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DRAGONFLIES WITH BIRDS AND SNAKE
Frank Borzage's AFTER TOMORROW (American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Portage Theater) — Wednesday, 7:30pm
A couple of good kids in love (Charles Farrell, Marian Nixon) find themselves repeatedly having to postpone their marriage in this exceptional Depression-era romance—a potent mix of Pre-Code candor, elegant James Wong Howe camera movements, evocative production design (by William Darling), and Frank Borzage's unmatched sense for how desire and anxiety can seem to reshape space itself. Like many films of the period, this possesses a remarkable (by today's standards) intelligence about how communities and families work (the depiction of Nixon's relationship to her father, played by William Collier Sr., being just one striking example), but what stands out the most is the way Borzage seamlessly integrates the sensual world of the central couple into what is ostensibly a "social," ensemble-based narrative; the close-up of Nixon's face as she tilts her head back, eyes closed, in anticipation of a kiss from Farrell stands as one of the great erotic images of early American sound filmmaking. Showing with Irving Browning's 1931 experimental short CITY OF CONSTRASTS (18 min, 16mm). (1932, 78 min, 35mm) IV
More info at www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
Alex Ross Perry's THE COLOR WHEEL (New American)
Facets Cinémathèque — Check Venue website for showtimes
Alex Ross Perry's shoestring-budget tour de force is one of the best and boldest American independent films of the last decade: a challenge to conventions of taste, tone, and what indie movies are supposed to look and move like that also manages to be both funny and genuinely tragic. Drawing equally from Philip Roth and late-period Jerry Lewis, the film follows a pair of loser siblings (Perry and co-writer Carlen Altman) who while away the hours verbally attacking each other—that is, when they're not busy being mocked by the dipshits, assholes, and outright dicks of the world they inhabit. The humor ranges from slapstick to hateful, and Sean Price William's black-and-white 16mm camerawork runs the gamut from shaky handheld to complex zoom-and-dolly shots, but there's nothing slapdash about this all-over-the-place movie—its wild stylistic and tonal detours are all informed by a bleak but ultimately sympathetic view of human life and longing, which comes to the fore in the film's gut-wrenching single-take climax. This is American cinema at its purest and nastiest. (2011, 80 min, 35mm) IV
More info at www.facets.org.
Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival
Columbia College Chicago (1104 S. Wabash Ave., 5th Floor) — Friday and Saturday (Check festival website for complete schedule)
The 24th Onion City festival, produced by Chicago Filmmakers, continues this Friday and Saturday, with 12 different programs and two repeat show, at Columbia College Chicago.
The films in the Drifting and Lingering (Friday, 6:45pm; 2010-12, approx. 75 min total, Various Formats) program are all generally quiet, contemplative pieces, pondering all manner of environments, from the home, to the workplace, and also nature. Michael Gitlin's DUST STUDIES examines the curious phenomena of the dust mote in three quick suites. A series of floor-level tracking shots identify a number of tumbleweeds throughout the home, and in the next section, the specimens are placed in columnar dishes for examination. The final section consists of macro photography of the motes, whose minute shifts in focus isolating single strands of hair resembles David Gatten's FILM FOR INVISIBLE INK series or some of Robert Todd's more introverted pieces. Indeed, WITHIN, Robert Todd's entry in this program, holds some commonalities with his more inward-searching pieces. The film finds the viewer trapped in a prismatic enclosure, yearning for the natural world we see just beyond the occluding veil. SACK BARROW is the apex of the program, proving Ben Rivers to be a master filmmaker. SACK BARROW explores an imminently-closing plating factory just outside London in gorgeous detail. Rivers' expert photography washes the factory in grain, drawing out the splendid mineral colors that years of chemical processing have built up throughout the space. This being the last month of operation, the factory feels like a mausoleum, with its few remaining workers somberly completing rote tasks. Rivers' ruminative camerawork is an exploration and thereby documentation of a mid-century industrial model dissolving in our globalized economy. Also screening are Pat O'Neill's curio PAINTER AND BALL 4-14 and Timoleon Wilkins' DRIFTER.
