Nothing Is Too Small for a Revolution: Anarchist Films by Nick Macdonald (American Experimental Revival)
South Side Projections at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) – Friday, 7:30pm (Free Admission)
The short films in this program are at once dogmatic and playful, illustrating an intellectual anarchist perspective on then-contemporary events with cheeky humor and visual flair. Nick Macdonald employs visual puns, rat-a-tat editing, sardonic narration, and shifting onscreen text to convey a spirit of curiosity about the world and how to better it. The director’s use of cinema as an interrogatory tool in general and his use of onscreen text in particular recall Jean-Luc Godard, although Macdonald explicitly rejects Godard as a role model in his 1970 short BREAK OUT! (showing first in the program), a mini-manifesto about how to challenge the workings of capitalist/militarist society through everyday activity. BREAK OUT! doesn’t paint Godard as an enemy so much as one more unnecessary figurehead in a culture built around submission to authority; Macdonald’s subsequent NO MORE LEADERSHIT (1971) takes this idea even further, calling on viewers to reject all leaders regardless of their political orientation. The homemade quality of Macdonald’s work speaks to his faith in a leaderless culture, suggesting that anyone can—and should—make movies instead of relying on the entertainment-industrial complex for information and visual storytelling. Macdonald’s optimism can also be found in THE LIBERAL WAR (1972), a mostly sobering history of America’s military intervention in Vietnam. The narrator speaks to us from the distant future, when civilization has evolved to become a power-free anarchist utopia; this device serves to remind viewers that we oughtn’t forget the goodness of which people are capable even when we consider the worst of humanity. The final shorts on the program, OUR COMMON SENSES and ACTS OF REVOLUTION (both 1976), find Macdonald responding to women’s liberation and reflecting on how men can aid in the movement. These are probably the most optimistic of the works on display here, as they forcefully argue that men and women can effect societal change by altering the way they interact with one another. Macdonald in person, in conversation with local critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. (1970-76, approx 76 min total, 16mm) BS
More info at http://southsideprojections.org.
Movement Material: Camera/Dance Works by Jeremy Moss & Pamela Vail (New Experimental)
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Wednesday, 7pm
A collaboration between filmmaker Jeremy Moss and dancer Pamela Vail, this exciting 60-minute program of non-narrative, abstract films upholds the fine tradition in experimental cinema of exploring the role of the camera. In approaching Vail's moving body, Moss uses the camera (and montage) to play with time, space and motion, much as his avowed influence, and inventor of "chore-cinema," Maya Deren did in works like A STUDY IN CHOREOGRAPHY FOR THE CAMERA. If film's strength is its ability to transcend the limitations of performance on the stage, which must take place in real time and space, and its weakness the lack of the physical presence of the dancer, then this program gives us the best of both worlds: Vail will be performing live. (Moss will be there, too.) THE SIGHT (2012) vibrates and speeds over shifting lines, forms and colors, a decomposing Abstract Expressionist painting in flux. We catch fleeting glimpses of "the real world"—forest meadows—amidst eerie, distorted choral music. The dazzling, kinetic CHROMA (2012), silent, is a strobing full-color light show, using flickering cutting to manically manipulate the structure and tempo of Vail's dancing. Chromium (2012) is Vail's six-minute live performance. CENTRE (2013) shows Vail dancing in a warehouse, as Moss' camera repeats and cuts across her movements from differing angles and distances. In THAT DIZZYING CREST (2014), Vail dances through shadows to Chopin preludes. Her body becomes a figure in a nocturnal zoetrope of the soul. Tinting and weathering his 16mm images, Moss plays with grain, negatives, and contrast. DUET TESTS (2016) is made up of ten short films born of a five-day improvisation between the artists. In this program's best moments, the ancient art (dance) and the modern one (film) electrify each other, creating a kind of visual music. (2012-16, 60 min total, 16mm and Digital Projection) SP
More info at http://nightingalecinema.org.
