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|a weekly guide to alternative cinema- -
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:: Friday, JUNE 26 -
Thursday, JULY 2 ::
Laurence Schwab and Lloyd Corrigan's FOLLOW THRU (American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society at The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University (Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) - Wednesday, 7pm
If you haven't already, take a second to celebrate the fact that the Northwest Chicago Film Society has found a new home at which to continue their beloved weekly screening series. Are you jumping up and down? Moving all around? Good! That's the appropriate reaction to such news, as it's been more than a year since they held their last show at the Patio Theater. The digs may have changed, but even a cursory glance at the summer schedule reveals that their programming is as ambitious as ever. The Museum of Modern Art has dedicated a whole series to the centennial of Technicolor, while Chicago has yet to officially celebrate this important birthday--until now. For the first screening of their new series, NWCFS presents Laurence Schwab and Lloyd Corrigan's FOLLOW THRU, Paramount Picture's second all-Technicolor, all-talking feature. Based on the eponymous 1929 musical comedy, it's a "musical slice of country club life," as the show was aptly described during its successful Broadway run. Nancy Carroll plays Lora Moore, a beautiful young golfer who seeks lessons from Jerry Downes, played by "America's Boyfriend" Buddy Rogers, who himself is a successful golfer helping an eccentric trust fund kid with his...eh...stroke hole. ('Tin Man' Jack Haley's spoiled heir might remind one of a perverted Jimmy Fallon.) Zelma O'Neal steals the show as Angie, Lora's caddy and the object of Haley's unwieldy affection. She's also responsible for the film's most interesting musical number; her rendition of "I Want to Be Bad"--now a standard along with "Button Up Your Overcoat"--combines the best parts of emerging sound technology with all the lingering magic of the silent era. As for the Technicolor, what's now almost universally considered a wonder was once thought of as a hindrance by many; even here in the Second City, a critic for the Chicago Daily Tribune noted that the color "is sometimes effective and sometimes blurred and indefinite that you long to rest your optics on the good old black and white." (This is just one of many interesting tidbits that were laboriously compiled by James Layton and David Pierce for their book The Dawn of Technicolor: 1915-1935.) The film itself is small potatoes within the scope of film history; however, it's notable as an artifact because its original camera negative survived when many others did not. The film was preserved in 1989 by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, and according to a paper by archivist Andrea Leigh, "for the Technicolor two-color reconstruction...the separation master positives achieved more accurate hues by printing the elements with color light optically before creating the Eastman color internegative." Film historian David Pierce will be present to introduce the film and sign copies of the aforementioned book, which will also be available for sale at the screening. It's a must-have for any cinephile, as beautiful as that which it details--and, oh, does it detail. Altogether, next Wednesday night will surely be one worth remembering, complete in all its Technicolor glory. Please come show your support for one of the Chicago cinema community's greatest treasures. If you don't show up, the show won't go on. (1930, 92 min, Restored 35mm Print) KS
More info at www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
Picture Perfect Pyramids: Films by Johann Lurf (Experimental)
Cinema Borealis (1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., 4th Floor) - Thursday, 9pm
Borrowing liberally from structuralist film modes and mechanisms, but expressing those modes and mechanisms with a very modern look and sound, Viennese film artist Johann Lurf crafts experimental films that flirt appropriately close to being crackerjack visual entertainments. Your eyes will be burned out at the end of the night. The film that lends its title to the program, PICTURE PERFECT PYRAMIDS, takes mathematically measured movements around the titular object. While the artist's infatuation with this object is obvious, another film on the same subject, PYRAMID FLARE, makes more hay while the sun is out (quite literally). Shot on 35mm but projected (printed?) vertically, Lurf assigned a variety of rules to the method in which the film was shot and edited, but his attempts to distance himself from the image falters, as his center-framed obsession with the object overpowers the "game." EMBARGO uses 3D images to make subtle movements around sharply lit industrial areas, the soundtrack blaring with impersonal bleeps and bloops that mimic video game sounds, saving until the end the reveal of