Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, AUG. 21 - Thursday, AUG. 27 ::


Anthony Mann's BEND OF THE RIVER (American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society at Northeastern Illinois University (The Auditorium, Building E., 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) - Wednesday, 7pm

Anthony Mann's name is synonymous with a variety of genres, including noirs, Westerns, and even a few epics. But although he's not traditionally associated with psychological thrillers, there's no doubt that many of his films include elements of that heady subgenre. Outside of his noirs, which inherently embody such aspects, BEND OF THE RIVER is perhaps one of the best examples of this. Through the combination of a relatively straightforward redemption narrative and Mann's standard reverence of nature, the stage is set for a truly disconcerting scenario in which Glyn McLyntock (Jimmy Stewart) terrorizes his foil, Emerson Cole (Arthur Kennedy), in an attempt to finally destroy the part of himself he'd been trying to escape. Formerly a violent border raider, McLyntock abandoned his brutal ways to instead assist settlers in getting to Oregon. Early on, he compulsively saves Cole from hanging, a fate that he himself once faced. His gut reaction at that moment establishes McLyntock as a man haunted by the past; seeing himself in Cole, he rushes to save him. Cole joins their group, and after a quick skirmish with a band of Indians, they make it to Portland to buy supplies for the coming winter. Several months pass, and McLyntock makes his way back in search of the supplies and a woman--his love interest--who'd previously been injured. Upon finding that the town has succumbed to Gold Rush-inspired debauchery, McLyntock is confronted with the duality of good and bad both within himself and others. The discomfiting scene in question occurs after Cole, who'd stayed in Portland to woo the girl and reap the riches, turns bad and opts to sell the settlers' supplies at an inflated cost. In a surprising act of mercy, Cole spares McLyntock's life, only to later be silently stalked by the skilled frontiersman. (Stewart's performance in the film doesn't necessarily rival the one he gave in VERTIGO, but it and his other collaborations with Mann do reflect a merging of the genteel characters he's most known for with the dreadful intensity that characterizes Scottie Ferguson.) This scene also speaks to the instinctive terror of the settlers' and cowboys' surroundings. Such themes span the whole of Mann's career; as I stated in my review of MEN IN WAR, the surrounding isn't so much a character as an omnipresent being that simultaneously reflects and controls the narrative. (Tommy Lee Jones' THE HOMESMAN is reminiscent of Mann's Westerns, and he uses landscapes in a similar manner.) Going back to the confrontation with the Indians near the beginning of the film, Jeanine Basinger notes in her book on Mann that the "hero's identification with his landscape is established during this sequence...he mingles literally with earth and water, an obvious and fundamental identification of a hero with a landscape." She continues: "In the rest of the film, [Mann] will explore landscape to resolve psychological tension." Outside of his noirs, Mann applies this to environments and scenarios that are rendered daunting by sheer scope, something that makes his films both entertaining and engaging on a deeper level. (1952, 91 min, 35mm) KS
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Scopitone Party! (Music Shorts Revival)
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Wednesday, 8pm (Free Admission)

The definition and contours of obscenity enjoyed extensive litigation in American courts until the 1960s, reaching an anticlimactic apotheosis with Potter Stewart's infamous declaration that "I know it when I see it." Had Justice Stewart sought to single out work unambiguously conceived in the prurient interest, his clerks could well have hauled a Scopitone machine into the Supreme Court. When Scopitones are discussed today, they're often written off as feeble forerunners to music videos, but that's the least interesting way to engage these hoary, horny mystery-objects; projected on 16mm from within a hulking jukebox for a quarter a throw, the Scopitone delivered guileless, tone-deaf visions of sex and sensuality (and secondarily, pop music) to lonely men in nightclubs, train stations, bus terminals, and motel lobbies from Lodi to Wooster. (Appropriately, Scopitone, Inc. was financed with mob money and operated as a subsidiary of neon sign manufacturer Tel-A-Sign. Talk about vertical integration!) The Scopitone films are a swindler's emblem of Stag America, the beleaguered patriarch's prize that goes down like cheap vermouth at the bleary conclusion of an insurance claim adjusters' annual convention in Dubuque. In France, Scopitone films featured A-list musicians like Francoise Hardy; over here, the Scopitone roster consisted mostly of easy listening crooners, mid-list has-beens, and naive newcomers. In the really sad Scopitones, like Brook Benton's "Mother Nature, Father Time," the ostensible star knows he's only an also-ran to a cheap T & A showcase, pretending to smile while warbling his song and looking off somewhere in the distance like a terminal patient. In other cases, the disjunction between singer and stripper serves as a powerful lesson in the grammar of cinema. The editing is never invisible in a Scopitone--one minute we're watching Jody Miller singing about the straight-laced pleasures of being a housewife in "Queen of the House," the next minute some dancers are grinding across her newly-waxed kitchen floor in some very unmatronly bikinis. Were Miller and the dancers ever in the same room at the same time? Does one even know the other exists? Their relationship is established by the same deep principle of presumptive continuity demonstrated in the Kuleshov experiment. "Queen of the House" is a special Scopitone--one of the few where the subject of the song is explicitly at odds with the expressive ideas hatched by the burlesque hounds at Scopitone, Inc. In most Scopitone films, though, the sex is entirely gratuitous and totally incongruous. (In one instance, Back Porch Majority's "The Mighty Mississippi," the band actually sued Scopitone, Inc., for tarnishing their wholesome image with an unauthorized insertion of bouncing riverside cleavage.) The missing link between the buxom creations of Frank Tashlin and the hyperactive pop encyclopedias of Jean-Luc Godard, Scopitones demand more scholarly and archival attention. (Preserving the Scopitone library would merit a lifetime supply of Brylcreem and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.) Don't bother watching them on YouTube; you can only appreciate the full Scopitone experience in original 16mm prints, with scorching IB Technicolor and lifelike magnetic sound. With live music by the Windy City Soul Club before and after the screening. (1964-69, approx 90 min, 16mm) KAW
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J. P. Sniadecki's THE IRON MINISTRY (New Documentary)
Facets Cinémathèque - Check Venue website for showtimes