A manic assault of absurdist ideas and frenetic images are on display in Friday's final program, Clusterfudge (Friday, 8:45pm; 2010-12, approx 62 min total, Various Formats). An exemplar of the program, GOLDIE (Carl Ryan Stemple) employs a Martin Arnold-like editing approach to a Felix the Cat cartoon, forcing the goose that laid the golden egg to work a bit of overtime, and subsequently causing a bit of system overload for the animated waterfowl. Once the video flips its switch, it plays around just long enough to explore the idea without over-staying its welcome. Bobby Abate's A PARTY RECORD PACKED WITH SEX AND SADNESS is true to its word, filled to the brim with a bubbling mixture of pop snippets, sexuality, and adolescent melancholy. Its unrelenting lo-fi editing keeps the viewer at arm's-length from anything approaching interpretation, yet its superficial effervescence is more than satisfying. Preeminent film archivist Mark Toscano's RATING DOGS ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10 is a masterpiece of participatory cinema. The film consists of a series of photographed dogs appearing on screen accompanied by an overlaid numerical score. With the pattern set early on, Toscano seemingly invites the audience to "guess" what the score for each subsequent pooch will be, often denying gratification on surefire winners with a "No Rating" score. Channeling Owen Land and Robert Nelson, Toscano keeps the brilliant strain of West Coast avant-garde irreverence alive. Neil Ira Needleman's LOUD VIDEO is a busy, vividly colored silent flicker film and generated, apparently, in Microsoft Word. The diamond shaped mandala-like patterns are quite fascinating to watch. LOUD VIDEO's antithesis is perhaps XXI (:such:), a slowly moving video exploring shifting color gradients in diagonal neon-colored abstracted tubes. Surely, it will provide a requisite break from the rest of the program's mania. Also showing is Shana Moulton's gnostic-ritual-by-way-of-early-90s-signifiers DECORATIONS OF THE MIND II, Joshua Solondz's BURNING STAR, Stephanie Barber's 10 FROM JHANA AND THE RATS OF JAMES OLDS, and Michael A. Morris' I CAN'T WAIT TO MEET YOU THERE.
Weaving together short, colorful bursts of zoological and educational footage of insects, birds, and amphibians, Wolfgang Lehmann's feature-length film DRAGONFLIES WITH BIRDS AND SNAKE (Saturday, 1:45pm; 2011, 61 min, Digital Projection) details the life cycle of a dragonfly and that species' relationship with its ecosystem. The structure of the film is such that at any given moment there are three segments of film competing for our attention, each segment lasting between three to eight frames before the next segment interrupts. No individual segment is long enough to fully interrupt our perception of apparent motion however, so we in effect watch three sequences at once, with Lehmann massaging in new footage to replace older sequences. The film borders on overwhelming, but Lehmann holds interest through a rigorous yet clever editing principle that allows for the subtleties of shifting tempos and images to constantly surprise the viewer. A menagerie of semiotic editing techniques employed during this exercise allows the marshy world of the dragonfly to unfold before us: dragonfly larvae hatch, whilst mere frames later, a bird slowly devours an adult specimen. We see bird and prey gradually merge forms, holding a constant value of image as all other areas of the frame flicker between positive and negative image, blue sky or green grass. Also screening are two versions of Jorge Prelorán's CLAUDIA (1965/72, 6 min each, 16mm), preserved through the National Film Preservation Foundation's Avant-Garde Masters Grant and screened in recognition of the grant's tenth anniversary. DM
Note: Onion City is programmed by C-F editor Patrick Friel
More info and complete festival schedule at www.chicagofilmmakers.org/onion_fest.
Deborah Stratman's THE NAME IS NOT THE THING NAMED (Experimental/Gallery Show)
Iceberg Projects — Saturday, 6-9pm (opening); Gallery hours Saturdays and Sundays 10-4pm
"The Name is not the Thing named," drawn from Aleister Crowley's 1918 translation of the Tao Te Ching, further reveals Chicago artist Deborah Stratman's staunch belief in the power of images and sounds to provide an intellectual and aesthetic experience that works outside the bounds of language. But hers is not a project about discovering something pre-verbal, as some of Brakhage's works do. Rather, language is short-circuited. Something like a Ceci n'est pas une metaphor that engages both photographic representation and images that are so laden with cultural meaning that they exist simultaneously as symbol and, as the film argues, as the things themselves. A television valiantly tries to broadcast an unbroken image; we are the slow, floating passage into and through a tunnel; a parachuter jumps from a plane. Shot in such varied locations as Kashgar, Chicago, Moscow, Ithaca, St. Louis, and Houston, the hyper-specificity of the photographed-object and the universality of image-metaphor play against and with each other, rendering a beguiling film. The work operates as a series of passageways and, perhaps, when watched as a loop, we experience the sensation of a spiral. Curated by Tricia Van Eck, this show also features a new series of photographs by Stratman. (2012, 11 min loop, video installation plus photographs) JM
More info at www.icebergchicago.com.