what we've been looking at until the full foreboding menace levels have been achieved. TWELVE TALES TOLD (also in 3D!) uses movie company logos as the source to edit together some Kubelka-esque dance music. A TO A is a waltzing spin around the roundabouts of Vienna, the sharp movements and crystal clear images of city architecture and public art delightfully muddled up the puttering soundtrack of the cameraman's motorbike. RECONNAISSANCE is the most mysterious of the lot, lacking the playful games or the lively visuals of the other films. It's a simple portrait of a military installation that explores the space with well-tuned rigor, pace, and compositions that ends up being the most compelling piece of the night. Perhaps one can be overwhelmed by the whizbanged visual extravagances and conceptual games, but this program contains some incredible work, and never fails at being compelling. Johann Lurf in person. (2009-15, approx. 57 min total, 35mm, 16mm, DCP Digital, and Digital File) JBM
Mia Hansen-Løve's EDEN (New French)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes
It is a remarkable (albeit Francophilic) fact that one of the world's greatest living filmmakers--Claire Denis--and one of the world's greatest up-and-coming filmmakers--Mia Hansen-Løve--are, more-or-less, serious aficionados of club music, a relentless, ecstatic, and sometimes melancholic variety of genres which, to be honest, is poorly matched to many other emotions conventionally provoked by cinema. But like her protagonists in EDEN, Hansen-Løve has thrown caution to the wind and built an epic 21-year audiovisual mixtape around the prolonged young-adulthood of her brother, Sven Løve, a Parisian DJ whose social circle was obsessed with the soulful, vocals-heavy style of the 1980s-era Paradise Garage nightclub in New York (located around the corner from Film Forum). Her staging thrives in the events' thresholds--in those tunnels and stairways of echoing (and frequently Chicago-manufactured) basslines, spaces sometimes more memorable than the parties themselves--for those were the corporeal and mundane passages through which an apolitical generation in Europe and England found a temporary transcendence. But radically, EDEN's story is told less through plot and dialogue than in the gospel-influenced lyrics of the wall-to-wall soundtrack, stylistically constrained to express love, heartbreak, isolation, and communion. The addresser and addressee of these songs, once representing a choir speaking to god, comes to represent the voice of a lover to another; or from dancer to anonymous dancer; or from the DJ to the dance floor. "Follow me, where we can be free"; "Let's get close, closer than close"; "I'm trying to hold on to your love"; "One more time, one more time, one more time, one more time." (2014, 131 min, DCP Digital) MC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Laura Stewart's SHOOTER & WHITLEY (New Experimental)
Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) - Saturday, 8pm; repeat screening at Columbia College Chicago (Hokin Hall, 623 S. Wabash Ave.) - Wednesday, 6:30pm
I think I first became aware of sex on West Capitol Ave., the mile-long stretch of my hometown festooned with thirtysome dude motels. Many of the motels looked quite small from the outside--and I could scarcely conceive of the people who might occupy them or what could have brought them there. At the end of the road stood The Experience, an avowedly adult motel whose neon sign featured the outline of a woman jumping from a diving board in a skin-tight bathing suit. Whatever happened beyond that parking lot, I could only feebly speculate. But here it is, conjured almost effortlessly in Laura Stewart's poetic SAIC thesis film, SHOOTER & WHITLEY. Don't get me wrong: this isn't a pornographic film or even a very lurid one, but every frame peeks at some mythic world beyond our childish grasp. Neither fact nor exactly fiction, SHOOTER & WHITLEY plays like an imagined ethnography, a report from the bowels of a subculture done over with a documentary patina. It begins like a set of outtakes from Kenneth Anger's KUSTOM KAR KOMMANDOS, but meanders into something else: a portrait of a temporary romance, an annotated travel guide, an internal reminiscence. At the most basic level, it's the story of aging motorcycle club chief Shooter and his drifting girlfriend Whitley--real-life bikers whose relationship is an invention of this movie. Bathed in the reflected neon of the Skylit Motel, their lives are simultaneously kinetic and still--the sum-total of gender roles passively accepted but aggressively inhabited. Ultimately, it's a work of empathy--an attempt to populate an American landscape with souls worthy of its restless grace. Screening with Marie Ullrich's 2014 film ALLEY CAT (2014, 68 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format). Stewart and Ullrich in person at the Saturday screening. (2014, 53 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) KAW
More info at www.chicagofilmmakers.org.
