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:: Friday, FEB. 24 - Thursday, MAR. 2 ::


The Chicago Feminist Film Festival
Film Row Cinema (Columbia College, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., 8th Floor) – Wednesday, March 1 – Friday, March 3 (Free Admission)

The second annual Chicago Feminist Film Festival runs this coming Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with a stunning array of 57 movies from 22 countries (two features and eight shorts programs), all challenging gender norms, broadening modes of representation, exploring alternative narrative structures and styles, and highlighting the enormous diversity of ways filmmakers around the world can contribute to new kinds of cinema. The festival’s two feature-length shows are XX (2017, 80 min; Wednesday, 5pm), a horror anthology with segments directed by St. Vincent, Sofia Carrillo, Jovanka Vuckovic, Karyn Kusama, and Roxanne Benjamin, and the Chicago premiere of WOMAN ON FIRE (Julie Sokolow, 2016, 85 min; Friday, March 3, 8pm), a documentary about the first openly transgender firefighter in New York City. Roxanne Benjamin and Julie Sokolow and her subjects Brooke Guinan and James Baker will be in attendance for post-screening Q&As after their respective screenings. The shorts, far too numerous to detail here, range from the interesting to the amazing. Especially great are ANY OTHER DAY (Marysela Zamora, 2015, 7 min; Shorts Program: Becoming, Friday, March 3, 4:30pm), a subtle game of shot scale and focus in which two children play a series of complicated games of role-play as they spend a day in the woods, THE DEER QUEEN (Brooke Thiele, 2016, 7 min; Shorts Program: Nature/Culture, Friday, March 3, 6pm), a highly stylized fairy tale nightmare about a huntress, birthed from a deer carcass, attempting to slay a very anthropomorphic crane, and SHE/HER (Sonja Wyss, 2015, 11 min; Shorts Program: Dance Revolutions, Thursday, 1pm), where a stressful meal between mother and daughter starts turning into an elaborately choreographed dance of wills and bodies. While none of these is to be missed, they are but small samples of the wealth of riches the festival has to offer. As the new administration in the White House works tirelessly to advance antifeminist, transphobic, homophobic, and racist policies, the promise of different ways of thinking, different ways of seeing the world, different ways of dwelling among one another is not merely a welcome, progressive dream but an open demand. More than anything else, what this terrific festival showcases is a vision of how permanently new and liberatory cinema can be, both as an artistic and as a political force. KB

An interview with Michelle Yates and Susan Kerns, Columbia College professors and co-directors of the festival, will run on our blog ( this weekend.
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Note to Self: The Psychosexual Films of Nazl? Dinçel (New Experimental)
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) – Saturday, 7pm

