Against Ethnography (Experimental/Documentary)
Conversations at the Edge Series at the Gene Siskel Film Center – Thursday, 6pm
This provocative and troubling collection of videos, curated by Federico Windhausen, explores different ways in which indigenous peoples and societies interact with, and are acted upon by, multinational late capitalism. It is an alarming program, a condemnation of representational practices that mainstream media have made seem natural and unremarkable and that have been used to marginalize, exoticize, and infantilize groups that are insufficiently participating in the worldwide commodification of their ways of life. The earliest video in the program, MEETING ANCESTORS (Vincent Carelli and Dominique Gallois, 1993, 21 min), documents a moment of cultural contact as Wai-Wai, Head of the Waiãpi in Brazil, travels to meet a newly contacted tribe, the Zo’é. Wai-Wai and the Zo’é are generous and welcoming to one another, sharing customs, ideas, hunting tactics, and so on, but the shadow of western society is never far from view here. Wai-Wai is fascinated by the technology of video recording, repeatedly appropriating the cameras and other equipment from the documentary team to show the Zo’é both what Carelli and Gallois are doing and to illustrate the ways in which they have already been appropriated by western ideologies. Though Carelli and Gallois seem unaware of it, Wai-Wai and the Zo’é clearly recognize that their moment of exchange is deeply, inherently mediated by the documentarians ideas and cultural baggage. Indeed, much of this video must necessarily have been staged, the apparent spontaneity of various surprises and meetings coached and rehearsed. For all its visual indications of decolonization, MEETING ANCESTORS remains a video structured around and speaking to a western idea of simple peoples being looked at by sophisticated ones. CONTORNOS (Ximena Garrido-Lecca, 2014, 11 min) is a beautiful meditation on borders and transit, moving through Cerro de Pasco, in Peru, in a series of shots each of which depicts a blockage of some kind—a broken fence, a clothesline draped with a cavalcade of colors and fabrics, telephone wires strung between unseen poles, a sign proclaiming an area to be private property. No human being is ever seen. On the soundtrack, a man’s voice discusses the way life used to be before the town was overtaken by mining industry. It is a heartbreaking, oneiric work of great power, both luxuriating in the majesty of the natural world and lamenting its co-option by capital. Everywhere the camera looks it sees a landscape teetering on the edge of death and also half exploding with the force of its beauty. It takes the power of western technology, the implication is, to document what the power of western technology is in the process of fouling and destroying forever. The similarly themed, and equally great, TROPIC POCKET (Camilo Restrepo, 2012, 9 min), takes us to El Chocó, in Columbia, for a dense montage of original and found footage that reappropriates images taken of indigenous peoples and places by western cameramen. Restrepo is a master of visual poetry, imbuing his video with a percussive, throbbing mysteriousness as it moves effortlessly through time and image source and creating a hypnotic pseudo-narrative that always seems just on the verge of becoming comprehensible. As such, TROPIC POCKET can be read as a kind of indigenous riposte to the Surrealist fascination with ethnography, taking their colonialist tools and using them for a politically radical project impossible to imagine from within the comfortable ideological position of 1930s France. Also showing in the program are RACCAYA UMASI (Vicente Cueto, 2015, 9 min) and BILINGÜE (Leticia Obeid, 2013, 26 min). Curator Federico Windhausen in person. KB
More info at saic.edu/cate.
