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:: Friday, NOV. 18 - Thursday, DEC. 1 ::

This edition of Cine-File covers the two-week period from November 18 to December 1. Crucial Viewing, Also Recommended, and More Screenings reviews and listings for November 18-24 are immediately below; the reviews and listings for November 25-December 1 follow after.

 

CRUCIAL VIEWING: 11/18 - 11/24

Spencer Williams’ DIRTY GERTIE FROM HARLEM U.S.A. (American Revival)
Film Studies Center at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) – Saturday, 7pm (Free Admission)

What Oscar Micheaux was to the 1920s and 30s, Spencer Williams was to the 1940s, making films for and about African-Americans that were audacious in both content and form. (His meteoric career as a director of features was limited to the 40s, yet he managed to direct almost a dozen films in that decade.) Williams’ THE BLOOD OF JESUS (1941) and GO DOWN, DEATH! (1944) are two of the fieriest films about religion in American cinema, employing stark narratives and bold, symbolic imagery to dramatize personal religious conflicts. DIRTY GERTIE FROM HARLEM U.S.A. applies that same fervor to themes of sexuality and guilt—the movie feels ripe and ready to burst. It’s an unacknowledged adaptation of M. Somerset Maugham’s short story “Rain,” which had been adapted already by Raoul Walsh in 1928 and Lewis Milestone in 1932. Williams and screenwriter True T. Thompson move the action from the South Seas to the Caribbean and change the heroine’s profession from prostitute to night club performer, but they retain the story’s basic premise: a woman who exhibits a powerful hold over men flees to a remote locale in order to escape her dark past, only to have that past catch up with her. Williams maintains an air of sultry exoticism despite shooting in Dallas and San Antonio on a meager budget (the film would make a great double bill with Edgar G. Ulmer’s CLUB HAVANA, made around the same time); he also elicits some terrific chemistry from his actors. Francine Everett, who plays Gertie, was one of the major actors in sound-era race films, and her performance here makes it easy to see why. (1946, 60 min, 35mm Archival Print) BS
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More info at www.filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu.


Swimming in the Valley of the Moon: Films by Peter Hutton (Experimental Revival)
White Light Cinema at the Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) – Sunday, 7pm

I heard about Peter Hutton's films and imagined what they might be like many years before I saw any of them. The Film Foundation and the George Eastman House had preserved a number of them, but word was that Hutton wasn't satisfied with the laboratory work, and so the new prints sat on the shelf, unprojected. I knew them only by their garrulous, magisterial titles. Who would dare disturb mysteries like NEW YORK NEAR SLEEP FOR SASKIA or JULY '71 IN SAN FRANCISCO, LIVING AT BEACH STREET, WORKING AT CANYON CINEMA, SWIMMING IN THE VALLEY OF THE MOON? The latter is one of three titles screening in White Light Cinema's posthumous tribute to Hutton, who died of cancer in June. Having belatedly caught up with a few others, here's a case for the uninitiated: Hutton's works are among the most luminous and rigorous in avant-garde cinema. They're frequently silent, yes, but 'hushed' might be a more suggestive description: the camerawork is observational, anonymous, and often at a substantial remove from its subject. The painterly compositions are larger than the artist, deceptively free of intervention, immune to fussing around the edges. (No wonder Hutton moonlighted as a cameraman for his former student Ken Burns!) Hutton's monochrome images eschew the easy composition, the achingly perfect grayscale. Instead, they're expansive moments sewn together between black leader. In the words of co-programmer Jesse Malmed: "He worked slowly: shooting and exploring, watching and re-watching, maintaining and honing a clarity of vision as patient as it was explorative. His films are transportive—not simply to the times and places of their making, but for our senses of seeing. This work is gorgeous ... and leaves the viewer in a state of grace, unencumbered by trying to explain its virtues." Also on the program: LODZ SYMPHONY (1993) and STUDY OF A RIVER (1997), the latter a National Film Registry selection. (71 min total, 16mm) KAW
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More info at http://nightingalecinema.org.


Antonio Campos’ CHRISTINE (New Drama)
The Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes

Voyeurism, be it via film or television or the news, has always included a sense of morbid curiosity. In Anthony Campos' CHRISTINE, Sarasota reporter Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall) is coming to terms with her disappointing life. She lives with her mother after suffering a mental breakdown, is still a virgin, feels stymied in her career and is lonely. By now the real-life story of Chubbuck’s on-air suicide is well known, but Campos seeks to unearth the reasons why. What ensues is a psychological blueprint of a person who is very misunderstood, much in the way QUEEN OF EARTH is for Elizabeth Moss’ character. Mental health is touched on several times throughout the film, not only foreshadowing the morbid finale but also offering hope to those facing depression in their own lives. Christine’s final pleas, ”In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in 'blood and guts', and in living color, you are going to see another first—attempted suicide” speaks not only on her own situation but also humanity’s compulsion for the macabre. CHRISTINE offers insights into the cutthroat nature of broadcast television and does not shy away from the dirty politics often required to achieve success. In the end, the film is a cautionary tale and one that will hopefully shed some light for those in similarly frustrating situations. (2016, 115 min, DCP Digital) KC
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More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.


