x x x x x
|> Sign up
> Editorial Statement
> Last Week
|a weekly guide to alternative cinema- -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
:: Friday, JAN. 13 -
Thursday, JAN. 19 ::
Robert Townsend's HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE (American Revival)
Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) – Wednesday, 7:30pm
In Public Enemy's 1990 song "Burn Hollywood Burn," guest rapper Big Daddy Kane says "So let's make our own movies like Spike Lee/Cause the roles being offered don't strike me." Three years earlier, Robert Townsend had written, directed, starred in, produced, funded with his credit cards, and shot on scraps of unused film from other shoots a model for following Kane’s modest proposal. Essentially a series of sketches tied together by a slim plot about a struggling black actor, the film is fueled by equal parts hilarity and the righteous anger of a skilled actor and comedian whose job prospects seemed limited to playing drug-dealing thugs or servants. The skits, structured as Townsend’s daydreams as he attends endless humiliating auditions and works a dead-end job, are the main attraction; they attack the long history (and present, and future) of Hollywood’s mistreatment of black actors, and if a Mandingo reference might go over the heads of younger audiences, much of the film hits as hard today as it did when it was released. Preceded by a production short for Sidney Poitier’s 1971 film UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT (9 min, 16mm). (1987, 82 min, 35mm) MWP
More info at www.chicagofilmsociety.org.
Buster Keaton Shorts Program & Chaplin at First National (Silent American Revivals)
Music Box Theatre – Saturday, 11:30am (Keaton) & Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Wednesday, 7 and 9:30pm (Chaplin)
This week brings shorts programs showcasing the two greatest screen comedians of all time, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Both were gifted when it came to pantomime, comic timing, and knowing exactly what belonged in the film frame—their works of the late 1910s to the late 1920s is not just hilarious, they represent some of the finest filmmaking of the silent era. Many have argued over whether Keaton was better than Chaplin, or vice-versa, but the truth is that each one complimented the other’s genius. Where Chaplin’s Little Tramp is the most expressive character in movies, Keaton’s onscreen persona is the Great Stone Face, impervious or indifferent to whatever life throws at him. And where Chaplin the storyteller was a classicist at heart, Keaton looked to the future, anticipating the absurdism of Ionesco and Beckett. (The latter, of course, would cast Keaton in his only film, 1966’s FILM.) Consider the way each filmmaker employs coincidence as a narrative device in the shorts showing in this week’s programs. In Chaplin’s THE IDLE CLASS (1921, 31 min, 35mm), a series of circumstances lead the Tramp to encounter his wealthy doppelganger in Miami. The coincidence here points to Chaplin’s stark, Dickensian sense of class difference (the two men are so different they might as well be polar opposites) as well as his classical appreciation of parallel lines. (This doubling would find fuller, more provocative expression in the Tramp/Hynkel dichotomy of THE GREAT DICTATOR and the Jekyll-and-Hyde persona of MONSIEUR VERDOUX.) On the other hand, the wild coincidences that lead Keaton to be mistaken for a criminal in both THE GOAT (1921, 23 min, DCP Digital) and COPS (1922, 18 min, DCP Digital) are funny, in part, because they’re so random. The universe, for whatever reason, just doesn’t like Buster—how else to explain why he always ends up in life-threatening danger? And yet the events, like most of the compositions, are arranged like clockwork; you marvel at the overall precision, of both the storytelling and of Keaton’s remarkable stunts. (Witness the ladder gag in COPS!) Chaplin you marvel at in a different way; the specificity of his movements conveys empathy and imagination as well as a genius