Yasujiro Ozu's EARLY SUMMER (Japanese Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 7 and 9:30pm
If you've yet to see an Ozu film, EARLY SUMMER will feel like a revelation. If you have, it will feel like meeting with an old friend, familiar but no less delightful for it. EARLY SUMMER follows the outline of so many of Ozu's post-war films; there's the same cast of characters and the same central conflict. Noriko (Setsuko Hara) is happy in her family life and satisfied with her job, but at 28 her family is eager to see her married. While Noriko's marriage might move the plot forward, it's somewhat beside the point. Her would-be husband, a match proposed by her boss, is frequently discussed but never seen. There's more than one wedding referred to throughout the film's course, but the only sight we have of a wedding party is that of strangers, seen from a distance for only a moment. At its core, EARLY SUMMER is a portrait of life--honest and humane. It's not the big events which define life, Ozu seems to argue. It's the spaces in between where all the substance lives. Ozu's focus might seem small, but within this family's small world and through this family's eyes, we see a universe. A balloon floating across the sky, seen by the elder Mamiyas is more than a balloon. It means a child crying somewhere. It's also a reminder of their son Shoji, lost at war. Here, no generation is privileged over any other. We begin the film with the family's youngest members and end it with its eldest. The children in the film are not the idealized visions of an adult; they are willful and unruly. The boys' pursuit of more train tracks and the grandparents' reminiscences are given equal time. There is some conflict and confusion between the generations, but it's viewed with a certain detachment. Change is inevitable. Summer will become fall. That the season's change is neither good nor bad, it simply is. What's left is to enjoy the moment before it passes. "This may be the happiest time of our lives" Noriko's father tells his wife. "We could be happier," she protests. "We mustn't want too much" His response is also Ozu's. EARLY SUMMER is an appreciation of life's smallest moments and an affirmation of a live lived for their enjoyment. (1951, 124 min, 35mm) EJC
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Frank Borzage's A FAREWELL TO ARMS (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7pm
In this early adaptation by Frank Borzage of Ernest Hemingway's classic novel, Lieutenant Frederic Henry (Gary Cooper) is an ambulance driver during World War I in Italy who falls madly in love with nurse Catherine Barkley (Helen Hayes). Borzage forgoes much of the pessimistic sentiment originally present in the book and instead focuses on the relationship between Henry and Barkley. His mise-en-scène utilizes space and focal length to signify the feelings the pair have for one another. Upon their initial meeting, the two are on poor terms and are situated on opposite ends of the screen in long to medium shots. This separation emphasizes their initial hesitancy towards one another. Once romance blooms Borzage employs close-ups and positions the characters nearer to one another. He also uses soft lighting and soft focus to romanticize the otherwise unsavory setting where this relationship occurs. The cinematography is the true highlight to this film, and Cooper plays the everyman-solider admirably. In addition, the battlefront scene should be acclaimed for its portrayal of the hell of war. This scene and a few other shots include miniatures that are easily spotted by the modern viewer, but are quite remarkable given the era this was filmed in. Borzage's A FAREWELL TO ARMS is a mostly faithful adaptation to a literary classic that has only gotten better with age. (1932, 85 min, 16mm) KC
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Jean-François Caissy's GUIDELINES (New Documentary)
Music Box Theatre - Tuesday, 7:30pm
The titular guidelines of this portrait of a rural Canadian high school most obviously evoke the strictures of student life, but they could just as easily refer to the formal strategies of the film itself: the camera almost never moves, there is almost no music, and we almost never see adults onscreen. The key word here is "almost," as GUIDELINES doesn't quite insist on a totalitarian aesthetic plan, just as the students don't appear subject to an overbearing administrative authority. Caissy is no Québécois Wiseman, and this film is more concerned with the ambiguities of adolescent experience than institutional indictment. His two focal points are students at play and in the guidance counselors' office, scenarios in which the subjects flout the rules and learn what the limits are, however vaguely. It's an organic give-and-take process, and the kids don't come across as hopelessly delinquent, or the adults as draconian. The film takes place over what seems like a school year, though the passage of seasons goes unremarked upon. It prefers to savor individual moments, and the camera's patient stasis belies the brief runtime. The leisurely takes and the 'scope aspect ratio call attention to DP Nicolas Canniccioni's compositions, which are equally adept at capturing nature or making elegant geometric use of the school's mundane institutional architecture. It's a cinematic representation of high school life without undue moralizing or drama, a highly stylized doc that remains unrepentantly observational. (2014, 76 min, DCP Digital) AK
