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.
Troubling the Image: Tales of Sound and Vision (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)
The second program in the Film Studies Center’s series “Troubling the Image” presents five short movies, each of which explores the connections between sound and image in provocative, disturbing ways. NIGHT WITHOUT DISTANCE (Lois Patiño, Spain/Portugal, 2015, 23 min, Digital Projection) is a moody study in landscape and topography exploring the border between Galicia and Portugal. Constructed in a series of tableaux-like long takes, the video at first seems to be almost entirely devoid of action. Gradually, however, vaguely discerned human figures—criminals—begin to speak to one another. The cryptic actions and veiled conversations of this group of smugglers are made all the more unnerving by the post-production manipulations that Patiño has performed, reversing the color of every shot into a negative image and then heavily adjusting and manipulating them into near unrecognizable strangeness. The otherworldly visuals clash with the hyper-clear audio track, an interference that mirrors the familiarity of the woodland shots vying with the insular, almost impenetrable dialogue shared amongst the characters. The digital manipulations of the image are striking, though overly precious, and at 23 minutes the piece’s formal games grow repetitive before the movie is over, but the video does remarkable things with the movements of dark yellow clouds and blood-tinged leaves on white trees. A NIGHT OF STORYTELLING (Robert Flaherty, UK/Ireland, 1935, 12 min, 35mm Restored Archival Print), or OIDHCHE SHEANCHAIS as it was originally titled, is a short film made by Robert Flaherty during post-production work on MAN OF ARAN. Likely the first synchronized sound film made entirely in Gaelic, NIGHT is a distinct oddity in Flaherty’s career. Set entirely indoors, with the actors who played the family in MAN OF ARAN sitting before a blazing fireplace on a soundstage, the film’s runtime is overwhelmingly devoted to a single long monologue, a magical fairy tale related by Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin, the famous storyteller, about a fisherman who meets a group of water spirits who threaten to destroy him. As Ó Dioráin’s voice intones his tale, Flaherty’s camera dwells not on his face, which is almost only seen in profile and from a distance, but on his audience, listening in unbroken attention and delight to the old man’s marvelous ability to conjure forth whole worlds with the power of his voice. Eventually, the film’s refusal to connect the man’s voice with his own face turns hypnotic, making the enraptured forms of his audience into physiognomic illustrations of the spiritual plight of the imperiled fisherman in Ó Dioráin’s story. THE INNER WORLD OF APHASIA (Edward R. Feil, USA, 1968, 24 min, 16mm Archival Print) divorces sound from source even more radically, and no less powerfully. Ostensibly a medical instructional film, INNER WORLD is about two people who have lost the ability to speak—an older man and a younger nurse. In illustrating the horrors of their language-less lives, Feil’s film becomes radically expressionistic, relying on extreme optical distortions and weird sonic effects to communicate the subjectivities of his two protagonists. Driven by a pair of wild but terrific performances, the film finds ways to turn seemingly inexpressible interior experiences into moments of dread, alarm, and terrible cruelty. Also showing are DARWIN DARWAH (Arash Nassiri, France, 2016, 12 min, Digital Projection) and WILDWOOD FLOWER (Keewatin Dewdney, Canada, 1971, 4 min, 16mm Restored Archival Print). KB
More info at https://filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu.