Japanese Experimental Cinema—Between Protest and Performance, 1960-1975
Program A: Motoharu Jonouchi and Nihon University Film Club (Japanese Experimental)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) – Thursday, 7pm
Programmed to complement a new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago called “Provoke: Photography in Japan between Protest and Performance, 1960–1975,” this screening is the first of three that “provide an opportunity to explore the historical intersection of experimental filmmaking with documentary cinema traditions in a period of radical social and political change,” according to Block Cinema’s website. That last part may sound familiar—in such trying times, it’s both helpful and comforting to look to the creative past. This program centers on Motoharu Jonouchi and the Nihon University Film Club. “Instrumental in the formation and gathering of multiple artistic and anti-art endeavors including the Nihon University Film Club, VAN film research center, and the Neo-Dadaists,” Jonouchi was an exhaustive artist who thrived outside the Japanese studio system. Two of the films he made with the Nihon University New Cinema Club bookend the program: WAN (BOWL) (1961, 25 min; whose production group also included the great radical filmmaker and activist Masao Adachi) and PUPU (1960, 25min, 16mm), the latter of which is referred to by critic Wheeler W. Dixon as being a “pioneering Japanese surrealist effort.” Jonouchi made the other two films in the program himself; GEWALTOPIA TRAILER (1969, 13 min) consists of re-edited footage from some of his earlier films, taking on double meaning as both a self-referential work and a statement piece, while SHINJUKU STATION (1974, 14 min) poetically documents the 1968 Shinjuku protests. (Jonouchi would perform during showings of the latter film, “projecting images of the past onto himself whilst reciting Dada-influenced and virtually inaudible poetry generating a cacophony of images and sounds, drawing from and participating in the maelstrom of political and artistic expression during the era,” according to the FTI-lo website.) Screening entirely on 16mm, this program provides rare insight into facets of Japanese and experimental cinema not often explored. (1960-74, 77 min total, 16mm) KS
More info at www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's FOX AND HIS FRIENDS (German Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Sunday, 7pm
Not to be confused with the Fox News Channel's liberty-lovin' early morning coffee klatch Fox and Friends, itself a formidable showcase of sadomasochistic aggression and queenly preening, Fassbinder's 1975 film FOX AND HIS FRIENDS is one of his finest—a fatalistic cautionary tale about an innocent schnook deflowered by the logic of industrial capitalism. (Appropriately, one plausible translation of the original German title is "Freedom Will Fist-Fuck You.") Though Fassbinder lifts the name of his central character from Alfred Doblin's 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz, the decisive Weimar shadow is that of F.W. Murnau’s 1924 film DER LETZTE MANN; FOX AND HIS FRIENDS plays like an inversion of Murnau and screenwriter Carl Mayer's classic of working classic humiliation, which famously proposed "a most improbable epilogue" that delivered salvation-through-unexpected-inheritance to Emil Jannings' downwardly-mobile washroom attendant and depicted his new-found magnanimity in comically out-sized terms. In Fassbinder's version, prissy prole Franz "Fox" Biberkopf assays a providential lottery jackpot in the first reel (a camp-crass "triumph of the will" played with Keystone staccato) and spends the rest of the movie paying the price for his good fortune. Instantly drawn into a gay demimonde of mud baths, antique furniture dealers, chintzy nouveau riche flats with absurd chandeliers, and admittedly impeccable exemplars of male fashion, Fox is an arriviste outsider, an avatar of working class boorishness. Proudly adorned with his SCORPIO RISING-style stud jacket, freely professing his love of pilsner and total ignorance of sugar spoons, Fox cannot his recognize new friends' predations as anything but acts of love that he's too dim to fully appreciation or comprehend. That presumption of ignorance, the automatic self-deprecation and inferiority complex, is Fox's tragic flaw—and an exploitative opening for his high-bred defilers, who are immune to such doubts and instinctively know how to weaponize shame. Defending FOX