As with many projects associated with Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab (Sniadecki is an alumnus of the program) THE IRON MINISTRY can be easily summarized: it's three years of footage the director recorded aboard trains in China, edited into a rough approximation of a single trip. Similarly, the work that emerges from this decidedly simple conceptual premise is extraordinarily complex (it's telling that both LEVIATHAN and SNOWPIERCER can be aptly name-checked in writing on the film.) One can add Chris Marker to the points of comparison; though Sniadecki has spent years in China, his cinematic approach feels like that of an ideal tourist, expressing a genuine sense of curiosity towards his surroundings, both visual and humanistic. You can't help but be aware of the camera operator's presence as he travels through train cars, maneuvering around sleeping, smoking passengers packed into every corner, catching eye contact at the edges of the frame as people notice the American holding a camera, for example, above a snack cart steward making his rounds. Beyond these tactile sensations, Sniadecki's occasional direct interaction with riders is a reminder of the simple (but often abstracted in critical discourse on documentary) truth that, as they say, the artist is present. These conversations touch on aspects of Chinese society from a ground level in a way more organic and revealing than a hectoring exposé, capturing candid discussions on the status of Muslims, Tibet in relation to the country as a whole, factory labor and rising prices, and the prospects of representative government. In the course of 82 minutes the film covers vast literal, sociological, and aesthetic ground. Perhaps the best example of how much is going on in a single moment of THE IRON MINISTRY comes at the end of an employee's discussion of the trains' previously poor service reputation. A brief exchange ("Does your thing record sound?" "Yes") calls attention to both the gray area status of filmmaking in contemporary China and the dense sound design that Sniadecki and Ernst Karel engineered in post from a prosumer camera. You get more out of this film every time you watch it. (2014, 82 min, DCP Digital) AK
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Lewis Gilbert's CAST A DARK SHADOW (British Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 3pm and Wednesday, 6:15pm

Upon overhearing that his elderly wife, Monica (Mona Washbourne), will be leaving her entire fortune to him in her will, the slick Edward "Teddy" Bare (Dirk Bogarde) murders her and makes it look like an accident. Unbeknownst to him, the will has not been updated, and he only receives her house while the remaining fortune goes to her sister, Dora. In order to pay for his lavish lifestyle, Teddy must resort to his cunning, old ways and find a new wealthy wife to support him. Lewis Gilbert's film has a bluntly dark and conniving tone. More thriller than noir, there's an unnerving quality in Bogarde's performance. His Oedipal tendencies are truly apparent right from the start--referring to both of his wives as "mother" and displaying a constant need to be comforted. Teddy's character may well have influenced Anthony Perkins in PSYCHO some five years later, as both characters share similar murderous intents and overly-attached relationships to maternal figures. Worth mentioning is Margaret Lockwood as Teddy's second wife, Freda, whose cold, calculated demeanor counters all of Teddy's cunning ruses to obtain her wealth. CAST A DARK SHADOW more than lives up to its title. (1955, 85 min, DCP Digital) KC
Terence Young's CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS (British Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 4:45pm and Monday, 6pm

