Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, AUG. 2 - Thursday, AUG. 8 ::


David Fincher's SE7EN (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 3pm and Thursday, 6pm 

SE7EN has all the typical strengths and weaknesses of a great artist's early work. In it we see all the hallmarks of Fincher's mature style already expressed to a masterful degree: the intense scrutiny of the cruelty and eroticism of male power dynamics, the aching pessimism underlying heterosexual romance, and the abstraction of the human being to mere physicality. This is a crushingly well-composed movie, one that moves to a brutal rhythm, that creaks and groans and drips and cries out without mercy. The obvious theme, notoriously, is sin: a serial killer murders a person every day over the course of the film's week-long narrative, each death staged as an illustration of one of the deadly sins. But that is to read the film as mere illustration of the well-crafted but cliché-addled script by Andrew Kevin Walker. The real concern here is not one of theology but, as is so often the case for Fincher, of ethics. In this case, the question is the largest of Fincher's career to date: is cinema evil? Which is another way of asking, is there a line film cannot cross, or is it, by its very existence, unforgivable? This isn't a new question, though it is one that lacks a satisfying answer. One of my favorite early opponents of cinema, the art and food critic Elizabeth Robins Pennell, believed that cinema was a kind of special perniciousness that threatened to destroy civilization through its thought-numbing evil. "The movies," she wrote, "are worse than a sedative—they are dope, pure dope, the most deadly ever invented," adding that film was an "unpardonable sin" that destroyed the morals of its viewers by "the stifling of all tendency to thought." Pennell, writing in 1921, was part of a large-scale ideology of panic over the movies. Only six years earlier, Joseph McKenna had pronounced a withering unanimous Supreme Court opinion that noted that motion pictures are "capable of evil, having power for it, the greater because of their attractiveness and manner of exhibition." Movies, in other words, were under suspicion: so magnetic and captivating were they, so addictive and worthlessly pleasurable, that they constituted a danger, real and immediate, for the morals of America. Cinema was after our very souls. SE7EN's antagonist sees the world as having already lost that moral war, as having already surrendered its soul. He moves in a world that has been neutralized of meaning, and so he tries, through his horrifying crimes, to restart our outrage, our righteousness, our lives, so that the devilish spectacle of modern media can be destroyed.  SE7EN's form, like its villain, sees evil in every shadow, creeping all around its characters, but recognizes that the mesmeric force of its imagery has its own moral value. We cannot look away from the grotesqueries that the killer's staged for us, his real audience, and in that weakness we damn ourselves, but SE7EN, for all its darkness, presents a vision of absolute moral clarity: there's nothing that can't be shown, but there are some things that even when shown can't be seen. (1995, 127 min, 35mm) KB
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Jim Jarmusch's DEAD MAN (American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Patio Theater) - Monday, 7:30pm  

Note: Spoilers! — Before making DEAD MAN in 1995, Jim Jarmusch had already proven himself as an arbiter of all that is simple, slow, and even sluggish—to realize this, one can just stream any of the five films that preceded DEAD MAN and fast forward to a random scene. Chances are it will be void of dialogue for several moments, or possibly longer, with only background noise or a haunting score to pierce the otherwise obstinate stillness. In many typical Westerns, and even also in Jarmusch's revisionist Western, the protagonist is on a journey that, without modern transport, will take a long time. Rather than speed up this process through narrative machination, Jarmusch instead reflects on William Blake's arduous journey, from his arrival in the town of Machine to his exit in the water. Blake, a character intentionally named after the poet and played brilliantly by Johnny Depp, goes to Machine for a job and is promptly threatened by the gun-toting business owner; any pretense of civility goes out the door with him and soon thereafter he meets and sleeps with a reformed prostitute whose charming paper flowers are as close to natural beauty as one might hope to see in the industrialized town. Any hint of romanticism then dies with the prostitute after she is shot by a jilted lover, and Blake, with the same bullet in his chest, emerges from Machine into the wilderness. Aided by Nobody, an American Indian who initially attempts to remove the bullet, and pursued by bounty hunters, Blake starts on his trek toward the unknown. Nobody sticks with him because he believes Blake to be the poet reincarnated and in search of his proper home in the spirit-world, an aspect that legitimizes Jarmusch's literary allusions. The film itself is cinematic poetry, reflecting seemingly incomprehensible ideas of the natural world. It reads as a poem and even moves like one, with the quiescent interludes providing breaks between stanzas of rhythmic action. Preceded by a to-be-determined cartoon. (121 min, 35mm) KK
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Bruno Dumont's BEYOND SATAN [HORS SATAN] (New French)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes

In an unknown rural town along the coast, Guy (David Dewaele) kills Girl's (Alexandra Lematre) stepfather who frequently abused her. Guy goes on to perform both good and bad deeds, including a miracle that concludes the film. With BEYOND SATAN, writer/director Bruno Dumont wants the audience to actively participate within the film. Dumont creates the character of Guy for the viewer to interpret only through his actions; Dumont does not share the thoughts and feelings that drive him. The camera does linger on Guy's face and the beautiful coastal landscape at which he often stares, but each appears unreadable in its own distinct way. Guy's actions suggest that he is religious and possibly beyond human. He disobeys society's law as well as God's law, however he may also be beyond our particular conceptions of good and evil. In this way, Dumont encourages the viewer to speculate on the emergence of such conceptions and how they change over time. It does appear that Guy and possibly Girl are a type of pilgrim, because they spend the majority of the film walking toward somewhere. For Guy, his journey is to save Girl. In an interview on the film, Dumont said, "There is no God. I am an atheist. It is up to us to become God. We need to be elevated, to become saints. God alienates people from themselves. Yes, my films are mystical, to make people feel the mystery, to inspire them to experience for themselves the miracle of existence." In BEYOND SATAN, the viewer can contemplate this miracle of existence and in particular how it forms (in) his or her mind. (2011, 110 min, 35mm) CW
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Rowan Athale's WASTELAND (New British)
Facets Cinémathèque - Check Venue website for showtimes 

Loaded with more suspense than a well-executed thriller, and with an abundance of wit, first-time director/writer Rowan Athale's WASTELAND grabs the viewer immediately with its opening scene (which is even more remarkable considering it is an all-black screen). Narrated in a flashback, Harvey Miller (Luke Treadaway) carefully lays out the events that brought him to a sparse prison interview room late at night on Easter weekend where he is first seen. After being released from a yearlong prison sentence for possession, Harvey and his three mates take it upon themselves to enact revenge upon drug lord Steven Roper (Neil Maskell), who orchestrated Harvey's jail time for stealing Roper's ex-girlfriend. Stuck in a dead-end Yorkshire town, the lot are driven by their bleak surroundings and even more drab prospects to carry out a risky plan to steal £55K from the man. It would be easy to define WASTELAND as a heist film; the plot after all centers on the dreams of four friends stealing a hefty sum, but the robbery itself is secondary to the plot. And revenge is only a small theme; the film instead focuses on friendship and love, making it stand apart from most heist films. Breaking all rules of the genre, Athale cleverly reorganizes the order of a typical three-act caper and begins the film with the hero's failure and apprehension by the police. Mixing the grim Ken Loach-style portrait of lower-class British life with Stephen Fry-like humor, Athale's film feels authentically modern instead of merely a perfunctory portrayal of contemporary England. With its strong writing, and solid performances from a relatively young cast, WASTELAND's combination of social realist elements and comedy effectively taps in to the collective emotions of today's younger British generation, who share the characters' conflicting mix of uncertainty for the future, a desperate struggle for optimism, and the frustrations of living under a government that seems to worry more about banks than people. (2012, 108 min, Unconfirmed Format) SW
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Chris Hedegus & D.A. Pennebaker's KINGS OF PASTRY (Contemporary Documentary)
Chicago Public Library, West Town Branch (1625 W. Chicago Ave.) - Thursday, 6pm

