King Vidor's THE CROWD (Silent American Revival)
Music Box - Saturday, Noon
One of the masterpieces of the silent era, Vidor's epic vision of American success and failure is also one of the director's greatest achievements. Vidor combines location shooting and outsized sets to compose the film on a gigantic canvas: some of the photographic effects (such as the crowd of the film's final image, which suggests a sea of anonymous humanity stretching out to infinity) still astonish today. Ironically the film's hero is not an epic figure but an ordinary man. John Sims spends his youth boasting of the great things he'll achieve one day, but he ends up a nameless bureaucrat with a home life he resents: an archetype of the modern Everyman. In terms of narrative structure, the film represents a great fall, from ambition to resignation, from idealism to cynicism. Indeed, it's hard to think of another film outside of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE that feels so cheated by the promise of the American Dream. But the film's artistry is so powerful—and its melodrama is so expressive—that it inspires a sense of awe strong enough to counter the despair. (1928, 98 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Seeing the Light: Intersections of Cinema and Poetry (Experimental Revival)
South Side Projections (at Southside Hub of Production, 5638 S. Woodlawn Ave.) - Friday, 7pm
A collaboration between South Side Projections and Poetry magazine, and curated by Cine-File contributor Harrison Sherrod, the three films screened tonight are from three legendarily poetic filmmakers: James Broughton, Lawrence Jordan, and the omnipresent Stan Brakhage. Lawrence Jordan's sublime featurette RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER (1977), based on the titular Samuel Taylor Coleridge work, focuses on Gustave Doré's engravings, enlivened with Jordan's usual cut-out animation and optical printing flourishes. Reading the classic poem is Orson Welles, recorded during the years when that vain thespian was reduced to the acting equivalent of day labor. But it is a job suitable only for Welles, as he alone is capable of reading "water, water, everywhere" and conjuring both an image of extreme thirst and the sight of a maddened old man berating a wedding guest with a fantastic tale. Jordan's synthesis of these ideas elevates the inherent poeticism of Coleridge's nautical myth, successfully adapting the morbid tone of the work into a visually rich animation. Stan Brakhage sought to confront head-on his lifelong fears of the police, hospitals, and the morgue with his Pittsburgh Trilogy films. In DEUS EX, Brakhage's focus is on the hospital, a place where he on more than one occasion faced the possibility of his own death. According to his notes, during just such a visit, Brakhage read an issue of Poetry magazine, featuring "Cole's Island" by Charles Olson, which helped ground the experience for him, inspiring his future work. As with all of his Pittsburgh films, DEUS EX (1971) eschews the editorial complexity of then-recent works like SCENES FROM UNDER CHILDHOOD (1967-70), choosing instead what passes for long takes in Brakhage's ever-shifting eye. Abstaining from his usual techniques of abstraction, Brakhage favored the profilmic reality of Western Pennsylvania Hospital, bathed in the green neon of industrial lighting. By forcing all philosophical and poetic reference to terminate within the film, he allows the film's most memorable sequence, that of an open-heart surgery, to hold near-mythic significance: what lengths men go to avoid their inevitable death. Also screening is James Broughton's FOUR IN THE AFTERNOON (1951), a film emblematic of Broughton's interests in the psychodramatic lyricism of early cinema, adapted from the filmmaker's own book of poetry. (1951-77, approx. 88 min total, 16mm) DM
More info at southsideprojections.org.
Tony Scott's UNSTOPPABLE (Contemporary American)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at Cinema Borealis, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., 4th Floor) - Sunday, 7 and 9:15pm
UNSTOPPABLE, by the recently deceased Tony Scott, is an expertly-paced, keenly-observed working-class action film. It's really two movies running concurrently—a shit-just-keeps-getting-worse runaway train thriller with a large cast of characters, and a low-key drama about a grizzled old locomotive (Denzel Washington) pulling an upstart caboose (Chris Pine)—that eventually join up around the hour mark; Tony Scott's expressionist color and relentless intercutting conspire to make the film's structure—which is admittedly kinda diagrammatic—appear as seamless as possible by constantly folding space (however, without the metaphysical overtones of, say, SPY GAME, DÉJÀ VU, MAN ON FIRE, or THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3). In other words: Tony Scott invents his own version of Hollywood "craft" by violating every rule "craft" usually entails. (2010, 98 min, 35mm) IV
For more by Cine-File contributor Ignatiy Vishnevetsky on Tony Scott, read his new short essay on Mubi.