Jules Dassin’s TOPKAPI (American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E., 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) – Wednesday, 7:30pm

Jules Dassin may be best known today for his noir films of the 1940s and 50s, but he enjoyed some of his biggest hits in the early 60s with NEVER ON SUNDAY and TOPKAPI, a pair of Mediterranean-set light entertainments that received much critical favor as well as box office success. TOPKAPI is a breezy spin on Dassin’s RIFIFI, delivering a more comic variation on the heist movie. In an Oscar-winning performance, Peter Ustinov (a last-minute replacement for Peter Sellers) plays a con man who gets embroiled in an elaborate jewel heist in Turkey; among the other players are Dassin’s then-muse Melina Mercouri, Robert Morley, Maximilian Schell, and Akim Tamiroff. Like RIFIFI, the film climaxes with an extended robbery sequence set at a history museum, this one running roughly 40 minutes. The film was shot in Technicolor in the very-European ratio of 1.66:1; it should look quite nice projected from celluloid. Preceded by Richard Wink’s 1964 short SPORTS IN ACTION: BEST IN SHOW (10 min, 35mm). (1964, 120 min, 35mm) BS
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More info at www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.


ALSO RECOMMENDED

Margaret Byrne’s RAISING BERTIE (New Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes

In the time since Donald f******* Trump became the president-f******-elect of the United States, there have been a wealth of think pieces focused on the rural, white, middle-to-lower class people who came out in spades to vote for a Cheeto as leader of the free world. But I digress. The hyperfocus on the so-called “silent majority” is frustrating, but not surprising; one might be led to believe, however, that rural areas are inhabited exclusively by such people, entirely free of the diversity that’s inarguably made this country great. Margaret Byrne’s RAISING BERTIE is thus a breath of fresh air for its inadvertent timeliness and the way in which it brings to light a largely overlooked demographic. Co-produced by Kartemquin and filmed over six years, it follows three African American boys—nicknamed Bud, Dada, and Junior—in Bertie, North Carolina as they come of age amidst life’s daily struggles and egregious systemic oppression. (Bertie is over 60% Black or African American with almost a fifth of its families living under the poverty line.) A focus of the film is The Hive, an alternative school for at-risk youth that’s spearheaded by a similarly inspirational educator, but it avoids limiting itself to poignancy. Instead, it’s a microcosm of a society that experiences the trials and tribulations of both rural and minority America while likewise being doubly ignored for those very reasons. “We realized there's not enough attention being paid to rural youth and particularly rural youth of color,” said the film’s producer Ian Kibbe at a recent Q&A, foreshadowing the sad irony that’s playing out before our very eyes. The longitudinal approach also adds to its impact; though it’s hardly unprecedented, one realizes the value of documentary filmmakers spending significant amounts of time with their subjects as the three boys and their friends and family visibly open up in front of the cameras. It’s a diplomatic mix of direct cinema and cinéma vérité; Byrne and Co. are never seen, but their involvement with the subjects is evident. "Building trust is the key to making a film like this,” Byrne said during the aforementioned Q&A, “which is really about building relationships.” At what point does subjectivity evolve into objectivity? A few months? Six years? Sometime in between a boy’s emotional visit with his imprisoned father and another boy’s revelation that his young girlfriend is pregnant? Byrne doesn’t shy away from reflecting some of the young mens’ “bad decisions,” instead placing them before the viewer to be considered within the context of a holistic—and empathetic—viewing experience. In this new era of the Silent Majority, the stories of the silenced minority are now more important than ever. (2016, 102 min, DCP Digital) KS

More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


Carol Reed's THE FALLEN IDOL (British Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday and Wednesday, 6pm and Saturday, 3pm

