Leslie Buchbinder's HAIRY WHO & THE CHICAGO IMAGISTS (New Documentary)
Museum of Contemporary Art - Tuesday, 6pm [SOLD OUT*]
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. Director Buchbinder in person. (2014, 105 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) HS
Read Cine-File contributor Harrison Sherrod's interview with director Leslie Buchbinder here.
More info at www.mcachicago.org.
*Sadly, this event is already sold out. Note that the film will also be screening at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) on June 6.
Michael Snow's PRESENTS (Experimental Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Tuesday 7pm
The so-called Structural arm of avant-garde film is routinely and casually pegged as dry, academic, and formal to a fault. What is often overlooked in cursory treatments of this side of the field is its surprisingly common use of humor--everything from the sly intellectual sort to downright slapstick. Michael Snow's PRESENTS (1980-81) has both ends covered. The first ten minutes tweaks expectations as the image slowly unsqueezes from a vertical slit to reveal a nude woman on a bed. The next two sequences are absurdist explorations of "camera-movement": in the first it is the set that moves, with the performers struggling to stay afoot; in the second, the camera invades the set, demolishing everything in its path. Finally, the back wall collapses revealing a window on to the real world. What follows are hundreds of hand-held shots: automobiles, birds, street scenes, demolition sites, stovetops--a cataloging of the filmmaker's environs. Many of the shots are peculiarly pedestrian and seemingly artless--given Snow's background, they feel deliberately so. With a drumbeat at every cut Snow riffs on one definition of the title, crying now, now--and with this section's hour-long duration, it's an eternal now. This concluding sequence is both strangely compelling and frequently tedious, and it seems that's the point. It's a game of dare with the audience: can you stay till the end? (1980-81, 90 min, 16mm) PF
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Kelly Reichardt's WENDY AND LUCY (Contemporary American)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Monday, 7pm
"You know, scientifically speaking, Marian," says Matthew Modine in SHORT CUTS, "there's no such thing as beyond natural color." Is there such a thing as beyond naturalism? If there is, Reichardt has moved beyond it, beyond even neorealism, using an unvarnished eye to fashion impressionistic portraits of characters who inhabit very specific times and places. Though she's made only a handful of films, a randomly chosen moment from any one of them bears her distinct sensibility. Her newest, NIGHT MOVES, opens later this year. That's a great reason to revisit one of her previous masterpieces (though "masterpiece" seems like a pretentious way to describe this simple, heartbreaking story about loneliness). WENDY AND LUCY is centered on an outstanding performance by Michelle Williams and a painterly eye for the environs of Oregon. Anyone who's ever spent time in the Pacific Northwest will savor details like the greenness of the grass in an empty field or the slow clatter of a freight train going by. It's a small gem that has all the Americana of a John Ford movie yet recalls the naturalism of VAGABOND and even UMBERTO D. And like those movies it's about people literally living hand to mouth, an existence where a gift of $6 (which occurs towards the end) is truly a sacrifice. Owing much to co-screenwriter Jon Raymond's fiction, it unfolds like a perfectly constructed novella. (2008, 80 min, 35mm) RC
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Ernst Lubitsch's NINOTCHKA (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Sunday, 7pm
In his interpretation of the phrase "The Lubitsch Touch," critic Jonathan Rosenbaum opined that this so-called touch is made up of three distinct qualities. The first two parts of his definition refer to Lubitsch's "specifically Eastern European capacity to represent the cosmopolitan sophistication of continental Europeans to Americans" and "[his] way of regarding his characters that could be described as a critical affection for flawed individuals who operate according to double standards"; the third part refers to how Lubitsch uses music in his films, and while Werner R. Heymann's score certainly compliments the wonderfully funny and romantic story in NINOTCHKA, it is not as crucial to his distinct style in this film as it was in his acclaimed musicals from the late 20s and early 30s. Though Rosenbaum acknowledges that all three elements are not present in all of Lubitsch's films, the first two most definitely account for the winning effect of "The Lubitsch Touch" in this 1939 MGM production. Similar to his 1942 film TO BE OR NOT TO BE, NINOTCHKA satirizes and even romanticizes a touchy but timely subject using Lubitsch's above-mentioned abilities. In the film, the beautiful but steely Greta Garbo plays a Russian envoy sent by the Soviet Union to Paris in order to broker the sale of the dissolved aristocracy's opulent jewels. The jewels once belonged to the former Grand Duchess Swana, who now resides in Paris and has the charming Count Leon as her uncommitted romantic companion. Much to their own surprise, Ninotchka and Count Leon meet and fall in love; as a Communist from the Soviet Union and a capitalistic Count