Bill Forsyth’s COMFORT AND JOY (Scottish Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E., 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) – Tuesday, 7:30pm
Bill Forsyth makes feel-good movies, and I don’t mean that pejoratively. And if we’re dealing in clichés, I’ll also say that he makes the kind of films that remind one of the redeeming power of cinema, specifically its unique ability to make life seem worth living. Last year’s screening of his 1987 film HOUSEKEEPING, based on Marilynne Robinson’s eponymous masterpiece, was a revelation, and though I wasn’t able to watch COMFORT AND JOY in advance of writing this capsule, I’m sure that this film, presented in a rare 35mm screening, will be similarly edifying. The Internet informs me that it’s the simple story of a downtrodden Scottish radio DJ who helps rival ice cream vendors find common ground amidst charming chaos. And just as HOUSEKEEPING revealed a now-all-too-familiar tweeness as being both divine and doleful, Forsyth uses a similar dichotomy to inject his seemingly feel-good fare with tenebrous irony; though the idea of ice cream gangs may seem quaint, it’s a reference to the Glasgow Ice Cream Wars that came to a head the same year the film was made, during which criminals used ice cream trucks as a front for selling drugs and stolen goods. Though he sometimes deals with—or at least references—the underbelly of society, Forsyth neither condemns nor elevates his characters. As Roger Ebert noted in his review of the film, Forsyth “has made a specialty out of characters who are as real as you and me, and nicer than me.” And me, and probably you, though there’s comfort and joy to be had in that thought. Preceded by Csaba Varga’s 1983 short film AUGUSTA MAKES HERSELF BEAUTIFUL (5 min, 16mm). (1984, 106 min, 35mm) KS
More info at www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
André Téchiné's BEING 17 (New French)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes
Septuagenarian André Téchiné, co-writing with Céline Sciamma (GIRLHOOD), has made an elegiac, honest coming-of-age film about two gay teenagers, set amidst the splendid changing seasons of the French Pyrenees. I can scarcely imagine an American film being this explicit and natural about teen gay sexuality. At first, though, the boys are at war at school, masking their fear of their own desire with hatred. Thomas (Corentin Fila) is a loner living on a farm in the mountains; the insecure Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) lives in the town below with his mom, a doctor (Sandrine Kiberlain, kind, frank, and merry). His father, an army pilot, is often away. On a house call, mom meets the farm boy's family and prescribes his pregnant mother a stay in the hospital in town. She invites Thomas to stay with herself and Damien in town, so he can be closer to his mother and to save him the two-hour walk to school through the valley, which he actually rather likes. (The valley is blue-white on a wintry eve, verdant in the summer sun.) As housemates, the volatile adolescents pummel each other while struggling to find the freedom to drop their defenses. The passionate young leads rarely hit a false note. Kiberlain brings to this film the same direct, very French matter-of-factness and humane compassion that made her such a memorable part of the ensemble in Alain Resnais' final film, LIFE OF RILEY. Precisely observant, getting physical with his characters' bodies, Téchiné at 73 still resonates with the life force and its joys and heartaches. (2016, 116 min, DCP Digital) SP
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Richard D. Maurice’s ELEVEN P.M. (Silent American Revival)
Film Studies Center at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) – Saturday, 7pm (Free Admission)
“This story revolves around the strange imagination of a young writer,” promises an early title card of this late-period silent—one of the revelations of Kino Lorber’s Pioneers of African-American Cinema box set—and what follows definitely lives up to that assertion. ELEVEN P.M. flits between several sets of characters and across over a dozen years, yet the pieces are held together by a highly developed dream logic that at times suggests a proto-Buñuelian sensibility. Most people writing on the movie feel compelled to mention that it climaxes with the hero turning into a dog to exact revenge on his enemy, but what’s even stranger than this detail is how snugly it fits with the sincere melodrama and gritty urban portraiture. Writer-director Richard D. Maurice, a Cuban-born jack-of-all-trades who made a couple of features in 1920s Detroit, communicates a love of storytelling that makes any development feel appropriate, no matter how outlandish it may seem on the page; he also exhibits an ambitious visual sensibility that incorporates some of the most sophisticated techniques of 20s cinema. And by the evidence of this film, he was a rather good actor as well; his performance here—as an altruistic street musician named Sundaisy—is affecting without being cloying. Too bad Maurice’s only other known feature, NOBODY’S CHILDREN (1920), is presumed lost. ELEVEN P.M. reveals a perspective that’s not only unique to race movies, but to movies, period. (1928, 64 min, Blu-Ray Projection) BS
More info at www.filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu.
