Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, JUNE 6 - Thursday, JUNE 12 ::


Ernst Lubitsch's CLUNY BROWN (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Sunday, 7pm

The ending of Ernst Lubitsch's CLUNY BROWN, his last completed film before he died in 1947, is a bittersweet one. It's hard to watch it and not recall the famous anecdote in which Billy Wilder, at Lubitsch's funeral, mournfully said, "No more Lubitsch," to which director William Wyler responded, "Worse than that. No more Lubitsch pictures." The film is about an anti-Nazi Czech refugee, Adam Belinski (Charles Boyer), and a young housemaid, the eponymous Cluny Brown (Jennifer Jones), and the events that take place after their chance meeting. Belinski is a much-lauded public intellectual whose denunciation of the Nazis provides a stark contrast to the largely apathetic British society in which the story takes place. (It's a true comedy of manners, but the political subtext adds an edge that makes the satire more penetrating than merely humorous.) Cluny is a young working class woman who becomes a parlor maid after it's discovered that she has an affinity for plumbing. They meet at the beginning of the film and then again when Cluny is assigned to serve the household at which Belinski is staying. Romance ensues, though not necessarily for Cluny and Belinski. At least, not yet. It's an interesting combination of some of the best elements from Lubitsch's earlier and later films; Belinski's knowing playfulness is reminiscent of Maurice Chevalier and Herbert Marshall's Lubitsch characters, and the chemist whom Cluny initially falls in love with is reminiscent of Lubitsch regular Edward Everett Horton's performances. The film features the most fully realized lower-class characters of any Lubitsch film, a trend that started with NINOTCHKA (1939) and was expanded upon in THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940). It's not a perfect culmination, but, even as a circumstantial one (Lubitsch had been working on 1948's THAT LADY IN ERMINE when he died), it embodies much of what made Lubitsch's films so distinct. (1946, 100 min, 35mm) KS
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William Wellman's WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (American Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Thursday, 7pm

With performances not quite as naturalistic as those found in Our Gang, but shot on real locations à la Neo-Realism, WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD is depression-era cinema that's propulsive enough to prevent the hard times that befall its three young, New York-bound, main characters--two gents and a girl dressed like them, whose parents have fallen on hard times--from drooping below entertainment levels. William Wellman's sympathy for this group of hobo kids is hokey, but his insistence on non-stop action turns even the chummy interactions between them into slaps in the face and slugs to the head, giving the film a rough-and-tumble tone that requires its characters to hold back their tears. And with a touch that nears Buñuelian surrealism, Wellman and screenwriter Earl Baldwin ensure that the audience will feel these kids' pain when they have a child lose a limb to an on-coming train (in Bunuel's LOS OLVIDADOS, a poor child lays under a goat to suck its nipples for milk). Like Our Gang, this gang includes girls and minorities, but it's always white men in uniforms who make their situation worse--that is until FDR appears in the form of a judge with a child of his own who hears their plea and gives them a second chance in life after they find themselves under arrest in NYC. If you felt bad for the privileged, college-educated white girls who kind-of have to try and make it through the Great-Recession in NYC in Lena Dunham's GIRLS, the suggested rape of the girl in WILD BOYS will wake you up to some realities about modern life to be thankful for. (1933, 68 min, 35mm Archival Print) KH
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Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's self-reflexive musical about the introduction of sound and, soon thereafter, singing, in Hollywood feature films is, hands down, one of the most inventive Hollywood musicals ever made. Sure, it's brash and brightly colored but, as far as mainstream Hollywood studio musicals go, it's not simply a rote number. To begin with, it pre-empts the popularity of post-modern strategies in Hollywood cinema even before Jean-Francois Lyotard had diagnosed the condition and it was also heavily inspired by Powell and Pressburger's THE RED SHOES (1948); the surreal and fantastical dream sequence for the song "Gotta Dance" undoubtedly borrows from the 15-minute long production of the Red Shoes ballet. Although SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is in many ways inferior, Donen and Kelly's desire to bring some of Powell and Pressburger's inventiveness to Hollywood was a courageous move. Comparisons aside, SINGIN' boasts its own impressive repertoire of brilliant performances, particularly Donald O'Connor's incredible physical comedy routines, sure to make even the most griping curmudgeon crack a smile. Although the most widely remembered scene in the film is Gene Kelly splashing around in the puddles and singing the title song, Debbie Reynolds' steals the show from him on more than one occasion--particularly her performance of "Good Mornin'" (which contrary to popular rumor she does sing herself). Throw in the fact that the Technicolor is stunning and the jokes still pack a punch 50 years later, and you have a clever, comic masterpiece. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is a theater-going experience not to be missed--watching it on TV just doesn't do it justice. (1952, 102 min, 35mm) BC
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Joe Pytka's SPACE JAM (American Contemporary Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Friday and Saturday, Midnight