More info at www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
Lambert Hillyer's DRACULA'S DAUGHTER & Stuart Walker's WEREWOLF OF LONDON (American Revivals)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Portage Theater) - Wednesday, 7:30pm (double feature)
A marked improvement over Tod Browning's somnolescent DRACULA, journeyman Lambert Hillyer's long-delayed sequel DRACULA'S DAUGHTER doesn't deliver "the great box office values of torture and cruelty" that screenwriter John Balderton envisioned, but it does deliver atmosphere, a novel take on the vampirism myth (addiction, not curse), and a heady dose of surprisingly outré bisexual neck-nibbling. It's tempting to look at this moody, stately film as the road not taken for Universal: it failed to save the studio from bankruptcy, and when the new owners got back into the horror game three years later, the tone was decidedly sillier. And although 1941's THE WOLF MAN is Universal's best-known werewolf movie, 1935's WEREWOLF OF LONDON was the first werewolf talkie. Blending science fiction and horror, the film eschews gypsy curses and moonlight chants for botany and disease vectors. Henry Hull's tormented werewolf-scientist is easier to stomach than Lon Chaney Jr.'s sad-sack whiner, but the later film is generally superior. Still, there are plentiful reasons to watch this one, especially on the big screen: Hull's Tennessee Williams-esque greenhouse of horrors, legendary makeup man Jack Pierce's werewolf makeup, and Spring Byington's absentminded tippler Aunt Ettie, a standout in the long line of memorable Universal horror supporting characters. Showing with the Castle Films condensed version of Tod Browning's 1931 film DRACULA (8 min, 16mm). (Dracula: 1936, 71 min, 35mm / Wolfman: 1935, 75 min, 35mm) MWP
More info at www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
Ron Fricke's SAMSARA (New Documentary)
Landmark's Century Centre Cinema - Check Venue website for showtimes
Cinematographer Ron Fricke has spent over three decades compiling a legacy of exquisitely-lensed examinations of nature, culture, technology, and the inevitable intersection of the three, a study that began with Godfrey Reggio's landmark KOYAANISQATSI, continued on through Fricke's own BARAKA, and now, following a nearly 20 year gestation period, has reemerged with familiar themes and a fresh vantage point in his latest creation, SAMSARA. The first of two 2012 releases to be shot in 70mm (see also, THE MASTER), SAMSARA is a film of spectacular scope; a wondrous world-tour which, like its predecessors, allows us to see that world in a brand new light. It is no surprise then that Fricke returns again and again to the image of the human eye—the most bewitching feature on the trio of dancers in the opening scene, the focal point of the sarcophagus that precedes the title, and the penultimate shot of the film—bookends on a film stuffed full of illusions about the sensation of sight. Most fascinating is how an image so universal as the human eye is continually photographed in various extremes, through makeup and colored-contact lenses, as an ornament fixed on the palm of dancing beauties, and even as the twitching nerve on a synthetic person. There's an uncanny effect to these scenes, particularly one where a performance artist violently reshapes his face with a muddy plaster mixture, and they push the limit to which we can connect with these images that are, at least at their core, still inherently human. But the beauty of it is that Fricke's film doesn't lend itself to any one interpretation, and it encourages viewers to seek out their own connections between the images. It's an astonishing feast for the eyes that's ready to reward active spectators everywhere. (2012, 102 min, 35mm) TJ
More info here.
Patrick Wang's IN THE FAMILY (New American)
Facets Cinémathèque - Sunday, 2pm
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. Director Patrick Wang in person. (2011, 169 min, Unconfirmed Format) KBL
More info at www.facets.org.