KINGS OF PASTRY is an effective but slight documentary, a highbrow "Top Chef" for foodie and restaurant-industry filmgoers. Veteran husband-and-wife team Hedegus and Pennebaker start in the Chicago Loop's French Pastry School: Chicagoan and French expat Jacquy Pfeiffer is preparing to compete in the legendary quadrennial Meilleur Ouvrier de France competition, which tests its citizen professionals not only in traditional time-sensitive drills of exquisitely honed macarons, madeleines, and mille-feuilles, but also in the preposterously delicate construction of intricate and frequently garish sugar sculptures which, with the slightest impact, can dramatically shatter into saccharine glass. These latter crystalline castles, although only representing part of the participants' final scores, become the suspenseful focus of the physically and emotionally grueling proceedings; and begin to represent (in their scientific and aesthetic estrangement from a domestic audience) the inhuman (and inhumane) absurdity of our hypercompetitive habitus: the producing of individual career accomplishment solely through hazing rituals, tests of strength, and the occasional, highly innovative performances de la pâtisserie. (2010, 84 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) MC
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The Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.) and South Side Projections present Black Power Poets on Friday at 7pm as part of the Revolution on Film: The Black Arts Movement series. Screening are Cheryl Fabio's 1976 documentary RAINBOW BLACK: POET SARAH W. FABIO (30 min, 16mm) and St. Clair Bourne's 1983 documentary IN MOTION: AMIRI BARAKA (60 min, DVD Projection)

Black Cinema House (6901 S. Dorchester Ave.) screens Angad Singh Bhalla 's 2012 documentary HERMAN'S HOUSE (80min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 6pm. Introduced by Sarah Ross. Free admission. Seating is limited; email to RSVP.

The Better Boys Foundation presents the Sundown in K-Town Festival from Tuesday-Friday (August 9). Co-Presented by Facets Multi-Media. The theme of the screenings this year is food and food issues. On Tuesday at 8:15pm is LUNCH LINE (2010, Michael Graziano and Ernie Park), YUCK (2012, Zachary Maxwell), and LOVE AND PEACHES (2013, Kenneth Clair, BBF Film LAB), with panelists Leslie Fowler, Executive Director of CPS Nutrition Support Services, Danielle Hrzic, President and Co-Founder of Gourmet Gorilla, and Jill Camber Davidson, School Program Manager with Action for Healthy Kids; on Wednesday at 8:15pm is A PLACE AT THE TABLE (2012, Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush), FOOD FIGHT (2013, Earth Amplified), and VEGGIE TALES (2013, Angelo Williams, BBF Film LAB), with panelists Steven McCullough, VP of Community Partnerships for Greater Chicago Food Depository, Martha Bayne, Founder of Soup and Bread, and Lilah Handler, Cooking Matters Coordinator; and on Thursday at 8:15pm is URBAN ROOTS (2011, Mark MacInnis) and GROWING POWER COMMUNITY GARDEN (2010, Carmine Cervi), with panelists Will Pool and Corinthia Federick, Loud Grade Produce Squad, and Michael Webb, Inspiration Kitchens Garden Manager. Screenings take place at the Better Boys Foundation Center (1512 S. Pulaski Rd.). Unconfirmed Running Times and Formats.

On Saturday, from 8-11pm, The Franklin (3522 W. Franklin Blvd.) presents SWIMMING WITH A KITE, an "immersive site-specific installation and one night only event" created by filmmaker Silvia Malagrino in collaboration with new media artists Joshua Albers and Jesus Duran, which uses video projections, light design, and responsive computer programming.

The Silent Film Society of Chicago presents Alan Crossland's 1920 silent film THE FLAPPER (88 min, Unconfirmed Format) as part of their annual Silent Summer Film Festival at the Des Plaines Theatre (1476 Minor St., Des Plaines, IL) on Friday at 8pm. Live organ accompaniment by Jay Warren. There will also be a 1920's glass slide sing-along.

Also at the Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Patio Theater) this week is Mitchell Leisen's 1937 film SWING HIGH, SWING LOW (92 min, Archival 35mm Print), on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Preceded by a to-be-determined cartoon.

