Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, JUNE 7 - Thursday, JUNE 13 ::


Billy Wilder's ACE IN THE HOLE (American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (Patio Theater) - Monday, 8pm

Billy Wilder's films often carry with them an underlying contempt for the hostility of society, but his 1951 follow-up to SUNSET BLVD.—itself part noir and part fraught elegy for obsolesced silent film stars—finds his disgust in full flourish. ACE IN THE HOLE, alternatively released as THE BIG CARNIVAL by a skittish Paramount, features a menacing Kirk Douglas as a down-and-out newspaper reporter banished to Albuquerque intent on reviving his career. Stumbling upon a local trapped in a collapsed silver mine, the reporter seizes on the chance to create and prolong a media circus, keeping the story alive while the victim be damned. A wrenching and all-too-accurate portrayal of vulture media, Wilder strikes a raw nerve. Dusky and textured mine walls contrast with the severe lighting outside, suggesting the states of mind of victim and voyeur. The reporter, opportunistic and self-interested, floats between the spaces as Kirk Douglas's angular features are used to great effect: jagged and inscrutable in the shadows of the mine, jutting out with confidence among the frenzy. Wilder later called ACE IN THE HOLE "the runt of my litter" in response to audiences' tepid reaction. But by downplaying it, Wilder actually underscores the central role contempt and cynicism play in his films. Perhaps Wilder's most honest work, ACE IN THE HOLE might be a breath of fresh air if it didn't knock the wind out. Also showing is a TBA cartoon. (1951, 111 min, 35mm) BW
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Alejandro Jodorowsky's EL TOPO  (Cult Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Friday and Saturday, Midnight

"I ask of film what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs" said Mexican-Chilean-Jewish writer/director/actor/iconoclast Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1970. "The difference being that when one creates a psychedelic film... he needs to manufacture the pill." For the psychedelic concoction that is EL TOPO, Jodorowsky combines Bunuel, Leone, and Chinese mythology in a brew seasoned with blood, sex, and cryptic maxims.  At the time of its release, the film was not shown at all in its native country because "All Mexico was against it, they wanted to kill me—they thought I was making a black mass!" And indeed, EL TOPO's characters seem capable of anything no matter how lurid, from covering a corpse in dead rabbits and playing Russian roulette in a church to forcing a mime and a dwarf to put on a live sex show. One viewer who was not turned off by the depravity was John Lennon whose intense advocacy for the film led to a lucrative distribution deal between Jodorowsky and Apple Records impresario Allen Klein. The relationship soured quickly, by one account because the director discovered feminism (EL TOPO is decidedly pre-feminist) and refused to work on an adaptation of Pauline Reage's masochistic novel The Story of O, by another account because he insisted that George Harrison show his asshole to a hippopotamus in his next film. A new documentary about the director's abortive adaptation of Frank Hebert's Dune called JODOROWSKY'S DUNE just premiered at Cannes, alongside THE DANCE OF REALITY, the director's first feature in 23 years. (1970, 125 min, 35mm) ML
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Efraín Gutiérrez's CHICANO LOVE IS FOREVER (AMOR CHICANO ES PARA SIEMPRE) (Chicano/American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Patio Theater) - Wednesday, 8pm

On the heels of the multi-venue L.A. Rebellion series comes another welcome example of frequently-invisible ethnic regional filmmaking. Instead of African-American Los Angeles, CHICANO LOVE IS FOREVER arises from the Latino culture of San Antonio, Texas. Described as the first Chicano filmmaker, Efraín Gutiérrez came to the medium without any formal training. He made three feature films in the 1970s (CHICANO LOVE is the middle film) reflecting on the real-world lives and problems in the Barrio. (He resurfaced with another two films in the 2000s.). I've only been able to sample CHICANO LOVE; it's clearly lacking in professional polish, but the gritty, unsophisticated style, from someone of the community, is perhaps more authentic and appropriate for this early instance of self-representation (audiences may have agreed—Gutiérrez's first feature earned roughly $300,000 on the Spanish-language film circuit, as mentioned in the NWCFS's notes). Despite the film's technical and other limitations, this is still an important piece of film history. Like the L.A. Rebellion films, or Kent MacKenzie's earlier 1961 film THE EXILES, about young Native Americans in the Bunker Hill area of Los Angeles, CHICANO LOVE IS FOREVER continues the opening up of our understanding of American cinema beyond Hollywood—to independent work, ethnic filmmaking, regional filmmaking. These artists didn't always have the means of the studios (okay, never had the means) but there was frequently a passion behind the filmmaking that still shone through. Preceded by Gutiérrez's 1976 short THE CHICANO WAVE (LA ONDA CHICANA) (1977, 17 min, Restored 35mm Archival Print). (103 min, Restored 35mm Archival Print) PF
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Sam Wood's BEYOND THE ROCKS (Silent American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday, Noon