When Rialto Pictures mounted a stateside theatrical reissue of THE FALLEN IDOL in 2006, it was hailed as a neglected classic. Today it feels a bit less neglected, and perhaps a bit less of a classic, too. It doesn't feel as fresh as Ted Tetzlaff's contemporaneous B-noir thriller THE WINDOW, which also stars a young Bobby (Driscoll) as a boy who suspects he holds the key to a household murder. Dave Kehr long ago dismissed FALLEN IDOL as a showcase of "camera tricks [that] can't quite cover the lack of a meaningful point of view," an experiment that succumbs to "facile suspense structures and a thuddingly conventional whodunit finale." No film should be unlucky enough to live in the shadow of Carol Reed and Graham Greene's subsequent hit THE THIRD MAN, but THE FALLEN IDOL probably works best when approached with modest expectations anyway. Its virtues lie not in its narrative ingenuity, but in its emotional intensity and its precisely judged details. I'll never forget the way that name "Baines" sticks tentatively in young Bobby Henrey's throat—a mix of fealty, fear, confusion, and grace. Or the moment when Henrey encounters Ralph Richardson, his butler and surrogate father, silently sitting in a cafe with Michele Morgan, the mistress who will masquerade unconvincingly as Richardson's niece. It's a small moment charged with all illegible mystery of the adulthood. The critic Geoffrey O'Brien has described the movie's soul as well as anyone: "seen in childhood, it was like a door swung ajar—whether deliberately or not—to reveal an adult world not yet suspected, and in the process to alter forever the self-awareness of the child spectator." Few films depict childhood's aggravations as piercingly as FALLEN IDOL: relationships for which we lack the vocabulary to describe, responsibilities for which we lack the means to actuate, pride for which we lack the credibility the legitimate. Pint-sized or full-grown, that's enough. (1948, 94 min, DCP Digital) KAW
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


Terrence Malick's DAYS OF HEAVEN (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Sunday, 7pm

Who would have predicted that DAYS OF HEAVEN would be the most influential American film of the past ten years? A number of movies would be almost impossible without its influence—THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, THERE WILL BE BLOOD (which tipped its hat by employing DAYS' ingenious production designer, Jack Fisk), most of the work of David Gordon Green—that Malick's unprecedented approach has come to seem almost familiar. But seen in a theater, DAYS OF HEAVEN is forever new. Malick's poetic sensibility, which combined an absurdist fascination with the banal with an awestruck view of open landscapes, renders the past era of pre-Dust Bowl Heartland America a gorgeous, alien environment. The film is structured around his lyrical observations, jutting forward in unexpected sequences like a modernist poem. More than one set piece (including the locust infestation and the bizarre entry of a flying circus troupe) has become a little classic in itself; it's easy to forget the primal romantic tragedy, which Ray Pride once likened to a Biblical fable, which gives the movie its towering structure. It is this feeling for eternal narratives—rooted, perhaps, in Malick's study of philosophy—that distinguishes the film from any of its successors, which could never replicate Malick's spiritual orientation. (1978, 95 min, 35mm) BS
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


Hannes Holm’s A MAN CALLED OVE (New Swedish)
Gene Siskel Film Center

The grumpy, old curmudgeon is a tried and true character anti-hero archetype that has seen it’s fair share of memorable performances over the years. From the despicable Mr. Potter in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE to the somewhat racist yet secretly caring Walt Kowalski in GRAN TORINO, this character type is malleable enough to fit many narrative needs from film to film. In Hannes Holm’s A MAN CALLED OVE, Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is a grumpy, old retiree living alone after his wife had passed some time ago. He fills his time with simple activities—trying to enforce his neighborhood’s rules and visiting his deceased’s gravesite—but is also contemplating suicide until a young interracial couple and their kids move in and Ove and the family form an unlikely friendship. Much of OVE deals with generational gaps and how first impressions can sometimes be wrong once further inspected. It is tender and poignant in the way that it handles interpersonal relationships and the past, specifically Ove’s. Led by a strong performance from Lassgård, A MAN CALLED OVE is funny, heartwarming, and a little tragic with the right amount of accessibility to be appreciated by audiences of all ages. (2015, 116 min, DCP Digital) KC
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


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
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More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.


MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS

Block Cinema (Northwestern University) presents A Tribute to Abbas Kiarostami on Friday at 4:30pm, with the late Iranian filmmaker’s son Ahmad Kiarostami sharing a selection of his father’s short films. This is part of a two-day symposium, Lucid Figurations: Iranian Movie Poster and Film Art, which began yesterday with two screenings and continues Friday with two panels (9am-12:30pm and 1:30-3:45pm. Free admission.

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Cantos: Recent 16mm Films by Margaret Rorison on Friday at 7pm, with Rorison in person. The Experimental filmmaker will show a dozen films from 2012-16 (16mm and Digital Projection) along with a section of a work-in-progress.

The Polish Film Festival in America continues through November 20 at the Muvico 18 in Rosemont (9701 Bryn Mawr Ave.) and at the Gallery Theatre in Chicago (1112 North Milwaukee Ave.). Full schedule at www.pffamerica.com.