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Abderrahmane Sissako's TIMBUKTU (New Mauritanian)
Black World Cinema at Studio Movie Grill (SMG Chatham, 210 W 87th St.) - Thursday, 7pm
Out of all the quality movies I saw in 2014, none felt quite as contemporary as Abderrahmane Sissako's TIMBUKTU. The Mauritanian filmmaker belatedly follows up BAMAKO, his great 2006 indictment of the World Bank and western-style capitalism, with this equally damning indictment of third-world religious extremism. The new film, a lightning-in-a-bottle masterpiece based on real events that occurred in 2012 but that seem even more prescient following the rise of ISIS, concerns the occupation of the title city in Mali by militant Islamist rebels. Sissako's eye-opening film intertwines several narrative threads, all of which dramatize the clash between the foreign jihadists and the more moderate Muslim natives, most prominent among them the story of a cattle farmer (Ibrahim Ahmed) whose wife is coveted by the region's new extremist ruler. Like Jia Zhang-ke's otherwise very different A TOUCH OF SIN, this vital movie offers a keyhole through which western viewers can peer into an authentic dramatization of pressing global issues that go way beyond mere news headlines; this includes a vain of absurdist humor that rings bizarrely true, as in a scene where a group of jihadists debate the relative merits of their favorite soccer stars. What really makes TIMBUKTU crucial viewing, however, is the way Sissako brings to his story the point of view of visual poetry, which is nowhere better exemplified than in a stunningly composed scene of conflict between the cattle farmer and a fisherman, and an exquisitely lovely montage sequence involving a soccer match defiantly played without a ball (after the sport has been locally banned). Sissako's feel for the desert landscapes of Africa here is as evocative as John Ford's was of the American southwest in his great late westerns. It is this effortless combination of docudrama and lyricism that ultimately elevates TIMBUKTU to the status of the transcendent. (2014, 97 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed format) MGS
More info at http://blackworldcinema.net/blog.
John MacLean's SLOW WEST (New British)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 and 9pm
While early reviews have been positive for this auspicious debut by Scottish musician-turned-filmmaker John MacLean (who set the film in 19th-century America but shot it in New Zealand), most have also erroneously described it as an "absurdist" or "psychedelic" western, with some even likening it to Jim Jarmusch's DEAD MAN. Despite a few revisionist elements, SLOW WEST is more or less a classic western by a writer/director who clearly has a thorough knowledge of--and love for--the genre's history and conventions; the plot follows a 16-year-old Scottish kid named Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as he traverses the American west in search of his heart's desire, a beautiful lass named Rose (Caren Pistorious) who was forced to flee her home country along with her father (John McCann) after a tragic event for which Jay feels responsible. Along the way, Jay teams up with Silas (Michael Fassbender, doing a credible Clint Eastwood impersonation complete with half-smoked cheroot permanently wedged in the corner of his mouth), a gunslinger who agrees to accompany Jay through hostile territory in exchange for money. What Silas knows and Jay doesn't, however, is that there are also bounties on the heads of Rose and her father, and Jay is leading Silas directly to them. SLOW WEST is dark, violent, claustrophobic, and pessimistic but these qualities are also thankfully leavened by MacLean's singular gift for humorous sight gags--such as the moment Jay and Silas stumble across the corpse of a man who died chopping down a tree, Jay's innovative method of drying soaking-wet clothes or, best of all, a flashback sequence involving an outlaw criticizing his partner for being jealous of his "wanted" poster. MacLean's preference for visual articulation even extends to a lovely grace note in the film's final scene where a character nails a horseshoe to a living-room wall--a symbolic image that captures the notion of the "settling of the west" as succinctly and cleverly as George O'Brien's use of a wagon wheel as ornamentation on the gate of his new home at the end of John Ford's silent masterpiece THREE BAD MEN. (2015, 84 min, DCP Digital) MGS
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Chicago Jewish Film Festival continues through June 28 at various Chicago and suburban locations. Complete schedule and more info at www.chicagojewishfilm.org.
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents WHATHAVEYOUDONEFORMELATELY? - Tracers/Nightingale Media Series #002:
WOMEN'S WORK with Beth Capper on Sunday at 5pm. Capper, a PhD student in modern culture and media at Brown University, will discuss Kathi Weeks' book The Problem With Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries and screen several thematically-related films: JoAnn Elam's CHOCOLATE CAKE (c. 1973, 4 min), Fronza Woods' KILLING TIME and FANNIE'S FILM (c. 1979, 15 min total), Hope Tucker's BESSIE COHEN, SURVIVOR OF 1911 SHIRTWAIST FIRE (2001, 3 min), and Ei Jane Janet Lin and Miao Jiaxin's CONDUCTOR/COLLABORATION #3 (2010, 3 min). All Digital File Projection. Free admission.
