Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, OCT. 31 - Thursday, NOV. 6 ::


Abel Gance's J'ACCUSE (Silent French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 4:30pm and Monday, 6:30pm

Indicative of his complexity, French director Abel Gance has been likened to both the writer Victor Hugo and the director Samuel Fuller (the former by many critics, the latter more specifically by Jean-Luc Godard and Jonathan Rosenbaum). Gance certainly encouraged the comparisons to Hugo, using one of the great writer's quotes at the beginning of LA ROUE (1923) and later directing a TV adaptation of Hugo's play Marie Tudor, while the comparisons of Fuller to Gance are somewhat confusing in light of the former's equivocal attachment to his fighting days. But this quote from Fuller certainly applies to Gance's silent antiwar melodrama that considers war as a waste of life: "When you're in the battlefield, survival is all there is," he said. "Death is the only great emotion." Set in a small Provençal village in the south of France at the onset of World War I, J'ACCUSE examines the effects of war on a woman, Édith, and the men who love her; one is her husband, François, whose affection is overshadowed by his violent tendencies, and the other is Jean Diaz, a sensitive poet and the true object of Édith's affection. The two men bond on the frontline and commiserate over Édith's abduction; it's revealed that she'd been captured and raped by German soldiers, the result of which is a half-German child, Angèle, whose existence leads François and Jean Diaz back to the trenches in order to avenge Édith's dishonor. Despite being hailed as the first great pacifist film to come out of World War I (Gance, who'd been dismissed from active duty due to ill health, had started filming before the war ended), it's surprisingly complex in its examination of everyday violence. François abuses his wife, but is revealed to be a misunderstood soul with genuine feelings towards her and Jean Diaz, and the male protagonists' reactions to Édith's rape reflect not-so-straightforward feelings about sexual violence that are sadly more commonplace than outright disgust over such gratuitous actions. Even its recognition of the waste of war is as much an indictment of civilians as it is of the political machine that fosters it. In the famous "rise of the dead" scene, a group of almost 2,000 extras portrayed the ghosts of dead soldiers going home to see if their sacrifice was worth it; according to Gance, eighty percent of these real-life soldiers died in the following weeks and months. As he told film historian Kevin Brownlow in an interview after a 1965 retrospective of his work, the film "was intended to show that if war did not serve some purpose, then it was a terrible waste. If it had to be waged, then a man's death must achieve something. If a husband returned to find his wife had gone off with another man, or that his son had squandered the family savings, it would be terrible for him to have to die for this." The film is also notable for its rapid editing techniques that Gance would later expand upon in LA ROUE. Altogether, it's an early French silent that's superseded its timeliness and emerged as one of the greatest films from that period.  (1919, 166 min, DCP Digital Projection; New Restoration) KS
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Albert Brooks' MODERN ROMANCE (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 5:15pm and Tuesday, 6pm

The story goes that not long after Albert Brooks released MODERN ROMANCE, he got a phone call from Stanley Kubrick, who said, "That's the picture I've been trying to make for the last twenty years. How the hell did you do it?" They had a long conversation, then said goodbye and promised to keep in touch. The two would call each other fairly often, to see what was new, and sometimes they wrote letters back and forth as well. Whenever one of them made a film, the other would call up and offer his congratulations. That kind of thing. Years went by. One summer, Albert Brooks found himself in London on some business or something, not terribly far from where Kubrick lived in the English countryside. So he gave Kubrick a call, told him he was in London and asked if he might like to meet for lunch. There was a silence on Kubrick's end of the phone. Then he told Brooks he was sorry, but he was busy and wouldn't be able to see him. They said goodbye to each other before hanging up and Kubrick never talked to Brooks again. Jonathan Rosenbaum lectures at the Tuesday screening (1981, 93 min, Archival 35mm Print) RC
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Stephen Cone's THE MYSTERY OF LIFE (New American)
Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) - Saturday, 8pm and Sunday, 6pm; Columbia College Chicago (Hokin Hall, 623 S. Wabash, Room 109) - Wednesday, 6:30pm