Terry Gilliam’s THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (British Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Sunday, 7pm
“Calling [Terry] Gilliam’s THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN noncontemporary almost sounds like an understatement,” wrote Jonathan Rosenbaum when the film first opened in Chicago (and shortly before it went down, undeservedly, as one of the biggest commercial flops of the late 1980s). “Set in the late 18th century, when the original [Baron Munchausen] stories were written, its main influences and counterparts—the silent fantasy films of Georges Méliès and the comic strip ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’ by Windsor McCay—are found a little over a century later. Even if one views time in terms of decades rather than centuries, Terry Gilliam is anything but an 80s personality; his particular brand of antiauthoritarian fantasy and adolescent humor belongs much more to the 50s (Mad comics and THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T.) and the counterculture 60s than to anything in the last 20 years... Part of what’s disconcerting about all of Gilliam’s movies, in fact, is the combination of metaphysical aspirations with small-scale slapstick, almost as if he were combining the contrary impulses of two other American directors who have spent most of their careers in England, Stanley Kubrick and Richard Lester. His Baron Munchausen, to take one example, is made up and often even framed to suggest the figure of Don Quixote [another Gilliam obsession], but it’s not a reference that carries much weight because he’s a comic-book Quixote without a Sancho Panza (unless the little girl who accompanies him on his adventures dimly qualifies. The film offers three separate views of hell—a war-torn European city, a red-hot (and anachronistically conceived) nuclear missile plan straight out of HELLZAPOPPIN’ within the crater of Mount Etna, and the inside of the belly of a gigantic sea monster—but no single discernible thread allows us to link up all three. The film is also preoccupied with the aging baron’s proximity to death, but here again there’s a tendency to contradict or at least complicate this serious element with a certain nose-thumbing irreverence.” That irreverence is also communicated through some wonderfully broad comic performances from Eric Idle (as the fastest man in the world), Oliver Reed (as the ruler of said missile plant), and Robin Williams (as the King of the Moon). (1988, 126 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud’s SEASONS (New French Documentary)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes
Directorial duo Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud’s previous documentaries, WINGED MIGRATION and OCEANS, found the dual Jacqueses tackling the migratory patterns of birds and mankind’s effect on the oceans. In SEASONS, they seek to explore the history of the seasons since the last ice age from the perspective of animals and humans. With many nature documentaries, a sort of opportunistic filmmaking technique must be utilized in order to capture content that is both compelling as well as somewhat narrative, and SEASONS excels in this aspect. Sequences such as a pack of wolves chasing a wild horse at high speeds through a forest demonstrate a technical cinematic proficiency only achieved through years of dedication and just a pinch of luck. Perrin and Cluzaud compartmentalizing the past 80,000 years into four chapters allows the viewer to see the drastic changes that Earth has undergone in addition to the ripples created once humans started to stake their claim, some such sequences feature dramatized roles which help serve as benchmarks for what time period it is. The minimal narration allows for a pure view on nature and what it looks like from a purely observational vantage point. There is a certain comfort found in this environmentalist approach. In the end, SEASONS ponders mankind’s place in the world and its obligation to protect it, both for the sake of the species as well as for the others that inhabit the globe with it. (2015, 97 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Nicolas Pesce’s THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (New American)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes
First time director-writer-producer Nicolas Pesce makes a bold statement with the taut THE EYES OF MY MOTHER. The film centers on three familial chapters in the life of Francisca (Kika Magalhaes), a young farm girl whose simple country life is shattered by a family tragedy at a young age, and explores themes of maternalistic urges and loneliness. Francisca has a fascination with eyes thanks to her mother, an ocular surgeon who emigrated from Portugal. Magalhaes performance is highly reminiscent of Asami from 1999’s AUDITION in that both characters handle their attachment/abandonment issues in extreme manners. Pesce opts to shoot the film in black and white, a choice that pays dividends thanks to the lack of grey area exhibited in the character’s moral actions while also dampening the effect of some of the violence. This cinematography plus a relatively muted score creates a disquieting atmosphere. The film’s inclination towards sight, in all of its facets, creates an interesting visual kaleidoscope when all of its parts are compounded. Pesce ponders what it means to really see, how exhilarating it can be to see the world through another’s eyes, and how chilling life can be in the face of darkness. THE EYES OF MY MOTHER feels perfectly paced and well-executed at its rather concise seventy-six minute runtime and shows enough flashes to suggest the young director has a promising future ahead of him. (2016, 76 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Warren Beatty's RULES DON'T APPLY (New American)
Various Venues - Limited Showtimes
Warren Beatty's first new film in 18 years opened last week in nearly 2,400 theaters. This week, after posting one of the lowest grosses for a nationwide release in recent memory, it's down to a contractually-mandated single showtime or two per day at the theaters that couldn't fabricate an escape hatch. Next week RULES DON'T APPLY will be but a ghostly rumor. It's not a surprising fate for a project brooded over since the late 1970s, soaring and sputtering like a sepulchral Spruce Goose. It is most definitely a film out of time: grainy stock footage of Eisenhower-era Los Angeles meshes ridiculously with digitally-photographed actors cavorting in the foreground, and early b-roll of Howard Hughes's sexual conquests is, in fact, footage of '60s-vintage Beatty greeting gawkers on the red carpet. The sense of historical precision that Beatty obsessively projected in REDS has definitely grown slack here. (The majority of the story is laid on the RKO backlot in 1959; that dateline tracks with Beatty's own arrival in Hollywood, but Hughes had already divested and sold the studio to the General Tire and Rubber Company four years prior.) Likewise the editing, so precise and purposeful in the Beatty productions cut by Dede Allen, is scattershot and senseless here; credited to four editors, RULES DON'T APPLY zips along recklessly for the first half hour, consistently cutting a beat too soon after every joke, strangling the stillborn chuckles. Early on, you're convinced that you're seeing a studio hack job, but soon enough the full weight of the narrative eccentricity, the stubborn strangeness, the sullen sincerity asserts itself. Whatever it is, RULES is not the work of a studio bean-counter. Nor is it an innovative, celestial swan song, such as Zulawski's COSMOS or David Bowie's final LP, BLACKSTAR, from earlier this year. Instead, RULES is closer to the run of unarguably flawed, incontestably special films made by an earlier generation of elder statesmen during Beatty's Hollywood heyday: Wilder's FEDORA, Ford's 7 WOMEN, Cukor's TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT, Powell's AGE OF CONSENT, Siegel's THE SHOOTIST, Fleischer's THE LAST RUN. Like those films, RULES stands as a delicately personal work, suffused with a sense of nostalgia so specific and obscure that to look upon it longer than a moment feels like a violation. You can watch it for ten minutes at a stretch and declare it erratic, but then you happen upon a long, single-take sequence—precisely engineered, perfectly blocked out, all in the service of a punchline about hamburgers—and you realize that this limping old spaniel demands respect. There are several such sequences in RULES DON'T APPLY, moments of dark, slow-burning beauty (courtesy of ace D.P. Caleb Deschanel) that confound the usual way of doing business. The performances that are given the space to breathe (Beatty, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, and, to a lesser degree, Matthew Broderick) are superb; meanwhile, Candice Bergen, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen beg for more screen time, Ed Harris delivers a single line as a father from Fresno, and I couldn't even recognize Paul Sorvino or Dabney Coleman for their split-second contributions. (My favorite wordless cameo is that of Steve Mnuchin—the former Goldman-Sachs-exec-turned-movie-financier whose RatPac-Dune Entertainment will take a bath on RULES DON'T APPLY—as the man in a grey flannel suit from Merrill Lynch who stands between Hughes and a $400 million loan. He's also been tapped by President-Elect Trump as our next Treasury Secretary.) Thematically, RULES DON'T APPLY is thin, but that also means it's a less self-important Hughes movie than Scorsese's THE AVIATOR, less enthralled by its own flimflam. Ultimately, it's a portrait of people eager to sacrifice their own lives and desires for momentary glow of loyalty, or perhaps nothing at all. (2016, 127 min, DCP Digital) KAW