This program consists of seven films by the experimental filmmaker Nazl? Dinçel and a found and appropriated instructional film. Taken as a group, they are very strong evidence of Dinçel’s extraordinary visual inventiveness, mastery of form, and provocative depictions of the intersections between history, both political and personal, and deeply corporeal existence. The Ken Jacobs-like REFRAME (2009, 4 min) repurposes 8 stereoscopic slides taken by an army officer in pre-Castro Cuba that Dinçel found in a thrift store. Exploring details and densely editing the images together on an optical printer, Dinçel flattens the supposedly rigorous distinctions film makes between space and time, turning static images into exhilarating washes of color, poses into coded gestures, simultaneities into whirling fluxes of life. As Dinçel’s film unspools, the neutral, banal images she is using become uncanny glimpses of an unstable island, become a way to show the difference between the false tranquility the Army officer saw and photographed and the real Cuba, its readiness to explode moved from unwitting subtext to unmistakable tangibility here. LEAFLESS (2011, 8 min) is a work of intimate reflection, a film about the ways that paying close attention to the textures and shapes of another person’s body affect how we understand that person, and how we understand our surroundings. The movie begins as a series of close-ups of body parts, delving into the ways that this particular person whose body we are examining is sensuously different from all other people, is different from ourselves. Soon, the film moves to a wider scope, though, and the remarkable intensity of focus and attention given to the man’s body in the early shots turns into a vehicle for seeing everything in new ways. An erotic connection to another person, the film implies, can become the catalyst for literally changing the world. HER SILENT SEAMING (2014, 11 min) revisits the LEAFLESS material, now heavily hand-manipulated and intercut with hand-scratched text that transcribes things different sexual partners have said to the filmmaker. The intense beauty of the damaged, transformed footage gradually gives way to an evisceration of a pomegranate, in succulent close-up, its juice running through the hands of the filmmaker, down her knife, onto the cutting board as she slices it and scoops the seeds out into a bowl. The iconography is coarse—Hades and Persephone, sex as a corrupting, bloody moment, the death of relationships being foretold by their beginnings, and so on—but the carnal power of the film outweighs any lack of subtlety in structure. SOLITARY ACTS #4 (2015, 8 min), SOLITARY ACTS #5 (2015, 6 min), and SOLITARY ACTS #6 (2015, 11 min) are explicit explorations of erotic discovery, masturbation, and child development. In a rich montage of intricately and densely overlaid images, voice over, hand-scratched texts, and extremely appropriate uses of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, the three films depict myriad imaginings of female sexuality, both as radically liberating forces that are harnessed, controlled, regulated, medicalized, and damned and as internally self-defining needs and urges that bend us to their wills. Also showing are VOID (4.INABILITY) (2016, 4 min), and the found instructional film SHARING ORGASM: COMMUNICATING YOUR SEXUAL RESPONSES (Arthur M. Kaye, 1977, 12 min). (1977 + 2009-16, approx. 64 min total, 16mm) Dinçel in person. KB
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Black Cinema House (at the Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave.) presents the discussion #OscarsSoBlack? A Conversation about Hollywood’s Racial Politics on Friday at 7pm. The panel, moderated by Jacqueline Stewart (Univ. of Chicago), includes writer and scholar Nick Davis (Northwestern), film critic, programmer and lecturer Sergio Mims (SAIC), film, literature and Black culture writer Miriam Petty (Northwestern), and filmmaker and visual artist Jennifer Reeder (UIC). Free admission.

Doc Films (University of Chicago) screens Gregg Bordowitz’s 1994 autobiographical documentary FAST TRIP, LONG DROP (76 min, Digital Projection), about his HIV+ diagnosis, on Monday at 7pm. Showing with Bordowitz’s 1986 short SOME ASPECTS OF A SHARED LIFESTYLE (22 min, Digital Projection).

The Gene Siskel Film Center screens Reza Mirkarimi’s 2016 film DAUGHTER (103 min, DCP Digital) on Saturday at 6 and 8:15pm, as the final film in the Festival of Films from Iran.

At Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: Károly Makk’s 1982 Hungarian film ANOTHER WAY (102 min, DCP Digital) (Egymásra Nézve), which blends issues of sexual identity and political activity and is Hungary’s first mainstream lesbian film, is on Friday at 7pm; and acclaimed cinematographer Arthur Jafa’s 2014 documentary DREAMS ARE COLDER THAN DEATH (52 min, DCP Digital; Free Admission), which explores the question of what it means to be black in America today, is on Tuesday at 5:30pm, with Jafa in person.


Vitaly Mansky's UNDER THE SUN (New Russian Documentary)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Friday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 1:30pm

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
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Claude Berri's JEAN DE FLORETTE (French Revival) Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday and Saturday, 2pm and Monday, 6pm
Claude Berri's MANON OF THE SPRING (French Revival) Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday and Saturday, 4:15pm and Wednesday, 6pm