living lavishly in Paris, respectively, their coupledom is the base double-standard from which Lubitsch's 'touch' emanates. As with couples from other Lubitsch films, their romance is seemingly ill-fated, not so much against the odds as just odd, and insurmountable only in that, in a film by anyone else but Lubitsch, it wouldn't work at all. More so than their romantic dynamic in terms of a double standard is their political and cultural dynamic, which calls back to Rosenbaum's ideas about Lubitsch's sophistication. Film historian Jeremy Mindich declared NINOTCHKA "arguably the most complex American movie ever made about the Soviet Union," and while that is definitely arguable, it says a lot about Lubitsch's own cosmopolitan sensibilities that his film both satirizes and humanizes Communist characters. Billy Wilder, who also co-wrote the script, once described the Lubitsch Touch as being the "elegant use of the Superjoke. You had a joke, and you felt satisfied, and then there was one more big joke on top of it. The joke you didn't expect." When asked by the three envoy-stooges about the mass trials happening in their home country, Ninotchka replies that they were a great success, declaring, "There will be fewer but better Russians." In NINOTCHKA, the political humor is even more salacious than the sexual humor, but such an off-color joke is still satisfying to the viewer who expects as much from Lubitsch. But the joke no one is expecting is Count Leon's response to Ninotchka's communist ideals. He reads Marx and even tries to convince his personal attendant that their professional dynamic is unfair. From there, the jokes get bigger and bigger until even Lenin is cracking a smile. In his essay for the Criterion Collection DVD release of TROUBLE IN PARADISE, critic Armond White observes that Lubitsch is "able to indulge carefree behavior because it is undergirded with his appreciation of life's hard facts." No less than such a sophisticated double standard is to be expected from Lubitsch, and NINOTCHKA is a prime example from his canon. (1939, 110 min, 35mm) KS
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Robert Altman's COME BACK TO THE 5 & DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7 and 9:15pm
A forgotten mid-period gem from Robert Altman's nearly fifty-year career. A middling story, adapted from Ed Graczyk's play--which Altman directed on Broadway to poor reviews--COME BACK is a curious hybrid of film, theater, and television that takes the best Altman offers to each. Set entirely in a Woolworth's, near the filming location of GIANT, a nearly all-female James Dean fan club reunites twenty years after the actor's death. After the sole male member of the fan club returns as a woman, the story coalesces around soap opera secrets and their hammy revelations, befores and afters, literal mirrors and their reflected transformations. Altman's "roaming camera" of orchestrated pans and zooms makes the claustrophobic space open and lively, and flashbacks to 1955 are shown through the general store's theatrical two-way mirrors. Genuine and artful performances (Pauline Kael wrote of the actresses: "They bring conviction to their looneytunes characters") builds meaning and helps draw out the cause and effect of Graczyk's text through Altman's craft. The two are meant for each other: both peddle in pop culture iconography, religio-hyperbole, and insular, provincial groups of deeply flawed people. However, where Graczyk turns to nostalgia and melodrama, Altman elicits a complex mix of sentimentality and cynicism. (1982, 109 min, 35mm) BW
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Alain Resnais' WILD GRASS (Contemporary French)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 7pm
Alain Resnais is one of the hardest of the great directors to write about, because with him it's never the same old song, and every new film he made was equally inventive and archaic, sometimes baffling, and less a set of obvious decisions (that is, "authorial choices" you can parse out and point to, saying "this is what Resnais is doing!") than a combination of incompatible moods and notions. With the modern Resnais (as opposed to the 1960s Resnais), the movie is no longer the realization of an aesthetic plan--it simply is, with all of its weird asides (imagine that he cut out the psychologist from MON ONCLE D'AMERIQUE but kept Gerard Depardieu walking around in a mouse costume), and must be accepted as such. More intelligent than intellectual (regardless of the "analytical" reputations of his early films), more thoughtful than cerebral and as egalitarian in his tastes (and sometimes as wacky in his ways of expressing them) as Takashi Miike, Resnais, with his red dress shirts, Burberry raincoats and Roy Orbison shades, was, frankly, one strange and impractical cat. I agree with the detractors of WILD GRASS (and there are a lot of them out there, and will be more) that the movie's all folly--where I disagree with them is that I think it's a great film, possibly a masterpiece of follies: authorial, dramatic, cinematic, emotional. The movie seems to be either a comedy without many jokes or an unusually light-hearted psychological drama (sans psychology), but more accurately it should be said that it's more ruminative than narrative, a freeform game where purses, shoes, airplanes, and zippers all come into play. In candy-bright soft-focus colors, it presents us with Georges (André Dussollier), who lives surrounded by ticking clocks and intrigues (see also: Rivette's Julien) and musically-named Margaret Muir (Sabine Azéma), who has dyed red hair and a pilot's license. That they're both well past middle age is either besides the point or the whole point, as their tug-of-war romance/non-romance, like the film itself, seems both youthfully foolhardy and the kind of eccentricity only two very grown and settled-in people could muster. Resnais (unlike Francis Ford Coppola, a director with a similar tendency towards follies) was not eager to be treated seriously, and never has been; he only asked that the characters themselves, or rather their emotions (Georges and Margaret are more "emotional forces" than people), be treated with respect. (2009, 104 min, 35mm) IV
