Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, JUNE 28 - Thursday, JULY 4 ::


Vivian Maier's South Side (Special Event) 
South Side Projections at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (800 S. Halsted St.) - Saturday, 7pm 

As private as she was prolific, Vivian Maier is the most recent artist to gain posthumous appreciation after a lifetime of solitary ambition. Since her death in 2009, the enigmatic street photographer has joined the ranks of artists such as Emily Dickinson and Henry Darger, whose works were also publicly acknowledged only after they had died. Little is known about Maier, except that she was born in New York City, lived in France as a young woman, and then moved to Chicago in 1956. She worked as a nanny for approximately 40 years and spent her last years in the Rogers Park neighborhood with the support of her former wards. Her work was discovered in 2007 by accident as a real-estate agent worked on a book about his own Northwest Chicago neighborhood—since then, Maier's fecundity has inspired countless exhibitions, a BBC special, an upcoming documentary, and two stunning photography books that top the Amazon bestseller list in their category. Over 140,000 negatives and dozens of homemade films have been discovered, reflecting the decades Maier spent documenting everyday life as she explored it. Chicago street life is the subject of much of her work, from recognizable places such as Daley Plaza and the now-defunct Clark Theater to unknown people whose ordinary lives are illuminated by Maier's perspective. This special event will focus on Maier's photographs of Chicago's South Side and rare 8mm color film footage shot of Maxwell Street and the Chicago Loop. Presented by South Side Projections, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, UIC's Moving Image Arts and Vivian Maier Photography, the event will also feature guest speakers Mike Bullis (Technical Consultant, Vivian Maier Photography), Silvia Malagrino (Professor of Photography, UIC) and local filmmaker Tom Palazzolo, whose short film about Maier is also showing. KK
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Curtis Harrington's GAMES (American Revival) 
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Music Box Theatre) - Wednesday, 7pm 

Curtis Harrington owes just as much to the occultism of Maya Deren as the   high-camp of Roger Corman, and both influences are on display in GAMES, a psychomagic thriller about an Upper East Side couple who amuse themselves by collecting modern art and hosting socialite gatherings in their macabre Wunderkammer. Things take a turn for the supernatural when Lisa, a cosmetics saleswoman/clairvoyant, joins the household. Not especially novel in its use of hackneyed plot twists, GAMES is worth viewing for the mise-en-scène alone. Famed costume designer Morton Haack was responsible for compiling the mod-meets-carnivalesque décor of the brownstone, which features a Roy Lichtenstein painting, a fun house mirror, and a sadistic pinball machine. At one point, a corpse is positioned on a chair and cast in plaster à la Scorsese's AFTER HOURS. This alludes to the film's intriguing unconscious content: a wry commentary on art collectors as death dealers and the lengths to which rich people will go to curb their boredom. Preceded by PUCE MOMENT (Kenneth Anger, 1949, 6 min, 16mm) and THE WORMWOOD STAR (Curtis Harrington, 1955, 10 min, 16mm). (1967, 100 min, 35mm) HS
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Stan Brakhage's A CHILD'S GARDEN AND THE SERIOUS SEA (Experimental Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7pm

In his description for A CHILD'S GARDEN, Brakhage quotes from poets Ronald Johnson and Charles Olson (and cites Johnson's poem "Beam 29" as inspiration). But the film also vaguely calls to mind William Blake—more perhaps for his art than his poetry: there is both a sense of darkness and of mystical transport in Brakhage's images. The first film in the loose "Vancouver Island" quartet, Brakhage films locations around the British Columbia locale where his second wife, Marilyn, grew up. He films land, sea, and sky and intercuts frequently between them. Shots are often out-of-focus, to accentuate color and light; they are hand-held, upside down, and fleeting. All of this is no surprise for those who know Brakhage's work: anything and everything is valid, as long as it works. What will come as more of a surprise is the extensive use of blackness in the film. Brakhage moves from emerald-green grass to a patch of shade, allowing the screen to become totally dark. He adjusts the aperture, closing it down to again engulf the image in black. Or, frequently, nearly so: shots of light glinting off impossibly blue water are darkened until the spots of light resemble stars twinkling in a black void. For someone who spent his life focused on and fascinated by light, this considered use of darkness is powerful. There is a curious disconnect, though: Brakhage writes of the film in terms of beginnings, the sea as a generative force, "The World to be discovered by the/any child." But this is a moody work, a film frequently about the diminishment of light. Its emotional register is more somber than his description would lead one to believe. Amidst the darkness, though, are many shockingly beautiful shots of intense luminance—light flares on his lens, prismatic separations of color into shards of rainbowed images. Brakhage was always one to explore the multiplicities of life and the world around him—dark films were not uncommon—and find great beauty and wonderment in everything. A CHILD'S GARDEN is no exception. It is that non-rare thing in Brakhage's filmography—another masterpiece. (1991, 74 min, 16mm) PF
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Philip Kaufman's THE RIGHT STUFF (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center—Tuesday, 6:30pm and Thursday, 3:30pm 