Jim Jarmusch’s NIGHT ON EARTH (American Revival)
Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) – Wednesday, 7:30pm
The phrase cinematic universe has become ubiquitous over the past decade, and while it’s mostly used in relation to comic book franchises and the myriad of ways they’re exploited for every penny, it’s nonetheless an interesting concept that embodies the way in which cinema—and its makers—can create worlds that are at once corporeal and transcendental. Jim Jarmusch is just one among a number of auteurs whose films seem to exist not only in their own world, but also on their own timeline—one can consider Jarmusch’s oeuvre and feel as if the plots of all his films are happening concurrently, even if they’re continents and eras apart. This concept is most explicit in his vignette and anthology films: MYSTERY TRAIN (1989), NIGHT ON EARTH (1991) and COFFEE AND CIGARETTES (2004). Where MYSTERY TRAIN features three sets of characters whose separate storylines unknowingly bring them to the same Memphis hotel, NIGHT ON EARTH takes place at the same time across five different cities around the world. In a 1992 interview with Sight and Sound, Jarmusch affirmed that he “still cling[s] to that need to order things in a classical way,” and that “the crossing time zones, being on the planet at the same time and the sun going down at the beginning and coming up at the end helped give...an overall form.” (COFFEE AND CIGARETTES is a little different in that its wholly separate vignettes are connected thematically by conversational and aesthetic motifs. One might also recognize Jarmusch’s 2013 film ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE as a culmination of this desire to defy any sublunary inclinations.) Jarmusch didn’t intend to follow MYSTERY TRAIN with a similarly episodic film; he wrote NIGHT ON EARTH “very fast, out of frustration” after another project centering on a single character got the kibosh. This urgency is felt through both the film’s structure and its tone—each vignette is about a taxi ride, varying in haste but still connected by an appropriately poetic inquietude. The first and last parts are my favorite: the first, set in LA and starring a young Winona Ryder as an irascible cabbie and a maturing Gena Rowlands as a slick casting agent (some of the film’s other stars include Giancarlo Esposito, Rosie Perez, Béatrice Dalle, and Roberto Benigni), reflects an assuring contentedness that oppugns any unease, and the last, set in Helsinki, about a cab driver whose sad story puts things into perspective for his discontented passengers, adds a sense of finality to an otherwise discrete, albeit winsome, construction. In spite of its perhaps unintentional incongruity, it still reflects Jarmusch’s unwavering commitment to and passion for the aforementioned “classical way,” which he uses to inform a distinct vision for each film. (Along these lines, Thom Andersen wrote in his essay for the film’s Criterion release that “[a]fter his first few films, it seems that critics, and maybe even some ordinary fans, started to take Jarmusch films for granted, in the same way that an older generation of critics and fans took Howard Hawks films for granted. The pleasures they offered were evident, but predictable. With Hawks, critics have come to value these pleasures more highly and to appreciate the variations he worked on recurring themes. Maybe Jarmusch’s day will come also.”) If you’re resolved to spending a night on earth—which, all told, no one would blame you for sitting one or 1,374 out—do so in Jarmusch’s world. Frederick Elmes’ ingenious cinematography and original music by Tom Waits should sweeten the deal. Preceded by “Finiculi Finicula” (1962, 3 min, 16mm), an excerpt from the Alvin and the Chipmunks’ television program The Alvin Show. (1991, 128 min, 35mm) KS
More info at www.chicagofilmsociety.org.
Walt Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (American Animation Revival) and Kenji Mizoguchi’s THE LIFE OF OHARU (Japanese Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 7pm* (Snow White) and Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 4:45pm and Thursday, 6pm (Oharu)