Hong Sang-soo’s RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN (New South Korean)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Saturday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 4pm
RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN is designed to resonate in your memory, and the resonances start before the film even ends. Hong Sang-soo’s 17th feature is divided (like his third, VIRGIN STRIPPED BARE BY HER BACHELORS) into two parts of roughly equal duration; each half relates more or less the same events, but with subtle differences in how they play out. In a sense, the movie represents Hong’s entire cinema in miniature, as his body of work is all about theme and variation, fine points of behavior, and how the cinematic apparatus affects the way we interact with others. The protagonist—as is often the case with Hong—is a passive-aggressive filmmaker who loves drinking and women. Visiting the city of Suwon to introduce a screening of one of his films, Ham Cheon-soo finds himself with time on his hands after the screening gets pushed back one day. He visits a palace and meets a former model and aspiring painter named Yoon Hee-jeong. She takes him to her studio, a restaurant (where much soju is imbibed), and to a bookstore owned by one of her friends. Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship or a prolonged episode of social embarrassment? As Hong demonstrates, the events could go either way. In the first half (given the subtitle “Right Then, Wrong Now”), director Han behaves cavalierly and Hee-jeong a little too eager-too-please, and both end up embarrassing themselves; in the second, both are more demure and self-effacing, and things go more or less okay. That’s not to say that the two halves are as different as night and day (to invoke another one of Hong’s films)—many events stay the same from one half to the other (and some go even worse the second time around), regardless of the characters’ change in attitude. Maybe fate is indifferent to how we aspire to be, maybe our inner natures are more rigidly defined than we’d like to think, or maybe Hong is just having fun with us. He’s certainly having fun with his actors, eliciting wonderful comic performances and an ingratiatingly casual vibe. Still, there’s a rigorous formal sensibility beneath the casualness, as evidenced by the characteristically scrupulous framing and the careful narrative rhymes and half-rhymes. (2015, 121 min, DCP Digital) BS
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Orson Welles' CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (International Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 3pm and Thursday, 6pm
A thoroughly thrilling experience, inspiring on every conceivable level, and one of the saddest films ever made. Welles made a life-long study of Shakespeare, adapting him on stage many times and making, in MACBETH and OTHELLO, two of his best movies. As a very young man, he attempted a mammoth adaptation he called Five Kings, combining scenes from the eight history plays revolving around the War of the Roses and The Merry Wives of Windsor, a project that here, transformed from a youth's ambition to a mature artist's melancholy, forms the seed for CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, a sprawling, strange, and deeply big-hearted melodrama of love and death, honor and betrayal, cowardice and duty, profligacy and desperation. In his films he has always demonstrated a fascination with texture, with visual patterning, with the complex choreographies of incoherent human figures made possible through spaces of grotesque and labyrinthine depth. This is nowhere more apparent than here. In a series of grand kinetic dances, Welles arranges haunting specters of death, swirling amongst and engulfing the lusty, hot-blooded, and immanently life-loving commoners and nobles that populate Shakespeare's version of history. There is no-one so ignoble not to deserve the adoration of Welles's camera, or the dignity of Welles's staging. As Hal, the wastrel son of the usurper King Henry IV, Keith Baxter deserves particular note: he is as affectionate and as cruel as