In a telling exchange from CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS, a nostalgic artist (Eric Portman) promotes the merits of living in the past, expounding that, "We don't know whether the future will be good or bad, but we gamble on it. Well, I've given up gambling. I prefer the certainty." Set just before the war, this adaptation of Christopher Massie's novel (previously reworked by Ayn Rand as the Jennifer Jones vehicle LOVE LETTERS) suggests the precariousness of sentimentality in a time when the world was undergoing vast, irrevocable changes. In the film, Paul Mangin's (Portman) fixation on the past leads him to begin dressing a lounge singer (Edana Romney) to more closely resemble one of the paintings in his well-preserved Venetian mansion. The makeover fetish narrative has led many critics to cite the film as a potential inspiration for VERTIGO, but perhaps the better Hitchcock comparison is REBECCA (there's even a Mrs. Danvers stand-in with a creepy housekeeper played by Barbara Mullen). Future Bond director Terence Young never made another film quite like this one, which plays like a British response to the Poetic Realists (a comparison further encouraged by LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE composer Georges Auric's score) by way of Daphne du Maurier. At the time of its release, the New York Times scoffed at CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS, describing it as, "melodramatic" and "preposterous". It is just that, and gloriously so! (1948, 96 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) EF
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Orson Welles' F FOR FAKE (Documentary Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

One of the greatest accomplishments of Orson Welles' later period, the documentary/essay film/metafiction F FOR FAKE exists in a category all its own. The organizing subject is forgery, as it plays out in the worlds of art and culture. The figures studied by the film include the famous art forger Elmyr de Hory; Clifford Irving, a journalist infamous for falsifying his stories; and, in some eloquent moments of autobiography, Welles himself. The breathtaking editing design, which builds poetic rhymes and ironies out of the various components, feels at least two decades ahead of its time; the implications created by the juxtapositions (often made between reality and illusion) are consistently profound. As Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote for the Criterion Collection release, "As Finnegans Wake was for Joyce, F FOR FAKE was for Welles a playful repository of public history intertwined with private in-jokes as well as duplicitous meanings, an elaborate blend of sense and nonsense that carries us along regardless of what's actually being said. For someone whose public and private identities became so separate that they wound up operating routinely in separate households and sometimes on separate continents, exposure and concealment sometimes figured as reverse sides of the same coin, and Welles's desire to hide inside his own text here becomes a special kind of narcissism." (1975, 87 min, 35mm) BS
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Christian Petzold's PHOENIX (New German)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes

Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO is masterful but decidedly farfetched, whereas Christian Petzold's PHOENIX is farfetched but still realistic, a contradiction that aptly defines this brilliant allegory of postwar guilt and reclamation. (Petzold openly acknowledges the film's relationship to the Hitchcock classic in many interviews.) It's about a Jewish woman--Nelly, played by Petzold's longtime muse, Nina Hoss--who undergoes facial reconstruction surgery after she's liberated from a concentration camp, presumably having been shot in the face by a Nazi. She learns that all of her family and most of her friends are dead, and that her husband may have been the one who betrayed her to the Schutzstaffel. She looks for him anyway, only to find that he's working in a club called the Phoenix, a blood-red-lit American joint that gives the film its name. (The mythical bird that rises from its ashes is also owed some credit.) Though the surgery significantly altered her appearance, he notices her "resemblance" to his thought-to-be-deceased wife and recruits her to help him acquire her inheritance. Co-written with the late Harun Farocki, "it's a metaphorical movie and it's also not a metaphorical movie," to put it in his words, with the man's guilt (or lack thereof) representing that of a nation and Nelly's regeneration representing that of its oppressed people. On paper it seems absurd, similarly to many of the American genre films that inspired both Petzold and Farocki, but on screen, it's executed with surprising verisimilitude. (2014, 98 min, DCP Digital) KS
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The Art Institute of Chicago screens Frances Stark's 2011 experimental animated film MY BEST THING (104 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 6pm in the Price Auditorium. Presented in conjunction with the AIC's exhibition "Frances Stark: Intimism," which is currently on view. Free with museum admission.

The Nightingale and Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) screen Armin Linke's 2011 film ALPI (60 min, Blu-Ray Projection) on Monday at 7pm, as part of the monthly Run of Life Experimental Documentary series. Preceded by Jesse McLean's 2009 experimental short Climbing (6 min, Video Projection).

Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) and the Chicago South Asian Film Festival present the Chicago Student Filmmaker Short Film Competition, a program of short student films submitted to the festival, on Friday at 8pm.

Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) presents Hauntologies: Present/Past Continuum: A Screening of Short Films on Sunday at 4pm. Screening are SUGARCOATED ARSENIC (Claudrena Harold and Kevin Jerome Everson, 2014, 20 min), AN ECSTATIC EXPERIENCE (Ja'Tovia Gary, 2015, 6 min), SWIMMING IN YOUR SKIN AGAIN (Terence Nance, 2015, 15 min), and CROW REQUIEM (Cauleen Smith, 2015, 10 min), with Everson, Gary, Nance, and Smith scheduled to be in person, and participated in a post-screening discussion with program curators Erin Christovale and Jacqueline Stewart. Free admission, but limited seating; RSVP at

At FitzGerald's (6615 W. Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn) on Friday at 8pm, filmmaker and cartoonist Heather McAdams will be screening a selection of vintage 16mm shorts featuring various piano and organ players as part of Kings of the Keyboard with Chris Foreman, Paul Lewis, Daniel Souvigny, Choctaw Wildfire, The Letter 3, an evening that includes live music by the listed performers.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's 2015 film TEN THOUSAND SAINTS (113 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; Maria Finitzo's 2015 documentary IN THE GAME (79 min, DCP Digital) has five screenings (check website for showtimes and for director, participant, and guest in person appearances); Jim Strouse's 2015 film PEOPLE PLACES THINGS (85 min, DCP Digital) concludes a two-week run; and the Black Harvest Film Festival continues, with the feature films TAKIN' PLACE (Friday screening sold out) and 70 ACRES IN CHICAGO: CABRINI GREEN (all screenings sold out), the shorts programs "Women of Color" and "Love African American Style," and the panel discussion "Action!" Check the Siskel website for complete details.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Fatih Akin's 2007 German film THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (116 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7 and 9:30pm; Joshua Logan's 1955 film PICNIC (115 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:30pm; Edward Sutherland's 1932 film MR. ROBINSON CRUSOE (76 min, 16mm) is on Wednesday at 7pm; and Sergei Eisenstein's 1938 film ALEXANDER NEVSKY (112 min, 16mm) is on Thursday at 7pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Joe Swanberg's 2015 film DIGGING FOR FIRE (85 min) opens, with Swanberg and actor Jake Johnson in person at the 7 and 9:30pm Saturday screenings; Paul Michael Glaser's 1987 film THE RUNNING MAN (101 min, 35mm) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; Scott Derrickson's 2012 film SINISTER (110 min; Free Admission) is on Sunday at 9:30pm; and Sean Baker's 2015 film TANGERINE (88 min) is on Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Also at Facets Cinémathèque this week: Belinda Sallin's 2014 Swiss documentary DARK STAR: H.R. GIGER'S WORLD (95 min, Unconfirmed Format) screens on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only (check website for showtimes); Dom Pedro's 2013 French documentary TANGO NEGRO, THE AFRICAN ROOTS OF TANGO (93 min, Unconfirmed Format) is on Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm; and the Chicago Latino Reel Film Club screens Carlos Bolado's 2014 Bolivian film FORGOTTEN (OLVIDADOS) (112 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 7pm (reception at 6pm). Special admission applies.

The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Joshua Logan's 1955 film PICNIC (115 min, DCP Digital) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free Admission.

The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of Ian Gabriel's 2013 South African film FOUR CORNERS (114 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.

Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Brad Rickert and Kyle Delnegro's 2015 comedy pilot HI BUDS (30 min, Digital Projection) on Sunday at 8pm. Free admission.



The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Im Reich der Sonnenfinsternis (In the empire of the solar eclipse), an installation by Belgian artists Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, which is comprised of paintings, sculpture, photography, drawings and a 25 minute video entitled DAS LOCH (THE HOLE). On view through January 17.

The Zhou B Art Center (1029 W 35th St.) presents the exhibition -scape, curated by Mo Chen and Snow Yunxue Fu, through August 28. The mixed-media show includes several moving image works. The exhibiting artists are Jon Cates, Mo Chen, Snow Yunxue Fu, Philip Hanson, Max Hattler, Alan Kwan, and Philip Vanderhyden.

The exhibition Frances Stark: Intimism is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through August 30. The show is a comprehensive survey of Stark's video and digital production.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents an exhibition of nine video works by artist Keren Cytter. On view through October 4.



Chicago Public Library screenings: Due to the frequency of late-additions (past our deadlines) and to their frequent inability (due to licensing restrictions) of publicly listing the titles of films they are screening, we will no longer be listing specific CPL screenings. Check their website for any films that may be showing.

The Patio Theater and the Portage Theater calendars have been confusing and constantly shifting--adding and removing events with little notice--and reportedly have been unexpectedly closed for scheduled events. We will no longer attempt to list any screenings there.

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CINE-LIST: August 21 - August 27, 2015

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Kyle Cubr, Eric Fuerst, Alex Kopecky, Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal, Darnell Witt

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