Asked about Chicago's filmmaking scene in the Tribune a month or so ago, director Stephen Cone commented that "almost none of the filmmakers working here realize the caliber of actor they could have access to." Almost as a proof of concept, his funny and quasi-metaphysical MYSTERY OF LIFE doesn't just showcase nearly twenty or so of said local talented actors (too many to list here), but also draws its inspiration directly from the downtown casting sessions that other directors can't be bothered to book. All of the voyeurism, vulnerability, repetition, unintentional comedy, and needle-burying levels of awkwardness inherent in the casting process, however, need not be overtly telegraphed; and Cone portrays this world in an extreme, hermetic, deadpan, and increasingly experimental minimalism that in many ways could not be further from his narrative features--it's more like a jigsaw puzzle about the dramatic arts in the form of a movie. And oh, the wallpaper; you will never forget the wallpaper; some indoors James Benning wishes they could film this wallpaper. Stephen Cone in person at the Saturday screening. (2014, 56 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) MC
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The X-Ray of Civilization: Films by Tom Rubnitz, David Wojnarowicz, and Tommy Turner (Experimental Revival)
Conversations at the Edge at the Gene Siskel Film Center - Thursday, 6pm

The activist art created during the early days of the AIDS crisis is once again in the popular imagination. The last five years have seen major documentaries, popular museum retrospectives, and dozens of articles all celebrating the coordinated and creative response of the NYC art scene to the repressive cultural and political environments that allowed the disease to remain out of focus for so long. Working concurrently in the same community were artists whose work was more art and less direct action. The rarely screened works in this program represent radical, and dark missives from the worst years of the crisis. All three artists, Tommy Turner of the Cinema of Transgression movement, Tom Rubinitz, and David Wojnarowicz, made work that took aim at dominant American ideologies as well as the disease. The screening will be introduced by Marvin J. Taylor, Director of Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University and founder of the Downtown collection. (1985-92, approx. 85 min total, Multiple Formats) CL
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Roberto Rossellini's ROME OPEN CITY (Italian Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes

No film defines the post-WWII Italian Neorealist movement better than Roberto Rossellini's ROME OPEN CITY, a work of great humanism, political conviction, and stylistic invention. Rossellini shot this story about Nazi-occupied Rome entirely on location just two months after the European theater of WWII declared its ceasefire. The drama is constructed from the rhythms, places, and literal debris of reality, and it's difficult to imagine any independent fiction filmmaker who isn't in some way touched its example. (Dave Kehr once wrote that Rossellini invented modern cinema, which would make OPEN CITY the first modern film.) While viewers often remember the film for its newsreel-inspired look, OPEN CITY is also colored by high melodrama. One subplot concerning a partisan priest refusing to talk under Nazi interrogation could have been written by Ernest Hemingway, but under Rossellini's direction one never questions its authenticity. (1945, 100 min, DCP Digital Projection; New Restoration) BS
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Robert Wiene's THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (Silent German Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Friday, 7pm

[Showing in a new 4K digital restoration that is considered definitive] This classic film begins with a young man named Francis (Friedrich Feher) telling the story of the eerie Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) to his friend. One day, Caligari (similar to Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse) arrives in the small town of Holstenwall to present his somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt), who sleeps in a coffin-like cabinet, at their fair. When the fair ends, the first in a series of mysterious crimes occurs with the murder of the town clerk, and Francis determines to find the culprit. Not only is THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI the first feature horror film, but also it is the earliest key example in cinema of German Expressionism, deeply influential in the development of film noir. Designed by the exceptionally talented Hermann Warm, Walter Reimann, and Walter Rohrig, the film's studio sets, comprised of painted canvas backdrops, distort one's sense of space to heighten the fear and anxiety experienced by both the characters and audience. Wiene favors the iris shot in capturing the actors and their exaggerated actions, but he uses rectangles and diamonds in addition to circles, mirroring the fundamental shapes seen in the fantastical sets and costumes; these same shapes or combinations thereof appear in the images that the intertitles are set against. Also, the sets inform the stylization of acting, particularly by Krauss and Veidt who previously worked in Expressionist theater. In The Haunted Screen, film critic and historian Lotte Eisner perfectly described the greatness of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and the first films of Richard Oswald, "These works blithely married a morbid Freudianism and an Expressionistic exaltation to the romantic fantasies of Hoffmann and Eichendorff, and to the tortured soul of contemporary Germany seemed, with their overtones of death, horror and nightmare, the reflection of its own grimacing image, offering a kind of release." Live musical accompaniment by David Drazin. (1920, 75 min, DCP Digital Projection) CW
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DeWitt Beall's LORD THING (Documentary Revival)
Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) - Sunday, 4pm (Free Admission)

