Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, SEPT. 13 - Thursday, SEPT. 19 ::


John Ford's STRAIGHT SHOOTING (Silent American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday, Noon

Over the last 96 years (!), STRAIGHT SHOOTING has seen its fair share of reversals of fortune. When ordered up by Universal in 1917, studio brass simply wanted to run out Harry Carey's contract in an anonymous two-reeler. Ford had already made several successful such films for Universal, but like his mentor Griffith, he chafed against the cautious and arbitrary length of contemporary product. Gallantly, arrogantly, the twenty-three-year-old Ford submitted a five-reel cut of STRAIGHT SHOOTING to Universal—a covert feature debut. The not-so-accidental feature was rejected by the marketing executives until Universal chief Carl Laemmle intervened and posed a marvelous analogy: "If I order a suit of clothes and the fellow gives me an extra pair of pants free, what am I going to do—throw them back in his face?" Both sides got their way eventually: Ford's five-reel STRAIGHT SHOOTING was released to theaters in 1917 and the front office boys reissued it as STRAIGHT SHOOTIN' in 1925—shorn of a letter and three whole reels. By then, Ford was directing big pictures like THE IRON HORSE and THE BLUE EAGLE for Fox and there was no time for posterity. Sooner or later STRAIGHT SHOOTING became a "lost film." (When did we lose STRAIGHT SHOOTING exactly? At the necessarily indeterminate moment we forgot to not lose it.) Recovered from the Czechoslovakian national archive in 1966 following the American Film Institute's worldwide search and re-premiered at the 1967 edition of the Montreal International Film Festival, a cheap program Western became an unlikely tributary of national importance. Ford was suddenly the de facto Old Master of an indigenous American tradition, honored with TV specials and the endorsement of California Governor Ronald Reagan. Excerpts from STRAIGHT SHOOTING aired on NBC. (Meanwhile, Ford's sublime 7 WOMEN—his latest feature and, ultimately, his last—had already vanished from theaters, received indifferently in all but the most fervently auteurist circles.) Despite its long obscurity and modest ambitions, STRAIGHT SHOOTING was picked over endlessly and admiringly in the burgeoning body of Ford literature. Scholar Richard Koszarski even complained that too many film students had been content to let a single early Ford feature stand in for the totality of this complicated transitional period. Then STRAIGHT SHOOTING receded again, for whatever reason—stubbornly absent from the repertory as new Ford discoveries like BUCKING BROADWAY and UPSTREAM trickled out. STRAIGHT SHOOTING still awaits a full restoration, which would entail replacing the Czech titles with better approximations of the English originals. Music Box programmer/projectionist (and Cine-File contributor) Doug McLaren will be reciting English translations of the titles at Saturday's screening—purportedly in a Czech cowboy accent. If you don't see this, you should be straight shot. Live organ accompaniment by Dennis Scott. (1917, approx. 60 min, Archival 35mm Print) KAW
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Alan Crosland's MASSACRE (American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Patio Theater) - Wednesday, 7:30pm