for slapstick. Even when his rich drunk in IDLE CLASS behaves callously, his movements are still funny and endearing. Also the way Chaplin the director makes you fall in love with Scraps in A DOG’S LIFE (1918, 31 min, 35mm)—by suggesting that his plight is just like the Tramp’s (another parallel)—anticipates Walt Disney’s anthropomorphism. Other shorts playing in the Chaplin program is the World War I comedy SHOULDER ARMS (1918, 45 min, 35mm); in the Keaton program are THE PLAYHOUSE (1921, 21 min, DCP Digital), the Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle-directed THE BELL BOY (1918, 33 min, DCP Digital) and CHARACTER STUDIES (1925, 6 min, DCP Digital). BS
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com and www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Troubling the Image: Color My World (New Experimental + Experimental Revival)
Film Studies Center at the Logan Center for the Arts (University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th St.) – Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)
This screening is curated by the Film Studies Center's Julia Gibbs and Cine-File's Patrick Friel and inaugurates the five-program series “Troubling the Image” that promises "an eclectic and wide-ranging group of works that celebrate the vibrancy of experimental and almost-experimental cinema from near and far, now and then." The centerpiece of the program is Joseph Cornell's ROSE HOBART (1936, 19 min, 16mm), a bottomless masterpiece of the profoundest mischief. The legend is that ROSE HOBART appeared on the walls of the Julien Levy Gallery with the force of an Immaculate Conception—the first film to tumble out of the garage of New Jersey naïf Cornell, a work sufficiently new and challenging to spark accusations of telepathic kleptomania from no less than Salvador Dali. ROSE HOBART was neither the first cameraless film (viz. Man Ray's LE RETOUR A LA RAISON of 1923), nor the first found footage film. Popular performers of the silent era such as Charles Chaplin and William S. Hart regularly found themselves unknowingly starring in "new" films grafted together from old outtakes by former business partners, unscrupulous distributors, or insatiable fans. Cornell was a visionary, but he was also a filmmaker working within and enlarging a young but fertile tradition—a bootlegger-as-theorist. His choice of raw materials was hardly coincidental: a 16mm print of EAST OF BORNEO, a 1931 jungle picture with Rose Hobart, scarcely remembered five years after Universal Pictures had released it. Cornell sought to fragment a movie that was itself already a patchwork—a studio-bound B-picture that had been beefed up with footage of "Sumatra, Shanghai, and the Far East" that had been re-purposed from OURANG, an expedition picture that Universal had abandoned in mid-production the previous year. Viewed in light of that history, ROSE HOBART becomes an even more direct challenge to the primacy of conventional film continuity: how exactly are Cornell's gauche match cuts and narrative heresies any more or less legible than the hack job performed by Universal's editors to fashion EAST OF BORNEO from another pile of scraps? The reward of ROSE HOBART is the remedial recognition that so-called normal movies are just as arbitrary in their arrangements—and potentially just as ripe for clandestine liberation. Like Hollis Frampton's ZORN'S LEMMA four decades later, ROSE HOBART confirms that cinematic grammar can be invented and instinctively understood with any images at hand. Also on the program: T. Marie's PANCHROMES I, II, III (2014, 13 min), David Rimmer's VARIATIONS ON A CELLOPHANE WRAPPER (1970, 8 min, New 16mm Preservation Print), Janie Geiser's FLOWERS OF THE SKY (2016, 9 min), William E. Jones's MODEL WORKERS (2014, 13 min), Amit Dutta's SCENES FROM A SKETCHBOOK (2016, 20 min), and screening preshow, Barry Doupé’s DOTS (2016, 15 min loop) (1936-2016, approx. 82 min, Digital Projection except where noted) KAW
More info at http://filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu.