For most of its history, Chicago has been a hotbed of gang culture in America. Although the street gangs of Los Angeles get more attention from the national media and Hollywood screenwriters, the Chicago gangs that formed in the late 1950s and expanded throughout the Civil Rights era really created the model for what we know today. The beginnings of the Vice Lords, one of the oldest and largest street gangs to emerge from this era, is the subject of DeWitt Beall's LORD THING (1970), which chronicles the Vice Lord's growth into a large coalition of gangs with over 20,000 members, and its emergence as both a community and business force. During the late 60s and early 70s, the leaders of the gang, now sometimes know as the Conservative Vice Lords (or even CVL, Inc.), began thinking well beyond their immediate surroundings and utilized their collective confidence in completely new ways. Beall gives us a fair amount of back-story, presented through re-enactments of historical fights with rival gangs, played by a cast of actual CVL members. He also documents numerous meetings of gang leaders that look and feel like town-hall meetings, and show both their increasing size and expanding concerns. Political actions such as protests carried out at construction sites, and a march on city hall--conducted as a joint action with other large Chicago gangs--illustrate how the CVL chose to use their power to influence the economic and social conditions in their turf and beyond. At times, Beall's film feels rather propagandistic--pro VL--but this may only be due to the desire that leaders like Bobby Gore have for using the VL's power to effect social and economic change. Perhaps this sympathetic depiction is the reason the film was never shown in the US, despite screening at Cannes and winning an award at the Venice Film Festival. After funding the film, the Xerox Corporation decided not to release it. Allegedly, they bowed to pressure from Richard J. Daley and the Chicago Democratic Machine, both of whom are roundly criticized in the film's final moments. Followed by a discussion with Benneth Lee, Founder and Director of the National Alliance For The Empowerment of The Formerly Incarcerated, and Rebecca Zorach, University of Chicago Professor of Art History and Romance Languages and Literatures. (1970, 58 min, DVD Projection) JH
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Jim Henson's LABYRINTH (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 9pm

Jim Henson's phantasmagoric fairy-tale bricolage LABYRINTH is a heady hodgepodge of literary ingredients, stretching from centuries-old English 'changeling' folk tales to the canonical "Snow White" to contemporary reimaginings like Maurice Sendak's "Outside Over There" (1981) (many of which are self-referentially embedded in the USUAL SUSPECTS-worthy mise-en-scène of protagonist Sarah's bedroom), which undergo tonal battle with Terry Jones-scripted Muppets as spectators free-fall into a fragmented pubescent unconscious familiarly raised on Henson's earlier creations. This tension between a Monty Python aesthetic nihilism and a mythic tradition highly amenable to psychoanalysis is decisively tilted in the direction of the latter by the presence of David Bowie as the Goblin King, whose androgynous object-of-desire/villain provides a coherent Oedipal entanglement for the contemporary children of divorcees. (1986, 101 min, 35mm) MC
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The Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema continues through November 9 at AMC Northbrook Court (in Northbrook), with additional screenings at the Music Box (see below) on November 6. Full schedule and more info at

The Chicago International Children's Film Festival continues at Facets and other locations through November 2. Complete details at

Experimental filmmaker Peter Hutton will be in person at two screenings of his work this week. The first, at Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria, UIC) on Monday at 6pm, includes his 16mm films LODZ SYMPHONY (1993), STUDY OF A RIVER (1997), and SKAGAFJORDUR (2002-04). The second, presented by the SAIC student screening series Eye & Ear Clinic (112 S. Michigan Ave., Room 1307, SAIC), is on Tuesday at 6pm. Titles screening not available. Free admission for both screenings.

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) hosts a screening presented by Beguiled Cinema, 3 by Lukasz Konopa, on Saturday at 7pm. Included are three documentaries by the Polish-born, London-based filmmaker: AFTER (2012, 7 min), BROTHER (2013, 42 min), and VEGAS (2013, 24 min). Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format.

Also at Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria, UIC) this week: the next program in the Art 21 Access '14 Film Series: Episode 3: Legacy, which features the artists Wolfgang Laib, Tania Bruguera, Abraham Cruzvillegas, is on Wednesday at 6pm. Free admission.