The Walt Disney Company's talent for manufacturing scarcity—socking away its animated classics and rotating them out of the vault every seven years—has made it difficult to contextualize their output. The studio's first feature, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (Supervising Director David Hand, 1937, 84 min, 35mm), is so reflexively promoted as a 'timeless' (and infinitely saleable) film that regarding it as an artifact of American popular taste in the late 1930s feels almost sacrilegious. And yet an artifact it is, so thoroughly steeped in the conventions of light operetta that it may as well be called THE STUDENT PRINCESS IN OLD HEIDELBURG. From the vantage point of today's animated blockblusters, replete with prominently advertised voice-over work from pop stars and sitcom stalwarts, SNOW WHITE is doubly strange for its lack of a credited cast. The original posters and lobby cards made no mention of vocal artists Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, or Pinto Colvig, but puzzlingly found room to hawk Walt's hobby horse, "Multiplane Technicolor." The Multiplane camera set-up was the logical culmination of Disney's hard-assed obsession with naturalism: if Disney cartoons could forsake the rubberhose limbs of the Fleischer and Harman-Ising efforts, then why should they settle for narrowly attenuated depth of field? The Multiplane system provided the ultimate ink 'n' paint simulacrum of human vision: as the camera tracks laterally, different elements of the background move at different speeds relative to their distance from the viewer. First demonstrated in the studio's Silly Symphony short THE OLD MILL from earlier that year, the Multiplane camera is used subtly and sparingly in SNOW WHITE; it contributes only a minor embellishment to SNOW WHITE's most effective sequence, the scullery maid's flight into the woods. (Disney's team would dream up much more impressive uses for Multiplane in BAMBI a few years later.) Viewed at this early stage, the Multiplane system is an astonishing technical feat in search of an expressive end. What Disney strove to replicate through painstaking mechanical illusion, the director Kenji Mizoguchi achieved through camera choreography alone—a live-action Multiplane effect. Like most of Mizoguchi's surviving films, THE LIFE OF OHARU (1952, 136 min, 35mm) dispenses with conventional shot-reverse shot cutting to tell its story through long takes staged in depth, aided by a moving camera that constantly blurs the relationship between background and foreground. Many sequences are a single shot, with the emotional progression and social hierarchy conveyed by who moves away from and who moves towards the camera. LIFE OF OHARU is even more literal about depth as a barometer of social standing: the titular heroine (Kinuyo Tanaka) is plucked from exile when her three-dimensional frame is celebrated as the flesh-and-blood embodiment of a scroll drawing. Adapted from a seventeenth-century novel by Saikaku, Mizoguchi's THE LIFE OF OHARU is decidedly episodic, a relentless chronicle of miseries that suffers here and there from its ruthlessly telescoped form. (Oharu's reversals of fortune come so fast and furious that she can barely begin a conversation with a man before he's revealed to be a thief, a rapist, a swindler, or just another entitled representative of the patriarchy.) But judging OHARU by its narrative beats alone provides an incomplete picture—the deep focus staging pulls most of the emotional weight. Oharu's aging companions lament the impermanence of the world in song, but we experience it in depth. In the film's climatic sequence—an invention of Mizoguchi and his screenwriter Yoshikata Yoda that has no basis in the source novel—Oharu is offered the chance to reunite with her child, whom she's never known. An opportunity for emotional catharsis and spiritual renewal becomes a ceremonial exercise in choreography—where he will walk, where she may stand, whether they will be allowed to occupy the same plane. All of the force of this sequence—which is among the highest moments in cinema—resides in the way its emotional chords are expressed in spatial correlatives. When Oharu finally breaks free and scuttles the composition, our sense of the world is shattered. Beneath the supremely organized surface, there reside infinite planes of chaos. KAW
* Doc was originally scheduled to show Disney’s SLEEPING BEAUTY on Friday night and at 1:30pm Sunday; due to some confusion with the distributor, they are now showing SNOW WHITE on Friday at 7pm and SLEEPING BEAUTY at 9pm. We are uncertain which of the two will show in the Sunday slot.