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am
Grace Kelly was never lovelier, "the right girl for any man with half a brain who can get one eye open." Thus spoke Thelma Ritter to Jimmy Stewart's sardonic photographer. The three are a great trinity, equally matched and indivisible, perhaps the only such formation in any Hitchcock film. Through an alchemy yet to be duplicated, Hitchcock and writer John Michael Hayes got together and somehow fashioned the most perfect screenplay ever created. The characters' dialog as written and performed meshes seamlessly with Hitchcock's own monologue, one that brilliantly uses camera, editing table, and especially sound design. And its pacing is flawless; it's tightly conceived yet never seems to be in a hurry. No matter how many times you've seen it, this is one movie that never stops offering up new pleasures. (1954, 112 min, 35mm) RC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Chris Hefner's THE PINK HOTEL (Contemporary American)
Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) - Friday, 8pm
It is easy to compare local filmmaker Chris Hefner's ambitious movie to the work of Guy Maddin. Both reference the era of silent film stylistically and trade in supernatural themes. Hefner's work, however, stays closer to reality, making his characters at once more pedestrian and thereby more unsettling. Shot entirely on 8mm over two years, Hefner's film showcases several recognizable yesteryear Chicago locales, including the Music Box lobby, which plays the busy lobby of the movie's title character--dreadfully alive and wreaking psychological havoc on its well-heeled patrons. The complex and haunting soundtrack by Norwegian Tommy Jansen admirably compliments Hefner's eerily beautiful visuals, which are often made using outmoded production techniques. (2010, 70 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) CL
More info at www.chicagofilmmakers.org.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
Roots & Culture Gallery (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Reality-Effects: Video Data Bank 6th Annual Showcase (approx. 68 min total, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 7:30pm. Screening are DEEP WEATHER (Ursula Biemann, 2013), THE FREESTONE DRONE (George Barber, 2013), HERE IS EVERYTHING (Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby, 2013), FRONT HAND BACK HAND (Peer Bode, 1977), PARALLEL I (Harun Farocki, 2012), and C.L.U.E. (COLOR LOCATION ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE), PART 1 (robbinschild and A.L. Steiner). Free admission.
The Logan Square International Film Series presents Rough Exports: Video Essays on Cinema & Culture by Nelson Carvajal on Wednesday at 8pm, with Carvajal in person. At Comfort Station in Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.). Free admission.
The Museum of Contemporary Photography presents Video Playlist: A Space For The Thing I Am Given, curated by filmmaker Jennifer Reeder, on Monday at 6pm. Screening are HALF LIFE AND STICKS AND BIRTHSTONES (April Simmons), DUMINICA (Sinziana Nicola), MOBILE HOMES (Vladimir de Fontenay), MYSTERIO (Chema García Ibarra), BUTTER LAMP (Hu Wei), and FIRST TO ARRIVE (Kristen Stoltmann). Free admission.
The Chicago Film Seminar presents A Panel Discussion on Theorizing the Politics of Cinema (2014) on Thursday at 6:30 pm, featuring Kathleen Newman (Univ. of Iowa), Cristina Venegas (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara), Marvin D'Lugo (Clark Univ.), Jens Andermann (Univ. of Zurich), Luisela Alvaray (DePaul Univ.), and Laura Podalsky (Ohio State Univ.). Moderated by Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky (UIC). It at DePaul University Loop Campus (The Daley Building, 14 E. Jackson Blvd., Room LL 102; entrance at 247 S. State St.). Free admission. http://chicagofilmseminar.blogspot.com
FLAT Space Chicago (2023 S. Ruble St.) screens George Kuchar's 2011 video EMPIRE OF EVIL (51 min) and robbinschild and A.L. Steiner's 2007 video C.L.U.E. (COLOR LOCATION ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE), PART 1 (11 min) on Friday at 7pm. Screening in conjunction with the exhibition Perverted Living. Free admission. www.flatspacechicago.com/upcoming-exhibitions
Afterglowings presents Moms Love Me, a program of short films curated by Amir George. It's on Wednesday at 8pm at 3149 W. Lyndale, Apt. 1 (out back).
The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) screens Zheng Dasheng's 2004 Chinese film THE INSPECTOR AND THE PRINCE (110 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 7pm, with director Zheng Dasheng in person. Free admission.