Before thoughts of going to the moon, America had to first successfully send someone to space and back. Based on Tom Wolfe's now-classic book, Philip Kaufman's THE RIGHT STUFF explores the early days of the US space program: the astronauts behind the first test flights and the ones selected for Project Mercury. Sam Shepard stars as the legendary Chuck Yeager, a hard-working, ambitious pilot who was the first to break the sounder barrier but who is rejected for the Mercury project because he lacks a college degree. The film follows the Mercury program from its infancy, sending the first Americans into space and orbiting around the sun, until the last American is sent into orbit alone in 1963, nearly sixteen years after Yeager's historic sound barrier flight. The film is more than a simple glorification of American spirit and achievement: Kaufman allows for the faults to show, those of the government, the pilots and astronauts, and their families. Myths of heroism are cast aside and replaced with a more realistic consideration of these still remarkable men. A contemporary epic, and a modern American classic. (1983, 193 min, 35mm) SW
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Louis Malle's MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes

Despite their obvious differences, Louis Malle's MY DINNER WITH ANDRE has something in common with computer science in that both attempt to solve the dining philosophers problem. If each philosopher must alternate between eating from a communal bowl and thinking great thoughts, how can they concurrently do so while being unawares of their companion's own eating-and-thinking habits? Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory provide their interpretation of this existential algorithm as two friends meeting for dinner on a random New York evening. Shawn is a downtrodden playwright, while Gregory was once a very successful theatre director. Their dinner conversation ranges from Gregory's professional adventures to Shawn's humanistic cynicism. The conversation is not especially enlightening, and for the most part, it could resemble a discussion between any two creatively-minded intellectuals. But the simplistic nature of the premise and the complexity of its inner-workings present a diametric opposition that applies not only to the film's characters, but to its director and the viewers as well. Malle is just as much a spectator as his audience; Shawn and Gregory had developed the script before seeking a director, and Malle's involvement was situational rather than integral. His eclectic style of filmmaking lends itself to the unusual concept as he toes the line between documentary-style voyeurism and a narrative structure that includes voice-overs and a three-part construction. Just like Malle, the viewer is also left on the outside looking in, a relationship that is reflected in Shawn and Gregory's discourse. As Gregory recalls tales of exotic creative feats and spouts philosophical rhetoric, Shawn repeatedly asks, "What happened next?"—though he concludes the dinner by defending the contented existence of the Everyman. Much like those involved in making a film and the audience who consume it, Shawn expresses amusement over the interludes, but also relief that his life does not resemble the theatrics. Gregory, on the other hand, lives an exciting life but is driven to tears by this telling line from Ingmar Bergman's AUTUMN SONATA: "I could always live in my art, but never in my life." (1981, 110 min, 35mm) KK
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Manual Cinema's LULA DEL RAY (Experimental/Live Proto-Cinema Performance)
Theatre on the Lake (2401 N. Lake Shore Dr.) - Friday and Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 6:30pm

