Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, APR. 18 - Thursday, APR. 24 ::


Michael Curtiz's THE STRANGE LOVE OF MOLLY LOUVAIN (American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Patio Theater) - Wednesday, 7:30pm

Hardly considered a pre-code classic, Michael Curtiz's THE STRANGE LOVE OF MOLLY LOUVAIN remains significant as an interesting vehicle for its director (who would later go on to direct CASABLANCA) and its star, Ann Dvorak, whose talent and charm have been largely forgotten in the annals of film history. Coming off her breakout role as Cesca Camonte in Howard Hawks' 1932 gangster film SCARFACE, Dvorak brings pizzazz to a film that is otherwise just a run-of-the-mill pre-code crime drama. Dvorak is the eponymous heroine, a down-on-her-luck hotel clerk whose dreams of domestic and economic comfort are dashed when her well-to-do beau abandons her. Instead she takes up with a charming, small-time crook, Nick (played by Leslie Fenton, who was also Dvorak's first husband), and hits the road in search of easy money so that she can amply provide for her illegitimate daughter. It all comes to a head when Nick follows Molly after she leaves him to find a better life in Chicago and involves her in his latest criminal escapade. Not wanting to be aligned with Nick as a typical gangster moll, she hides out with a buddy from her hotel days and soon meets a cynical, but somewhat charming newspaper reporter who also happens to be hot on her case. The film is a standard redemption narrative, as both Molly and the newspaperman are redeemed through their respective feelings of guilt; Molly's guilt over thoughts of abandoning her child, the reporter's guilt over his actions toward Molly. The salaciousness of any pre-code debauchery is nullified by their atonement, an interesting parallel with Dvorak's role as Cesca in SCARFACE. If Cesca lacked a conscience, then Molly makes up for it in spades, and the dichotomy only makes both films all the more interesting. With Christina Rice, author of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel, in person. (1932, 73 min, Archival 35mm Print) KS
Note: look for an interview with author Christina Rice on the Cine-File blog mid-week:
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Frank Borzage's MAN'S CASTLE (American Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Thursday, 7pm

MAN'S CASTLE has yet to acquire a large fan base, but it deeply affects new audiences with every revival. Its director, Frank Borzage, possessed "the most romantic sensibility" in the cinema (pace Dave Kehr), and the film is remarkable for how it maintains that sensibility in the face of recent tragedy. The story takes place among the rapidly growing homeless of Depression-era America, imagining a love story between two people hardened by circumstance. But very little of this love story is sappy: As in Borzage's best work, true love arrives as the solution to life's cruelty, offering a source of transcendence. Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young are appropriately vulnerable (and occasionally tart) as the lovers; their performances ground even the flights of fantasy in recognizable emotional response. (1933, 75 min, 35mm) BS
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Liza Johnson's HATESHIP LOVESHIP (New American)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes

Sheltered and repressed from having to care for her elderly neighbor since the age of fifteen, Johanna (Kristen Wiig) is left on her own to navigate a very different world in her new job as caretaker to a drug addict's daughter. Dropped into a world of teenage drama, smartphones, and a family who is still recovering from repercussions of a deadly car crash, Johanna diligently goes about her small way of living, taking up as little space she can, and trying to bond with the daughter, but failing. Preying on Johanna's naivety and gullibility, the granddaughter, Sabitha, creates a fictional romance between Johanna and her recovering father Ken. Fake letters and emails written by a pair of bored teenage girls are used to trap Johanna and she falls in love with the constructed version of Ken and takes a drastic step to be with him. Intercut scenes of Sabitha's life with her grandfather keeps the film from being too focused on the interior world of Jane Eyre-like Johanna, and offers a contrast between the lived lives of these two young women and how they navigate the modern world. (2013, 101 min, DCP Digital) SW
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Preston Sturges' SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Monday, 7pm

Despite often being cited as his masterpiece, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS is Preston Sturges' most deeply ambiguous and contradictory film. Though much of his work subtly underscores the discrepancies between varying levels of the socioeconomic strata, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS explicitly centers on issues of upper crust naiveté and class guilt. John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is a Hollywood director who desperately wants to divorce himself from the frivolous comedies that have made him successful and exclusively produce socially conscious films; however, Sullivan believes that he must live the life of a vagabond before he can accurately comment on the struggles of the impoverished. By the end of the film Sullivan discovers that comedy is a more valuable gift (one might say opiate) to the masses than social realism, but it's unclear whether Sturges feels the same way. A conventional reading might posit that Sturges has struck a balance in keeping with Brecht's belief that a story doesn't have to sacrifice entertainment value in order to provide social commentary, but this interpretation is contradicted by the fact that Sullivan ultimately admits the futility of helping the less fortunate. Furthermore, the film features a disconcerting streak of racism (not uncommon for Sturges), which further complicates its message. (1941, 90 min, 35mm) HS
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Mel Stuart's WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Sunday, 2pm

