Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
x x x x x x
> Sign up
> Editorial Statement
> Last Week > Next Week
a weekly guide to alternative cinema- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
:: Friday, MAY 23 - Thursday, MAY 29 ::


Alain Resnais' JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday and Monday, 6pm

René Ferracci's artwork for JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME perfectly approximates the hazy torment of memories best forgotten. At the center in black-and-white is lead actor Claude Rich, looking one-dimensional and sullen. Next to him there's a lucid color portrait of his former lover as she actually was, and swirling around them in an infinite loop, her face as he remembers it--bleary and fragmented. Ferracci's poster throws into relief not just JE T'AIME's recursive brilliance, but director Alain Resnais' singular approach to filmmaking. Throughout his career Resnais flouted narrative conventions, playing fast and loose with viewers' perceptions of time, memory and reality. While there will always be those that cry pretense ("Oh, come off it..." raves Pauline Kael), lovers of Resnais know that even his most highfalutin' projects were grounded in a very real sense of human vulnerability, longing, and, as in JE T'AIME, infinite loss. Claude Rich stars simply as Claude, a burnt-out bureaucrat recovering from a botched suicide attempt. His blanket indifference towards the universe in the wake of a failed relationship (ex-lover Catrine is played by Olga Georges-Picot) makes him the perfect mark for a team of researchers looking to up their game from mice to men. Even talk of time-travel and the group's egregious liberties with the scientific method leave Claude nonplussed; he quickly acquiesces and the experiment begins. Ultimately, the science fiction of JE T'AIME is as soft as the groovy, time-traveling beanbag Claude melts into during his journey, which is best. The sci-fi premise provides a basis for Resnais to explore Claude's immediate past and the events that led up to him attempting to take his own life, but never imposes itself to an extent we hold it accountable. JE T'AIME's real triumph is the editing of Claude's recurrent flashbacks, which begin maddeningly slow at first--scenes from a mundane vacation; waiting for a bus; water cooler gossip--but which eventually form an overwhelming patchwork of loss and regret. It's these moments of melancholy that most evoke Michel Gondry's 2004 ode to JE T'AIME, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. Resnais' film, ETERNAL SUNSHINE, and perhaps even Albert Brooks' DEFENDING YOUR LIFE all accomplish something similarly laudable: using the medium to provide a vantage point on one's life where the minute (and sometimes major) weaknesses of a character or a loved one slowly coalesce into a narrative that waits until the last possible moment to reveal itself, deeply moving us in the process. (1968, 91 min, 35mm) JS
More info at

Ernst Lubitsch's THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Sunday, 7pm

'The Lubitsch Touch' is a piece of publicity copy that's been lazily and loosely promoted to a critical credo--pointless shorthand that attempts to describe pleasures that resist consolidation and compression, summation or synopsis. The phrase also implies something singular and proto-auteurist about Lubitsch, a director who willed into existence an urbane, continental oasis amidst the nouveau riche yokels of Culver City and Burbank. This profile downplays the contributions of Lubitsch's collaborators and also makes the man himself notably less interesting: one of the first European émigrés successfully assimilated into Hollywood and the only studio-era director to be 'promoted' (disastrously) to the rank of production chief, Lubitsch stood within the industry as both a master to emulate and a talent to scorn. Was he a front office manager, or just another employee on the factory floor? This dynamic, this ambiguity is at the heart of THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER. If there's a richer film out there about the invisible fault lines of the working world, the subtle and precarious gradations of class and position, the shape of solidarity, and the perpetually disarming, cussed strangeness of human relationships, I've never seen it. (In fact, I would be frightened if such a film existed.) Although it's realized deftly enough to avoid any sense of claustrophobia, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER unfolds across about three and a half sets, with the show room and stock closets of Matuschek & Co. predominating. The store becomes a character unto itself--a nexus of camaraderie and terror, empathy and misunderstanding, business and romance. It's a combative but sentimental paragon of small town values, a fact that points to one of film's most obscure achievements--successfully transplanting the aw-shucks, patriarchal Republican fantasyland of Louis B. Mayer's M-G-M to points east. (As Frank Morgan informs the audience in the trailer, "Of course, my shop may be a little far away for some of you--it's in Budapest, Hungary, just around the corner from Balta Street. But I'm sure that the bargains you get here will more than make your trip worthwhile.") Apolitical on its surface, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER nevertheless plays as an elegy for a vanishing idea of Europe--not the swank salon of earlier Lubitsch pictures, but the cozy, middle-class environs of Lubitsch's youth. Talk about world events catching up with Hollywood: the film proved popular enough upon its January 1940 release for M-G-M to promote the next Stewart-Sullavan-Morgan vehicle--Frank Borzage's devastating Holocaust drama THE MORTAL STORM--as an improbably cheerful follow-up to THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER. (1940, 99 min, 35mm) KAW
More info at