Also at the Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) this week: An Evening with Sarah Price presents the independent filmmaker in conversation with the U of C’s Jennifer Wild, discussing her varied career and showing excerpt of her work and a work-in-progress. It’s on Friday at 7pm at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.). Free admission.

Fused Muse Ensemble presents the multi-media event EDGE of Shelter on Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm at the BUCHANAN CHAPEL (Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St.). The event includes live music, performances, and video work by B Rich, Frances Cedro, Kevin B. Lee, and Steven Boone. More info and tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2708994.

Feng Xiaogang’s 2016 Chinese film I AM NOT MADAM BOVARY (128 min, DCP Digital) opens at River East 21 on Friday.

The Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Paco León’s 2012 Spanish film CARMINA O REVIENTA (70 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Daniel Burman’s 2016 Argentinean film THE TENTH MAN (82 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; Lawrence Huntington’s 1946 British film WANTED FOR MURDER (103 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 5pm and Monday at 6pm; Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán’s 2016 Dominican film SAND DOLLARS (84 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 5:15pm and Tuesday at 6pm, with a lecture by SAIC professor Daniel R. Quiles at the Tuesday show; and Marta György-Kessler and Adam Penny’s 2016 documentary HANNAH: BUDDHISM'S UNTOLD JOURNEY (90 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 2pm.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Mike Nichols’ 1966 film WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (131 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 1:30pm; Derek Cianfrance’s 2016 film THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS (130 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 4pm; Steven Gordon’s 1981 comedy ARTHUR (97 min, 35mm) is on Monday at 7pm; Michel Khleifi’s 1987 Palestinian film WEDDING IN GALILEE (113 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm (in a re-scheduled screening).

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film DR STRANGELOVE OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (95 min, DCP Digital) is on Wednesday at 7:30pm, as part of critic Mark Caro’s series “Is It Still Funny?” series; Vincent Labriola’s 2016 short film DEPARTURES screens on Sunday at 7pm, along with additional short by producer William Goldstein, editor Adam Biedermann, and cinematographer Kyle Probst (Free tickets available here www.eventbrite.com/e/departures-premiere-tickets-29051963204); Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 French film AMÉLIE (122 min, 35mm) is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am; and J. Lee Thompson’s 1983 film 10 TO MIDNIGHT (101 min, 35mm) and Luc Besson’s 2014 film LUCY (89 min, DCP Digital) are on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.

At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Stephen Dunn’s 2015 Canadian film CLOSET MONSTER (90 min, Digital Projection) and Andrea Arnold’s 2016 film AMERICAN HONEY (162 min, Digital Projection) both play Friday-Wednesday (no Thursday screenings); and David Feige’s 2016 documentary UNTOUCHABLE (106 min, Digital Projection) is on Saturday at 7pm, followed by a panel discussion. This screening is a co-sponsorship with the UIC symposium The Registry 20 Years Later: Discussing Unintended Consequences.

Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Errol Magidson’s 2011 documentary CHICAGO’S ONLY CASTLE: THE HISTORY OF GIVINS’ IRISH CASTLE AND ITS KEEPERS (87 min, Digital Projection) on Friday at 8pm. Free admission.

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CRUCIAL VIEWING: 11/25 - 12/1

John Ford's GIDEON'S DAY [aka GIDEON OF SCOTLAND YARD] (British Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 3pm, and Wednesday, 6pm

This big-screen presentation constitutes a major revival, not only because it’s long been hard to see, but because it showcases how beautifully John Ford used color. As in SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, THE QUIET MAN, THE SEARCHERS, or THE WINGS OF EAGLES (made the year before this), the colors of GIDEON’S DAY are deep, bold, and expressive; they augment the visual poetry always rife in Ford’s images. In terms of story, it’s one of Ford’s more episodic films, like the Will Rogers vehicles, YELLOW RIBBON or DONOVAN'S REEF, lingering on character and milieu instead of pushing ahead with narrative (which isn’t to say there aren’t moments of suspense). It takes place over a single day, and in spite of the short time frame, GIDEON’S DAY touches upon numerous major events in the life cycle, such as raising children, establishing a career, and confronting mortality. Ford invokes the latter at least a few times, as the hero, a Scotland Yard inspector, investigates a sex-murder and endures the death of a colleague, yet the tone remains light on the whole. According to Ford biographer Joseph McBride, the film’s production “was something of a lark, enabling Ford to gratify his enjoyment of suspense novels” and his desire to spend time in the United Kingdom. McBride continues: “The director's usual mockery of the British is transformed into poking good-natured fun at the code of politeness and reserve Gideon and his colleagues are expected to follow in capturing even the most loathsome criminals... After opening in England in March 1958, GIDEON'S DAY was treated atrociously by Columbia. It was not released in the United States until the following February, and then only as a second feature in black-and-white prints, cut by a third and retitled GIDEON OF SCOTLAND YARD.” A side note: Stanley Kubrick fans will be interested to note the early contributions of production designer Ken Adam, who later designed the sets for DR. STRANGELOVE and BARRY LYNDON. (1958, 118 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) BS
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