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu and www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Charlie Chaplin’s THE CIRCUS (Silent American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Wednesday, 7 and 9pm
Though its commercial success was comparable to that of THE GOLD RUSH, Charlie Chaplin never liked to talk about THE CIRCUS. The film took almost a year to shoot, during which time Chaplin went through a couple of scandals (which were so taxing that they caused his hair to turn prematurely gray) and the production had to be delayed several times. As a result of these negative associations, Chaplin didn’t mention THE CIRCUS at all in his autobiography, and he even kept it out of circulation for almost 40 years. And yet the film likely wouldn’t have wounded Chaplin so much if it weren’t also so personal for him. Many parallels can be drawn between American circuses and the British musical halls where Chaplin started his career, and several bits in the film are variations on routines he tried out in shorts a decade earlier. (The best and most beloved sequence, however, which finds the Tramp walking on a high wire while besieged by monkeys, came from the first idea that Chaplin had for the film.) THE CIRCUS contains passages of cruelty, depicting the abuse that the heroine suffers from her ringleader father, and these remind us—like so many others in Chaplin’s filmography—of the hardships that come between the joys of life. The blend of pathos and humor is, of course, the linchpin of Chaplin’s art, but in applying it specifically to the world of show business (as he would later in LIMELIGHT) Chaplin reveals its autobiographical origins. (1928, 72 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Mervyn LeRoy's LITTLE CAESAR (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am
Cruelty and vulgarity. Terror and destruction. Callousness toward human feelings. Sadism, anarchy, chaos, and disorder. No, these are not words culled from reports on the Trump administration. Rather, they're to be found in history books in connection with the gangster film, of which the classic LITTLE CAESAR was the template for the form. Arriving on the heels of the stock market crash, the film found a nation, as historian Lewis Jacobs notes, ready for a new kind of reality. That would change in a few years, when enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines began, and the repeal of prohibition decreased bootlegging. In the meantime, LITTLE CAESAR kicked off a controversial "crime wave." For a few mean years, in a bid to get Depression-strapped audiences in the door, Hollywood doubled down on the fun stuff: to wit, sex 'n' violence. Sound was still a relative novelty; movies moved to "contemporary urban and lowlife settings" in part to exploit the demimonde's inherent noise (e.g., gunplay) and wise-guy dialogue. Mervyn LeRoy was, in Jacobs's words, a "comparatively obscure director of gold-digger comedies" before the "overwhelming success" of this picture. It's the story of the rise and fall of a power-hungry, egotistical small-time hood who moves to the big city and becomes a gang boss. Portrayed in a star-making performance by Edward G. Robinson, he's ruthless yet naive, and not without a certain code of loyalty (and intimations of homosexuality). As historian Robert Sklar observes, LITTLE CAESAR broke with silent-era gangster films, wherein the criminal existed as if in a vacuum. Here, the gangster "became a public man" from a specific social background (poor immigrant), whose world collided with the respectable world. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. plays the pal who yearns to get out of the mob so he can tread the boards with his girlfriend (Glenda Farrell). (Significantly, Jacobs cites Farrell, along with Robinson, as new types of "hard-boiled" players.) Thomas E. Jackson gave a memorably strange, charismatically louche performance as the wisecracking cop. While Andrew Sarris thought this film "feeble" next to Howard Hawks' SCARFACE, it still plays like gangbusters. Notes Jacobs, its "glorification of rule by force reflected the cynical state of mind, the belief in the power of force over ideals, that had taken hold in America." Plus ça change... (1930, 78 min, 35mm) SP
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Lucile Hadžihalilovi?’s EVOLUTION (New French)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes
Lucile Hadžihalilovi?’s second feature, EVOLUTION, is a curious, Magritte-like work, marked by rigorous formal control and a narrative communicated in the language of dreams. It takes place in a tiny, isolated community bound by the ocean on one side and a mountain range on the other. Living there are a group of prepubescent boys and a dozen or so women who take care of them. Hadžihalilovi? doesn’t reveal how long the characters have been at this location or how long they intend to stay, and as in the writer-director’s sole other feature, 2004’s INNOCENCE, it’s difficult to say even when the film takes place—it could be anytime in the last 50 or 60 years. The nature of the medical procedures that the women sometimes perform on the boys is also left obscure, ditto the strange rituals the women undertake at night. (And why does one of the women have octopus-like suction cups on her back?) Hadžihalilovi?’s mise-en-scene is scrupulous; every prop has an inviting textural quality while at the same time projecting an air of mystery, and her use of negative space within the widescreen frame heightens the aura surrounding each object. The film proceeds less like a story than a series of paintings, but that’s hardly a bad thing, given the visual sensibility at play. (2015, 81 min, DCP Digital) BS
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Friday and Saturday, Midnight