While conventionally considered a film of little theoretical interest, former Chicago gay rights activist and linguistics professor Michal Brody has cogently argued (in the proceedings of a 2001 conference) that SPACE JAM bears many unusual correspondences to the thousand-year old Popol Vuh mythology of the Quiché Maya kingdom (now the highlands of western Guatemala). Consciously or unconsciously, the film's writers have developed a narrative in which a pair of heroes (Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan) 1) are summoned to play a high-stakes underworld ball-game against a variety of frightening villains, 2) manage to defeat those villains through the heroes' summoning of extra-human ability, and 3) ascend from the underworld with a glowing orb, all of which occur in the Popol Vuh. While the details vary (in the Popol Vuh, the heroes intend to retrieve the head of their father, Hunahpu; whereas in SPACE JAM, the villains have stolen the talent of NBA stars such as Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing), the congruence is remarkable. Brody also shows that the well-known phonetic irregularities of, e.g., Daffy Duck and Sylvester are quite analogous to those of ancestral characters in a variety of native cosmologies. Otherwise best known for its perpetuity of wince-inducing composite effects work and the controversial, heteronormative "Lola Bunny" subplot, the film additionally includes the R. Kelly quiet-storm ballad "I Believe I Can Fly." (1996, 88m, 35mm) MC
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Lee Unkrich's TOY STORY 3 (Contemporary Animation)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday at 7 and 9:15pm, Saturday at 3:30pm, and Sunday at 1pm

To presume ignorance of TOY STORY 3 is to effectively admit that you hate classical Hollywood cinema: unfettered by any coherent and/or crude ideological ambition, this film is a legitimately relentless puree of stereotyped genres, and a rarity in that it only gets better with the more old movies you've seen; in fact, it's quite possible that it's a total bore for those who are actually in kindergarten. Lifting discursive patterns, gestures, soundtrack cues, and other mise-en-scène from a wide variety of narrative classics, at its high midpoint TOY STORY 3 can be comically shifting from mimicking melodrama, Westerns, prison dramas, capers, gothic horror, and even Mexican 1940s caballero films over the course of just a few minutes. This disturbingly informed and reflexive scriptwriting is, however, likely conceptually overshadowed by Pixar's flashy surface role as both the apotheosis of engineering in aesthetic manufacture and as a fully-formed NorCal simulacral apparatus of SoCal cinematic production: a 218,000 square-foot involute eye, a 1.5- megawatt shrine to the optics of the camera lens. Perhaps the intermittent, clever noir homages in the screenplay are of secondary interest to the likely fact that multiple PhDs slaved away for a year to produce a relatively photorealistic black garbage bag for a single onscreen sequence. And perhaps that significant history-of- technology datum should be in turn dismissed, with a consideration of the studio's typically dreary heteronormative politics (for a company based in the East Bay, the repeated homophobic reaction shots to the antics of Mattel's metrosexualized Ken (Michael Keaton) are specifically reprehensible); the inescapable reproduction of globalized commodity fetishism underlying the trilogy's very premise; and of the remarkable inaccessibility to humanity which necessarily pervades any endeavor constructed primarily by hundreds of unrefined CGI savants who have seem to have never grown out of the idea that STAR WARS is a fundamental cornerstone of civilization. That is to say: a movie ostensibly about growing up and leaving your toys behind, produced by an assembly line of grown men with toys adorning every corner of their cubes. (2010, 103 min, 35mm) MC
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Leslie Buchbinder's HAIRY WHO & THE CHICAGO IMAGISTS (New Documentary)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Friday, 7pm