Vincente Minnelli's MEET ME IN ST LOUIS (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Monday, 7pm

MEET ME IN ST LOUIS has achieved iconic status for its musical numbers (which include "The Trolley Song," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and the title number) and for Judy Garland's radiant performance; but thanks to Vincente Minnelli's inspired direction, it is an inexhaustible work of art. The rich mise-en-scène--a reflection of Minnelli's long tenure as a production designer--yields a complex dream of Americana that takes on a different timbre nearly every time you see it: The cinematic past rarely feels so vibrant and yet so distant, so much like an autonomous creation. Using an episodic structure that finds significance in major as well as incidental events, Minnelli follows the Smith family over the course of 1903, the year before the World's Fair (and, implicitly, the grandeur of the 20th century) came to St. Louis. It's an impressionistic film, whose bright colors and mobile camerawork evoke the work of Minnelli's hero, Vincent Van Gogh. Of course, the film wouldn't be so universally beloved if it were simply a formal achievement. The Smith family dynamic is always shifting but never less than recognizable, anticipating the psychological nuance of Minnelli's later masterpieces THE COBWEB and SOME CAME RUNNING. (1944, 113 min, 35mm) BS
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


Anna Biller’s THE LOVE WITCH (New American)
Gene Siskel Film Center

THE LOVE WITCH is a remarkably dense pastiche, recreating elements of American melodramas, sexploitation comedies, and low-budget horror films from the 60s and early 70s with loving care and deadpan assurance. Writer-director Anna Biller (who also designed the sets and costumes) invokes Radley Metzger, Elizabeth Taylor vehicles like BUTTERFIELD 8, Stephanie Rothman’s THE VELVET VAMPIRE, George Romero’s SEASON OF THE WITCH, and likely many other cult films and filmmakers. The mise-en-scene is striking and loud, at times verging on Kenneth Anger levels of expressiveness; the sex is lurid and silly, the politics blunt and sincere; and Biller demonstrates such command over tone that even the odd pauses in the dialogue feel carefully considered. The heroine, Elaine, is a California witch living a life of leisure and looking for a man to love. While she manages to lures a number of men to her bed—employing a combination of sexual allure, magic spells, and burlesque dancing—she never lands on a lasting relationship. Part of the problem is that Elaine’s magic turns her lovers into pathetic devotees; another is that Elaine’s lovers keep dying on her. The lovers’ demises represent grotesque exaggerations of the ways in which women can feel disappointed by men; these scenes communicate a certain raw honesty that used to exist commonly in disreputable genres when filmmakers were given a high degree of creative freedom. THE LOVE WITCH is a tribute to that era and a provocation for ours, calling into question the expectations that women have of men, and vice-versa. (2016, 120 min, DCP Digital) BS
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


John Landis' AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 9:30pm

Maybe a little too funny for hard-core Horror fans, and a little too creepy for your average moviegoer, this might be the best werewolf film ever made. Sparse on bloodshed, Landis' tale of a college-aged American who gets infected by a lycan while backpacking through the moors of Scotland has aged quite well. We don't get bogged down with too much "legend of the beast" talk, and the love story between David (David Naughton) and his nurse (Jenny Agutter) fits naturally into the plot. Killed in the original werewolf attack, David's friend Jack (Griffin Dunne) appears as a mauled and decomposing corpse who warns him that at the next full moon he will change into an animal. Much of the film's humor is derived from this continual repetition of a chummy but stern berating delivered by the progressively-less-flesh-covered apparition. Some of the film comes out of left field, and the ending is a bit abrupt, but those things can be easily excused. The real highlights are David's transformation scenes and Jack's prosthetics, both of which were so well done the Academy had to create a new awards category (Outstanding Achievement in Makeup) just for them. Comparing them to the VFX of today makes you long for a time before CGI supplanted the art of fake blood and body parts. (1981, 97 min, 35mm) JH
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


Julie Dash's DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes

The narrator of Julie Dash's DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST is more than just a character in the film—she’s a representation of the film itself. The unborn child who tells the story of the Peazant family in their last days before migrating north is as much a reflection of the past as she is of the future; all that has come before her is as integral to the family as the very blood that runs through their veins, and it's that history which gets them through trying and changing times. The Peazant family are inhabitants of the southern Sea Islands and members of its Gullah culture, having preserved the identity of their African heritage in the face of slavery and post-war oppression. Before the move, the matriarch of the Peazant family contemplates her beliefs while the family's younger members overcome their personal struggles. Rape and prostitution have afflicted several female family members, and scorn from both society and their own clan present a unique obstacle faced by African American women. Dash also uses magical realism as a filmmaking device that’s reflective of the characters' culture. It was the first feature-length film by an African-American woman to receive theatrical release, and its historical context and woman-centered storyline set it apart from other films of its time and even films put out by fellow members of the L.A. Rebellion. (1991, 112 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) KS
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More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.