John Wintergate’s BOARDINGHOUSE (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Friday and Saturday, Midnight
John Wintergate’s BOARDINGHOUSE is an interesting slice of grindhouse horror. One of its most striking features is its unique look, aided mostly by the fact that it was first shot on video and later blown up to film, leaving a dulled and murky color palette whose effect is akin to someone who has had one too many whiskeys. The film wears its influences on its sleeve—THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, HALLOWEEN, and HOUSE ones are the most obvious. Wintergate’s film is pure exploitation and exemplary of the late 70’s/early 80’s slasher genre—from the gratuitous use of scenes featuring women showering to the poorly implemented use of ‘Horror Vision’ to indicate something violent is about to occur. Having written, directed, and played not one, but two exaggerated roles, Wintergate takes a self-serving, almost masturbatory, approach to this low-budget slasher, preferring almost exclusively style to substance. Teetering on the ‘so bad it’s good’ scale of films, BOARDINGHOUSE is a rarely publicly seen work of gore that borders on the pornographic and one whose outlandish parts certainly make up for its paper-thin whole, but damn, if it’s not fun. Co-presented by Odd Obsession and the Chicago Film Society. (1982, 98 min, 35mm Archival Print) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
James Bridges’ THE CHINA SYNDROME (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 7pm
“In order to be admitted to the Hollywood cinema at all,” wrote Robin Wood in an essay titled “Images and Women,” “feminism had to undergo various drastic changes, the fundamental one, from which all the rest follow, being the repression of politics.” He continued: “In Hollywood films—even the most determinedly progressive—there is no ‘Women’s Movement”; there are only individual women who feel personally constrained.” I can’t argue that THE CHINA SYNDROME isn’t about one woman who feels repressed within her particular social framework (in this case, a television station), but there’s no denying that politics are at its forefront—one might say it’s all the more subversive in how it filters a movement through character progression. Jane Fonda stars as Kimberly Wells, an ambitious TV reporter whose fluff piece on nuclear energy turns into a dangerous investigation after she and her crew go to a local power plant and witness a near-meltdown (also characterized as the China Syndrome, a hypothetical situation where the core could ostensibly burn through the reactor and the earth below, eventually hitting China). It’s not just Fonda’s subtly impassioned performance that invests this already engaging thriller with shrewd political/feminist fervor—her production company, IPC Films, had been gestating the idea of a movie with a similar subject long before Columbia suggested Michael Douglas, who ended up producing and co-starring, approach her with the script. She’s even credited with almost single-handedly making global warming worse because of the film’s significance following the precipitous accident at Three Mile Island just 12 days after its release. (That last part is hyperbole, but it’s not hard to exaggerate when a 2007 New York Times Magazine article, pithily titled “The Jane Fonda Effect,” says, “If you were asked to name the biggest global-warming villains of the past 30 years, here’s one name that probably wouldn’t spring to mind: Jane Fonda. But should it?” The actual answer isn’t quite as damning as the article’s lede might imply, but still. Consider this against other articles from around the time the film came out; you’d think Fonda and Douglas were tree-hugging hippies rather than descendents of Hollywood royalty.) The director, James Bridges, whose other film credits include THE PAPER CHASE and URBAN COWBOY, was chosen by Douglas, though his influence on the film is decidedly less pronounced than either Fonda’s or Douglas’s—even Jack Lemmon’s performance as a shift supervisor who discovers falsified safety records eclipses any auteurist ambitions, assuming Bridges had them at all. In his review for the Chicago Reader, Dave Kehr wrote that “the film looks like a hack job...but it's a very good hack job: strong, simple, and perfectly paced, until the last reel flounders in a bit of overkill.” Though Douglas and Lemmon are compelling in their respective roles, it’s Fonda’s performance and Kimberly’s characterization that make it more than just a “cautionary melodrama that succeeds or fails at the box office for reasons that have almost nothing to do with its quality,” as Pauline Kael noted in her review, referencing the aforementioned, quasi-fortuitous timing. The way it confronts sexism is also interesting—in one scene, Kimberly is told outright that she’s only successful because of her looks. That her climactic broadcast involves her breaking into tears is another respectable element of the film’s narrative; Kimberly’s unwavering femininity is an asset to both the character and the story. (1979, 122 min, 35mm) KS