AND HIS FRIENDS against charges of self-loathing leveled decades ago by Andrew Britton in Gay Left, the critic Alex Davidson smartly quipped, "[W]ould that the avaricious men in Fox and His Friends had enough self-awareness to hate themselves." So, is this hilariously precise dissection of West Germany's gay scene a covert act of homophobia? Let us say only that Fassbinder knew the milieu a hell of a lot better than many of the actors with whom he populated this acid postcard from paisley purgatory. Karl-Heinz Böhm, who played the camera-killer of PEEPING TOM and appears here as Fox's high society tour guide Max, incredibly maintained that the profoundly queer Fassbinder was only "pretending to be a homosexual or bisexual," "very good at acting as a gay person, and behaving like a gay person," all as "a kind of protest against his father, but also to express his opposition to a society where homosexuals were not being accepted." That Fassbinder could craft such a warm, empathetic, and ruthless movie with collaborators who misunderstood and denied his deepest desires is but one demonstration of this artist's unearthly powers. (1975, 123 min, 35mm) KAW
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Festival of Films from Iran
Narges Abyar’s BREATH (New Iranian)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 8pm and Sunday, 4:45pm
Given the United States’ current political realities regarding its handling of refugees, the (for now staid) travel ban on people from certain Middle Eastern countries, and the still-unbalanced position of women in society (She persisted, anyone?), BREATH is a breath of fresh air for American audiences. A film that celebrates both female empowerment and the innocence of childhood while starkly contrasted against the doom and destruction of war and international conflict is hard to ignore. Reminiscent of BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, the film takes place in Iran during a five-year period near the end of the 1970’s; its central focus is on Bahar, a young school-aged girl who sees the world around her in as fantastic a manner as the books that she reads depict. Her view on the world frequently features dreamlike qualities, surreal or animated in nature. Narges Abyar’s mixed-media approach offers Bahar an escape from her harsh circumstances, whether from an overbearing grandmother or from the Iran-Iraq War. The juxtaposition of Bahar’s imaginative, fantasy rendering of her world to the unmediated reality is one that resonates beyond the frame as the film unintentionally serves as an analogy for the treatment of Iranians and Muslims in the modern world. BREATH serves as a reminder that there can always be a silver lining, even when all hope and innocence seems to be lost. (2016, 110 min, DCP Digital) KC
Also this week in the Iranian festival: Behnam Behzadi’s 2016 film INVERSION (84 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 6:15pm and Sunday at 3pm.
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University): Rosa von Praunheim’s fascinating and darkly humorous 1971 German queer provocation IT IS NOT THE HOMOSEXUAL WHO IS PERVERSE, BUT THE SOCIETY IN WHICH HE LIVES (67 min, 16mm) screens on Friday at 7pm. It will be followed by Monika Treut’s 1992 short MAX (29 min, Digital Projection).
Black World Cinema presents the shorts program Black Radical Imagination (curated by L.A.-based Erin Christovale and local filmmaker and programmer Amir George) on Thursday at 7pm at the Studio Movie Grill Chatham (210 W. 87th St.). http://blackworldcinema.net/blog/
Doc Films (University of Chicago) screens Bill Sherwood’s pioneering 1986 AIDS drama PARTING GLANCES (90 min, 16mm), about 24-hours in the life of a NYC gay couple and their friends, on Monday at 7pm.
The Spertus Institute (610 S. Michigan Ave.) screens Max Lewkowicz’s 2010 documentary MORGENTHAU (107 min, Digital Projection) on Sunday at 2pm. Introduction and discussion by Tony Michels, Professor of American Jewish History at University of Wisconsin, Madison. The film “tells the epic story of one American family with a zeal for justice. It traces the careers of three generations who played vital roles in some of the most dramatic social and political events of the 20th century.”
The Gene Siskel Film Center screens Vincent Perez’s 2016 British/French/German film ALONE IN BERLIN (103 min, DCP Digital), about a German couple’s anonymous acts of defiance in WWII Berlin after the death of their soldier son, for a week-long run.