ALSO RECOMMENDED

Prince's UNDER THE CHERRY MOON (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Saturday, 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
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More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.


Pedro Almodóvar's THE SKIN I LIVE IN (Spanish Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Wednesday, 7 and 9:30pm

The key themes and organizing principles of Pedro Almodóvar's career get their clearest expression in this superbly-crafted and somewhat crazy sci-fi revenge thriller about a plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas, in what just might be his finest performance) who keeps a patient (Elena Anaya) prisoner in his mansion. Almodóvar's pièce de résistance is a central twist that completely redefines both characters, and, in the process, re-configures the creepy narrative as a (surprisingly moving) treatise on gender, sexuality, and identity. Essential, unsettling, and more or less a masterpiece. (2011, 117 min, 35mm) IV
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


Keichi Hara’s MISS HOKUSAI (New Japanese Animation)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 7pm

Watching an animated film depicting the lives of painters is bound to draw attention to both the limitations and imaginative possibilities of the medium of visual art, and MISS HOKUSAI does so with sensitive aplomb, subtle feminist critique, and skillful cinematic sweep. Adapted from an episodic manga series, MISS HOKUSAI weaves enough of the episodes together to give the narrative an arc, but leaves plenty of breathing room to take in the rich atmosphere of 1814 Edo (later Tokyo) and follow the mysterious, brooding title character, O-Ei, through scenes of frustrating opacity, as well as painful tenderness and vulnerability. Much of the film focuses on the relationship between O-Ei and her blind little sister, which tugs brutally at the heartstrings much like GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, as well as the complex and unsentimental connection O-Ei has to her cynical and self-absorbed father, to whom she remains devoted until his death, yet also critical, distant, and often disappointed. Interspersed with these explorations are poetic and stunning visual depictions of contemporary Japanese society grappling with the ambivalent belief in ancient tradition and superstition, seen through O-Ei’s eyes, juxtaposed against engulfing modernity, brought to you by the production company behind GHOST IN THE SHELL. (2015, 93 min, DCP Digital) AE
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More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


Jean Renoir's GRAND ILLUSION (French Revival)
South Side Projections at Columbia College (Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.) – Thursday, 7pm (Free Admission)

In the spring of 1937, master director Jean Renoir's GRAND ILLUSION premiered in his country to general acclaim. However, when the Nazis invaded only three years later, Joseph Goebbels declared the film to be "Cinematic Public Enemy No. 1." He seized the original negative, which finally resurfaced over fifty years later in a pile of boxes that traveled from Moscow to the Cinematheque de Toulouse. Renoir adapted GRAND ILLUSION from his friend Major Pinsard's reminiscences as a pilot during World War I. In the beginning of the film, Captain von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim) captures Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay) and his lieutenant Marechal (Jean Gabin) and transfers them to a prisoner of war camp. At the camp, Boeldieu, Marechal, and their friends while away the time by gardening, playing cards, and performing theater. They also dig a tunnel to escape and return to the front. But, before succeeding, the Germans transfer them to von Rauffenstein's fortress, where they devise a new plan for escape. Although the rules are strict within the camps, the soldiers treat the prisoners quite well and, amazingly, a true camaraderie develops between them. This French filmmaker depicts the German soldiers—especially von Rauffenstein—and citizens as humane. It begs the question: Why did Renoir create this image of the German people in the face of Nazism? Why did he make this film? In watching GRAND ILLUSION, the viewer reflects on its title and the any number of things to which it alludes. The film remains known today for its expression of man's humanity, but is such possible in war? For me, the grand illusion is our humanity, which we have yet to realize. (1937, 114 min, Blu-Ray Projection) CW
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With Nick Macdonald, author of In Search of La grande illusion, in person; SSP will be presenting a screening of Macdonald’s 1970’s documentary films on December 2—see next week’s list or SSP’s website for details.
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More info at http://southsideprojections.org.