Zummertapez: Jo Dery (Experimental/Animation/Mix-tape)
Roots & Culture (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) — Sunday, 8pm
Zummertapez is always a good time, because you never know what you're going to see; you just have to trust the evening's curator. Part of the series' intent is to be a "sociable and engaging artist talk," and it succeeds handily due to the format (a mixtape-style combination of the artist/curator's own work and samples of things that inspired them), which insures a passionate and conversation-inspiring screening. This week you're definitely in for a strange, sweet, and slightly menacing time because the curator is local animator and artist Jo Dery. Dery's work often has a simple, hand-made look, with lots of clear lines and crisp edits, and it often involves animals or human consumable goods. In many ways it is reminiscent of the educational films of the Eames': easily described, but cunningly crafted to somehow impart more information than it seems to be made of. Pieces she plans to screen portions of include ECHOES OF BATS AND MEN and STRING STORIES, and hopefully a clip from Disney's DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE (a film always odd enough to bear rewatching). (Unconfirmed Running Time and Formats) CAC
More info here.
Yoshifumi Kondô's WHISPER OF THE HEART and Hiroyuki Morita's THE CAT RETURNS (Japanese/Animation Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Check Venue website for showtimes
Riding low on most people's Studio Ghibli radar, WHISPER OF THE HEART (1995, 111 min, 35mm; Friday in Japanese, all other shows in the English dubbed version) shares much thematically with Hayao Miyazaki's finest efforts, and yet it doesn't coalesce in the same way, and in some ways not at all. That's not a quibble. Yoshifumi Kondô's debut feature was tragically his last—he would die unexpectedly shortly after finishing work as animation director on PRINCESS MONONOKE—but his one completed film contains all the polish associated with the great animation studio while possessing ambitions of its own. Low on traditional antagonists, even by Ghibli standards, the film instead sets its heroine Shizuku against the more shapeless threat of growing up. Of course, Shizuku's threat is largely conjured needlessly, but we sympathize though all her emotional highs and lows as she flirts with writing, romance, and outright childhood fancy. That's because WHISPER OF THE HEART itself is a film constantly assessing what it wants to be, though not in amateur fashion, as the presence of a strong nurturing hand can always be felt here. Kondô's anointment as Miyazaki's successor sadly never fully developed, but flashes of the director he may have become shine through, none more memorably than the glorious impromptu performance of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" that tugs all the appropriate heartstrings. Not to mention Shizuku's resplendent flight of fancy with The Baron, a gentleman first and feline second, who comes more and more alive through her own development as a writer. All this neatly sets the stage for THE CAT RETURNS (2002, 75 min, 35mm Tuesday in Japanese, all other shows in the English dubbed version), a sequel of sorts, starring The Baron on one of his many adventures, produced in the years following Kondô's death and directed by fellow Ghibli young-pup Hiroyuki Morita. More lively and whimsical than its predecessor, it's a total joy to watch, even while seeming slight by comparison. Together though, you couldn't ask for a more magical afternoon, and you can have just that this Saturday, as the films show back-to-back. TJ
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Billy Wilder's SUNSET BOULEVARD (American Revival)
Music Box — Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am
Drenched in cynicism, Billy Wilder's SUNSET BOULEVARD ranks up there with Robert Altman's THE PLAYER and David Lynch's MULHOLLAND DR. as one of the best critiques of Hollywood's toxic narcissism and cruelty. The last collaboration between Wilder and screenwriter Charles Brackett, SUNSET BOULEVARD centers on Norma Desmond (played with maniacal intensity by Gloria Swanson), a forgotten silent star who spends her days cooped up in her gothic tomb/mansion, obsessing over her glory days and penning the script which will launch her revival. By chance she encounters Joe Gillis, a down on his luck screenwriter. Their working relationship mutates into a strange sexual dynamic, with Gillis eager to escape; however, he ultimately finds himself contaminated by the greed and disillusionment of Hollywood. Wilder enlisted the help of master cinematographer John F. Seitz, who also photographed DOUBLE INDEMNITY, to lend the film a chiaroscuro, noir-ish look. This is notable during one of the film's most memorable scenes, in which an entranced Desmond watches her celluloid self on the movie screen, the light from the projector flickering over her face creating a kind of literal fusion of reality and fantasy. Look for a cameo from silent film icon Buster Keaton (referred to by Gillis as a "waxwork"), as well as Cecil B. DeMille playing himself. (1950, 110 min, Unconfirmed Format) HS
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Julien Temple's EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY (American/Cult Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Saturday, 7 and 9pm