In her 1980 autobiography, silent film icon Gloria Swanson wrote that she was frequently asked about the whereabouts of a print of her film BEYOND THE ROCKS, one that had been considered lost for decades at that point in the aging star's life. In 2003, many years after Swanson's death, two nitrate reels of the film were discovered amongst a haul of approximately 2000 prints donated by a deceased Dutch collector. Though it took a while for all the reels to be located, the film emerged nearly completely intact and ready for restoration; apart from only two minutes of the original film, one of the silent era's long lost treasures was restored to its mostly former glory. The tale of its discovery is probably more exciting than the film itself, which features Swanson as a beautiful young woman who marries for money instead of love due to financial circumstance. Rudolph Valentino plays a wealthy young man who realizes his love for Swanson's character after she seals her fate through matrimony. What ensues is a slight twist on the love-triangle premise, with the trio making a trip to Africa and the betrayed husband realizing that the younger, more attractive rich dude is probably a better match for his reluctant bride. It's the only film in which Swanson and Valentino appear together, and it's an early film by Sam Wood, who would later go on to direct GOODBYE MR. CHIPS and PRIDE OF THE YANKEES. It's also based on a novel by Elinor Glyn, whose risqué screenplays had a direct hand in launching several silent film stars to sex symbol status. The lacking storyline and mediocre direction are made tolerable both by the film's captivating stars and its fascinating backstory—whatever is on screen is made all the more interesting because of how it got there. Swanson also said in her autobiography about her films that had seemingly been lost, "I would love to see them again and know they're not lost forever. That, after all, was supposed to be the great virtue of pictures—that they would last forever." This screening presents a rare opportunity to see yet another thought-to-be-lost silent film as God and director intended. Live organ accompaniment by Dennis Scott. (1922, 80 min, 35mm) KK
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Agnes Varda's THE GLEANERS AND I (Documentary/Experimental Revival) 
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Sunday, 7pm

Varda, arguably the first filmmaker of the French New Wave, builds an easy rambling and revelatory road movie in THE GLEANERS AND I, an essay film about the historical French custom of gleaning, the act of collecting crops left to waste after the harvest. Varda takes to the motorways with her digital camera and captures gleaning as it is in contemporary French life. She interviews potato farmers, crust punks, gypsies, grocers, justices, vintners, and artists, illuminating lots of sympathetic thematic tensions along the way. Varda doesn't linger in interviews; she brings us only snippets of the people she speaks with, capturing their charm in a few juicy clips. Varda uses GLEANERS to consider her own aging, revolving technology, the ethics of waste, and, probably most poignantly for viewers in 2013, the sliding economic realities that brought gleaning back as a common practice. (2000, 79 min, 35mm) CL
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Matthew Mishory's JOSHUA TREE, 1951: A PORTRAIT OF JAMES DEAN (New American)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday, 6:15pm; Saturday, 8pm; Tuesday, 8:15pm

Writer and director Matthew Mishory presents a tale of cultural icon James Dean before he reached stardom. Set in Dean's early twenties, the film follows the still unknown actor in his first and only semester at UCLA, where he attends an intensive acting class and acts in various small television roles. The explored year begs any prior conceptions of the star to be reconsidered or forgotten altogether as the film documents the renowned teenage bad-boy evolving from his shy and quiet upbringing into an ambitious and confident 'dominant' personality in both the acting world and the small world of his personal life. The film's nonlinear structure mirrors the inner-travelings Dean himself faces as he tries to navigate his passions and career at the height of Hollywood power. Advertised as being shot on film, cinematographer Michel Pessah also recorded the feature on vintage Cooke lenses to imitate the high-stylized glamour of fifties American cinema. Mishory and his cast successfully capture the feel of an era and early life of a soon-to-be star. The personal struggles of Dean and of those around him are familiar ones and continue to resonate sixty years later. Check the Siskel website for in-person guests. (2012, 93 min, HDCam Video) SW
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Harold Ramis' CADDYSHACK (American Revival)  
Music Box Theatre - Tuesday, 7pm *Sold Out (See note below)

There's no reason this movie should work. The protagonist is the film's least interesting character. The gags are scattershot. The performances (to put it mildly) vary wildly in tone. The cinematography is indifferent. And the badly mixed soundtrack does no favors to Kenny Loggins. Yet CADDYSHACK is some kind of comedy masterpiece, as well as one of the '80s most quotable movies. Freud got himself hopelessly tangled up in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious by trying to explain what's funny and what isn't, but he excels at explaining the why: "Though as children we are still endowed with a powerful inherited disposition to hostility, we are later taught by a higher personal civilization that it is an unworthy thing to use abusive language; and even where fighting has in itself remained permissible, the number of things which may not be employed as methods of fighting has extraordinarily increased...The prevention of invective or of insulting rejoinders by external circumstances is such a common case that tendentious jokes are especially favoured in order to make aggressiveness or criticism possible against persons in exalted positions who claim to exercise authority. The joke then represents a rebellion against that authority, a liberation from its pressure. The charm of caricatures lies in this same factor: we laugh at them even if they are unsuccessful simply because we count rebellion against authority as a merit." In other words, about 75 years in advance, Freud predicted not only the occurrence of a Rodney Dangerfield/Ted Knight faceoff, but that it would take place on a golf course. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion including Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips, sports columnist Steve Rosenbloom, and "special guests." (1980, 98 min, 35mm) RC
*Note: This event is listed as "sold out." Visit the Music Box website to get on a wait-list. --- More info at