David Lynch loves to play in the dark. His longtime cinematographer Frederick Elmes once remarked that "with David, my job is to determine how dark we're talking about." There's sort-of-dark, and really-dark, and pitch-black-dark; all of these kinds and more are put to gripping use in LOST HIGHWAY. The most breathtaking example (perhaps echoing a shot from THRONE OF BLOOD) is a scene that takes place in a shadowy hallway. Avant-garde sax player and demi-protangonist Fred Madison slowly moves from lightness to dark, appearing to slowly dissolve before our very eyes. It's the sort of infinitely subtle visual moment that home video just can't adequately reproduce, and LOST HIGHWAY is packed with them. For too long this movie has overshadowed by its more-celebrated follow-up, MULHOLLAND DR. But the fact is the two movies function as a true diptych, exploring similar themes of doubling and identity in ways that complement each other. To ignore LOST HIGHWAY is to discount some of Lynch's most indelible moments: including an unforgettably disquieting sex scene, the eerie Natalie Woodishness of a leather-clad Natasha Gregson Wagner, a gorgeous use of This Mortal Coil's "Song to the Siren," Richard Pryor's out-of-left-field cameo (it was his final film), and of course Robert Blake's unforgettable performance as the sinister Mystery Man. (1997, 135 min, 35mm) RC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Jonathan Glazer’s UNDER THE SKIN (Contemporary British)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday at 7:45pm and Tuesday at 6pm
A bomb at the box office upon its initial release, UNDER THE SKIN was Jonathan Glazer’s first feature in nearly a decade following 2004’s BIRTH and what a return it was. In what is arguably the finest performance she has ever given, a black haired Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who appears in Scotland and dons the aforementioned actresses’ appearance as if it were a costume. For much of the film, she roams around Glasgow in a utility van to pick up unwitting men only to lead them back to her abyss-like lair from which they never return. Many of these sequences maintain a hyperrealism thanks in part to the fact that Glazer hid cameras in and around the van while Johansson speaks with these men (many of whom were not actors, but rather just people out walking around). These unscripted scenes are fascinating to behold because they further stress the notion that her character is an outsider trying to blend in with modern society while she goes out to ‘hunt.’ Micah Levi’s haunting score boosts the film’s unnerving tone. The discordant sounds heighten the uncomfortable, sinister atmosphere Glazer cultivates and at times, seem otherworldly. One of the most interesting facets of this film is the way in which sexual politics and traditional gender roles are essentially reversed: here it is the men who should by wary of a strange woman attempting to pick them up. There is a strong sense of feminism underlying the film’s dark veneer. Heady, parasitic, and eerie, UNDER THE SKIN brings to the forefront contemporary societal issues and tackles them in unique fashion. It is the kind of film that sticks with you long after leaving the theater and in this writer’s opinion, a modern masterpiece. SAIC instructor and filmmaker Melika Bass lectures at the Tuesday screening. (2013, 108 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Akira Kurosawa's RASHOMON (Japanese Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 3pm and Monday, 6pm
So where does RASHOMON stand today? More than sixty years after the "opening of the West" to Japanese cinema, and after the publication of innumerable treatises and interpretations as to the meaning of this film, it seems almost as if RASHOMON has become some kind of be-all exemplar of "international cinema." This is what we know: a priest, a woodcutter, and a foul-mouthed wanderer take shelter from a punishing rainstorm in the ruins of an ancient temple—Rashomon—and try to find some truth in the vagaries and apocryphal testimonies of a petty murder trial they have just witnessed. Despite the undeniable sentimentality of the closing scenes—the same sentimentality that makes other Kurosawa films of the period (namely IKIRU) almost unwatchable—RASHOMON's images (the woodcutter in the forest, Toshiro Mifune snarling and flailing as the bandit Tojomaru, the severe mysteries and rites of the medium who speaks for the murdered husband, and the rain at Rashomon Temple) have become iconic and the film has become, for better or worse, an ingrained masterpiece—even for those who have not seen it. (1950, 88 min, 35mm) LN
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Julie Dash's DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (American Revival)
Black World Cinema (at Studio Movie Grill Chatham 14, 210 W. 87th St.) – Thursday, 7pm
The narrator of Julie Dash's DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST is more than just a character in the story—she’s a symbolic representation of the film itself. The unborn child who tells the tale 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 intrinsic as the blood in her relative’s veins, and it's that history which propels them along 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 spite of institutional slavery and post-war oppression. Before the move, the matriarch of the Peazant family contemplates her native beliefs while the family's younger members overcome their personal struggles. Rape and prostitution afflict several of them, and the scorn from both society and their own clan presents the unique obstacle of African-American women within an already disparaged race. Dash also brilliantly uses magical realism as a filmmaking device that’s reflective of the characters' ethereal culture. It was the first feature-length film by an African-American woman to receive theatrical release, and its historical context and female-oriented storyline set it apart from other films of the time and other films put out by fellow members of the L.A. Rebellion. With a discussion lead by Ytasha Womack author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. (1991, 112 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) KS
More info at http://blackworldcinema.net/blog.