can be borne by one mere character, and his masterful portrayal of Hal's contradictions mirror the contradictions at the heart of the film. No one for more than a moment here is what he or she seems, no space is wholly trustworthy, and no plot truly secret, for the most serious of all games, and the most pleasurable, is that which is played with one's own life as the stake and with no hope of surviving to collect the winnings save in the songs of our loved ones. In short, this film is magic itself, a celebration of cinema as the grandest of tricks, that which alone can transform the past into the present as palpably as memory, and the whole of the material world into the effervescence of poetry. The greatest film by the greatest director. (1965, 119 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) KB
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Hayao Miyazaki's CASTLE IN THE SKY (Japanese/Animation Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Friday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 1:30pm
The runaway success of NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND gave Hayao Miyazaki and longtime cohort Isao Takahata the momentum they needed to found their own animation factory, and in 1985 Studio Ghibli was formed. One year later and Ghibli was debuting its first feature, the heartfelt adventure CASTLE IN THE SKY, providing an exhilarating standard for things to come. Taking cues from a long tradition of adventure stories—Gulliver's Travels being the obvious one, but you can feel the influence of Hergé here as well—Miyzaki's third film is certainly his most action-packed, and if it lacks some of the quieter pleasures associated with his later films, it more than makes up for this in the bounty of thrilling set pieces that stretch from the rails of a rustic mining town to the pirate-infested skies far above. Beyond it all is the mythical floating castle of Laputa, sought after by various parties including power hungry Colonel Muska accompanied by a seemingly inexhaustible standing army, tough-as-nails ski-pirate Ma Dola and her rowdy boys, and the two intrepid kids caught up at the center of it all, restless Pazu and the enigmatic girl he rescues, Sheeta. Amidst breathtaking battles with airships and automatons, the film achieves something more than merely introducing Ghibli to the masses; it makes a case for what animation is truly capable of. Released from the live-action burden of special effects, CASTLE IN THE SKY slips more comfortably into the ranks of the timeless adventure stories than just about any film since, retaining today every ounce of wonder that it packed when it launched the celebrated studio more than a quarter century ago. (1986, 126 min, DCP Digital) TJ
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Prince's UNDER THE CHERRY MOON (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Friday, Midnight
A weird tribute to pre-Code comedies made with the pacing and humor of a 1930s production and the aesthetics of a high-minded 80s music video transposed to some unusually (but beautifully) classical images courtesy of legendary Fassbinder and Scorsese collaborator Michael Ballhaus (he shot this one between AFTER HOURS and THE COLOR OF MONEY)—a mixture of new and old that borders on the Caraxian—UNDER THE CHERRY MOON is very certainly a vanity project, with special emphases on vanity and the most academic uses of project as a verb and whatever other terms you can think of that bring out the fact that this is an analysis of fantasy played as straight fantasy self-consciously. Shot from a script by No Wave Feminist and Nicholas Ray associate Becky Johnston (who'd eventually end up writing much more "respectable" and less self-aware fare in the 1990s), UNDER THE CHERRY MOON stars Prince in the Maurice Chevalier role, playing a good-hearted gigolo out to woo the women of Monaco. As a tiny man who wears a lot of make-up and wallpaper-patterned suits, Prince is inherently funny, and while the Prince of today is known for his apocalyptic self-seriousness, the Prince of mid-1980s realizes this and goes along with it, playing up his charming ridiculousness and shortness when he's not busy throwing in visual references to Jacques Demy's LOLA, having Ballhaus carefully frame and light his ass, making Jerry Lewis-like (a good point of comparison for the wackiness to earnestness ratio here) use of a 360° pan, or indulging in some gay-panic-free homoerotic humor with Jerome Benton of The Time. An Ernst Lubitsch parody directed as cross-pop-cultural pastiche, the movie's an ornate mirror for a man who's got no problem poking fun at his reflection. (1986, 98 min, 35mm) IV