Nicolas Winding Refn's DRIVE (New American)
Landmark's Century Centre Cinema - Friday and Saturday, Midnight
This movie teaches us three things: crime doesn't pay, pulling off one last job before quitting the business never quite pans out, and you shouldn't make any deals with the guy who's just killed your best friend. But Refn does his best to make the hackneyed plot beside the point, taking the basic mood of Walter Hill's original THE DRIVER and slathering it with style. Said style includes the steely Brandoesque mumbling of Ryan Gosling and Newton Thomas Sigel's widescreen cinematography, which drenches dusty SoCal vistas with nighttime neon sheen. There's also an ubercool score by Cliff Martinez, doing a spot-on Giorgio Moroder impersonation. But the kicker is an arresting performance by Albert Brooks as an oddly likable villain, the kind of guy who tries to calm you down after slashing your wrists. Brooks adds some needed zest to what is essentially a glossy and entertaining but empty exercise. (2011, 100 min, Unconfirmed Format) RC
More info here.
Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace's SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS (New Documentary)
Facets Cinémathèque - Friday, 10:30pm and Saturday, 11pm
James Murphy has the world's cutest dog, and gives the world's mopiest interview. Unfortunately this film has far more of Murphy wandering New York, and being interviewed by the utterly insufferable Chuck Klosterman, than it does of Murphy's dog. Since the film is being advertised as a replacement for the sold out, Madison Square Garden-hosted, special guest-studded, last ever concert by LCD Soundsystem that you presumably didn't attend, the title should be a facetious joke, but it's really an honest description of the feeling of watching the film. But that's alright because the other half of the film, when the band is onstage, is so impassioned and engrossing that it more than makes up for any missteps. They do, in fact, play the hits, and they do so very well, and to see a really good band at peak performance is reason enough to watch. (2012, 105 min, Unconfirmed Format) CAC
More info at www.facets.org.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
Document (845 W. Washington Blvd., #3F) presents In Circulation, an exhibition of work by Eric Fleischauer. The show opens Friday (opening reception 6-9pm) and runs through October 13. Riffing on Gene Youngblood's classic book Expanded Cinema, "the exhibition features a video installation, a series of animated gif's, and custom screensavers. Together, the three works in the exhibition explore the malleability of the moving image, shifting modes of viewership, and the ways in which digitization has changed the dissemination, legibility, and reception of media." More info at http://documentspace.org.
Local artist Brittany Pyle's site-specific installation Night Witch opens at The Mission (1431 W. Chicago Ave.) on Friday and will be on view through October 27. From the press release: "Influenced by 1970s-1980s horror cinema, Pyle is interested in the mise-en-scéne of a bedroom or living room just before terror strikes. In contrast to a horror film, however, the viewers of Pyle's installation are no longer restricted to acting as a detached, third party observer. Conversely, the viewer is now immediately implicated in the participation, experiencing the scene just as the intruder does." More info at http://themissionprojects.com.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Museum of Contemporary Photography (600 S. Michigan Ave.) presents Video Playlist: Talk American, curated by Jesse Malmed. Screening are OOBE (Joe Sandler, 2007), THE PRESSURES OF THE TEXT (Peter Rose, 1983), 73 SUSPECT WORDS (Peggy Ahwesh, 2000), THE SPEECH (Doug Hall, 1982), CAPTCHA CHAPTER ONE (Gabrielle De Vietri, unknown year), and Stephanie Barber's amazing dog sock-puppet meta-dialogue DOGS (2000). Followed by Malmed's own interactive-performance-video work SELECTIONS FROM THE BODY ELECTRONIC (2000s). Various Formats.
The Conversations at the Edge (at the Gene Siskel Film Center) series kicks off its fall season will SAIC grad and 2012 Whitney Biennial artist Wu Tsang's 2012 documentary WILDNESS (75 min, HDCam Video) on Thursday at 6pm. Tsang in person.
The Chicago Cinema Society (at the Logan Theatre) screens Paco Plaza's 2012 Spanish horror film [REC]3: GENESIS (80 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.