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI (Japanese Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 3pm, Monday, 6:30pm, and Thursday, 6:30pm
How many artists have created not only canonical works, but works whose style, structure, or theme is imitated for decades, and maybe eventually even centuries, thereafter? And how many of those artists can claim not just one but several masterpieces whose basic elements have been the schema for newer works, many of which garner the same commendation? Akira Kurosawa is indeed one of them; his work is concurrently modern and classic, deriving from personal, cultural, and artistic influences that span decades and oceans. His 1954 epic SEVEN SAMURAI is perhaps the best and most popular example of this, both within his oeuvre and the whole of Japanese cinema. At almost three and half hours long, it’s the outstretched tale of a village in sixteenth-century Japan that hires seven hungry, masterless samurai (otherwise known as ronin) to defend them against bandits. Like many canonical works, its story is relatively elementary, and it’s since been remade outright (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN in both 1960 and 2016) and less obviously so (a theory about the film’s influence on Disney’s A BUG’S LIFE went viral a few years back). It’s also fiercely entertaining in a way that might remind viewers just how hard it is to achieve that nebulous goal—to amuse as well as to awe. It may be for this reason that it’s referred to as being Kurosawa’s most “Americanized” film, though it could likewise be considered his gift to the West. (1954, 207 min, 35mm) KS
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Vitaly Mansky's UNDER THE SUN (New Russian Documentary)
Film Studies Center at the Logan Center for the Arts (University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th St.) – Thursday, 7pm (Free Admission)
UNDER THE SUN is a documentary about the construction of fiction on both a macro and micro level. Vitaly Mansky shot it in North Korea with support from and supervision by the Kim Jong-un regime, which insisted, an early title card informs us, that he filmed only material scripted by government representatives. For the film's first 20 minutes or so, Mansky presents such material, introducing us to a model little girl in Pyongyang who's about to be inducted into the Children's Union, a state-sponsored organization that prepares youths for a lifetime of service in the Party. Yet as SUN proceeds, the filmmaker reveals that little, if anything we see was captured spontaneously. Outtakes show Party functionaries telling the girl and her parents exactly what to say and how to behave, appearing less like movie directors than sculptors shaping blocks of clay. (In a recent New York Times profile, Mansky explains how he had to smuggle this footage out of the country, as officials closely monitored everything he saved to his camera's memory drives.) And subsequent title cards note how the "documentary" footage we're watching deviates from the subjects' real lives: the girl's father, for instance, is a journalist but was forced to play the role of a garment factory manager during the shoot. The revelations only get more surprising—and upsetting—from there, resulting in a portrait of North Korean life that's as pessimistic as you'd expect. Mansky exposes numerous little untruths as a means of confronting the large untruths on which the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is founded—namely, that the country's citizens enjoy greater freedoms than people of other countries and that North Korean leaders have their citizens' best interests at heart. Throughout SUN, Mansky cuts to shots of people in Pyongyang on their way to work or taking public transportation, the crowds moving in such an orderly fashion that they seem to have been choreographed. These are potent images of social control on a mass scale; the value of Mansky's film is that it allows one to understand how such a phenomenon feels on an individual level. (2015, 105 min, DCP Digital) BS
More info at https://filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu.