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Chan-wook Park’s THE HANDMAIDEN (New Korean)
Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes
Widely known for his Revenge Trilogy, which includes the seminal OLDBOY, Chan-wook Park’s films have frequently employed the use of retribution. His latest work, although less violent than some of his previous outings, finds the Korean director swimming in familiar waters. In THE HANDMAIDEN, a swindler is hired by a Japanese heiress (set to inherit an exorbitant amount of priceless books) to be her handmaiden; but she is secretly planning to steal her employer’s fortune by having the heiress committed to an insane asylum through the help of her partner, who plans to marry her. The film is divided into three parts, with each part building upon the previous as new twists and wrinkles are exposed through perspective shifts. The resulting web is complex and mischievous. The love story is equal parts passionate and perverted. Love of all kinds is explored and Park does not shy away from sensual moments. From gorgeous cherry blossom trees to rolling fog over a river, the cinematography captures everything in a large depth of field. This added clarity helps to show off what's at stake (such as the heiress's gigantic estate) as well as to provide the audience with more screen real estate in which to catch clues. THE HANDMAIDEN finds Park in peak creative form thanks to its captivating source material, dynamic cast, and beautiful undertones. (2016, 144 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Tommy Wiseau's THE ROOM (Cult Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Friday, Midnight
A woman announces, "Well, the results came back - I definitely have breast cancer," and that's the last we ever hear of it. A group of men don tuxedos for no apparent reason and then toss around a football. A drug dealer threatens to kill someone and then disappears for the rest of the movie. Upon awaking, a man picks up a rose from his night table, smells it, and throws it on top of his sleeping girlfriend. A recurring rooftop "exterior" is obviously a studio set, with a backdrop of the San Francisco skyline digitally composited behind the action. Accidental surrealism can be even more potent than the conscious kind, and THE ROOM is some kind of zenith of its type, the equal to anything Ed Wood committed to celluloid. Although what's on screen looks like it cost about $14.99, the actual budget was upwards of $6 million, in part because actor/producer/writer/director Wiseau shot simultaneously in 35mm and HD (supposedly he didn't understand the differences between the two formats). Now the film has become a worthy successor to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, with enthusiastic fans performing a series of rituals at each screening. Ross Morin, assistant professor of film studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, calls it "one of the most important films of the past decade. Through the complete excess in every area of production, THE ROOM reveals to us just how empty, preposterous and silly the films and television programs we've watched over the past couple of decades have been." (2003, 99 min, 35mm) RC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) presents Okkyung Lee & Andrew Lampert on Saturday at 8:30pm. This multi-media event, titled “Wants and Desires,” features live music by cellist Okkyung Lee and video by Andrew Lampert. Also as part of the event is a solo performance by Lee and a new video by Lampert.
Also at The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) this week: Scoring And Keeping Score: Part 1 is on Friday at 7pm. A program of work by SAIC students Paris F. Jomadiao, Mev Luna, Angel Marin, Caroline McCraw, Mia+Máire, Catie Rutledge, Misael Soto, Lauren Steinberg+Emily Martin, Marcela Torres, Celia Wickham. (A second night of performances, installations, and objects is at DFBRL8R on Saturday at 7pm); and Russell Sheaffer’s 2014 documentary MASCULINITY/FEMININITY (88 min, Digital Projection) is on Thursday at 7:30pm, with Sheaffer in person.
Ringo Lam's 2016 Chinese film SKY ON FIRE (100 min, DCP Digital) plays this week at the AMC River East 21 theaters.
Black Cinema House at the Stony Island Arts Bank (6760 S. Stony Island Ave.) presents Beyond Blaxploitation on Sunday at 4pm. The event includes a screening of Bill Gunn’s 1973 film GANJA AND HESS (113 min, Digital Projection), a book launch for the new anthology Beyond Blaxploitation, and a panel discussion with the book’s editors (Gerald Butters and Novotny Lawrence) and several of the contributing authors. Free admission.