Raoul Peck's I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (New Essay/Documentary)
Various Chicago and Evanston Theaters
If the role of the public intellectual is to speak truth to power, then James Baldwin was one of the greatest America ever produced. A searing and compassionate social critic, he was equally penetrating when he turned his novelist's gaze toward film, as this galvanizing, heartbreaking essay/documentary by Raoul Peck demonstrates. Its voiceover is in Baldwin's own words, the beautiful music of his language measured out by Samuel L. Jackson in an intimate spoken-word performance. In televised interviews and debates from the 1960s, Baldwin is pensive and incendiary, and the film cuts between his embattled times and our own. Baldwin investigated the mystery of the fathomless hatred of white Americans for blacks, and while his analysis was economic, it also involved a kind of psychoanalysis of the American psyche. This film's jumping-off point is Remember This House, his unfinished manuscript about the intertwining lives, and violent deaths, of his friends/foils Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers. Soon it turns to The Devil Finds Work, his earthy, shattering essay about growing up a child of the movies. Baldwin understood cinema as "the American looking glass," and he wrote with such lucidity, and such painful honesty, about what he saw reflected there, about himself, race, and his country. "To encounter oneself is to encounter the other," he wrote, "and this is love. If I know that my soul trembles, I know that yours does, too: and, if I can respect this, both of us can live." Viewer identification is complex: as a youngster whose heroes were white, who rooted for Gary Cooper, it came as a huge shock for him to realize "the Indians were you"—and these heroes aimed to kill you off, too. Peck has called his film an essay on images, a "musical and visual kaleidoscope" of fiery blues, lobotomized mass media, classic Hollywood, TV news, reality TV, and advertisements. He causes a government propaganda film from 1960 about U.S. life, all baseball games and amusement parks, to collide with the Watts uprising; a Doris Day movie meets lynched bodies. The point is not even that one is reality and the other is not. It's that these two realities were never forced to confront each other—and they must, because one comes at the other's expense. When Baldwin speaks of the "death of the heart," of our privileged apathy, of an infantile America, an unthinking and cruel place, he could be speaking of the Trump era. He feared for the future of a country increasingly unable to distinguish between illusion, dream, and reality. "Neither of us, truly, can live without the other," he wrote. "For, I have seen the devil...[I]t is that moment when no other human being is real for you, nor are you real for yourself." Let this movie inspire today's young dissenters, and let James Baldwin be our model of oppositional, critical thinking as we raise our angry voices against Donald Trump and everything he stands for. (2016, 95 min, DCP Digital) SP
Troubling the Image: Works by Pat O'Neill (New and Revival Experimental)
Films Studies Center (University of Chicago) at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.) – Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
Throughout his career, which now spans six decades, Pat O'Neill has masterfully used his skills as a special effects artist to produce works that are both evocative and abstract. His legendary expertise in optical printing is evident in his 1996 35mm film TROUBLE IN THE IMAGE (1996, 38 min, showing in a newly preserved print) and he transfers those skills to the digital realm with WHERE THE CHOCOLATE MOUNTAIN (2015, 55 min, Digital Projection). Focusing solely on O'Neill's formidable use of the optical printer (and the corollary digital tools) minimizes many other fascinating elements at play in his works, however. Certain themes pervade both TROUBLE and CHOCOLATE, as does a feeling of alienation, evoked by the jarring placements of both figurative and abstract elements on the screen and the repetition of scenes of emotional affect, which are played to the point of absurdity, sometimes with synchronized sound and sometimes without. When discussing his work, O'Neill cites the influence of artists who worked in a range of differing mediums as much as he does the pioneers of experimental film, and those disparate influences can be seen especially in TROUBLE IN THE IMAGE, where oscillating hand-drawn images recall Kandinsky or Miro, set to a pulse that is both pleasurable and discomforting. Also pervasive in O'Neill's works is a weighty feeling of time. The pacing is frequently slow, deliberate, and contemplative, but never boring, due in large part to his feel for musicality and rhythm and consonance between sound and image. Though WHERE THE CHOCOLATE MOUNTAIN sometimes drifts into territory that feels less overtly moving, striking, and pleasurable than the montage and overlay of TROUBLE IN THE IMAGE and older works like EASYOUT and DOWNWIND (two of his fantastic avant-garde films from the early 1970s), it plays intensely with symmetry in a way that makes the viewer wonder if even the ugliest textures and images can be made beautiful through symmetry achieved artificially by manipulation of the image. In a way, all of O'Neill's films are deliciously opaque and densely imaginative, rich with imagery, juxtapositions, and open to a variety of interpretations. Even if you haven't seen O'Neill's earlier works (especially his 1989 film WATER AND POWER, which many people consider his masterpiece), these two films are an excellent introduction to a body of work that could be watched hundreds of times and still satisfy something deep within on a non-narrative level, whether one is as ambivalent about Hollywood and narrative as O'Neill (a longtime native of Los Angeles and industry freelancer) is, or a long-time lover of the classic films and B-movies O’Neill incorporates throughout in archival footage and audio excerpts. AE
More info at https://filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu.