For the longest time there was a dearth of scholarly coverage of the Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists. Prominent figures like Ed Paschke and Karl Wirsum were periodically spotlighted as solo artists, but it was difficult to contextualize their work within a larger historical narrative. What was the relationship between the Hairy Who and other cliques in the Chicago art scene like the Monster Roster and Nonplussed Some, not to mention the Pop artists based in NYC? This is the subject of Leslie Buchbinder's new documentary, HAIRY WHO & THE CHICAGO IMAGISTS, which functions as a brilliant treasure trove of interviews and archival photographs, aided by animations by cartoonist Lilli Carré. The Imagists drew inspiration from comic books, tattoo flash, and the iconography of local spectacles such as Maxwell St. market. However, unlike their East Coast, postmodern counterparts, the Imagists had a sincere love of mass culture. In this sense, they leapfrogged much of the debate that has preoccupied the contemporary art discourse over the past several decades, presaging what some critics refer to today as "metamodern." The influence of the Imagists can be seen in the work of Gary Panter, Mike Kelley, and John Kricfalusi. Moreover, in an extended interview with the director (which can be read on the Cine-File blog), she expands on the intimate link between Imagists and the cinema--just another footnote in what amounts to the most comprehensive chronicle of Chicago's most vibrant, iconoclastic, and carnivalesque chapter in art history. Following the screening, director Buchbinder, writer/producer John Corbett, and artists Gladys Nilsson and Karl Wirsum will take part in a discussion moderated by Block director Lisa Corrin. (2014, 105 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) HS
NOTE: The Block expects this screening to sell out and only has a limited number of tickets available. The box office will open at 5:30pm. A second screening has been added for June 14.
Read Cine-File contributor Harrison Sherrod's interview with director Leslie Buchbinder here.
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The Graham Foundation, in collaboration with the Goethe Institut-Chicago, presents Gerry Schum, the pioneer - The Work of Art is the Film Itself: Transmission as Art in Germany circa 1970 on Wednesday at 6pm. The program, introduced by Robyn Farrell (Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, and former Assistant Director at Donald Young Gallery), includes two television broadcasts curated by Schum, LAND ART (Fernsehausstellung I, 1969, 32 min; with work by Richard Long, Barry Flanagan, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, Marinus Boezem, Jan Dibbets, and Walter de Maria) and IDENTIFICATIONS (Fernsehausstellung II, 1970, 36 min, Video Projection; with work by Joseph Beuys, Reiner Ruthenbeck, Klaus Reinke, Ulrich Rückriem, Daniel Buren, Hamish Fulton, Gilbert & George, Stanley Brouwn, Ger van Elk, Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Gino de Dominicis, Mario Merz, Gilberto Zorio, Gary Kuehn, Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra, Franz Erhard Walther, and Lawrence Weiner), along with two works by Schum: ALL THIS DARLING WILL ONCE BELONG TO YOU (1967, 7 min, DVD Projection) and KONSUMKUNST - KUNSTKONSUM (1968, 30 min, DVD Projection). It's at Graham Foundation - Madlener House (4 West Burton Place). Free admission, but RSVP at

This week at The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave): On Saturday at 8pm, the Nightingale presents former Chicagoan Will Goss in person with his new feature CLARKSDALE (Unconfirmed Running Time, Digital Projection). Prior to the screening, there will be live music by Goss, Chris Sullivan, and Ed Crouse; and the Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival is presenting a series of video screenings, beginning yesterday and continuing today (Friday), Sunday, Thursday, and next Friday and Saturday. The programs feature work by more than 30 artists from around the world. Visit Rapid Pulse's website for complete listings:

The Logan Square International Film Series, in conjunction with saki and Everything Is Terrible, presents Once in a Lifetime: My Stepson, My Lover, in which Mary Lambert's 1997 Lifetime network film MY STEPSON, MY LOVER (93 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is provided with live running commentary by invited comedians. It's on Friday at 8pm at Comfort Station in Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.). Free admission.

The Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western Ave.) hosts a screening of Andrew J. Morgan and Nicholas Nummerdor's 2013 documentary VANNIN' (60 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday. From 5-8pm, there will be a free outdoor event with custom vans, food, beer, and DJs; at 8pm, the event moves inside (with an admission price) with live music and the screening. Exact film start time unknown.