South Side Projections and the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.) present Carol Munday Lawrence's Animated Kwanzaa Films (1972-81, 49 min total, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm. Screening are: THE TIGER AND THE BIG WIND (1972, 8 min), MUDOPE AND THE FLOOD (1975, 5 min), BEEGIE AND THE EGG (1976, 8 min), SIMON'S NEW SOUND (1978, 8 min), THE KANGAROOS WHO FORGOT (1979, 6 min), MARY JEAN AND THE GREEN STONE (1980, 5 min), and NOEL'S LEMONADE STAND (1981, 9 min). Free admission.
The Chicago Cultural Center screens Erika Street’s 2016 local narrative short THE ORANGE STORY (18 min) along with a selection of other short films on Friday at 7pm. Followed by a panel discussion, with various crew members in person. Free admission.
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) hosts the 2016 Chicago Paranormal Film Festival on Sunday from 10am-10pm. The day-long event includes a selection of features and short films; Animate Objects: An Indie Cartoon Night is on Wednesday at 8pm. Included are works by Derek Weber, Penelope Gazin, Kaitlin Martin, Katie Kapuza, Ryan Bock, Randall Wayne Parker, Jack Mulkern, Sarah Squirm, Daniel Guidara, Kenny Reed, and others TBA. Free admission for both events.
Asian Pop-Up Cinema presents Yuki Tanada’s 2015 Japanese film ROUND TRIP HEART (97 min, DCP Digital) on Sunday at 4pm at the Wilmette Theatre (1122 Central Ave., Wilmette).
The Park Ridge Classic Film Series screens Stanley Kubrick's 1960 film SPARTACUS (197 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) on Thursday at 2 and 7pm at the Pickwick Theatre (5 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge).
The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Mel Brooks’ 1968 film THE PRODUCERS (88 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission. www.northbrook.info/events/film
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Jûzô Itami’s 1985 Japanese film TAMPOPO (114 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) and Pieter Van Huystee’s 2016 documentary HIERONYMUS BOSCH: TOUCHED BY THE DEVIL (86 min, DCP Digital) both play for a week; Andrew Ahn’s 2016 film SPA NIGHT (93 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7:45pm, with Ahn and actor Esteban Andres Cruz in person; Joss Whedon’s 2012 film MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (109 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 3pm and Tuesday at 6pm; and Aldona Watts’ 2014 documentary LAND OF SONGS (60 min, DCP Digital) is on Monday at 6:15pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: The Sound of Music Sing-a-Long is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am; Jim Sharman’s 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight; David E. Durston’s 1970 film I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (83 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at Midnight; and Stephen Kijak’s 2016 documentary WE ARE X (83 min, DCP Digital) is on Wednesday at 7:30pm.
At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Carles Torrens’ 2016 US/Spanish film PET (94 min) and Sophia Takal’s 2016 film ALWAYS SHINE (87 min) both play for week-long runs; and Ian Olds’ 2016 film BURN COUNTRY (102 min) opens on Thursday with a 9:30pm screening (and continues for a week’s run beginning on December 9).
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
The Art Institute of Chicago has Andrea Fraser: May I Help You? on view through January 2. It features a rotation of five of the artist’s videos: MUSEUM HIGHLIGHTS: A GALLERY TALK (1989, 29 min), WELCOME TO THE WADSWORTH: A MUSEUM TOUR (1991, 25 min), MAY I HELP YOU? (1991, 19 min), INAUGURAL SPEECH (1997, 27 min), and OFFICIAL WELCOME (2003, 29 min).
The Art Institute of Chicago (Modern Wing Galleries) has Dara Birnbaum’s 1979 two-channel video KISS THE GIRLS: MAKE THEM CRY (6 min) currently on view.
Camille Henrot’s 2013 video GROSSE FATIGUE (14 min) is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago through December 18.
Block Museum (Northwestern University) presents Salaam Cinema! 50 Years of Iranian Movie Posters through December 11.