Jerry Schatzberg’s PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD (American Revival)
Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) – Wednesday, 7:30pm
As may be expected of a fashion photographer-turned-director, Jerry Schatzberg is capable of some very alluring mise-en-scene. Most every shot of his debut feature, PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD, is dynamically composed, regardless of whether it’s of a house in long shot or a face in close-up, and the color combinations are smart and interesting. His editing here may be heavily indebted to that of 60s Alain Resnais films, but it’s not slavishly imitative or without feeling; the sequencing of shots demonstrates a strong understanding of how images look when laid out in front of each other. (In any case, PUZZLE is seldom as pretentious as its title, which suggests an SCTV spoof of MURIEL.) The film’s milieu, appropriately enough, is the fashion world; the heroine is a reclusive model recounting the events of her life while recovering from a nervous breakdown. Schatzberg based the film on conversations he’d had with the model Anne Saint-Marie, and it feels as knowing and intimate in its portrait of the heroine’s mental illness as in its portrait of her profession. Where the fractured narrative (a heavy-handed representation of the heroine’s fractured consciousness) shows the influence of Resnais, Carole Eastman’s script shows the influence of Ingmar Bergman in its frank, extended discussions of psychology and sexual angst. PUZZLE feels at times like a women’s picture from the 40s or 50s with all the psychosexual subtext brought to the surface; the bad love affairs and the self-abasement are presented with a bluntness that had been made possible by the abolition of the production code. Faye Dunaway is great in the lead, taking a showy role and investing it with nuance and imagination; the rest of the cast (which includes Roy Scheider) isn’t bad either. Preceded by John Canemaker’s 1978 animated short CONFESSIONS OF A STARDREAMER (9 min, 16mm). (1970, 104 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.chicagofilmsociety.org.
Maren Ade's THE FOREST FOR THE TREES (German Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 2:30pm and Thursday, 8:15pm
Writer/director Maren Ade is the talk of the town for TONI ERDMANN; an artist who's earned her comparisons to Renoir and Cassavetes. Here is an opportunity to see her first feature on the big screen. Her films are examinations of behavior—psychological case studies—and connoisseurs of character-focused films will note she was a fine director of actors right out of the gate. This cringeworthy psychodrama traces the breakdown of a naive, awkward, rather square young schoolteacher (Eva Löbau), who moves to a new town in the middle of the school year. Her professed hope of bringing "a breath of fresh air" immediately annoys the seasoned teachers, and the recalcitrant kids greet her nervous, overly solicitous manner with scorn and abuse. She hasn't the gift of authority. Her attempts to befriend the woman next door (Daniela Holtz), who initially humors her, are needy and puppy-like. Ade's camera style evokes the then-contemporary The Office, though sometimes she gets such low angles she seems to be down in the floor. Here, the embarrassing situations are not played for laughs. The miserable, lonely teacher can't find the humor and warmth that saves the characters in TONI ERDMANN. Still, the Ade hallmarks are here: the intense collaboration between director and actors yielding rich, precise realism in the performances; the behaviors and anxieties we recognize with a pang; an approach to character that allows us to infer a whole life from glances and gestures. Conflicts in Ade aren't melodramatic. Rather, they arise from people's natural tendency to dissemble, as in life. She refuses to take sides. While we empathize with the shy teacher's yearning for connection—she so wants people to like her—she's also a bitter, self-sabotaging buttinsky, and even a bit unstable, spying on her neighbor and cluelessly bestowing unwanted attention. (All three of Ade's features are marked by uncomfortable "what are you doing here?" situations.) Still, Ade's strategies are aimed at getting as close to this character as possible, and the film has a wonderful, magical ending which I choose to read as a ray of hope for her. It is audacious and open, a mystery, and it announces an important career. (2003, 80 min, 35mm) SP
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR (Contemporary Thai)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 8:30pm and Tuesday, 6pm