Together, Claude Berri's JEAN DE FLORETTE (1987, 121 min, 35mm) and MANON OF THE SPRING (1987, 113 min, 35mm) constitute an unfading classic of '80s French cinema, making the stuff of melodrama play like hardscrabble daily life. Roger Ebert, for whom these sweeping tragedies were favorites, gives us a concise taste of the plot. It's the story of a "poor city man [Gerard Depardieu] who tries to make a living from the land, the bitter local farmers [Yves Montand and Daniel Auteuil] who hide the existence of a spring from him, and the shocking poetic justice that punished a cruel old man." Berri and Gerard Brach adapted The Water of the Hills (1963), a two-volume novel by Marcel Pagnol, who was also an important filmmaker. This show is part of the Siskel's exciting series, "Marcel Pagnol: City and Country." (Speaking of Pagnol, Ebert also cherished two rarely-seen films made by Yves Robert in 1991, based on Pagnol's memories of his happy Provençal childhood: MY FATHER'S GLORY and MY MOTHER'S CASTLE. Prospects for a future retrospective, perhaps.) In JEAN DE FLORETTE, Depardieu's daughter is a little girl, looking on in despair as her father suffers under the secret sabotage of the locals. In MANON OF THE SPRING, she's a young woman played by the striking Emmanuelle Béart, traversing the rocky hills of her rural Provence as naturally as the goats she shepherds. As photographed by Bruno Nuytten, Pagnol's beloved Provençal countryside is as gorgeous as it is starkly unforgiving. One remembers the anguished, indelible performances: Depardieu's guileless hunchbacked man, his dream broken; Montand's greedy old uncle; Auteil's lovesick, conniving nephew. Béart is implacable as she enacts comeuppance on the men who destroyed her father for profit. As Ebert wrote, these films move inexorably, with a "majestic pacing...on a scale that spans the generations." How better to experience that pace, that scale than by seeing the nearly four-hour pair on the big screen. SP
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Troubling the Image: Landscapes of Light (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)

In the fourth of five “Troubling the Image” programs, the shorts on display explore the middle ground between figurative and abstract imagery. Peter Hutton’s black-and-white BOSTON FIRE (1979, 8 min, 16mm) sets the tone with its ravishing opening shots, close-ups of smoke and fire that look call to mind undulating aquatic creatures. (That the film is silent adds to the sense of abstraction; without sound, the fire loses its menace and encourages calm meditation.) Hutton’s 16-millimeter cinematography is characteristically beautiful—the film demands to be seen projected—adding a tactile element to the already sensual imagery. The other 16-millimeter short on the program, Julie Murray’s DISTANCE (2010, 12 min, 16mm), is similarly poetic; it’s an impressionistic travelogue of a coastal town with an emphasis on debris, water, and horizons. When people appear, it’s as small figures in long shot, creating the sense that human beings are mere afterthoughts in these contemplative zones. People factor more prominently in Joana Pimenta’s AN AVIATION FIELD (2016, 14 min, Digital Projection), albeit just somewhat. The most significant images here are of long shots of volcanoes and medium close-ups of model cities; the juxtaposition of these two subjects blurs one’s sense of scale, conjuring up what may be described as a pleasant miasma. Some of the material for AVIATION was shot in Brasilia, Brazil, which also provides some of the settings for the last selection on the program, Dane Komljen and James Lattimer’s ALL STILL ORBIT (2016, 23 min, Digital Projection). ORBIT links a range of striking views of Brasilia with musings on the soundtrack about the city’s origins. In their directors’ statement, Komljen and Lattimer ask, “How do you make sense of a city built on a dream?” That’s as good a way as any of summarizing this elusive and beguiling work. The program also features a work directed by Komljen solo, OUR BODY (2015, 15 min, Digital Projection), an associative series of shots that begins with the demolition of an abandoned building and ends with a shot of a tattooed man washing himself over a tub. I don’t know what this (or ORBIT, for that matter) adds up to, but Komljen’s sequencing nonetheless suggests a hidden logic that keeps the work fascinating. More straightforward—and no less powerful for it—is Arash Nassiri’s TEHRAN-GELES (2015, 18 min, Digital Projection), which juxtaposes helicopter shots of Los Angeles at night with audio testimonies of self-exiled Iranians describing their memories of the 1979 revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. The idea of such horrors befalling a city like L.A. might seem implausible, but remember that Tehran was—and remains—a very modern city too. BS
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Gary Graver's 3 A.M. (Adult Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Friday, Midnight