Chicago Filmmakers (at Gorilla Tango's Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie) screens Ethan Bensinger's 2012 local documentary REFUGE: STORIES OF THE SELFHELP HOME (60 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 4pm, with director Bensinger in person.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: John Ford's 1956 masterpiece THE SEARCHERS (119 min, 35mm) screens on Friday and Tuesday at 6pm, with a lecture by Fred Camper at the Tuesday show; Sarah Polley's 2011 Canadian drama TAKE THIS WALTZ (116 min, 35mm) and Yorgos Lanthimos' 2011 Greek/French dark comedy ALPS (93 min, HDCam Video) both play for a week; Valérie Donzelli's 2009 French film THE QUEEN OF HEARTS (84 min, 35mm) screens on Saturday at 3:15pm and Wednesday at 6:15pm; Koji Fukada's 2010 Japanese film HOSPITALITÉ (96 min, HDCam Video) screens on Saturday at 5pm and Thursday at 8:15pm; Sascha Rice's 2011 documentary CALIFORNIA STATE OF MIND: THE LEGACY OF PAT BROWN (91 min, HDCam Video) is on Saturday at 7:30pm, with Director/writer Rice, executive producer Hilary Armstrong, and Kathleen Brown (1994 gubernatorial candidate and daughter of Pat Brown) in person; Ilksen Basarir's 2009 film LOVE IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE (98 min 35mm) is on Sunday at 3pm and Wednesday at 8:15pm and Seyfi Teoman's 2011 film OUR GRAND DESPAIR (102 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 5pm and Monday at 8:15pm, both in the Turkish film series; and Peter Navarro's 2012 documentary DEATH BY CHINA (Unconfirmed Format) screens on Monday at 6pm, with Navarro in person.
Also at the Music Box this week: Larry Cohen's 1972 comedy BONE (Unconfirmed Running Time and Format) on Friday and Saturday at Midnight, with Cohen in person [note that as of press time it was unconfirmed whether the shorter release version in 35mm or a slightly longer version with deleted material on video will be showing]; Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish's 2012 film SLEEPWALK WITH ME (90 min, Unconfirmed Format) and Bart Layton's 2012 British documentary THE IMPOSTER (99 min, Unconfirmed Format) both continue; Lauren Greenfield's 2012 documentary QUEEN OF VERSAILLES (100 min, Unconfirmed Format) plays Saturday and Sunday in the 11:30am matinee slot; and Wesley Ruggles' 1933 Mae West vehicle I'M NO ANGEL (87 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 11:30am.
Also at Facets Cinémathèque this week is Sophia Takal's 2011 dark drama GREEN (72 min, Unconfirmed Format), playing for a week.
The Logan Square International Film Series (at Comfort Station, 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Buster Keaton's 1925 silent comedy SEVEN CHANCES (56 min, DVD Projection) on Wednesday at 8pm.
The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor) screens Siegfried Hartmann's 1964 film THE GOLDEN GOOSE (67 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 5pm.
The Chicago Cultural Center presents Odín Salazar's 2011 Mexican film DONKEYS (93 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm as part of the Cinema/Chicago summer series.
The Logan Square International Film Series and The Hideout screen Martin Scorsese's 1978 concert film/documentary THE LAST WALTZ (117 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) as part of the occasional outdoor Bike-In Movie Theater series on Sunday at 7:30pm. It's at The Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia).
Transistor (3819 N. Lincoln Ave.) screens Hans Weingartner's 2004 film THE EDUKATORS (127 min, DVD Projection) on Monday at 8pm.
The Sex +++ Film Series at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (800 S. Halsted) presents the documentaries NAIL AND SKIN (Stine Maria Exler, 2008, 24 min) and DESTINY IN ALICE (Sonja Dare, 2007, 25 min) on Tuesday at 7pm. Both Video Projection - Unconfirmed Formats.
Also at the Portage Theater this week is a fundraising screening of Joss Whedon's 2005 sci-fi film SERENITY (119 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 6pm.
The DuSable Museum screens Robert Nugent's 2007 documentary END OF THE RAINBOW (83 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 2pm.
Also at the Logan Theatre this week is Tim Burton's 1988 film BEETLEJUICE (92 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.
The Chicago History Museum screens Michael Caplan's 2008 documentary A MAGICAL VISION (57 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 1:30pm, with subject Eugene Burger in person.