This week at the Gene Siskel Film Center: Beth B's 2013 documentary EXPOSED (77 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 6pm, Saturday at 4:45pm, and Monday at 7:45pm; Lars von Trier's 2013 two-part film NYMPHOMANIAC: VOL I and NYMPHOMANIAC: VOL. II (118 min/123 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; Jody Shapiro's 2013 documentary BURT'S BUZZ (88 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 7:45pm, Saturday at 3 and 7:45pm, and Thursday at 6pm, with Shapiro live via Skype at the Friday show; Andrzej Wajda's 1960 Polish film INNOCENT SORCERERS (87 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 3pm and Monday at 6pm, and his 1973 film THE WEDDING (107 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 4:45pm and Thursday at 7:45pm; Talal Derki's 2013 documentary RETURN TO HOMS (87 min, DCP Digital) is on Tuesday at 6:30pm, with producer Orwa Nyrabia live via Skype and representatives from Human Rights Watch in person. There are no screenings at the Film Center on Wednesday.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Wes Anderson's 2014 film THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (99 min, DCP Projection) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday at 3:15pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Stanley Kubrick's 1964 black comedy DR. STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (95 min) opens in a new 35mm print; Alejandro Jodorowsky's 2013 film THE DANCE OF REALITY (130 min); and Pawel Pawlikowski's 2013 film IDA (80 min, DCP Projection) both continue; Arnaud des Pallières' 2013 film AGE OF UPRISING: THE LEGEND OF MICHAEL KOHIHAAS (122 min) is on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2:30pm; the DePaul University Premiere Film Festival is on Friday at 6:30pm; and Nicholas Stoller's 2014 film NEIGHBORS (96 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) and Chicago Cinema Society screens Lorenzo Bianchini's 2013 Italian art-house-horror film ACROSS THE RIVEER (102 min, Blu-Ray Projection) on Saturday at 8pm; repeats at Columbia College (Hokin Hall, 623 S. Wabash Ave., Rm. 109) on Wednesday at 6:30pm.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Mark Levinson's 2013 documentary PARTICLE FEVER (99 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run.

The Logan Theatre screens David Gordon Green's 2008 film PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (111 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 10:30pm; and William Friedkin's 1971 film THE FRENCH CONNECTION (104 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 10:30pm.

At the Chicago Cultural Center this week: Cinema/Chicago presents Ishmael Bernal's 1982 Filipino film MIRACLE (124 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm; and Jeremy Marre's 2013 BBC television documentary BIG BILL BROONZY: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT THE BLUES TO BRITAIN (Unconfirmed Running Time, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Thursday at 6pm, preceded by live music at 5:30pm. Free admission for both.

The Chicago Public Library (Sulzer Regional Branch, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave.) screens Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's 1995 documentary THE CELLULOID CLOSET (102 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 2pm. Free admission.

Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Juan Mandelbaum's 2008 Argentinean film OUR DISAPPEARED (99 min, DVD Projection) on Monday at 6pm.

The DuSable Museum screens Nailah Jefferson's 2014 documentary VANISHING PEARLS: THE OYSTERMEN OF POINTE A LA HACHE (80 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 2pm.


Azimuth Projects (2704 N. Whipple St.) continues the two-person exhibition Gaze through August 3. The show features two video works by Ivan LOZANO, (ERIK) RHODES EX-VOTO (2014) and SUBROSA (FOR ARPAD) (2013), and paintings and mixed media works by Rob Bondgren.

The two-channel video installation Untitled (Structures) by Leslie Hewitt and Bradford Young is on view through August 31 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Mathias Poledna's 2013 film installation Imitation of Life (3 min loop, 35mm) is on view through September 14 at the Art Institute of Chicago (in Gallery 291 of the Modern Wing).

Bruce Nauman's four-channel video installation Clown Torture (1987, 60 min loop) is on view through August 16 at the Art Institute of Chicago (in Gallery 186 of the Modern Wing).


The Northbrook Public Library film series is on hiatus during renovations at the library. Expected completion is Spring 2015.

The Portage Theatre has announced plans to re-open in mid-June and will be screening (from Blu-Ray/DVD) occasional film programs.

As of the end of April the Patio Theater has closed indefinitely.

The Northwest Chicago Film Society is again on hiatus, with the closing of the Patio Theater.

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CINE-LIST: June 6 - June 12, 2014

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Beth Capper, Michael Castelle, Kalvin Henely, Kathleen Sachs, Harrison Sherrod, Darnell Witt

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