Using hundreds of expressive shadow puppets, evocative acetate backgrounds printed at your local FedEx Office location, and three overhead projectors that you might recall from science class, Manual Cinema more than lives up to its name. Essentially a living avant-garde film created by theater people with a limited acquaintance with the history of alternative cinema, LULA DEL RAY, Manual Cinema's newest production, nevertheless merits comparison with the Nervous Magic Lanterns of Ken Jacobs and other recent projector performances. There's a story here—a girl from the mythic, satellite-strewn Southwest of PARIS, TEXAS who travels to New York in search of pop nirvana—but the trajectory of the piece invites a powerful non-narrative engagement as well. Building fragile imagery through layers of real-time superimposition and lo-fi triple exposure, LULA DEL RAY proceeds from the assumption that rockabilly radio can be experienced in time-splitting trance and develops into a highly moving examination of puppetry itself. Organized around a series of consistent dichotomies (puppets vs. flesh-and-shadow actors, recorded soundtrack vs. live music, human vs. inhuman), LULA DEL RAY asks us to accept the physical and emotional integrity of machine-art. We're never less than totally aware of the artisanal craft at work, but somehow the show manages to make a singular case for a very different kind of (mass) cultural experience. It's not just cinema by other means; it's a redemption of light itself. (2012, 70 min) KAW
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Paul Verhoeven's TOTAL RECALL (American Revival) 
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Friday, 7 and 9:15pm 

What if memory is not an individual repository of information and facts but instead a socio-technical product which may have already been commoditized? What if "being yourself" is a thoroughly unnatural and processual task of auto-impersonation (a fact which proper names do much to conveniently disguise)? And what if advanced technologies of perpetual surveillance and statist suppression are necessary to maintain the existing, illusory qualities of these concepts? The true artist knows all this already, and Paul Verhoeven is one such artist. With the felicitous help of Jost Vacano's characteristically lurid cinematography; Jerry Goldsmith's suggestive soundtrack, which slips oneiric themes between bombastic brass horns and soaring synths; the outrageous make-up effects of Rob Bottin's team; and ingenious location managers (casting Mexico's Distrito Federal as an estranged and already-austere future-city), Verhoeven here links underappreciated and everyday moral and philosophical dilemmas of identity and knowledge into a traditional and implausible hero narrative about a laborer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leading a subaltern people's revolt against an autocratic mineral sheik (Ronny Cox). (1990, 113 min, DCP Digital Projection) MC
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Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (Italian Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

More than most directors, Leone knew two extremely important things about cinema: the grosser and more bodily the thing, the more that can be done with it on screen; and that nothing is more beautiful than the disconnect between the abject and the pure. Leone was one of the great masters at orchestrating a genuinely kinetic experience in his films, creating an indefinitely suspended sensation that every aspect of the depicted world was in the process of being discovered, and discovered to be both baser and more harmonious than we ever imagined before. Structured as a series of punchline-less jokes, FISTFUL creates intricate patterns of triangular conflict that are perpetually and violently shrinking, played out in the vastness of a single eye-twitch or lip-lick, each existing solely to be brutally unresolved by the entry of yet another figure into the frame, the rhythm, the aggression. While its reluctance to grant any sense of the heroic, or even the dastardly, to its characters and the languid luxury it takes in the rituals of death convinced many upon its release that it was at best a nihilistic formal exercise and at worst an amoral propaganda piece, FISTFUL is instead comedy of the highest order, a film that discovers and transmits a fundamental exuberance and exhilaration within every cut, track, costume, and sound, as though the fact that cinema exists and can do these things is reason enough for joy. (It is.) It's not for nothing that the central organizing image from FISTFUL is a deliriously filthy pair of Clint Eastwood eyeballs in perfect Techniscope composition, for those two eyes, shot between those two sprockets, are about to detonate. (1964, 100 min, Unconfirmed Format) KB
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Walter Hill's THE WARRIORS (American Revival) 
Logan Theatre - Thursday, 11pm