The term 'pre-code' typically brings to mind those early films with themes of a lascivious nature, ranging from topics as sordid as prostitution to those as taboo as homosexuality. Some of the most progressive and revolutionary films of the time, however, were those with themes of a political nature, often referred to as "preachment yarns." Alan Crosland's MASSACRE, starring Richard Barthelmess and Ann Dvorak, initially seems to promise a drama borne of the former sub-genre of pre-code sensationalism, but is instead a preachment yarn that exposes the injustices of racial and sexual objectification. Barthelmess plays Chief Joe Thunder Horse, a college-educated Sioux Indian who has escaped reservation life only to star in a Wild West Show at the 1933 Chicago's World Fair. As Chief Joe Thunder Horse, the entertainer, he dons a braided wig and forgoes a shirt as he target shoots and signs autographs for his lust-stricken admirers. As Joe, he shrewdly negotiates the value of his racial exploitation and uses his obvious sex appeal to win over fair-skinned society girls. In a scene more laden with cultural appropriation than anything Miley Cyrus has done to date, Joe's girlfriend, Norma, leads him into a room filled with authentic Native American artifacts; it's obvious in their interactions that Norma views Joe as a distraction intended to curb her privileged boredom. Norma slinks back sexily onto a chair and sighs, " Red skin," to which Joe comes down upon her with a brutishly seductive force. "Red lips," he replies before kissing the fair maiden. Soon thereafter, Joe leaves to visit his ailing father on the reservation. Very quickly, the social injustices experienced by the American Indian are brought to light, both for the audience and prodigal son Joe. He quickly transforms from a passive exploiter of his own impoverished culture to a fierce crusader for his people's rights. After his little sister is raped, Joe exacts his revenge upon the white perpetrator and then seeks the assistance of the New Deal Commissioner for Indian Affairs, both for representation for himself and protection for his tribe against the local bureaucrats. Much is packed in to the film's sparse running time, allowing little room for dramatic nuance; conflict is resolved just as quickly as its introduced, with an idealistic version of idealism itself propelling the plot forward. "Firmly in line with the New Deal-Warner Bros. axis," Thomas Patrick Dougherty writes in Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality and Insurrection in American Cinema; 1930-1934, "MASSACRE blames the social problems of blighted Indian reservations not on the white father in Washington but on malefactors at the local level. Leaping over the heads of municipal and state officials, the rewritten social contract of 1933 is between the citizen and the federal government. Separating them as obstructions to reform are venal local authorities and big money interests." Not surprisingly, as Joe arrives in Washington, the Blue Eagle of the New Deal is emblazoned on a wooden fence, the only barrier standing between him and the promises of big government. Made only six months before the enforcement of the Hays Code, many critics of the time believed MASSACRE to be a significant step in the direction of cinema as mouthpiece for social reform. With this film, the massacre is rendered figurative rather than literal on the big screen, representing a sluggish oppression rather than violent aggression. It's progression both on the big screen and for cinema in general from the director of THE JAZZ SINGER and co-starring Dvorak as another college-educated Indian who both grounds Joe in his roots and inspires him to greatness in Washington. (1934, 70 min, Archival 35mm Print) KK
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Frank Perry's THE SWIMMER (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Sunday, 11:30am

In this glaringly underrated sixties classic, Frank Perry reimagines John Cheever's twelve page story as a modern American epic, a cross between The Odyssey and King Lear. Burt Lancaster plays Ned Merrill, an earnest and libidinous man who wakes up one day and decides to swim all the pools in his posh Connecticut suburb in a quixotic attempt to "swim home." Lancaster is spot on as the "suburban stud" with an "inexplicable contempt for men who don't hurl themselves into pools." Though it has always had its fans (both Roger Ebert and Lancaster himself considered it to be the actor's best performance), the film has never found a wider audience, perhaps because it is so coy about revealing its true intentions. Stylistically, the script, performances, and camerawork are mannered to the point of parody, but we are not always sure when we are supposed to be laughing. And we are equally unsure of what to think of Merrill and his quest. One moment we are fully immersed in his magical thinking, and the next moment we have an ironic distance from it. It is this stylistic and ideological ambiguity that enables THE SWIMMER to manage a rare feat: to be a savage satire both of bourgeois conformity and anti-bourgeois romanticism at the same time. (1968, 95 min, DCP Digital Projection; New Restoration) ML
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Joseph H. Lewis' GUN CRAZY (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center