At the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: David Butler's 1942 Bob Hope/Bing Crosby film ROAD TO MOROCCO (82 min, 35mm) screens on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission. More info at 

Chicago Filmmakers screens the family-friendly shorts program Kids These Days on Friday at approximately 8pm, outdoors in the parking lot behind CF (1478 W. Farragut Ave.). Screening are 17 short animated and narrative films (all 16mm) from 1959-90. Included are works by John Hubley, Suzan Pitt, Will Vinton, Al Jarnow, and Stan VanDerBeek; see CF's website for complete line-up.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Jean-François Laguionie's 2011 French animated film THE PAINTING (76 min, DCP Digital Projection) begins a two-week run in both subtitled and English-dubbed versions (check website); David Fincher's 1992 film ALIEN3 (114 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 5:30pm and Tuesday at 6pm; and the Black Harvest Film Festival begins this week with the Opening Night shorts program A Black Harvest Feast (Friday, 6:45pm) plus FOR THE CAUSE, BABE'S AND RICKY'S INN, IN OUR HEADS ABOUT OUR HAIR, International Visions (shorts program), and THINGS NEVER SAID. Check the Siskel website for details, showtimes, and visiting artists.

At Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Untitled Stag Film Program (approx. 60 min, 16mm) is on Friday at 7 and 9pm. The program includes eight shorts: six undated or circa 1960's softcore nudie films, one circa 1960's hardcore film, and the outrageous (and definitely hardcore) 1928 silent animated film BURIED TREASURE; Kenji Mizoguchi's 1936 classic SISTERS OF THE GION (95 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 7 and 9pm; John Cromwell's 1941 drama SO ENDS OUR NIGHT (117 min, 16mm) is on Wednesday at 7pm; and the shorts program Cult Followers Welcomed: A Night From The Cinema Culture (approx. 60 min, Unknown Formats) is on Thursday at 7pm.

At the Music Box Theatre this week: Thomas Vinterberg's 2012 film THE HUNT (115 min) opens; Nicolas Winding Refn's 2013 film ONLY GOD FORGIVES (90 min) continues; a free double feature (visit the MB website to reserve tickets) of Edgar Wright's 2004 film SHAUN OF THE DEAD (99 min; 7pm) and his 2007 film HOT FUZZ (121 min; 9:30pm) is on Friday at 7pm, with a Q&A with Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, hosted by Steve Prokopy (Ain't It Cool News) following SHAUN; Sergio Corbucci's 1968 Italian western THE MERCENARY (111 min, New 35mm Print) is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am; and Steven Spielberg's 1993 film JURASSIC PARK (127 min) and Matthias Hoene's 2012 horror comedy COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES (88 min) screen on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats, except where noted.

Landmark's Century Centre Cinema opens Woody Allen's new film BLUE JASMINE (2013, 98 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format); and James Cameron's 1986 film ALIENS (137 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.

Also at the Chicago Public Library this week: Ra'anan Alexandrowicz's 2011 documentary THE LAW IN THESE PARTS (100 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) screens on Monday at 6:30pm at the Sulzer Regional Branch (4455 N. Lincoln Ave.).

The Chicago History Museum screens Maria Dugandzic-Pasic's 2012 documentary THEY NEVER WALKED ALONE (62 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 1:30pm.

The Chicago Cultural Center continues the Cinema/Chicago international film series with Yong-Joo Lee's 2012 South Koran film ARCHITECTURE 101 (118 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm; and Hideki Takeuchi's 2012 Japanese film THERMAE ROMAE (108 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30p (repeats August 10). Free admission.

The Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Icíar Bollaín's 2010 film EVEN THE RAIN (103 min, DVD Projection) on Wednesday at dusk. Free admission.

The Logan Theatre screens Howard Deutch's 1986 film PRETTY IN PINK (96 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 11pm; and Andrew Fleming's 1996 film THE CRAFT (101 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 11pm.



 The Portage Theatre remains closed for the foreseeable future.

The Patio Theater will not be doing its own programming during the summer (tentatively resuming sometime in September) due to the excessive costs to repair their air conditioning system. The Northwest Chicago Film Society will be holding its screenings there, however, and additional special events may take place there.

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CINE-LIST: August 2 - August 8, 2013

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Kian Bergstrom, Michael Castelle, Kat C. Keish, Shealey Wallace, Candace Wirt, Darnell Witt

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