Steven Spielberg's RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 7, 9:15, and 11:30pm; Sunday, 1pm

A monument in the Cold War's conservative cinema of reassurance, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is today undeniably a fairy tale about the origin of the atomic bomb. While in reality, nuclear weapons were the intentional outcome of a race between America and Germany's large-scale militarization of the physical sciences, here they are represented not as a technological invention of bureaucratic rationalism but as an archaeological re-discovery, of the Old Testament's famously powerful Ark of the Covenant. Mild-mannered, crushworthy, U of C-educated anthropology professor Jones—teaching at a time when one was morally obligated to kill as many Nazis as possible in the course of one's fieldwork—teams up with his former advisor's daughter (now a hard-drinking expat Nepalese barmaid) to engage in battles of dubious detective-work and elaborately staged, violent fisticuffs with rival archaeologist Belloq, a variety of expendable German soldiers, and the seemingly re-indentured residents of Egypt. At stake is the primary fetish object of the Books of Joshua and Samuel, certainly the closest material embodiment of God in the Bible; however, like GHOSTBUSTERS—which also treated the Abrahamic religions as a mere historical elaboration on occult Mesopotamian ritual—RAIDERS romanticizes the agnostic and empirical logic of its hard-nosed protagonist, who eventually realizes that the only way to escape The Lord's wrath is to close one's eyes to His power. This reassurance returns conclusively in the coda, which seems to say: oh, the wrath of God, we'll never use that again; we're just filing it away with the fruits of America's other positivist projects in some Library of Babel-sized warehouse. (1981, 118 min, 35mm) MC
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Francis Ford Coppola's THE GODFATHER (American Revival)
Logan Theatre - Friday, Saturday, and Monday, 10pm

It's tough (or impossible) to summarize the impact THE GODFATHER has had. So, instead, only three points. Gordon Willis's brilliant cinematography—Rembrandt by way of Manhattan—made it acceptable for studio-made color films to be as shadowy and moody as the black & white noirs had been earlier. Where would classic paranoiac thrillers be without that added palette? Its flowing, epic structure, courtesy of Mario Puzo's screenplay and Coppola's subtle, no-nonsense direction, remains a model of classic storytelling. And finally, because of its amazing critical and commercial success, gangster movies have been continuously in vogue ever since. Utterly disgraceful then that, according to a New York Times article, the original negatives "were so torn up and dirty that they could no longer be run through standard film laboratory printing equipment, and so the only option became a digital, rather than a photochemical, restoration." Luckily Robert A. Harris, working with Willis and Coppola, stepped in to save the day. (1972, 175 min, Unconfirmed Format) RC
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The Chicago Film Archives will be participating in Bellwether: A Market Happening & Feast at The Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia Ave.) on Saturday. The CFA will be presenting unlisted footage from their collection in the back room as well as a curated program at 3pm. See the link below for the line-up.

Pasture as the Sea, a program of new work by Lauren Beck and Cassandra Troyan, will screen at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St., Room 201, University of Chicago) on Monday at 7pm. Artists in person. Free Admission.

The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) screens Larry Clark's 1977 film PASSING THROUGH (111 min, New 16mm Print) as the final program in the multi-venue L.A. Rebellion series, with Clark in person. The program takes place Friday at 7pm at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.) and is introduced by filmmaker Cauleen Smith. Preceded by Charles Burnett's great 1995 short WHEN IT RAINS (13 min, 16mm). Free Admission.

Black Cinema House (6901 S. Dorchester Ave.) screens Arthur Marks' 1976 film THE MONKEY HU$TLE (90 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 6pm. Ayana Contreras, host and producer of "Reclaimed Soul" on, will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterwards. Seating is limited; RSVP to to reserve a seat.