Walter Hill's cult classic THE WARRIORS is the cinematic embodiment of mythology big and small: loosely based on Sol Yurick's eponymous novel, inspired by the Greek philosopher Xenophon's Anabasis, and bedazzled with a heavy dose of comic book influence, it contains a story of epic proportions that is built on a foundation of unsophisticated plotlines and simplified allegories. It's the simple tale of rival gangs that clash over misunderstanding and reunite amidst outlaw-justice and criminal commiseration. Groups of snazzily-named New York City gangs come together and are then torn apart when the city's most powerful gang leader is killed while proposing an inter-gang truce that would enable the collective members to rival the police force. One gang, The Warriors, are framed by the culprits and it's a race against public transportation as they attempt to make their way back to Coney Island unarmed. Hill applies an ingenuous filmmaking approach so simplistic as to seem naive; "I saw THE WARRIORS as graphically driven, as situational," he told interviewers in 2009. "It was broad, easy to understand, but kind of self-mocking at the same time ... those were the aspects that suggested a comic book flavor to me." Hill's self-aware style adds both to the film's quality and entertainment value—it doesn't suffer from the pretenses of social realism, nor does it completely embrace its alternative universe so as to become Gotham-esqe in execution. It exists as a rare success story in a genre full of self-important parodies that strain too hard for substance rather than style. (1979, 92 min, Unconfirmed Format) KK 
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Nicholas Roeg's PERFORMANCE (Cult Revival)
Odd Obsession Foreign Film Series at The Whistler (2421 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Saturday, 7pm

Whether or not a narrative is involved, most cinema attempts to clarify, elucidate, or create a sense of order. But the cinema of Nicholas Roeg is a horse of a different color: its paramount aims are to complicate, to fragment, or to create disorder. PERFORMANCE, his first film, co-directed with Donald Cammell, contains all the strategies that have preoccupied him to this day. The storyline is simple: a vicious gangster, on the lam from his superiors, takes refuge in the rambling mansion of a reclusive rock star. Because the plot is so straightforward it's an ideal vehicle for Roeg's baroque, elliptical manipulations. Flesh is bared, identities are exchanged, murders are committed...or are they? Roeg is far more interested in texture and the stripping away of context than in separating the real from the unreal. The larger-than-life presences of Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, and James Fox add other complicated layers. It remains a disturbing film because we can't quite make sense of what we're seeing, either what's happening to the characters (does someone die at the end?) or how the movie itself was shot and produced (was everyone completely zonked on drugs at the time?). Followed by Impala Sound Champion DJs at 9pm. (1970, 105 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) RC
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Joel and Ethan Coen's THE BIG LEBOWSKI (American Revival)
Logan Theatre - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11pm

Dude, people love this movie—and with good reason. THE BIG LEBOWSKI is what so few modern comedies are: legitimately good. Between all the "dudes" and "fucks," it's easy to miss some of the underlying themes of the film; but beyond its oft-quoted dialogue and obsessive fan base, THE BIG LEBOWSKI is an LA noir for the modern age. It's also a gigantic metaphor for the Gulf War, a true testament to the time in which it is set, and eerily prophetic to watch today. Don't forget, though, that it's also hilarious. Fix yourself a White Russian, folks. Let's see what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass. (1998, 117 min, Unconfirmed Format) CS
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Black Cinema House (6901 S. Dorchester) presents Radical Speculation: Design as Film on Saturday at 8pm in the series "Image, Building, Object: Exploring Architecture and Design on Film." Screening are Dunne and Raby's ALL THE ROBOTS (2007), part of their project "Technological Dream Series: No 1, Robots"; Noam Toran's DESIRE MANAGEMENT (2005) and OBJECT FOR LONELY MEN (2001); Toran and Onkar Kular's POSTPONING THE INEVITABLE (2007); and Ilona Gaynor's EVERYTHING ENDS IN CHAOS. Toran and Kular's three-screen installation work PROPOSAL FOR AN IMPOSSIBLE LIBRARY (2007) will be on view after the screening across the street at Archive House (6916 S. Dorchester).

The Northbrook Public Library has no film listing on their website for their usual Wednesday screenings, but the Reader lists them as showing Francis Ford Coppola's 1985 film THE COTTON CLUB. Check the library's website closer to the show date, or contact them, for confirmation.

The Cinema Culture hosts Taco Cinematheque at Tacos Garcias (3329 W. Armitage Ave.) on Friday at 7:30pm. Screening is Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais' 2012 British film SAVAGE WITCHES (70 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format).