Also at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) this week: Short Story Showcase - Love Facets is on Saturday at 8pm at Chicago Filmmakers, and repeats on Wednesday at 6:30pm at Columbia Collage (Hokin Hall, 623 S. Wabash Ave.).
At the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Hayao Miyazaki's 2013 animated feature THE WIND RISES (126 min, DCP Digital) begins a two-week run, showing in both the Japanese-language, English-subtitled version and the English-dubbed version (check the Siskel website for showtimes of each); Ritesh Batra's 2013 film THE LUNCHBOX (DABBA) (104 min, DCP Digital) and Roger Michell's 2013 film LE WEEK-END (93 min, DCP Digital) both play for a week; Krzysztof Kieslowski's 1987 film A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING (85 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 3pm and Monday at 6pm and his 1981 film BLIND CHANCE (122 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 4:45pm and Thursday at 6pm; and Berit Madsen's 2013 documentary SEPIDEH (90 min, DCP Digital) is on Tuesday at 6:30pm, with Faraz Sanei, Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch, and Northwestern University Professor Hamid Naficy, in person for audience discussion moderated by Narimon Safavi, a HRW Chicago Committee Member, entrepreneur and contributor WBEZ's Worldview.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Hany Abu-Assad's 2013 film OMAR (96 min, 35mm; Free Admission) screens on Friday at 4pm; Brad Bird's 2007 animated film RATATOUILLE (111 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7 and 9:30pm, Saturday at 3:30pm, and Sunday at 1pm; Asghar Farhadi's 2013 film THE PAST (130 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:45pm and Sunday at 3:30pm; and Tomas Alfredson's 2008 film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (115 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:30pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Charlie Paul's 2012 film FOR NO GOOD REASON (89 min) and John Slattery's 2014 film GOD'S POCKET (88 min) both open; Ishiro Honda's 1954 film GODZILLA (96 min, DCP Digital) continues; François Ozon's 2013 film YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL (95 min) screens on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2pm; and Tim Burton's 1989 film BATMAN (126 min, 35mm) and Jerome Sable's 2014 film STAGE FRIGHT (89 min) are the Friday and Saturday Midnight movies. Unconfirmed Format except where noted.
The Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens (Nancy Buirski's 2014 documentary AFTERNOON OF A FAUN: TANAQUIL LE CLERCQ (91 min, DCP Digital) on Friday at 7pm.
Facets Cinémathèque plays Stephen Silha, Eric Slade, and Dawn Logsdon's 2013 documentary BIG JOY: THE ADVENTURES OF JAMES BROUGHTON (83 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) for a week run, with co-director Logsdon in person at the Friday and Thursday screenings; and, in collaboration with Chicago Opera Theater, screens Ernst Lubitsch's 1942 comedy TO BE OR NOT TO BE (99 min, 35mm) screens on Sunday at Noon, followed by live excerpts from Chicago Opera Theater's ensemble and a discussion of the film.
The Logan Theatre screens Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film PULP FICTION (154 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 10:30pm; and Steven Spielberg's 1981 film RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (115 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 10:30pm.
The Chicago Cultural Center screens Yoruba Richen's 2013 documentary THE NEW BLACK (75 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm. Free admission.
The Park Ridge Classic Film Series (at the Park Ridge Public Library) screens John Ford's 1936 film THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND (96 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm. http://parkridgeclassicfilm.com
The Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Paula Markovitch's 2011 film THE PRIZE (99 min, DVD Projection) on Monday at 6pm.
The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1450) screens Robert Dordit's 2005 film APNIA (93 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm.
The Chicago Public Library (West Pullman Branch, 830 W. 119th St.) screens Nisha Pahuja's 2012 documentary THE WORLD BEFORE HER (90 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6pm; and the Back of the Yards Branch (2111 W. 47th St.) screens Natalia Almada's 2011 documentary EL VELADOR (72 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 5pm. Free admission.
Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Christian Vincent's 2013 film LES SAVEURS DU PALAIS (95 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 1:30pm, introduced by former Alliance president Randy Williams; and Bertrand Tavernier's 1981 film COUP DE TORCHON (128 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Wednesday at 6:30pm, introduced by poet Robert Polito.
City Winery Chicago (1200 W. Randolph St.) presents David Grohl's 2013 documentary SOUND CITY (108 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 8pm.
Sentieri Italiani (5430 N. Broadway Ave.) screens Riccardo Milani's 2013 film BENVENUTO PRESIDENTE! (Unconfirmed Running Time and Format) on Saturday at 4pm.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
The two-channel video installation Untitled (Structures) by Leslie Hewitt and Bradford Young opens on Saturday and runs 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 remains closed for the foreseeable future.
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.