The legacy of Joseph H. Lewis was cemented by GUN CRAZY, a B noir whose audacity well exceeds its small budget. The film's visual ingenuity is still remarkable: Lewis stages tracking shots in reverse, creates odd compositions that intentionally leave faces or key actions out of the frame, and—most famously—shoots a bank robbery in a single long take from the back of a car. Along with some of Val Lewton's productions, it's one of the few U.S. films of the 40s that can be compared to CITIZEN KANE in its go-for-broke stylization. But the psychological element of the film (so pronounced it can't really be called "subtext") is fascinating as well, as John Dall's emotionally stunted antihero is pulled into crime by a femme fatale as protective as she is conniving. This makes him different from the standard noir hero, who's confident but merely unlucky. Given his introversion and child-like fascination with guns, Dall is vulnerable to misfortune from the very start. This would place GUN CRAZY among the most fatalistic noirs, if it weren't for Lewis' overt sympathy for the character, which in turn makes the Rocky Mountain manhunt of the third act even more intense. The accomplished black-and-white cinematography is by Howard Hawks regular Russell Harlan. (1949, 86 min, 35mm) BS
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Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) presents drone duo White/Light playing to a selection of films by local filmmaker Alexander Stewart and archival footage from the Chicago Film Archive on Friday at 9:30pm. Also performing in a 10:45pm set is Jazz supergroup Madness of Crowds.

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Macro-Miniatures: Personal Ethnographies of Ross Lipman on Sunday at 8pm, with filmmaker and restorationist Lipman in person. Lipman will screen a selection of his own short personal "ethnographic" works (tentatively from 1997-3013) along with short pieces shot by others.

The Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center presents An Evening with Ximena Cuevas on Thursday at 6pm. Mexican video artist Cuevas will be in person to screen a selection of her short works made over the past decade.

 Space Club HQ (3925 N. Elston) screens the omnibus 1945 British horror film DEAD OF NIGHT (77 min, 16mm) on Friday at 7:30pm. The film was directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, and Robert Hamer.

At the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: Joss Whedon's 2012 film MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (109 min, 35mm) screens on Saturday at 2 and 7:30pm, with each show followed by a discussion with independent filmmaker Reid Schultz; and Josef von Sternberg's 1927 film UNDERWORLD (80 min, 16mm) screens on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission. More info at

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Andrei Tarkovsky's 1983 classic NOSTALGHIA (120 min, New 35mm Print) begins a two-week run; Arthur D. Ripley's 1946 noir THE CHASE (86 min, Newly Preserved 35mm Print) screens on Sunday at 4:45pm and Monday at 6pm; Michael Curtiz's 1938 film ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (97 min, 35mm) screens on Friday at 6:15pm and Tuesday at 6pm, with a lecture by Laurence Knapp at the Tuesday show; François Truffaut's 1978 film THE GREEN ROOM (94 min, Archival 35mm Print) screens on Saturday at 5:15pm and Monday at 7:45pm; Scott McGehee and David Siegel's 2012 film WHAT MAISIE KNEW (99 min, 35mm) screens on Saturday at 3:15pm and Wednesday at 6pm; Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah's 2012 documentary THE MUSLIMS ARE COMING! (85 min, HDCam Video) plays for a week; Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, and Jeremy Newberger's 2012 documentary ÉVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR. MOVIE (90 min, DCP Digital Projection) is on Thursday at 8:15pm, with co-director Kramer in person; and Emin Alper's 2012 Turkish film BEYOND THE HILL (94 min, DCP Digital Projection) screens on Friday at 8:15pm and Saturday at 5:15pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Régis Roinsard's 2012 film POPULAIRE (111 min) opens; Ziad Doueiri's 2013 film THE ATTACK (102 min) continues; Gabriela Cowperthwaite's 2013 film BLACKFISH (83 min) screens Friday-Sunday at 2:10pm; Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cyn, and Anonymous' 2012 documentary THE ACT OF KILLING THE ACT OF KILLING (116 min) screens at 9:30pm daily and on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am; Jason Wise's 2012 documentary SOMM (94 min) is on Monday at 2pm; Brian De Palma's 2012 film PASSION (102 min) and Sean S. Cunningham's 1980 horror film FRIDAY THE 13th (95 min, DCP Digital Projection) are the Friday and Saturday Midnight films. All Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Chicago Filmmakers presents their Short Story Showcase (approx. 60 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 7:30 (at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark St.), with three local films: Joi-Noelle Worley's POOR PERCEPTION (2013), Andrew Stegmeyer's I'M NOT A HACKER (2013), and Jerry LeBuy's CROSSING THE LAKE (2010), with the filmmakers in person; and Désiré Ecaré's 1985 film FACES OF WOMEN (105 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format, Ivory Coast) on Wednesday at 6:30pm (at Columbia College's Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan Ave.). Repeats at Chicago Filmmakers on September 21. Screening as part of the Blacklight Cinema Series and co-presented by Black Cinema House.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Hannah Fidell's 2013 film A TEACHER (77 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week.