It's a fitting choice for a director whose films feel like reveries to set his latest in a clinic for soldiers who are unable to wake up. Likewise, the hallucinatory gradient glow of lamps placed beside the patients' beds to calm their dreams are analogous to the particular narrative and stylistic approach that makes Weerasethakul's work so unique and immediately recognizable. The protagonist, Jenjira (played by Jenjira Pongpas), is a volunteer at the hospital who "adopts" one of the soldiers as her own son. Outside the few hours he is awake, her main channel of communication is a medium whose skill allegedly once garnered a job offer from the FBI. The agents of the soldiers' malady are dead kings--disturbed by a government project to lay a fibre optic cable near their graveyard--enlisting their spirits to wage otherworldly wars. The loose narrative structure that propels the film forward is just as concerned with detailing Jen's life experiences as it with resolving the soldiers' situation, unspooling in leisurely sequences that can feel both casual and monumental. By the end, you realize how much personal and temporal ground you've covered without even noticing as it was happening. The elements of the story certainly encourage metaphorical readings, engaging Thai history up to the present day. For all the enigmas of Weerasethakul's cinema, in the context of the 2014 coup and continued military control of the country, the final five minutes of CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR feel remarkably explicit. What is political cinema? Let us hope that, as opposed to the myriad Sundance-anointed "issue films" coming soon to a theater near you, it's something like this. Filmmaker and SAIC professor Melika Bass lectures at the Tuesday screening. (2015, 122 min, DCP Digital) AK
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Michael Dudok de Wit’s THE RED TURTLE (New Animation)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes
Over the course of its thirty plus year existence, Studio Ghibli has been celebrated for its anime releases, but in that time, have never produced a non-Japanese film. Hayao Miyazaki was so impressed by Michael Dudok de Wit’s FATHER AND DAUGHTER that he had his studio reach out to the Dutch director to collaborate, and THE RED TURTLE was born. This taut, dialogue-free film depicts a shipwrecked sailor marooned on a tropical island. After a mysterious red sea turtle prevents his numerous attempts to flee the island, he flips the creature onto its shell and leaves it to bake in the sun on the beach. When the animal dies, the body is seemingly replaced with that of a red haired woman, and the man gains a companion. Many of the themes of THE RED TURTLE revolve around loneliness, acceptance, and man’s will to survive and, coupled with its basic narrative premise, draw an easy comparison to Robinson Crusoe. The film’s color palette is vibrant and lush and this brightness instills a sense of vitality and tranquility that invites the viewer to imagine the warm breezes rustling through the trees and the cool water lapping along the shores. There is a sense of whimsy that pervades the film and juxtaposed with the lack of dialogue, attunes the eye to the subtleties of the gorgeous animation and the mind to the minimalist, but affecting, story. (2016, 80 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Paul Verhoeven’s ELLE (New French)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes
In some quarters, ELLE has been unfairly dismissed because of its rape scene. It’s become a polarizing film in the blogosphere and twittersphere, with some reaching their opinions without even having seen the film. ELLE both succumbs to and rises above the rhetorical positions and derision tossed at it, and delivers perhaps the year’s most biting satire, a film unafraid of its complexity and hard to pin-down characters and events. The film stars the great Isabelle Huppert as Michèle Leblanc, the CEO of a highly profitable video-gaming company, who is attacked in her home by an invader, as seen through the ambiguous eyes of a black cat, seated across from the horror, yet impervious to it. Once her rapist has fled, Leblanc decides not to report the incident, which may or may not have something to do with her mysterious past. She then sets in motion a highly unlikely series of events in reaction to this violent event. More than the opening scene does, though, what dominates the film are the other men Leblanc finds herself beset by (her son, ex-husband, sexual partner, male employees, father, mother’s boyfriend, etc.), as they all clamor for her time and money. Verhoeven limits us to a clear identification with his protagonist’s intentions, desires, fears, and dreams; as such, ELLE is less-suited to comparisons with IRREVERSIBLE and THE PIANO TEACHER, and more so to associations with BELLE DU JOUR and BITTER MOON. The film is almost a reverse of the violent sexuality on display in another Verhoeven masterpiece, BASIC INSTINCT, with