Bill Siegel's THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI (Contemporary Documentary)
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (756 N. Milwaukee Ave) – Thursday, 7pm

Metaphors abound in reviews of Bill Siegel's THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI, and appropriately so. Not only does boxing provide limitless opportunities for allusion, but the subject himself, formidable athlete Muhammad Ali, was once a veritable pull-quote factory whose verbal fervor was as conspicuous as his physical acumen. Nevertheless, this critic will throw one more onto the pile by comparing not the film's subject or his out-of-the-ring battles to his in-the-ring prowess, but by comparing the film itself to the sport which Ali dominated. Much like a boxing match, Siegel's film, one of the latest from Chicago-based production company Kartemquin Films, takes Ali's most significant conflict and presents it as a series of smaller conflicts, or "rounds," that result in the unceasing triumph of man over matter. Instead of focusing on Ali's physical accomplishments, Siegel focuses on the period of his life during which the boxer was as equally known for his political and religious rebellion as he was for his prodigious sportsmanship. In 1964, soon after becoming the heavyweight champion of the world, Ali joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name first from Cassius Clay to Cassius X and then famously—and finally—to Muhammad Ali. A few years later, during the height of the Vietnam War, Ali refused induction into military service on the grounds that his religious convictions prevented him from doing so. Ali soon found himself thrust out of the limelight and into the shadows as his boxing license was revoked and he was sentenced to five years in prison for draft evasion. Along the way, he was involved with a variety of cultural figureheads, including high-profile members of the Nation of Islam such as Louis Farrakhan, Elijah Muhammad, and Malcolm X, and disparaged by similarly accomplished sports stars like Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis. The resulting struggle of this several-year period, arguably his most difficult fight, also produced his most important win; in 1971, the Supreme Court overturned his previous conviction in a unanimous ruling. Despite claims that the film focuses on an aspect of the boxer's mythology not often touched upon, such incidents from Ali's life were sufficiently acknowledged in Michael Mann's 2001 biopic ALI and the HBO film MUHAMMAD ALI'S GREATEST FIGHT (Stephen Frears). However, as a documentary, and an expertly paced one at that, it provides a happy medium between expansive legend and centralized nuance. Siegel already exhibited such skills as co-director of the Academy Award-nominated THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND (2002), and his representation of Ali as an activist calls back to that first film. The film also employs expert use of archival footage, as demonstrated by the much-lauded opening sequence which contrasts two clips that brilliantly set the tone: in one, Ali is criticized by television host David Susskind for his political dissidence, while in the other, taking place decades later, former president George W. Bush presents Ali with the Medal of Freedom. Like any great fight from history, the viewer goes into it knowing of how it began and how it ended, but this film covers the many rounds in between. Director Siegel in person. (2013, 94 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) KS
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More info at www.art.org.


Hou Hsiao-hsien's THE ASSASSIN (New Taiwanese)
Asian Pop-Up Cinema at AMC River East 21 – Wednesday, 7pm

Beginning with A CITY OF SADNESS, his 1989 masterpiece, nearly every film Hou Hsiao-hsien has given us since has been a great one, and even MILLENNIUM MAMBO, arguably the sole exception, is a work of unearthly beauty featuring one of the most indelible endings in modern cinema. Hou's best films, however—THE PUPPETMASTER, FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI, and now, possibly, this beguiling work—have achieved something even rarer than garden-variety greatness. They have suggested no less than a total re-imagining of cinema itself from the ground up, as if returning us to the silent era. Simply put, THE ASSASSIN is unprecedented. Ostensibly a wuxia film, this is worlds apart from anything King Hu might have dreamed up. There exists no film like it, though there are a handful of faint antecedents. Carl Dreyer's DAY OF WRATH, Akira Kurosawa's THRONE OF BLOOD, and Robert Bresson's LANCELOT DU LAC suggest something of the mysticism, the atmosphere of people under the spell of ancient superstition, that Hou casts over this Tang Dynasty legend. Both Kurosawa's and Kenji Mizoguchi's historical films draw on the aesthetic philosophies underpinning classical Japanese painting, just as this film draws on related traditions in Chinese painting. But neither of these potential lineages suffices to fully account for the swirl of sensations THE ASSASSIN induces in each of its richly appointed images. Likewise, Hou's previous work suggests ways one might understand and misunderstand the film in equal measure. If you're used to the allusive narrative strategies and long take style that reached full maturity with THE PUPPETMASTER, you may be disappointed to find that Hou's mode of address is slightly more direct here, his cutting within and between scenes is both more frequent and swifter. While he has not abandoned his aesthetic principles, he has tweaked them to fit his subject matter, achieving a level of concision that is new for him, but totally appropriate for what is fundamentally speaking a work of action cinema, albeit one of the oddest sort you are ever likely to encounter. The result is that this film feels simultaneously close to and remote from the films that came before it. There is nothing here like the entrancing, eight-minute take that opens FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI. Instead, a similarly entrancing rhythm is spun from the gradual drifting of one image into the next like lapping wisps of cloud, and the vertiginous alternation between deep, jewel-like interiors and vast, dream-like exteriors whose uncanny qualities surpass even those of Lisandro Alonso's JAUJA of last year. As with every Hou film since at least GOODBYE SOUTH, GOODBYE, critics have charged that all this visual splendor is allowed to intervene between the audience and the story's human elements ("intriguing, but ultimately opaque", "a lovely, inert object", "no love for anyone, or anything, outside of beauty"), and indeed one or even two viewings may not be enough to unpack this work's most buried currents of feeling, but they are there to be sure, concealed like the titular assassin herself or like the wind in the trees. (2015, 105 min, Blu-Ray Projection) EC
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More info at www.asianpopupcinema.org.


MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS

The Conversations at the Edge series presents Text of Light and Films by László Moholy-Nagy on Thursday at 6pm at The Art Institute of Chicago, Rubloff Auditorium (230 S. Columbus Dr.). The musical group Text of Light (led by guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Alan Licht) and percussionist Tim Barnes perform a live score to three of Moholy-Nagy’s films and a selection of his Chicago-made photographic work. Screening are BERLIN STILL LIFE (1926, 9 min, 16mm), MARSEILLE VIEUX PORT (1929, 11 min, 16mm) and LIGHT-PLAY: BLACK-WHITE-GRAY (1930, 5 min, 16mm). Free admission, but registration required (register at www.artic.edu/event/performance-text-light).

Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria, UIC) screens Marlon Riggs’ 1986 documentary ETHNIC NOTIONS (57 min, Video Projection) on Wednesday at 6pm. Free admission.

The Northwest Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E., 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) screens William Wyler’s 1949 film THE HEIRESS (115 min, 35mm) on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Preceded by a TBD cartoon.

Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens two films in their “Moment of Truth: Christian Horror and ‘Scare’ Films” series on Wednesday at 8pm. Screening are Karen Seimeras’ 2007 short WORM (30 min, Digital Projection) and Bruce Neubauer’s 1999 featurette M 10.28 (50 min, Digital Projection). Introduced by series curator Jason Coffman. Free admission.

The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Morgan Neville’s 2016 documentary THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS: YO-YOU MAN AND THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE (96 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 2pm; and Morton DaCosta’s 1958 film AUNTIE MAME (143 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission for both programs. www.northbrook.info/events/film

The Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Sandra Werneck’s 2015 Brazilian film LITTLE BOOK OF LOVE 2 (90 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.

Also at Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Ivan Calberac’s 2015 French film THE STUDENT AND MR. HENRI (98 min, DCP Digital) has five showings (check website for times); Fernando Perez Valdes’ 2003 Cuban film HAVANA SUITE (85 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 6:30pm and Tuesday at 6pm, with a lecture by SAIC professor Daniel R. Quiles at the Tuesday show; James Sadwith’s 2015 film COMING THROUGH THE RYE (97 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; and Quentin Lawrence’s 1961 British film CASH ON DEMAND (84 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 4:45pm and Monday at 6pm.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Ella Suleiman’s 2002 Palestinian film DIVINE INTERVENTION (93 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Sing-A-Long Sound of Music is on Friday-Sunday (check website for showtimes and availability); Nicholas Meyer’s 1982 film STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (113 min, 35mm) and Leonard Nimoy’s 1986 film STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (119 min, 35mm) play Sunday-Wednesday; Andrew Dominik’s 2016 Nick Cave documentary ONE MORE TIME WITH FEELING (85 min, Digital Projection) is on Thursday at 2, 4:30, and 9:45pm; the DOC10 festival screens Ferne Pearlstein’s 2016 documentary THE LAST LAUGH (88 min, Digital Projection) on Thursday at 7:15pm; and Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 Japanese animated film AKIRA (124 min, 35mm) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Also check the Music Box website for additional or held-over screenings this week.

At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Martin Butler and Bentley Dean’s Australian/Vanuatuan 2015 film TANNA (99 min, Digital Projection) plays for a week-long run; and Carles Torrens’ 2016 US/Spanish film PET (94 min, Digital Projection) opens on Thursday with a single 9:30pm show (it continues for a week’s run beginning on Friday, December 2).

 

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.

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CINE-LIST: November 11 - November 17, 2016

MANAGING EDITOR /
 Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Edo Choi, Kyle Cubr, Alexandra Ensign, Jason Halprin, Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Kyle A. Westphal, Candace Wirt, Darnell Witt

> Editorial Statement -> Contact