It's a bit depressing to think that most movies marketed towards ladies are about weddings in some way or other, and while EARTH GIRLS falls into this category, it does have the benefit of a bunch of raunchy musical numbers to distract you from that failing. The whole movie is impossibly silly, the plot is such nonsense it's really not worth describing, but the visuals are nonstop and over the top: there are spaceships and nightclubs, makeovers and musical numbers, and a myriad of strange details (case in point: why are the aliens so furry?) And while it's a fun movie if watched in pieces on TV (preferably with some sort of Damon Wayans/Jim Carrey based drinking game because, trust me, their performances will drive you to the bottle) on 35mm, huge onscreen, it should look so mindnumbingly good that little problems like plot and characters won't get in the way. (1988, 100 min, 35mm) CAC
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Nacho Vigalondo's TIMECRIMES (Contemporary Spanish Revival)
Logan Square International Film Series (Comfort Station, 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) — Wednesday, 8pm
Nacho "Ordinary" Vigalondo's TIMECRIMES is the latest in a plethora of time loop films, a mini-genre that's often plagued with redundancy and has been known to incite mass hysteria on numerous message boards. The success that TIMECRIMES achieves is due in part to its lean narrative: A nondescript man named Hector catches a glimpse of a naked girl in the woods while peering through his binoculars à la REAR WINDOW. Upon investigating, he is stabbed in the arm by a man with a bandaged face. Finding refuge in a remote science lab, Hector discovers a machine that promptly sends him back in time, thus triggering a replay of this sequence—with a few key twists. The most innovative aspect of the film is the opportunity to re-watch (almost shot for shot) the same events from multiple perspectives, which creates a disorienting reverse voyeurism effect. Though TIMECRIMES dabbles in heady philosophical concepts such as quantum mechanics, duality of man, and Deleuze's notion of cinema time, its logic is ultimately flimsy and immediately disintegrates under the slightest scrutiny. A good portion of viewers will be mildly irked with Vigalondo's haphazard flirtation with these themes and all the loose threads he leaves dangling at the film's conclusion. In fact, cinephiles worldwide should probably start a petition stating that any new time loop films must first be given a stamp of approval by the people at NASA in order to assure some semblance of scientific plausibility. That being said, Vigalondo makes something out of nothing, and if you're thirsting for an INCEPTION-esque brainteaser TIMECRIMES should do just fine. Rumor has it that David Cronenberg intends to remake the film, which is fitting seeing as how VIDEODROME is the spiritual predecessor to this kind of stuff. Showing with Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali's 1929 short UN CHIEN ANDALOU. (2007, 97 mins, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) HS
More info here.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
Note: A time crunch this week has necessitated a very bare-bones More Screenings section. Please check the various venues' websites for details on these screenings. Our apologies - we will be back to more complete listings next week.—Ed
Chicago Cinema Society (at the Logan Theatre)
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (Video Projection - unconfirmed format)
YOUNG GOETHE IN LOVE (Video Projection - unconfirmed format)
Landmark's Century Centre Cinema
DARK HORSE (Todd Solondz in person June 22) (Unconfirmed Format)
THE LAST WALTZ (Unconfirmed Format)
Gene Siskel Film Center
KILL DADDY GOODNIGHT (HDCam Video)
BE GOOD (HDCam Video)
LONG LIVE THE FAMILY (35mm)
Doc Films (University of Chicago)
EASY RIDER (35mm)
George Griffin Program (16mm)
CUTTHROATS NINE (35mm)
NATURAL SELECTION (Unconfirmed Format)
THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH (Unconfirmed Format)
JURASSIC PARK (Unconfirmed Format)
HEADHUNTERS (Unconfirmed Format)
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (Outdoor screening; Video Projection - unconfirmed format)
WONDER WOMEN (1973; 35mm)
Enter the Panda Film Fest:
KUNG FU PANDA
KARATE KID (2010 version)
ENTER THE DRAGON
(Unconfirmed formats for all)
Chicago Cultural Center
THE SANDMAN (Video Projection - unconfirmed format)
CAFÉ DE FLORE (Video Projection - unconfirmed format)
The Art Institute of Chicago currently has experimental filmmaker Paul Sharits' 1975 16mm four-projector installation SHUTTER INTERFACE on view, through August 1. It is showing in the Modern Wing as one of the finalists under consideration for purchase for the AIC by the Acquisition Committee of the Society for Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. Also on display 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. Check last week's Cine-File for a review of SHUTTER INTERFACE. More info here.
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 continues at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.), running Friday-Tuesday (sundown to sun up), until July 15 (except for June 8 and July 13). Organized by Michael Green.
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CINE-LIST: June 22 – June 28, 2012
MANAGING EDITOR / Patrick Friel
CONTRIBUTORS / Chloe Connelly, Tristan Johnson, Jesse Malmed, Doug McLaren, Harrison Sherrod, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt
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