Robert Altman's SHORT CUTS
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7pm

Robert Altman, the great purveyor of omnibus character dramas, reached a pinnacle of a self-styled form in 1993 with SHORT CUTS. Nominally based on nine of Raymond Carver's short stories and a poem ("Raymond Carver soup," as Altman once described it), SHORT CUTS consists of twenty-two L.A. locals who intersect in plots of Carver-esque realism. Where some of Altman's early films like NASHVILLE contained interwoven characters and narratives, these films felt less tightly controlled than SHORT CUTS. The freedom of those earlier films conjured an image of a director on his characters' level, deeply curious about them but indifferent to their choices and outcomes. (Contrast this with Paul Thomas Anderson's heavy-handed MAGNOLIA--a film greatly indebted to SHORT CUTS--where his characters are dealt one cynical blow after another.) Altman's evolution in SHORT CUTS shows more of the tinker--not necessarily superior to his characters but quietly orchestrating them to certain places on certain cues. Characters are less inclined to spontaneity and instead are freighted with a kismet (read: contrived) interconnectedness that is, more than less, natural for the world of the film. Disasters, natural and otherwise, touch everyone in the film and serve as unifying devices, providing thematic resonance to the characters' scattershot, middling lives. At three hours, SHORT CUTS is epic in scale and subject matter, showcasing Altman's brute force brilliance: it isn't always pretty, but damn if it doesn't work. (1993, 187 min, 35mm) BW
More info at


Takashi Murakami's JELLYFISH EYES (New Japanese)
Museum of Contemporary Art - Sunday, 2pm [SOLD OUT*]

Last week the MCA premiered Leslie Buchbinder's encyclopedic documentary chronicle of the Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists. This week it presents JELLYFISH EYES, the first live-action feature length film by Takashi Murakami, a Japanese artist and Renaissance man whose anime is indebted to the cartoonish aesthetic of the Imagists. If GODZILLA was an allegory of the horrors of atomic warfare, then JELLYFISH EYES might be a sugarcoated response to the fallout of the Fukashima power plant disaster. Bringing to mind recent films like Guillermo del Toro's PACIFIC RIM and Mamoru Hosoda's SUMMER WARS, the film features a group a school children who control supernatural creatures rendered in Murakami's trademark manga design. Despite its seemingly innocuous story, JELLYFISH EYES is a cautionary fable about environmental protection and the increasing avatarization of youth culture. (2013, 100 min, HD Projection) HS
More info at
*This event is SOLD OUT, though you can get on a wait list at the MCA website.

Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

So much ink has been spilled over PSYCHO that it might have been best if nothing had been written about it at all. More than any other Hitchcock film it deserves a fresh pair of eyes (perhaps the kind we'd find in a kid with hands that barely reach the ticket window and then cling to the armrest as he loses the main character less than half way in, as a lucky few recount). Even if the infamous shower scene has lost its surprise and shock value (but watch it closely anyway), there's still a great deal to enjoy: a black and white pallet fine-tuned down to Vera Miles' bra; Hitchcock's bizarre infatuation with the Oedipus Complex; Bernard Herrmann's superb score. From the outside it's a film we've become accustomed to, but in a dark theater it becomes hauntingly unfamiliar again. (1960, 109 min, 35mm) JA
More info at

Yorgos Lanthimos' DOGTOOTH (Contemporary Greek)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 9:30pm

Mention of the words "Greek" and "cinema" in the same sentence often provokes shudders from veteran filmgoers. The fact is, one is used to seeing the same touristic views of the southeastern European country in film after film; the same easygoing, slightly quirky story of an extended family (usually staring Irene Pappas) set against a Mediterranean paradise. Either that, or the latest chef d'oeuvre by Theo Angelopoulos, who is to Greece what Manoel de Oliveira has become to Portugal. The novelty of Greek cinema seems to have worn off years ago (in the not too distant past the Film Center even offered a yearly spotlight on the country), and now one can finally look beyond it to individual works. On the surface and at its core, DOGTOOTH has very little in common with some of the dominant characteristics associated with Greek cinema: it's set mostly in interiors (a single house, in fact); the characters at the center of the film are completely atypical, in fact, totally balls-out nuts by any national standards; and its style is closer to Ulrich Seidl or Harmony Korine in the way it flattens out space, often capturing its protagonists in awkward, slightly off-center compositions. DOGTOOTH is a real oddity, and as such it merits close attention. Expertly straddling dark, Buñuelian humor with psychological horror, the film centers on three kids who are held captive by their parents at a remote estate. Even when the film's central contrivance becomes perfectly coherent, the film never loses its fascination or mystery. Director Yorgos Lanthimos' approach is to shoot and edit as if each scene were a loose fragment, so that small details or clues are teased out in the elaborate narrative. A discussion piece, if there was ever one, and a film that grows with multiple viewings. (2009, 96 min, 35mm) GK
More info at

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


The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) presents Tatsu Aoki: Visions X Sounds, featuring film and digital video work by local artist and musician Tatsu Aoki, accompanied by live music by the Tatsu Aoki Unit, with renowned sound creator/composer/musician Jonathan Chen and Jamie Kempers. Screening are PUZZLE III (2003, 30 min, 16mm), GATE (2010, 30 min, Digital Projection), and a preview of Aoki's new digital work LIGHTS. It's on Friday at 7pm at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.).