Note: Spoilers! -- The last major decade (the 1970s) of Orson Welles filmmaking life was filled with unfinished projects, countless reworking of older unfinished films, and occasional stirrings to craft a new epic. Perhaps the strangest player throughout this period was Gary Graver, a rather undistinguished exploitation filmmaker who became one of Welles' last confidants and protégés. Graver himself soon became a maverick director of sorts, crafting close to 100 X-rated and exploitation films (many direct to video) between the mid 70s and the late 90s. Despite Welles' seeming respect for Graver, his films range from passably watchable to downright dreadful—except for his debut hardcore production, 1975's 3 A.M. Shot over the course of a week near Monterey California, 3 A.M. not only ranks as Gary Graver's finest hour but as perhaps the most Bergman-esque X-rated film ever made. It deals with themes ranging from infidelity, to claustrophobia, isolation, identity conflicts, suicide, and more. The narrative focuses on a family (husband, wife, wife's sister, and the couple's two teenagers) who live in a metaphorical glass house on the beach. Though isolated from the rest of the world, their extreme closeness to each other drives them mad with hatred and jealousy. Opening with the revelation that sister-in-law Kate (played with great theatrical prowess by one of sexploitation's finest thespians/over-actors, Georgina Spelvin) has been having an affair with her sister's husband, events soon lead to Kate's accidentally killing her brother-in-law, getting away with it, but not being able to hide her feelings of guilt and loneliness from her grieving relatives. 3 A.M. is an uncompromisingly dreary film but features an excellent script by under-appreciated genre-film screenwriter Tony Crechales (who also scripted Graver's other near-masterpiece, THE ATTIC) and photography by Michael Stringer, who makes great use of the open landscapes which surround the beach-house setting, while simultaneously using long takes and moodily lit rooms to highlight the desperation and isolation felt by the characters. Although Spelvin is really the only noteworthy actor in the production, Charles Hooper's quiet and unassuming performance as Ronnie, the teenage son, is surprisingly deep and complex for such a film and the decision his character makes in the closing minutes unequivocally alters the course of his family's lives. Although it's hard to say how much of the film's success is thanks to Graver, as opposed to the good screenplay he was working from and his talented cast and crew, 3 A.M. is still his undeniable masterpiece and it ranks amongst the most complex and intellectual sexploitation films ever made. (1975, 86 min, 16mm) JR
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Nagisa Oshima’s VIOLENCE AT NOON (Japanese Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Sunday, 7pm

Nagisa Oshima was a restless experimenter, constantly changing his style so that the aesthetic of each new film would interact constructively with its content. For VIOLENCE AT NOON, his harrowing tale of a serial rapist and murderer, Oshima developed a montage-heavy approach, bombarding his audience with cuts in a sort-of formalist attack. That the movie contains over 2,000 discrete edits—roughly one every three seconds—may not sound so remarkable in the age of Michael Bay, but it is meaningful in the context of Oshima’s filmography, in which the sober long-take is one of the few consistent elements. As in the contemporaneous films of Alain Resnais, the montage of VIOLENCE AT NOON jumbles different chronologies, namely the trajectory of Eisuke’s murder spree and the dissolution of the farming collective that he and his wife belonged to years earlier. This scrambling, as with many of Oshima’s stylistic innovations, has a definite political subtext, linking Eisuke’s destructive behavior to the defeat of Leftist idealism in postwar Japan. Sexual violence is another recurring element in Oshima’s cinema; in his films, it represents the violence inherent in Japanese society, with its emphasis on conformism and repression of individuality (particularly that of women). VIOLENCE AT NOON places this subject front and center, forcing the viewer to confront the ugliness Oshima saw around him. For all its pessimism, however, the film remains an exhilarating experience. It comes from Oshima’s most fevered period of narrative filmmaking (he would release 11 theatrical features between 1965 and 1972), and one can sense his enthusiasm in creating shrapnel-like art that penetrated the culture quickly, sharply, and diffusely. (1966, 98 min, 35mm) BS
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Charles Chaplin’s LIMELIGHT (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Wednesday, 7pm

