communities with its surprisingly upbeat prospect for the prosocial development of its inhabitants. Working in a far more relaxed vein—gone are the tremendous weight and suffocating myopia of the industrial and office worlds seen in other of his films—Robert Todd effortlessly makes architectural analysis a logical extension of his previous body of work. Seemingly picking up where Chad Freidrich's recent documentary THE PRUITT-IGOE MYTH left off, the film begins with the logical assumption that one's home should be a kind of utopic recovery zone, an idyllic respite from the ailments of the outside world, and from there considers the architectural developments necessary to achieve this on a citywide scale. All manner of collective housing are considered, from the company towns of Kohler Village, WI and Bethlehem, PA, to military housing at Fort Devens, and on to cooperative living, gated communities, and even prisons. On the subject of housing projects, Chicago looms over the film like an architectural ghost story: beware the construction of super-blocks, lest ye pine for antisocial behaviors! Todd chooses instead to focus on the potentially transformative influence a well-designed neighborhood with adequate social services can have on a community, looking at the new constructions of mixed-income duplexes in Springfield and Chelsea, MA. It is here that the film ends, confident that the groundwork laid out in these towns will at least not make the same mistakes Chicago made with Cabrini-Green. Showing with SING AS WE GO (Marianna Milhorat, 2011, 6 min, Video Projection),
SLAB CITY PROM (Jordan Blady, 2012, 8 min, Video Projection), and
CARTOGRAPHY (Sara Mott, 2011, 5 min, Video Projection). Todd in person. (2011, 62 min, 16mm) DM
Ashley Sabin and David Redmon's GIRL MODEL (New Documentary)
There are many horrendous documentaries about human trafficking, and the thing that makes them awful is that they're often just pat-on-the-back polemics saying "see, isn't this Bad Thing bad? Aren't those people doing it Bad People? Yes indeed they are." GIRL MODEL could easily have fallen into this mode: it has the basic narrative arc of desperation, exploitation, and then more desperation, but it shows so many odd details and vulnerable moments that the viewer is left with the same empathy and embarrassment usually reserved for emotionally raw fiction films. The film is ostensibly about 13 year-old Siberian Nadya, who is selected from a huge number of other scantily clad pubescent girls at the film's outset. Her situation is sad but familiar: she's young and hopeless, and she believes a charming promise about making enough money to change her future, but she is largely treated like an object as much by the filmmakers as she is by her modeling handlers. The thing that makes the film really odd, really worth watching, is Nadya's counterpoint, Ashley, a former model and current modeling scout who seems on the brink of a serious breakdown every time she's on screen. She explains in a monotone that her job is meaningless and its utter lack of importance is what allows her any sort of freedom; she shows us the two babydolls she bought to live in her house, and casually mentions that there used to be three, but she dissected one; she nearly accuses one of the booking agents of (shall we say) an interest in little girls. And she's captivating. She is both the incarnation and the mouthpiece for all the dehumanizing rules and illogical standards that modeling promotes, and yet it's still terrible to watch her going to pieces. Showing with STRONG IS BEAUTFUL (Dewey Nicks, 2012, 4 min, Video Projection). (2011, 78 min, HDCam Video) CC
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
Adds Donna (4223 W. Lake St.) presents the exhibition Faith Made, featuring video installation work by Allison Trumbo and Michael A. Morris and additional work by Adam Farcus. The show runs through July 8.
Nocturama a video installation work by local filmmaker Melika Bass opens on Saturday at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) (8-10pm opening) and runs Friday-Tuesday (sundown to sun up), until July 15 (except for June 8 and July 13). Organized by Michael Green. "Bass brings the Comfort Station to life at night with a series of interior projections, which can be viewed from outside through the windows of the building. In three separate loops, a spectral figure seems to inhabit the space, performing activities that are at once intimate and theatrical, discomfiting and playful. Falling somewhere between fantasy and observed document, these nocturnal images haunt the Comfort Station and invite the viewer to assume the role of voyeur."
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Lasse Hallström's 2011 UK film SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (107 min, 35mm) and Sebastián Borensztein's 2011 Argentinean comedy CHINESE TAKE-AWAY (93 min, DigiBeta Video) both play for a week.
Doc Films (University of Chicago) concludes their spring season with Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (153 min, 35mm) on Friday at 7 and 10 and Sunday at 1pm; and Asghar Farhadi's 2011 Iranian drama A SEPARATION (123 min, 35mm) on Saturday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 4 and 7pm.
At the Music Box this week: Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda's 2011 film I WISH (128 min, Unconfirmed Format) opens; Charlotte Brandstrom's 2009 Swedish crime drama WALLANDER: THE REVENGE (Unconfirmed Running Time and Format) opens; Sai Yoichi's 2004 Japanese film QUILL: THE LIFE OF A GUIDE DOG (100 min, 35mm; Saturday and Sunday at Noon only), and Philippe Falardeau's 2011 Canadian drama MONSIEUR LAZHAR (94 min, Blu-ray) all continue; The Premiere VII Film Festival features student work from the DePaul School of Cinema and Interactive Media on Friday at 7:30pm; Billy Wilder's 1942 comedy THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (100 min, 35mm) is the Saturday and Sunday 11:30am matinee; and the Friday and Saturday Midnight films are Ivan Reitman's 1984 GHOSTBUSTERS (105 min, 35mm) and Josh Trank's 2012 CHRONICLE (84 min, 35mm).
Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: Martin Ritt's 1961 film PARIS BLUES (95 min, 35mm) screens Friday at 7pm.
Facets Cinémathèque screens Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson's 2011 drama SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS (73 min, Unconfirmed Format) this week.
The Chicago History Museum host the first of three different events (at three different venues - June 8 at the Nightingale and June 17 at the Chicago Cultural Center) celebrating the 100th birthday of Studs Terkel, all organized by the Media Burn Archive, on Saturday. Programs of various television appearances by and documentaries on Terkel, from the mid-sixties to 2007, run all day and a full schedule can be found here.
The Chicago Cultural Center presents two screens as part of the Cinema/Chicago summer series: Jan Jakub Kolski's 2010 Polish drama VENICE (WENECJA) (110 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) is on Saturday at 2pm; and Mark A Reyes' 2008 Filipino film MOMENTS OF LOVE (104 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) is on Wednesday at 6:30pm (repeats June 9).
The Goethe Institut-Chicago screens Gereon Wetzel and Jörg Adolph's 2010 documentary HOW TO MAKE A BOOK WITH STEIDL (88 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) on Thursday at 6pm.
Transistor (3819 N. Lincoln Ave.) screens Joann Sfar's 2010 French biopic GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE (130 min, DVD Projection) on Monday at 8pm.
Also at the Portage Theater this week is Katherine Imp's 2011 documentary BEAUTY BENEATH THE DIRT (65 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7:30pm.