FLAT Space Chicago (2023 S. Ruble St.) presents "I Understand and Wish to Continue," which features author Lucas de Lima reading from his own work and from work by Roberto Piva, Hiromi Ito, and Lara Gelnum. The event will also include a "short screening of experimental moving image works" curated by Daniel Luedtke (titles unavailable). It's on Friday at 7:30pm.

Also at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) this week: CF's Open Screening takes place on Saturday at 8pm. Bring work to screen (20 minutes maximum per person; DVD, Blu-Ray, or Digital File) or just go to watch. Free admission.

Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens Archie Mayo's 1937 film BLACK LEGION (83 min, 35mm) on Friday at 7pm; and Mike Nichols' 1967 film THE GRADUATE (106 min, 35mm) on Thursday at 7pm. Free admission for THE GRADUATE, which is presented by the NU student group A&O Films.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Jerzy Kawalerowicz's 1965 Polish film PHARAOH (151 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Sunday at 3pm and Thursday at 6pm; Andrzej Munk's 1957 Polish film EROICA (85 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Sunday at 5:45pm and Wednesday at 8pm; Anthony Chen's 2013 Singaporean film ILO ILO (99 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; Hayao Miyazaki's 2013 animated feature THE WIND RISES (126 min, DCP Digital) continues its 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); Patrice Chereau's 1994 film QUEEN MARGOT (159 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) screens on Saturday at 3 and 7:30pm, Sunday at 7:30pm, Monday at 3pm, and Wednesday at 6:30pm; and Marta Cunningham's 2013 documentary VALENTINE ROAD (89 min, DCP Digital) is on Tuesday at 6:30pm, with Cunningham in person.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Andrew Stanton's 2008 animated film WALL-E (98 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7 and 9:15pm, Saturday at 3:30pm, and Sunday at 1pm; Alain Guiradie's 2013 film STRANGER BY THE LAKE (100 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday at 3:15pm; Michael Snow's 1991 film TO LAVOISIER WHO DIED IN THE REIGN OF TERROR (52 min, 16mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; and Alain Resnais' 2012 film YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET (115 min, DCP Digital) is on Thursday at 7pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Pawel Pawlikowski's 2013 film IDA (80 min) opens; John Slattery's 2014 film GOD'S POCKET (88 min) and Ishiro Honda's 1954 film GODZILLA (96 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) both continue; François Ozon's 2013 film YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL (95 min) screens on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 3:40pm; Tommy Wiseau's 2003 film THE ROOM (99 min, 35mm) is on Friday at Midnight; Jim Sharman's 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight; and Joël Séria's 1971 French horror film DON'T DELIVER US FROM EVIL (102 min) is on Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Tom Gilroy's 2012 film THE COLD LANDS (100 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run; and the Chicago Latino Reel Film Club presents Marcos Carnevale's 2013 Argentine film HEART OF LION (108 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 7pm (6pm reception). Special admission applies.

At the Logan Theatre this week: Steven Spielberg's 1981 film RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (115 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Friday at 10:30pm, his 1993 film JURASSIC PARK (127 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Saturday and Sunday at 10:30pm, and his 1982 film E.T. - THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL (115 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Monday at 12:15pm; Adam McKay's 2004 film ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (94 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Saturday at 10:30pm; Tim Burton's 1985 film PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (90 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Sunday and Monday at 10:30pm; and Richard Mulligan's 1962 film TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (129 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Thursday at 10:30pm.

The Park Ridge Classic Film Series (at the Park Ridge Public Library) screens Richard Boleslawski's 1936 film THEODORA GOES WILD (94 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm, with Ann-Marie Streibich (Irene Dunne's granddaughter) in person.

The Whistler (2421 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents the Odd Obsession Foreign Film Series on Tuesday at 7pm. Title of film showing unavailable.

The Chicago Public Library (Woodson Regional Branch, 9525 S. Halsted St.) screens Nisha Pahuja's 2012 documentary THE WORLD BEFORE HER (90 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm. Free admission.

The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N Michigan Ave., Suite 1450) screens Pasquale Scimeca's 2010 film THE HOUSE BY THE MEDLAR TREE (94 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm.



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.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

CINE-LIST: May 23 - May 29, 2014

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Julian Antos, Christy LeMaster, Gabe Klinger, Harrison Sherrod, James Stroble, Brian Welesko, Kyle A. Westphal, Darnell Witt

> Editorial Statement -> Contact