D.W. Griffith's WAY DOWN EAST (Silent American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Sunday, 7pm
"It was old-fashioned, I'd like to point out, even at the time when it was shown," Orson Welles assured the restive public television audience upon introducing it to D.W. Griffith's INTOLERANCE in the mid-1970s. "You're going to see a lot that was old and dusty, even at the moment it was made. You're also going to see an awful lot that would be new tomorrow." The same can't quite be said for WAY DOWN EAST; its innovations are slight but its musty air is hard-won, its stolidity triumphant. Drawn from a popular 1897 stage melodrama that commanded a staggering licensing fee in excess of the total budget of THE BIRTH OF A NATION, Griffith's edition of WAY DOWN EAST is akin to a rickety dining room table, further antiqued and distressed by a climax grafted from an even earlier theatrical property—an ice floe rescue straight out of UNCLE TOM'S CABIN. The beauty of WAY DOWN EAST lies less in its construction than in its patina—the spiritual conviction, the sincerity and simplicity of the melodrama, the unflagging correctness of each shot and gesture, and above all the ethereal evocation of rural Maine, albeit by way of Griffith's mammoth studio in Mamaroneck, New York. (Nevertheless, WAY DOWN EAST stands as no less an emblem of Maine than a bottle of Moxie.) At first glance, the down-home morality of WAY DOWN EAST seems a reactionary rebuke to the progressive heart of Griffith's TRUE HEART SUSIE, which only a year earlier had wondered, with husky, wounded sympathy, why a woman shouldn't love more than one man. WAY DOWN EAST is a different beast, opening with a thundering sermon: "Since the beginning of time, man has been polygamous—even the saints of Biblical history—but today a better ideal is growing—an ideal of ONE MAN FOR ONE WOMAN. Today woman brought up from childhood to expect ONE CONSTANT MATE possibly suffers more than at any period in the history of mankind, because not yet has the man reached this high standard—except perhaps in theory." (Emphasis in original, of course.) This is the nub of Griffith's peculiar, patrician politics, sexual and otherwise—the tragedy of man and woman alike, master and slave alike, white and black alike failing to live up to their proper roles, knuckling under to the routine inequities of civilization, stirring up unnecessary acrimony, disrupting the natural unity of family. Can we live up to the ideals that structure our society, and will we be prepared to defend those ideals, even at risk of great injury to ourselves? Not yet, sighs Griffith, not yet. (For a liberal answer to WAY DOWN EAST, Thomas Ince's 1921 film HAIL THE WOMAN comes highly recommended.) In decades past, Griffith was the seminal Founding Father of narrative cinema; in our more enlightened age, Griffith's apologia for white supremacy disqualifies him from that title. Yet to reduce Griffith to THE BIRTH OF A NATION is to understate the filmmaker's fundamental conservatism: we can look away if we so choose, but we'll find no better guide for the bleak, cataclysmic procession of American life that conservatives have always glimpsed just across the horizon. It behooves us to understand his terrors. Live accompaniment by Sun Woo Park. (1920, 145 min, 16mm) KAW
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Robert Altman's McCABE AND MRS. MILLER (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Wednesday, 7pm
Existing in a middle ground between the life affirming qualities of the Vancouver landscape where it was shot and his own self-loathing anti-human biases, McCABE AND MRS. MILLER is probably Robert Altman's most satisfying work. Roger Ebert, who can be credited with perpetuating much of the film's initial success, called it "an elegy for the dead," but as it progresses McCABE feels more like an elegy for the living; it's a film about misdirected intentions, poorly communicated emotions, and failed opportunities. Warren Beatty is a gambler and Julie Christie a prostitute in the mining town of Presbyterian Church, where they build a whorehouse as the rest of the infrastructure goes up around them. The town begins to fall apart as a major mining corporation takes interest in the town's financial prospects, and the lives of simple men and women are disrupted. Shot almost entirely in sequential order (by Vilmos Zsigmond, who may have a better feel for the zoom lens than any other cinematographer), McCABE AND MRS. MILLER is a slow burning grumble: nobody raises their voice in anger, but Warren Beatty throws his eyes to the ground and worries about the town's lack of poetry, and as everything falls apart, everyone seems more and more helpless. As it moves along it feels like the shot of Henry Fonda leaning back on a chair in MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, but were he plucked out of Ford's film and thrown into Altman's, Fonda wouldn't be so hopeful, the name Clementine would bring him less solace, and he'd be leaning back in exhaustion. The whole thing suggests that just as the modern world we know is coming into existence, it has already failed. Showing as part of the periodic “Sound Opinions” series, with music critics Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis hosting. (1971, 120 min, DCP Digital) JA
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Robert Zemeckis' BACK TO THE FUTURE (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 9:45pm