Leblanc displaying more-than-mild curiosity towards her assailant, even though common sense would dictate differently; both films, along with Verhoeven’s BLACK BOOK, mix the detective genre with voyeuristic desire, so you’re never really sure where the detective’s trail ends and erotic fixation begins. This blurring of the lines between fetishistic observation and good detective work makes Verhoeven’s art particularly relevant, and perhaps even necessary, as a framework through which to grapple with our current corrosive societal and political atmosphere that challenges the very notion of “truth” and “facts,” spiraling them into subjective torrents of dark matter. This is a film seemingly built around the exposing of facts, where we see two characters meet on screen, then part, new information is revealed about one or both of them, then they meet again, constantly challenging our perception of them and the film itself. The audience is then left relegated to the position of the aforementioned impassive black cat, watching but unable to intervene. (2016, 130 min, DCP Digital) JD
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Michael Curtiz's CASABLANCA (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Sunday, 2pm
A strong candidate for the most entertaining movie ever made, CASABLANCA irresistibly weds the theme of self-sacrifice for a greater good to a love story set against the backdrop of wartime intrigue. Mix in Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at their most iconic, deliciously witty dialogue, a cast of colorful supporting characters played by unforgettable character actors and the able craftsmanship of director Michael Curtiz and you have Exhibit A for anyone looking to understand the genius of Hollywood's old studio system. You must remember this: Bogie as Rick Blaine, the American nightclub owner living in Morocco, whose cynical exterior conceals a sentimental heart; Bergman as Ilsa Lund, the Norwegian woman he loved and lost in pre-World War II France, only to find again under less-than-ideal circumstances in the Vichy-controlled title city. Out of all the gin joints in the world, why did she have to walk into his?! Thank God for the sake of movie lovers that she did. They'll always have Paris--and we'll always have CASABLANCA. Preceded by a "Valentine's Day Sweetheart Sing-Along" (unfortunately). (1942, 102 min, 35mm) MGS
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Maren Ade’s TONI ERDMANN (New German)
Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes
On paper, TONI ERDMANN is the stuff of early-aughts awards fodder, the sort of vehicle that might've starred Dustin Hoffman opposite Julia Roberts in an Alexander Payne production. And were Hollywood to remake it today, as they have already threatened, one easily imagines an Adams-De Niro pairing helmed by David O. Russell. As it is, it goes something like this: after the death of his beloved dog, Winfried Conradi, an eccentric music teacher of the hippie generation, alone, divorced, and on the wrong side of the retirement age, sets out on a desperate attempt to woo back his estranged daughter Ines, an eighties child turned management consultant in Romania, and a good soldier in the neoliberal conquest of Eastern Europe. With the aid of a set of false teeth and an ill-fitting wig, Winfried, an outrageous prankster, crashes Ines in Bucharest, assumes the role of Toni Erdmann, “consultant and coach," and proceeds to upend her scrupulously cultivated professional life through a slew of haphazard, grotesquely humiliating sneak attacks. Sound familiar? In Maren Ade’s hands, this story of generational conflict is anything but. There is an extraordinary level of attentiveness and restraint to Ade’s regard here. On the one hand, this is a matter of camerawork and editing that always respect the evolving moment. On the other, it’s a matter of a screenplay that refuses to take even standard shortcuts to hit its beats. At no point, does any hand-of-god logic assert itself to steer things more quickly or more surely to their end. Instead, Ade preserves a deep, abiding trust in her leads Peter Simonischek and Sandra Huller, coupled with a refusal to allow them even momentary transcendence of the discomfort of their situation, and deepened by a wry, alert sense for the banal absurdities of self-presentation that dominate far too much of our contemporary lives. The result achieves a momentousness of both scale and intimacy the cinema simply hasn’t seen since the likes of Maurice Pialat and John Cassavetes. It’s also hilarious. (2016, 162 min, DCP Digital) EC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Cellular Cinema: Liminalism on Saturday at 7pm. The program is “a collection of short, experimental 16mm film, video and expanded cinema from Minnesota-based artists.”
The Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest (400 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest, IL) presents Max Linder’s 1921 silent comedy SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK (65 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm. The screening features a newly composed score by Danny Robles performed live by the Lake Forest College Moving Pictures Orchestra.
Township (2200 N. California Ave.) hosts Sinema Obscura’s screening of local filmmaker Jake Myers’ 2016 film CONSPIRACY THEORY (79 min, Digital Projection) on Monday at 8pm. Preceded by “The Roswell Rock,” a 2014 episode of the television series In Search of Aliens (44 min, Digital Projection).
The Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell Ave.) presents Rupert Julian’s 1925 silent film THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (93 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 6:30pm (5:30–6:30pm, masquerade mask making and DJ; 8:30–10pm, printmaking and DJ), with a live score by Echo Haus and Angel Spit’s Zoog Von Rock. Preceded by Paul Hurst’s 1915 silent short THE ESCAPE ON THE FAST FREIGHT (13 min).
Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens José Luis Guerín’s 2001 Spanish documentary EN CONSTRUCCIÓN (125 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.
Black Cinema House at the Stony Island Arts Bank (6760 S. Stony Island Ave.) screens Michelle Bello’s 2013 Nigerian film FLOWER GIRL (94 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 7pm. Free admission.
The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Ewan McGregor’s 2016 film AMERICAN PASTORAL (108 min, DCP Digital) on Saturday at 2 and 7:30pm; and John Ford’s 1946 film MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (97 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission. www.northbrook.info.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: April Mullen’s 2016 Canadian lesbian love story BELOW HER MOUTH (92 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 8pm and Monday and Wednesday at 8:30pm; Alexander Korda’s 1931 film MARIUS (127 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 2:45pm and Monday at 6pm; and Marc Allegret’s 1932 film FANNY (127 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 5:15pm and Wednesday at 6pm.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Philip Kaufman’s 1979 film THE WANDERERS (117 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 1:30pm; David Yates’ 2016 film FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (133 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:45pm and Sunday at 4pm; Rúnar Rúnarsson’s 2015 Icelandic film SPARROWS (99 min, DCP Digital) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Charles Chaplin’s 1936 film MODERN TIMES (87 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7 and 9pm; Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film THE CONVERSATION (113 min, DCP Digital) is on Thursday at 7pm; and Terry Gilliam’s 1995 film 12 MONKEYS (129 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:45pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: André Øvredal’s 2016 film THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (86 min, DCP Digital) continues; Richard Stanley’s 1990 film HARDWARE (94 min, 35mm) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; 2017 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts Program A is on Saturday at 11:30am; 2017 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts Program B is on Sunday at 11:30am; Rob Reiner’s 1989 film WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (96 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7:30pm; the multi-director (over 40) 2017 film TRAIN STATION (97 min, Digital Projection) is on Wednesday at 7:15pm.
Facets Cinémathèque screens Maggie Greenwald’ 2016 film SOPHIE AND THE RISING SUN (116 min, Digital Projection), Jack Fessenden’s 2016 film STRAY BULLETS (83 min, Digital Projection), and Minhal Baig’s 2016 film 1 NIGHT (72 min, Digital Projection) for week-long runs.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
Olympia Centre (737 N. Michigan Ave. - entrance at 151 E. Chicago Ave.) presents Virginio Ferrari & Marco G. Ferrari: Spirit Level through April 6. The show features sculpture, 16mm film, video and installations by artists Virginio Ferrari and Marco G. Ferrari, including Marco Ferrari’s SPIRIT LEVEL (2015-16, 30 min) and CONTRAILS WITH BODY (2011-16, 3 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.
The Art Institute of Chicago (Gallery 186) has Rodney McMillian: A Great Society on view through March 26. The exhibition features three video works by McMillian: UNTITLED (THE GREAT SOCIETY) I (2006, 16 min loop), A MIGRATION TALE (2014-15, 10 min loop), and PREACHER MAN (2015, 6 min loop).