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents A Survey of Recent Contemporary Moving Images, Part One (2010-15, approx. 77 min, Digital Files) on Friday at 8pm. The screening, curated by Andrew Rosinski, features work by 19 film/video/new media artists Jesse McLean, Brenna Murphy, Nick Briz, Chris Collins, Nicole Ginelli, Chris Kennedy, Theodore Darst, Joshua Tonies, Miyö Van Stenis, Jesse Malmed, Emilio Gomariz, Snow Yunxue Fu, Sanaz Sohrabi, Stephanie Barber, Jon Satrom, Jasper Elings, Zahid Jiwa, Sara Ludy, and Shana Moulton; and an outdoor screening of John S. Robertson's 1920 silent film DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (80 min, Digital Projection) is on Wednesday at sundown (approx. 8:30pm), with live music by Kevin and Hell. Free admission for both.
Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) screens Ife Olatunji's documentary work-in-progress CHRONICLES OF THE SUMMER (30 mins, DVD Projection) on Friday at 7pm; Joe Francis' 1927 film LA REVUE DES REVUES (103 min, DVD Projection) along with Dudley Murphy's 1929 short ST. LOUIS BLUES (16 min, DVD Projection) on Sunday at 4pm; and Shawn Batey's 2014 documentary CHANGING FACE OF HARLEM (62 min, Blu-Ray Projection) on Thursday at 7pm, with Batey and others in person. Free admission for all, but limited seating; RSVP at http://rebuild-foundation.squarespace.com.
YC (2733 W. Hirsch St.) and the Wretched Nobles Film and Video Series present the shorts program Egos! on Thursday at 9pm.
The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Zack Snyder's 2013 film MAN OF STEEL (143 min, DCP Digital) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission. www.northbrook.info/events/film
At the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Sophie Letourneur's 2012 French film MACARONI AND CHEESE (75 min, DCP Digital) screens on Friday at 6pm and Saturday at 5pm, with Letourneur in person at both screenings; Alan Rickman's 2014 UK film A LITTLE CHAOS (116 min, DCP Digital) and David Gordon Green's 2014 film MANGLEHORN (97 min, DCP Digital) both play for a week; Isabelle Czajka's 2013 French film DOMESTIC LIFE (94 min, DCP Digital) screens on Saturday at 3pm and Thursday at 6pm; and Ondrej Sokol's 2014 Czech film KRÁSNO (119 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 5pm and Tuesday at 8pm.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Alfred E. Green's 1950 film THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY (76 min, 16mm Archival Print) is on Thursday at 7pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Crystal Moselle's 2015 documentary THE WOLFPACK (80 min) continues; Penelope Spheeris' 1981 documentary THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (100 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 9:45pm and her 1988 documentary THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II: THE METAL YEARS (93 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at Midnight, with Spheeris in person at both screenings; Jay Martin's 2014 film 7 MINUTES (92 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; David Lynch's 1986 film BLUE VELVET (120 min) is on Friday at Midnight; and Orson Welles' 1952 film OTHELLO (Unconfirmed Running Time, DCP Digital; unconfirmed whether this is Welles' American release version, or the 1992 so-called restoration) is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am.
Facets Cinémathèque plays Emma Christopher's 2014 Australian documentary THEY ARE WE (77 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run; and hosts the Chicago Latino Reel Film Club screening of Manolo Caro's 2014 Mexican film LOVE OF MY LOVES (90 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 7pm (reception at 6pm; special admission applies).
The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of Louise Archambault's 2013 Canadian film GABRIELLE (104 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
Deadly Prey Gallery (1433 W. Chicago Ave.) presents the exhibition Action-Packed & Horrible, featuring contemporary (1990s-present) hand-painted movie posters from Ghana. The opening is Friday from 7 to 11pm and the show runs through July 24.
The exhibition Frances Stark: Intimism is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through August 30. The show is a comprehensive survey of Stark's video and digital production.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents an exhibition of nine video works by artist Keren Cytter. On view through October 4.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents German artist Clemens von Wedemeyer's HD video installation Muster (Rushes) (2012). On view through July 26.
Chicago Public Library screenings: Due to the frequency of late-additions (past our deadlines) and to their frequent inability (due to licensing restrictions) of publicly listing the titles of films they are screening, we will no longer be listing specific CPL screenings. Check their website for any films that may be showing.
The Patio Theater and the Portage Theater calendars have been confusing and constantly shifting--adding and removing events with little notice--and reportedly have been unexpectedly closed for scheduled events. We will no longer attempt to list any screenings there.