Mia Hansen-Løve’s THINGS TO COME (New French)
Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes
Mia Hansen-Løve, the best French director of her generation, teams up with Isabelle Huppert—one of the best French actors, period—for a subdued drama about a philosophy professor whose life undergoes great changes over the course of a year. The results may not be instantly flooring like Hansen-Løve’s previous movies were, but that seems to be deliberate. The power of THINGS TO COME exists below its placid surface, much like the heroine’s rock-like resolve is belied by an oh-so-French politesse. (That’s not to say the movie feels dry or boring. Hansen-Løve’s mother was a professor, and you can sense the filmmaker's very personal connection to the material at every turn.) The sense of time slipping inexorably away from you, which has been central to Hansen-Løve’s art, is woven into the staging of individual moments and the overall rhythm of the film. The professor’s interactions with her husband (who divorces her relatively early in the story), her mother (a former fashion model who’s as histrionic as her daughter is becalmed), and a dashing former student (who seems like a potential love interest until it becomes clear that Hansen-Løve isn’t interested in any simple dramatic payoffs) all point to years of compromise, regret, and hard-won life lessons; the unexpected shifts forward in time make it feel as though the film is withholding important information. What exists between those gaps, behind Huppert’s carefully modulated performance? The mystery of human nature, perhaps. (2016, 102 min, DCP Digital) BS
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Chan-wook Park’s THE HANDMAIDEN (New Korean)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 3:15pm
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, 167 min – Doc lists this as the run time, so they may be showing the extended cut; or it might just be the regular 144 min version, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Martin Scorsese’s SILENCE (New American/International)
Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes
Throughout his long and accomplished career, Martin Scorsese has incorporated religion into many of his films—be it thematically, iconographically, or overtly, as in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST and KUNDUN. After twenty years in the making, his latest film, SILENCE, is a combination of all three. In the 16th century, a pair of Portuguese missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) embarks on a trip to feudal Japan to discover the whereabouts of Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), a priest who is believed to have apostatized due to the intense persecution Christians have been subjected to in that country. SILENCE is the sort of film where one’s personal beliefs or lack thereof will surely shape the one’s reconciliation of the events transpiring on-screen. It is emotionally-tolling and psychologically-straining. Interestingly enough, it is as pro-religion as it is anti-religion. Akira Kurosawa’s influence looms large here, with RASHOMON and SEVEN SAMURAI coming quickly to mind, and Scorsese flirts with other works of Eastern cinema by paying homage to several Japanese greats. The film’s bleak tone and heavy subject matter is aided by a muted color palette before, roughly halfway through, a shift occurs and there is an explosion of color and vibrancy while still maintaining the same somber undertones. In a land where to be Christian is essentially a death sentence to many, it’s captivating and at times, a bit perplexing that Father Rodrigues (Garfield) and the other Japanese converts remain so resolute in their faith. The biggest question raised is the notion of religious truth and whether that truth can be universal to all or not. Although lacking in the subtlety found in some of his other works, Scorsese’s SILENCE is a well-crafted test in the face of hardship and one that is sure to evoke a strong reaction by all. (2016, 161 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Palace Film Festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday at Thalia Hall (1807 S. Allport St.). Information on the lineup of films and performances can be found at www.palacefilmfest.com.