The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) presents the Youth Film Festival on Monday at 7pm; and screens Busby Berkeley's 1940 film STRIKE UP THE BAND (120 min, 16mm) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission. More info at

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) continues to host selected events as part of Defibrillator's Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival. The video programs at the Nightingale run through June 10. For more information, visit

Facets Cinémathèque screens Marcell Jankovics' 2001 Hungarian animated feature THE TRAGEDY OF MAN (160 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Philippe Bézlat's 2012 documentary BECOMING TRAVIATA (108 min, DCP Digital Projection) and John Anderson's 2013 documentary BORN IN CHICAGO (86 min, DCP Digital Projection) both play for a week. Check the Siskel website for in person guests for BORN IN CHICAGO; James Cameron's 1984 film THE TERMINATOR (107 min, 35mm) screens on Saturday at 3pm and Tuesday at 6pm; John Milius' 1982 film CONAN THE BARBARIAN (129 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 5:15pm and Thursday at 6pm; and Jan Hrebejk's 2011 film INNOCENCE (98 min, 35mm; Sunday at 3pm, Wednesday at 8pm) and David Ondricek's 2012 film IN THE SHADOW (106 min, 35mm; Sunday at 5pm, Monday at 8pm, with Ondricek in person at both screenings) play in the Czech film series.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Quentin Tarantino's 2012 western DJANGO UNCHAINED (165 min, 35mm) screens on Saturday at 7 and 9:45pm and Sunday at 3:15pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Molly Bernstein's 2012 documentary DECEPTIVE PRACTICE: THE MYSTERIES AND MENTORS OF RICKY JAY (88 min, DCP Digital Projection) opens; Alex Gibney's 2013 documentary WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS (130 min, DCP Digital Projection) continues; Mark Sandrich's 1935 Astaire and Rogers musical TOP HAT (101 min, 35mm) screens on Sunday at 11:30am; and the DePaul University Premiere VIII Film Festival (Blu-Ray) is on Friday at 6:30pm.

Chicago Filmmakers is screening Myriam Fougere's 2011 documentary LESBIANA: A PARALLEL REVOLUTION (63 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 8pm at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) as part of the Dyke Delicious series (7pm social hour) and on Monday at 7:30pm at Studio Be (3110 N. Sheffield Ave.)

Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens Kim Ki-duk's 2012 South Korean film PIETA (104 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 7pm.

Landmark's Century Centre Cinema opens Zal Batmanglij's 2013 film THE EAST (116 min) and Columbia College Chicago grad Jordan Vogt-Roberts' 2013 comedy THE KINGS OF SUMMER (93 min); and screens Dan Carracino and Kevin Hanlon's 2012 documentary BILL W. (104 min) on Monday at 7pm. All Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Formats.

The (not-yet-closed!) Patio Theater will be screening Baz Luhrmann's 2013 film THE GREAT GATSBY (142 min, DCP Digital Projection) this week.

Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Moussa Touré's 2012 Senegalese film THE PIROGUE (87 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 6:30pm in advance of the African Diaspora International Film Festival (upcoming at Facets Cinémathèque). Reinaldo Barroso-Spech, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the African Diaspora International Film Festival, in person for a discussion.

Chicago Public Library's Humboldt Park Branch (1605 N. Troy St.) screens Aurora Guerrero's 2012 drama MOSQUITA Y MARI (85 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6pm as part of the LGBTQ Film Series. Queer Film Society Founder/President Richard Knight, Jr. will lead a post screening audience discussion and a complimentary DVD of the film (courtesy of Wolfe Video) will be raffled off. Free Admission.

The Chicago Cultural Center screens Macky Alston's 2012 documentary LOVE FREE OR DIE (82 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm; and continues the Cinema/Chicago international film series with Benito Bautista's 2012 Filipino film HARANA (104 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm (repeats June 15). Free Admission for both.

 The Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Jacob Aaron Estes' 2004 film MEAN CREEK (90 min, DVD Projection) on Wednesday at dusk. Free admission.

Also at the Logan Theatre this week: Stanley Kubrick's 1964 black comedy DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (95 min, Unconfirmed Format) screens on Thursday at 11pm.

The DuSable Museum screens Laine Drewery's 2012 documentary UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: THE WILLIAM STILL STORY (Unconfirmed Running Time, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 1pm.


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. But not as soon as thought: they will be running THE GREAT GATSBY this week and will again be hosting the Northwest Chicago Film Society screenings this week (see above in Crucial Viewing, Also Recommended, and More Screenings).



I Think We're Ready to Go to the Next Sequence: The Legacy of HalfLifers continues at Gallery 400 (UIC, 400 S. Peoria St.) through June 15. Included are works by the HalfLifers (Torsten Zenas Burns and Anthony Discenza) as well as work by 23E Laboratories, Jason Robert Bell, James Fotopoulos, Kari Gatzke, Lauren Marsden, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Bjørn Melhus, Shana Moulton, Caspar Stracke and MASTERS OF TIME AND SPACE, and Jennet Thomas.

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 7 – June 13, 2013

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Michael Castelle, Rob Christopher, Kat C. Keish, Christy LeMaster, Mojo Lorwin, Harrison Sherrod, Shealey Wallace, Brian Welesko, Darnell Witt

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