Even though the lackluster Peter Ostrum (who played Charlie and thankfully retired from the acting business to become a veterinarian) covers the film in a slimy, sentimental goo, Mel Stuart's exceptional but uneven WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY still remains a visual and rather perverse delight. Get past the interminable "Cheer up Charlie" song and the flimsy ending and you're left with some gorgeous color cinematography and the pleasure of watching half a dozen pre-pubescent miscreants get their comeuppances while Gene Wilder acts bewildered. Most of the musical numbers are quite good too, and the classroom scenes with David Battley as an inept grade school teacher are worth the price of admission alone. (1971, 100 min, Unconfirmed Format) JA
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Alfred Hitchcock's ROPE (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

While maybe not Hitchcock's best film, ROPE is certainly one of his most curious. Based on an English play entitled Rope's End in which two elitist university students murder an acquaintance and hold a cocktail party over his hidden corpse, Hitchcock's 1948 film sanitizes it for American audiences. The play, ostensibly about the infamous Leopold and Loeb case, purports a homosexual relationship between the two male leads, and a supposed affair with their former professor--the inspiration for the murder--who also sniffs out the crime at the party. Hitchcock's film, by removing the offending gay cues and suggestive Britishisms--"my boy!"--leaves us mostly with elephants in the room. According to screenwriter Arthur Laurents, Warner Bros. purportedly never used the word homosexuality or its variants, preferring to use "it," and never acknowledged its basis on Leopold and Loeb. It is only fitting that Hitchcock's ROPE, often described as an experiment, would strike such tension with Hollywood filmmaking: dialogue-driven, single location, long takes, etc. Even its unique editing construction--long shots that attempt to hide cuts by disguise through clever camera movements--is interesting considering the Hollywood style of "invisible" editing. ROPE isn't exactly subversive, but it doesn't play by the rules either--a distinctive feature for much of Hitchcock's work. (1948, 80 min, 35mm) BW
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Michelangelo Antonioni's THE PASSENGER (Italian Revival)
Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1450) - Tuesday, 6pm (Free Admission)

The third and final collaboration between Michelangelo Antonioni and famed producer Carlo Ponti, THE PASSENGER is the lyrical tale of reporter David Locke (Jack Nicholson), who swaps IDs with a dead gunrunner during an existential crisis. Exploring his newfound identity, Locke follows the dead man's appointment schedule. An exceptional film which has for some unfair reason been deemed a lesser work of Antonioni's, it transfers an emotional quality that simply must be experienced in a theater. The film's final seven-minute shot is arguably the most quintessential cinematic ending ever committed to celluloid, and its majesty confirms that even lesser Antonioni is still superior cinema. (1975, 126 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) DM
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Columbia College Chicago presents #DocYourWorld, a two-day series of panels, discussions, and screenings, on Wednesday and Thursday, beginning at 9:30am each day. Free admission. Complete schedule here:

The Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center presents Basma Alsharif: Doppelgänging, with Alsharif in person, on Thursday at 6pm. Screening are HOME MOVIES GAZA (2013), GIRLS ONLY (2014), FARTHER THAN THE EYE CAN SEE (2012), and the film/performance DEEP SLEEP (2014).

The week at The Nightingale: Wayward Fronds: Collaborative Performance by Peter Burr and Fern Silva is on Friday at 8pm. Screening are WAYWARD FRONDS (2014), a live film/video performance work by Burr and Silva, and three videos by Burr: ALONE WITH THE MOON (2012), GREEN | RED (2013), and SPECIAL EFFECT (2014). And on Tuesday at 8pm, it's Fire Light: Works for the Screen by Graduating UIC MFAs, featuring work by Alejandro T. Acierto, Erik Allen, Colleen Keihm, Chris Little, Jesse Malmed, Melissa Myser, Hanna M. Owens (with Kelly Thomas), Courtney Prokopas, Jonathan Loïc Rogers, Matt Shaw, and Jenyu Wang.

South Side Projections presents Bring the Ruckus: Red Grooms on Celluloid on Thursday at 7:30pm at Co-Prosperity Sphere (3219-21 S. Morgan St.). Screening are two films by Grooms, TAPPY TOES (1969, 19 min, 16mm) and FAT FEET (1966, 19 min, 16mm), and a 1968 George Kuchar film featuring Grooms, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE BLESSED (43 min, 16mm).

The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) presents Postwar Surrealist Film: The Wandering Eye on Friday at 5:30pm. Screening are Joseph Cornell's GNIR REDNOW (1955, 5 min, 16mm), Georges Franju's THE FIRST NIGHT  (La Première Nuit; 1958, 23 min, 16mm), and Ado Kyrou's THE HAIR (La Chevelure; 1961, 19 min, DVD). This event is at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.). Free admission.

The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 200) presents Peter Sempel's 1991 documentary KAZUO OHNO: JUST VISITING THIS PLANET (100 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 6pm, with filmmaker Peter Sempel in person. Free admission.

At Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) this week: local filmmaker Kris Swanberg's 2012 film EMPIRE BUILDER (72 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) screens on Friday at 8pm; and Branwen Okpako's 2011 documentary THE EDUCATION OF AUMA OBAMA (80 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Saturday at 7:30pm, with director Okpako in person and short pre- and post-screening performances by the film's composer, Jean-Paul Bourelly (performance at 7:30/screening at 8pm); the film repeats on Wednesday at 6:30pm (no guests) at Columbia College Chicago (Hokin Hall, 623 S. Wabash, Rm. 109).

Silent Film Society of Chicago (at the Patio Theater) presents Charlie Chaplin's 1921 film THE KID (68 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 8pm. Live accompaniment by the Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: Moroccan filmmaker Moumen Smihi's 2008 film GIRLS AND SWALLOWS (80 min, 35mm) and his 2012 film TANJAWI: SORROWS OF A YOUNG TANGERIAN (95 min, 35mm) screen as a double feature on Friday at 7pm. Free admission.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1967 film OEDIPUS REX (104 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 3pm and his 1969 film MEDEA (110 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 6pm and Saturday at 5pm; Tirtza Even's 2014 documentary NATURAL LIFE (85 min, Digital File) is on Friday at 8:15pm, Monday at 8pm, and Wednesday at 6pm, with director Even in person at the Friday and Wednesday shows; Teller's 2013 documentary TIM'S VERMEER (80 min, DCP Digital) screens for a week; Dino Risi's 1962 Italian film IL SORPASSO (105 min, DCP Digital; new restoration) is on Sunday at 3pm and Monday at 6pm; Wayne Wang's 1982 film CHAN IS MISSING (80 min, Archival 35mm Print) is on Tuesday at 6pm, with an introduction by SAIC professor Bruce Jenkins; and in the Chicago Palestine Film Festival: Hany Abu-Assad's 2013 film OMAR (98 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 8pm (SOLD OUT) and Wednesday at 8:15pm, showing with Nicolas Damuni's 2013 French short MAQLOUBEH (10 min, DigiBeta Video); and Sameh Zoabi's 2013 film UNDER THE SAME SKIN (75 min, HDCam Video), showing with Amina Waheed's 2013 US film CORNER STORES (25 min, HDCam Video), is on Sunday at 5pm and Thursday at 8:15pm, with Director Amina Waheed (CORNER STORES) in person on Sunday; and producer Susan Koscis (UNDER THE SAME SUN) in person on Thursday.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: John Lasseter's 1999 animated film TOY STORY 2 (92 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7 and 9pm, Saturday at 3:30pm, and Sunday at 1pm; Martin Scorsese's 2013 film THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (180 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 6:30 and 9:45pm and Sunday at 3pm; Ernst Lubitsch's 1933 comedy DESIGN FOR LIVING (91 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 7pm; Michael Snow's 1969 experimental film <---> [BACK AND FORTH] (51 min, 16mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Robert Altman's 1974 film CALIFORNIA SPLIT (108 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7 and 9:15pm; Matej Minac's 2011 film NICKY'S FAMILY (96 min, DCP Digital) is on Thursday at 5pm, followed by a discussion; Alain Resnais' 1984 film LOVE UNTO DEATH (92 min, DCP Digital) is on Thursday at 7pm; and Danny Boyle's 2002 film 28 DAYS LATER (113 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9pm.

At the Music Box Theatre this week: Errol Morris' 2013 documentary THE UNKNOWN KNOWN (103 min) opens; Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, and Benjamin Renner's 2012 animated film ERNEST & CELESTINE (80 min; English dubbed version only) and Frank Pavich's 2013 documentary JODOROWSKY'S DUNE (90 min) both continue; Cameron Crowe's 2000 film ALMOST FAMOUS (122 min) is on Wednesday at 7:30pm, as part of the Sound Opinions series with Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot hosting; the Grease Sing-A-Long is on Saturday at 2pm; Lou Adler's 1982 cult film LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS (87 min, 35mm) is on Friday at Midnight; Jim Sharman's 1975 cult film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight; and Daniel Stam's 2014 film 13 SINS (88 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

  Facets Cinémathèque plays Rachel Boynton's 2013 documentary BIG MEN (99 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run.

The Logan Theatre screens David Lynch's 1992 film TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (135 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 10:30pm.

The Chicago Cultural Center presents Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart's 2013 documentary MEDORA (100 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm; and Ines Sommer and Kathy Berger's 2012 documentary BENEATH THE BLINDFOLD (80 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Monday at 7pm, with the filmmakers and subject Matilde de la Sierra in person. Free admission.

Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens José Pedro Charlo's 2012 Uruguayan film THE CALENDAR (73 min, DVD Projection) on Monday at 6pm.



The Northbrook Public Library film series is on hiatus during renovations at the library. Expected completion is Spring 2015.

The Portage Theatre remains closed for the foreseeable future.

The Patio Theater has announced plans to close indefinitely at the end of April.

The Northwest Chicago Film Society is again on hiatus, after this week's screening, with the Patio Theater's closing.

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CINE-LIST: April 18 - April 24, 2014

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Julian Antos, Doug McLaren, Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Harrison Sherod, Shealey Wallace, Brian Welesko, Darnell Witt

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