Stanley Tong’s 2017 Chinese Jackie Chan film KUNG FU YOGA (107 min, Digital Projection) opens at AMC River East 21 on Friday.
The Spertus Institute (610 S. Michigan Ave.) screens David Novack’s 2015 documentary FINDING BABEL (88 min, Digital Projection) on Sunday at 2pm. Andrei Malaev-Babel, Isaac Babel’s grandson and the film’s co-writer, in person.
The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Tim Burton’s 2016 film MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (127 min, DCP Digital) on Saturday at 2 and 7:30pm; and John Ford’s 1940 film THE GRAPES OF WRATH (129 min, DCP Digital) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission. www.northbrook.info.
Also presented by the Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) this week: Peter Galison and Robb Moss’ 2015 documentary CONTAINMENT (80 min, DCP Digital) is on Thursday at 7pm, with Moss in person. At the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.). Free admission.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents #OpenTVTonight on Tuesday at 6pm. The event is a showcase of upcoming work in the 2017 season of Open TV, an online television platform that focuses on work by queer artists. Fatimah Asghar and Sam Bailey (Brown Girls), Kayla Ginbsurg and Ruby Western (Afternoon Snatch), Ricardo Gamboa (Brujos), and others involved with the 2017 roster in person. Free with museum admission (which is free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays)
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Luc Jacquet’s 2015 French documentary ANTARCTICA: ICE & SKY (89 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; Kevin Mukherji’s 2016 documentary WE ARE ONE (86 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday and Wednesday at 7:45pm, with Mukherji in person; Nick Louvel and Michele Mitchell’s 2016 documentary THE UNCONDEMNED (87 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday and Monday at 7:45pm, with Mitchell in person at both screenings, along with other guests; and Lloyd Kramer’s 2016 documentary MIDSUMMER IN NEWTOWN (81 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 4:45pm and Thursday at 7:45pm.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Walt Disney’s 1959 animated film SLEEEPING BEAUTY (Supervising Director Clyde Geronimi, 75 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 9pm (and possibly Sunday at 1:30pm; see the note at the end of SNOW WHITE above in Crucial Viewing); Zhang Yimou’s 1995 Chinese film SHANGHAI TRIAD (109 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 7pm; Rosa von Praunheim’s 1990 documentary SILENCE = DEATH (60 min, 16mm Archival Print) is on Monday at 7pm; Friðrik Friðriksson’s 1996 Icelandic film DEVIL’S ISLAND (104 min, DCP Digital) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Fred Zinnemann’s 1973 film DAY OF THE JAKAL (143 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 7pm; and Doug Liman’s 2014 film EDGE OF TOMORROW (113 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 10pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Michael Dudok de Wit’s 2016 animated French/Belgian/Japanese film THE RED TURTLE (80 min, Digital Projection) is on Saturday at 11:30am; David Bickerstaff’s 2016 documentary THE CURIOUS WORLD OF HIERONYMUS BOSCH (87 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 11:30am; Kristi Jacobson’s 2016 documentary SOLITARY (82 min, DCP Digital) is on Thursday at 8pm, with Jacobson and local prisoners’ rights advocates in person, presented by the DOC10 festival; and Sang-ho Yeon’s 2016 South Korean film TRAIN TO BUSAN (118 min, Digital Projection) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.
Facets Cinémathèque plays Robin Pront’s 2015 Belgian film THE ARDENNES (93 min, Digital Projection), Cosmo Feilding Mellen’s 2015 documentary THE SUNSHINE MAKERS (90 min, Digital Projection), and Evan Oppenheimer’s 2017 US/Italian film LOST IN FLORENCE (97 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).