Local filmmaker Jake Myers' 2014 film WHITE COP (Unconfirmed Running Time, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) screens at the Logan Theatre on Thursday at 7pm. More info at

Hairpin Arts Center (2810 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd Floor) hosts Interstellar Outer-Body, a program of short films by Jason Ogawa, Floyd Webb, and Nelson Carvajal. Presented by Cinema Culture, and introduced by Amir George.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Michael Winterbottom's 2013 film THE TRIP TO ITALY (106 min, DCP Digital Projection) plays for a week; Michael M. Bilandic's 2013 film HELLAWARE (73 min, DCP Digital Projection) screens on Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 5:15pm, and Thursday at 8:15pm, with Bilandic in person at the Friday and Saturday shows; Ernst Lubitsch's 1932 film BROKEN LULLABY (76 min, 35mm) screens on Saturday at 3pm and Wednesday at 6pm; and Marie-Monique Robin's 2008 French documentary THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MONSANTO (109 min, DigiBeta Video) is on Sunday at 5pm.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Rob Reiner's 1990 film MISERY (107 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday at 1pm; Pawe? Pawlikowski's 2013 film IDA (80 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 7 and 8:45pm and Sunday at 3:15pm; Joseph Seiden's 1939 Yiddish film KOL NIDRE (85 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format; Free Admission) is on Sunday at 7pm; Ingmar Bergman's 1982 film FANNY AND ALEXANDER (188 min, 35mm) is on Monday at 7pm; John Huston's 1963 film THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER (98 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Akira Kurosawa's 1958 film THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (139 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7 and 9:45pm; and Errol Morris' 1999 documentary MR. DEATH: THE RISE AND FALL OF FRED A. LEUCHTER, JR. (91 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 7pm.

Music Box Theatre this week: Neil Berkeley's 2014 documentary HARMONTOWN (101 min; subject Dan Harmon in person at the 2:30 and 7:30pm Saturday screenings, plus a live recording of a podcast at the 7:30 show) and Alain Resnais' 1959 film HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (90 min, DCP Digital Projection; New Restoration) both open; Alex Ross Perry's 2014 film LISTEN UP PHILIP (108 min) continues; Michael Radford's 2014 film ELSA AND FRED (94 min) is on Tuesday at 7:30pm, in the New York Film Critics series; Jim Sharman's 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) and John Carpenter's 1978 film HALLOWEEN (91 min) are on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Eytan Fox's 2013 film CUPCAKES (92 min; Thursday, 7pm) and Talya Lavie's 2014 film ZERO MOTIVATION (100 min; Thursday, 9:30pm) both screen as part of the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Ross Kauffman and Katy Chevigny's 2013 documentary E-TEAM (88 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run. Co-director Chevigny in person at both the 7 and 9pm screenings on Monday.

Retrospective titles at the Logan Theatre this week: John Carpenter's 1978 film HALLOWEEN (91 min) is on Friday at 8 and 10:30pm; EVIL DEAD (unclear which version) is on Friday at 11pm; Paul W.S. Anderson's 1995 film MORTAL KOMBAT (101 min) is on Saturday and Monday at 10:30pm; and James Yukich's 1994 film DOUBLE DRAGON (96 min) is on Thursday at 10:40pm. Video Projection - Unconfirmed Formats for all titles.

Black World Cinema presents Dennis Leroy Kangalee's 2002 film AS AN ACT OF PROTEST (144 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm at the Studio Movie Grill Chatham Theater (210 W. 87th St.).

The Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station in Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Ryan Oliver's 2014 film RESTORATION (46 min, DVD Projection) and his 2012 film AIR CONDITIONS (34 min) on Saturday at 8pm. Ryan and select cast members in person. Free admission, but RSVP at And on Wednesday at 8pm, Julianna Brannum's 2014 documentary LADONNA HARRIS: INDIAN 101 (63 min, DVD Projection) and a selection of short films screens as part of the First Nations Film and Video Festival. Free Admission.

The Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Julio Ludueña's 2013 film CRONOPIOS AND FAMAS (86 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Monday at 6pm. Free admission.

The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave.) screens Ermanno Olmi's 2014 film GREENERY WILL BLOOM AGAIN (80 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm.



Chicago Artists Coalition (217 N. Carpenter St.) presents HATCH Projects: No-Fi, a group exhibition featuring Lori Felker, Jesse Seay, and Sebura&Gartelmann. Curated by Erin Toale. The show includes video work by Felker. Opening Reception on Friday from 6-9pm. The show runs through November 13.

The Art Institute of Chicago presents Lucy McKenzie and Richard Kern's 2014 single channel video The Girl Who Followed Marple (10 min loop) beginning Thursday and running through January 18.

I Am Logan Square (2644 ½ N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents a show of horror movie posters from the collection of the Logan Theater through November 14.



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

The Northwest Chicago Film Society is again on hiatus for their weekly series, with the closing of the Patio Theater. They plan to do occasional screenings as opportunities arise.

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CINE-LIST: October 31 - November 6, 2014

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Michael Castelle, Rob Christopher, Jason Halprin, Christy LeMaster, Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Candace Wirt, Darnell Witt

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