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Cindy Kleine's 2013 documentary ANDRE GREGORY: BEFORE AND AFTER DINNER (108 min, HDCam Video) plays for a week; Philip Harder's 2013 Low music video compilation film LOW MOVIE (HOW TO QUIT SMOKING) (65 min, Digital Video - Unconfirmed Format) is on Friday at 8:15pm and Saturday at 8pm; Emile Ardolino's 1987 film DIRTY DANCING (100 min, 35mm) screens on Saturday at 3pm and Thursday at 7:45pm; Herbert Ross' 1984 film FOOTLOOSE (107 min, DCP Digital Projection) is on Saturday at 5pm and Wednesday at 6pm; and in the Czech film series, Jiri Vejdelek's 2011 film MEN IN HOPE (115 min, DCP Digital Projection) is on Sunday at 3pm and Monday at 8:15pm and Tomas Lunak's 2011 animated feature ALOIS NEBEL (84 min, DCP Digital Video) is on Sunday at 5:15pm and Wednesday at 8:15pm.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film ROMEO + JULIET (120 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:15pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Cameron and Colin Cairnes' 2012 film 100 BLOODY ACRES (Unconfirmed Running Time, Unconfirmed Format) opens; Rama Burshtein's 2012 Israeli drama FILL THE VOID (90 min, DCP Digital Projection) continues; the Summer Music Film Festival (Unconfirmed Formats) runs Friday-Tuesday (see the Music Box website for full schedule); Michael Curtiz's 1942 musical YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (126 min, Unconfirmed Format) screens on Thursday at 2pm; and a Grease Sing-A-Long is on Thursday at 5pm. [It's unclear whether Franck Khalfoun's 2012 horror film MANIAC (89 min) is showing in the Friday and Saturday Midnight slot; it is listed on the Music Box website's "Midnight" page, but not on their complete listing of showtimes.]

Chicago Filmmakers, in collaboration with Drinking and Writing Theater, present the 3rd Annual Tied House Film Festival (Unconfirmed Running Time, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 7:30pm at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) and on Saturday at 4pm at Haymarket Pub and Brewery (737 W. Randolph St.).

Facets Cinémathèque screens Max Mayer's 2013 film AS COOL AS I AM (118 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run; Catherine Czubek's 2012 documentary A GIRL AND A GUN (76 min, Unconfirmed Format) screens on Wednesday at 7pm only; and Facets Night School program is Jim Jarmusch's 2003 film COFFEE AND CIGARETTES (95 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at Midnight, introduced by Kenny Witzgall.

Landmark's Century Centre Cinema opens Paul Andrew Williams' 2012 film UNFINISHED SONG (93 min) and Neil Jordan's 2012 film BYZANTIUM (118 min); and David Wain's 2001 film WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (97 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. All Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format.

Also at the Logan Theatre this week: Billy Wilder's 1959 film SOME LIKE IT HOT (120 min) is on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10pm; Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film PULP FICTION (154 min) is on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10:30pm; and Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (136 min) is on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11:30pm. All Unconfirmed Format.

The Chicago Cultural Center continues the Cinema/Chicago international film series with Jesse James Miller's 2012 Canadian film BECOMING REDWOOD on Saturday at 2p. Free admission.

The Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Lance Hool's 1987 film STEEL DAWN (100 min, DVD Projection) on Wednesday at dusk. Free admission.



The new owner of the Portage Theatre has abruptly closed the venue, for the foreseeable future. This unexpected decision may displace occasional and annual events, such as the Terror in the Aisles festival and the Silent Summer Film Festival (keep your eyes on Cine-File and the Chicago Reader for information on these). The closure's immediate impact has been on the Northwest Chicago Film Society, which has been holding regular weekly screenings there. Again, keep your eye on Cine-File, the Chicago Reader, and NWCFS's website for updates on alternate venues for their screenings.

The Patio Theater has announced that it will be closing for the summer (with a re-opening sometime in September) due to the excessive costs to repair their air conditioning system.



The Museum of Contemporary Photography (Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan Ave.) continues the show Spectator Sports through July 3.

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CINE-LIST: June 28 – July 4, 2013

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Kian Bergstrom, Michael Castelle, Rob Christopher, Kat C. Keish, Carrie Shemanski, Harrison Sherrod, Shealey Wallace, Brian Welesko, Kyle A. Westphal, Darnell Witt

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