Landmark's Century Centre Cinema opens Destin Cretton's 2013 film SHORT TERM 12 (96 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format).

Also at the Patio Theater this week: Martin Scorsese's 1973 film MEAN STREETS (112 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) screens on Thursday at 7:30pm (repeats on September 22).

The Logan Theatre screens Joel and Ethan Coen's 1996 film FARGO (98 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 10:30pm.

On Monday at 8pm, Once in a Lifetime, a comedy show/movie night presented by saki and Everything is Terrible at Lincoln Hall (2424 N. Lincoln Ave.) presents William A. Graham's 1994 Lifetime Original Movie DEATH OF A CHEERLEADER (91 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format), with live running commentary by comedians Liza Treyger, Megan Gailey, Katie McVay, and Stephanie Hasz.

The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave.) screens Vittorio De Seta's 2007 film LETTERS FROM THE SAHARA (123 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm.

At the Chicago Cultural Center this week: the Cinema/Chicago international film series continues with Roberto Girault's 2009 Mexican film THE STUDENT (95 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm; and Armando Bó's 2012 Argentinean film THE LAST ELVIS on Wednesday at 6:30pm (repeats on September 21). Free admission.

The Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Gabriel García Moreno's 1927 silent Mexican film EL PUNO DE HIERRO (approx. 40 min, DVD Projection), with a live score performed by Duck, You Sucker!, on Wednesday at dusk. Free admission.



ACRE Projects (1913 W. 17th St.) opens Fumbling Toward Ecstasy on Sunday (reception from 4-8pm). The show, curated by Kate Bowen, features a video diptych by Georgia Wall, in which "nine people reenact a scene from Yvonne Rainer's 'A Film About A Woman Who' as they watch the action of the film unfold on the screen in front of them." The show also includes work by Elena K. Dahl. Runs through October 7 (open Sundays and Mondays, 12-4pm).

Roots & Culture (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Of This Place, Or Thereabouts: New Work By Robert Chase Heishman & Megan Schvaneveldt, which features solo and collaborative lo-fi video work by the artists. Opens Friday and runs through October 12.

OTHERKIN (2013, 11 min), a new video work by Chris Naka, continues at Julius Caesar (3311 W. Carroll Ave.) through September 29. Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 1-4pm and by appointment.

Antena (1755 S. Laflin St.) continues the show "How Many Feminists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?" ... ...."That's not funny." through September 28 (hours by appointment only). "'How Many Feminists...' is a collection of comedic work by female video artists and performers who identity themselves as feminists and utilize humor as an important part of their work." With video work by Sarah Kelly, Marisa Williamson, Katya Grokhovsky, Rachelle Beaudoin, Andrea Hidalgo, Roxy Farhat, Em Meine, Cristine Brache, T. Foley, Lex Brown, Lilly McElroy, Molly Shea, Shana Moulton, and Becky Sellinger; and Photographic work by Rosemarie Romero.



The Portage Theatre remains closed for the foreseeable future.

The Patio Theater has discontinued its regular programming and will instead focus on presenting special events, rental screenings, and The Northwest Chicago Film Society's weekly screenings.

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CINE-LIST: September 13 - September 19, 2013

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Kat Keish, Mojo Lorwin, Ben Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal, Shealey Wallace, Darnell Witt

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