Back in the mid-1980s, the white, suburban, heterosexual American male was in crisis, threatened on all sides: globally, by the Middle East's control of oil production; culturally, by the emergence of chart-topping R&B and rap that imperiled the perceived hegemony of heavy metal and unspirited blues-rock; and locally, in the unrelenting crime waves of urban gangs, emerging from a dissolved patriarchy and reportedly expanding ever-outwards from the city centers. The successful reconstitution of this masculinity was produced primarily by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale's BACK TO THE FUTURE, an admittedly glorious genre-crossing inversion of the Oedipus mythology (protagonist Marty must overcome not a present, unconscious desire for his mother and rivalry with his father, but instead must overcome his mother's desire for him and actively facilitate the transformation of his milquetoast father into a confident figure of authority). The conflict is enacted in the oneiric space of small-town 1955 California, primarily through the repeated ritual humiliation of the seemingly-invincible Teutonic drive-creature Biff, but also through Marty's requisition--on behalf of wimpy caucasians everywhere—of the heritage of both civil rights (encouraging the local malt-shop busboy to become mayor) and rock n' roll (producing, for Chuck Berry and an audience of bewildered squares, "the sound you've been looking for"). All of this (including the role of the Benjamin-Franklin-esque Doc Brown) is then not simply in the service of some trite, individualist Protestant ethic ("if you put your mind to it, you could accomplish anything": murmured mantra-like from start to finish); for those voters still baffled by the persistency of conservative politics, why look any further? (1985, 116 min, 35mm) MC
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s FARGO (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Friday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 1:30pm
If BLOOD SIMPLE is the Coens’ crazed, sultry summer film, then FARGO is its quirky winter compliment. The story is a further riff on a common theme in the brothers’ works: what should be a simple grift goes horribly wrong and everyone is left scrambling to pick up the pieces. Fans of the Coens are rewarded by self-referential homages to their own films; taking familiar elements only to turn them on their heads. Characters dominate over narrative here, amusingly evidenced by the broad Minnesota-nice accent that nearly everyone has. The bumbling, small-town yokel archetype the brothers’ have been cultivating up to this point in their careers reaches a certain refinement in this film. Frances McDormand’s Margie shows a developing depth in character; she is someone who has seen it all and is unfazed, a richness in the role that is unprecedented in the Coens’ films but that is a natural progression of her roles in their previous works—a spiritual successor to past iterations. The dark humor blends well with the film’s bleak tone and even bleaker setting—which itself is an apt metaphor for the coldness that resides in people’s hearts. (1996, 98 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack's MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE (New Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Venue website for showtimes
While not exactly innovative in its candid approach to this iconic subject, MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE illustrates the story of Dr. Angelou and her nine lives with masterful storytelling, narrated through Angelou's own voice and poetry, and moving interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, and Angelou's son, Guy Johnson. Johnson provides the most nuanced and intimate portrait of his mother of the interviewees, and is at times overcome with contagious emotion. The solidly produced documentary in the American Masters series from PBS includes archival footage from Angelou's numerous projects and appearances over the decades, as well as rare photos from her family archive, accompanied by her resonant and commanding voice. Hercules and Coburn Whack were lucky enough to land several great interviews with Angelou herself shortly before her death, and her vivid recollections of the events of her life alone would be reason enough to watch this film. (Disclosure: I did some archival research for this documentary) (2016, 114 min, DCP Digital) AE
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
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.
Pablo Larrain’s NERUDA (New Chilean)
Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes
In a year where Pablo Larrain is best known to American audiences for his film JACKIE, NERUDA slides in at the end of 2016 with a bang. Following the political life and exile of famed poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco), the film is an atypical biopic. In the late 1940s, Pablo Neruda is a Senator in the Chilean political machine who is discovered to be a communist and forced to go on the lam. Chased by the son of a well-known Chilean police detective (Gael García Bernal), what follows is an amalgamation and deconstruction of historical facts plus a romanticized narrative from the viewpoint of Neruda. Larrain’s film seeks to blur the lines of the past and humanizes the poet in profound manner. What’s most striking about the film is the dual-tiered plot lines, one following the titular character and the other Bernal’s character and the way in which they both manage to coexist despite their obvious differences. The film’s verisimilitude brings Neruda’s legacy to the forefront: will he be remembered as the master wordsmith he was or as the Red political figure who fled his country as an outcast? In the end, NERUDA is a film that delves into the backstory of one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, encapsulating not only his impact on the common people but also his effect on Chile’s political climate in the 1940s. (2016, 107 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
Black Cinema House at the Stony Island Arts Bank (6760 S. Stony Island Ave.) screens Woodie King, Jr’s 1980 docu-drama TORTURE OF MOTHERS (52 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 7pm. Followed by discussion with Univ. of Chicago professor and Black Cinema House curator Jacqueline Stewart. Free admission.
Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) presents An Evening with Chicago Filmmaker Ky Dickens on Saturday at 8pm (social hour at 7pm) as part of its monthly Dyke Delicious series. Dickens will be screening and discussing excerpts of her documentary work, in conversation with Dyke Delicious programmer and Chicago Filmmakers’ board president Sharon Zurek.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents the Chilean puppet performance group Silencio Blanco who will be screening video documentation of the Chilean city of Lota and will “discusses the region’s history of coal mining and community resistance” in relation to Chiflón, Silence of the Coal (the group’s live puppet show, which they will be performing January 19-22). The documentation screening is Thursday at 6pm. Free admission for Illinois residents.
The Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St., Performance Hall) hosts Filmspotting Live! on Friday at 8pm. The event is a live recording of the weekly local film podcast and WBEZ 91.5 Chicago radio program. $25 admission.
The Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Christophe Honoré’s 2007 French film LOVE SONGS [Chanson d’amour] (110 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 6:30pm.
The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Peter Berg’s 2016 film DEEPWATER HORIZON (107 min, DCP Digital) on Saturday at 2 and 7:30pm; Mike Nichols’ 1988 film WORKING GIRL (113 min, DCP Digital) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm; and John Boorman’s 1981 film EXCALIBUR (140 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm as part of the library’s Sci-fi/Fantasy movie discussion group meeting. Free admission. www.northbrook.info/events/film
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Tomomi Mochizuki’s 1993 Japanese animated film OCEAN WAVES (72 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) has five screenings (check website); Lonny Price’s 2016 documentary BEST WORST THING THAT EVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED… (95 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 6pm, Sunday at 3pm, and Thursday at 8pm; Jesús Magaña Vázquez’s 2016 Mexican film ME AND THE ALIEN (80 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week, with Vázquez and actor Juan Ugarte in person at the Friday and Saturday shows; and David Schisgall’s 2016 US/Israeli documentary THEO WHO LIVED (86 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 5:15pm and Tuesday at 8pm.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Elizabeth Wood’s 2016 film WHITE GIRL (88 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:45pm and Sunday at 3:45pm; and Baltasar Kormákur’s 2000 Icelandic film 101 REYKJAVIK (92 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Sang-ho Yeon’s 2016 South Korean film TRAIN TO BUSAN (118 min, Digital Projection) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; Hiroaki Miyamoto’s 2016 Japanese animated film ONE PIECE FILM GOLD (120 min, Digital Projection) is on Saturday and Sunday at 11am; and Kiyotaka Taguchi’s 2016 film ULTRAMAN X THE MOVIE (70 min, DCP Digital) and Koichi Sakamoto’s 2014 film ULTRAMAN GINGA S THE MOVIE (63 min, DCP Digital) are on Sunday at 2pm.
Facets Cinémathèque plays Celia Rowlson-Hall’s 2017 film MA (81 min, Digital Projection), Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell’s 2016 film CLAIRE IN MOTION (83 min, Digital Projection), and Jim O’Hanlon’s 2016 UK film 100 STREETS (93 min, Digital Projection) for week-long runs.
The Chicago Cultural Center and the Chicago Latino Film Festival screen Fernando Villarán L.’s 2014 Peruvian film GOOD OLD BOYS [Viejos Amigos] (93 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.
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).