“LIMELIGHT, the most emotional of films, is all about the death of emotion,” wrote critic Peter von Bagh in 2002. “When we think of Chaplin’s art of combining the abstract and concrete, the real and surreal, hard fact and dream, the present with the past and the imagined, of the effortless mixing of pantomime, ballet, burlesque, dialogue, and monologue into an indivisible whole, as simple as a moment in nature, we can well sense how far LIMELIGHT is from the ordinary Hollywood fare; it should sooner be placed among films like CITIZEN KANE, IVAN THE TERRIBLE, and Alf Sjoberg’s MISS JULIE. The differences between life and art, the personal and the historical, and so on lose their point.” Set in early 20th-century London, the film stars Chaplin as an alcoholic, past-his-prime music hall comedian named Calvero; this flawed hero finds new reasons for living and making art after he rescues a depressive young ballerina (Claire Bloom) from suicide. All of Chaplin’s films are autobiographical on some level, but that level may be closest to the surface in LIMELIGHT: Chaplin, of course, hailed from London and entered into show business in that city’s music halls in the early 20th century; though not as washed-up as Calvero when the film was made, the actor-writer-director-composer nonetheless was at the nadir of his popularity in the U.S. at the time, attacked in the popular press for scandals in his personal life and vilified by the far right for his left-leaning tendencies. (LIMELIGHT would be the last film he made in America, and its nostalgia for the England of his youth may be read as a veiled statement about his disappointments with his adopted country.) Yet, as von Bagh notes, the film’s autobiographical component represents only one strand of its cumulative power. It is not just Chaplin’s testament to his own art, but to art in general and to the striving for love that brings meaning to any life. (1952, 137 min, 35mm) BS
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Stacey Steers: Edge of Alchemy (Experimental)
Conversations at the Edge at the Gene Siskel Film Center - Thursday, 6pm
Alan J. Pakula’s THE PARALLAX VIEW (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 7pm

Georges-Pierre Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece A Sunday on La Grande Jette - 1884 is made up of millions of dots (one website estimates over six million), yet the figures within it—men in hats, women with parasols, a monkey on a leash—appear solid when viewed from afar. This exquisite artistry is at once concealed and conspicuous, hidden at first but obvious upon further examination. Though otherwise unrelated, both the Conversations at the Edge program Stacey Steers: Edge of Alchemy and Alan J. Pakula’s THE PARALLAX VIEW (1974, 102 min, 35mm) made me think about this concordant paradox when watching them, something I often take for granted as I revel in the miscellany of cinema. The former features three short films that Steers made over the past decade, which comprise an unofficial trilogy centered on so-called women’s issues (the thematic execution is far more subversive than this well-worn phrase might suggest). Steers poetically describes the oldest of the three films, PHANTOM CANYON (2006, 9 min), as being about “[a] curious woman meet[ing] an alluring man with bat wings in this personal recollection of a pivotal journey.” Just as in the other two films, this de facto narrative is conveyed through meticulously crafted collages—approximately 4,000 of them, “or about eight for every second of animation,” per the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum website—culled from photography and silent film history, specifically Eadweard Muybridge’s Human and Animal Locomotion in the case of this first film. The second, NIGHT HUNTER (2011, 16 min), is also comprised of 4,000 collages (and took four years to make) but this time incorporates Lillian Gish from several of her films with D.W. Griffith and Victor Sjöström’s THE WIND, transporting those iconic performances and their ultimately mortal ties to an otherworldly realm not unlike that of silent cinema itself, with its use of rich textures and fantastic effects. The third and most recent work, EDGE OF ALCHEMY (2017, 19 min), took over five years to make and includes some 6,000 collages, featuring Mary Pickford and Janet Gaynor from various roles. Sort of a monster-creature hybrid, it’s “the epitome of...Steers' unique vision of collaged re-examination animations, an uncanny way to carry on in the great tradition of surrealist cinema,” to quote her experimental filmmaker peer Phil Solomon, whose name pops up in the credits. With haunting musical accompaniment from the likes of Bruce Odland and Lech Jankowski, as well as accompanying installations that unfortunately won’t be on display at the screening, Steers’ work is a true multimedia experience, an assemblage of points that create a solid, seemingly seamless, whole. THE PARALLAX VIEW isn’t as overt an example of the aforementioned phenomenon, but its mise-en-scène is similarly beguiling, so much so that one can forgive its rather dawdling narrative. Warren Beatty plays a reporter who falls down the proverbial rabbit hole after being adjacent to a liberal senator’s political assassination. Carefully composed visages propel the plot more than any line of dialogue, words failing where aesthetic geometry prevails. Even the political implications—“that right-wing conspiracy is built into the American political and corporate structure,” as critic Don Druker wrote in his review for the Chicago Reader—are chastened by its visual finesse, credit for which is owed to legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis and production designer George Jenkins. Even Beatty seems to understand that his performance is subservient to the image, foregoing any of his usual charm. Perhaps most noteworthy is the five-minute ‘film’ within the film that might seem better suited in an experimental shorts program; Pakula reportedly labored over it for four months, repeatedly changing the order of the still images that compose it. (To correct my previous assertion, perhaps THE PARALLAX VIEW does have this pseudo-collage aspect in common with Steers’ program…). On a tangential note, Pakula’s paranoid thriller is eerily relevant in light of current events. Referring to the early 70s, he said that America had “become a world in which heroes didn’t necessarily win...and not only didn’t you find the heavies, not only did you not destroy the heavies, you sometimes never even found out who they were. We live in a Kafka-like world where you can never find the evil.” He also stated that “[i]f the picture works the audience will trust the person sitting next to them a little less” at the end of it, a cynicism that’s not unwarranted given the political climate. But I digress. Perhaps the whole of both are greater than the sum of their parts, the solid figures superlative to each individual point, but every once in awhile one must step forward and appreciate the brilliant minutiae, be it clever coalescence or sagacious style. KS
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Ceyda Torun’s KEDI (New Turkish Documentary)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes

In Istanbul, Turkey, feral cats can be found everywhere; however, unlike the rats of our fair Chicago, these animals experience a peaceful co-habitation with the populace that, for some, borders on the reverential. KEDI packages Istanbul’s admiration for its felines in several vignettes and is meant for cat lovers and non-cat lovers alike. The stories told are uplifting. For some of the interviewees, these cats represent a tangential relationship between themselves and their beliefs in religious omnipotence. The cinematography found in KEDI is superb and beautiful. At times providing a cat’s eye view of the city, the camerawork bounces from rooftop to rooftop, scurries up trees, and dives down pathways that only the nimble footed could traverse. Combined with the staccato score, KEDI has succinct and upbeat tempo. The film follows seven cats’ lives and the nuances of their individual personalities are allowed to flourish on screen. Ceyda Torun explores the circumstances of how these animals came to become so prevalent in Istanbul and to paint a portrait of why their existence is a joyous thing for everyone. KEDI is the kind of film that gives essence to mankind’s love for cats and showcases all of the natural and urban beauty that can be found in Istanbul. (2016, 80 min, DCP Digital) KC
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Carlos Reygadas' POST TENEBRAS LUX (New Mexican)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 8pm and Tuesday, 6pm

Although the telling can be distractingly complex, the story at the center of POST TENEBRAS LUX is simple and familiar: Juan, a wealthy young man, moves his wife and children to a large house in the country, where things turn out less copacetic than he'd planned. The first thirty minutes of the film are completely stunning: visually gorgeous, disturbing, moving, intriguing. Director Reygadas expertly manipulates our emotions by juxtaposing the innocence and beauty of Juan's children (played by Reygadas' own children Rut and Eleazar) against the pent-up brutality of their father and the unpredictable carnality of nature. Thirty minutes in, the film seems to be heading in a sort of art horror direction in the vein of Lars Von Trier's ANTICHRIST (2009) or Robert Altman's IMAGES (1972), an exploration of the terror of isolation and the psychological punishments reserved for those who try to have their Eden in this life. But then something happens--an ambivalence, perhaps, on the part of the director about the message at the core of his fable--and the film morphs into something looser, lighter and less focused. The original film continues, but its progress is repeatedly interrupted by another film, a superficial film more akin to Terrence Mallick's pretentious family saga TREE OF LIFE (2011) than any masterpiece of art horror. It's a shame, because Reygadas had a masterpiece of his own on his hands. Instead, he ends up with a flawed film, a beautiful attempt, well worth seeing, but as much for what it could have been. Filmmaker and SAIC professor Melika Bass lectures at the Tuesday show. (2012, 115 min, DCP Digital) ML
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Mia Hansen-Løve’s THINGS TO COME (New French)
Gene Siskel Film Center – 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
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Michael Dudok de Wit’s THE RED TURTLE (New Animation)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes

Over the course of its thirty plus year existence, Studio Ghibli has been celebrated for its anime releases, but in that time, have never produced a non-Japanese film. Hayao Miyazaki was so impressed by Michael Dudok de Wit’s FATHER AND DAUGHTER that he had his studio reach out to the Dutch director to collaborate, and THE RED TURTLE was born. This taut, dialogue-free film depicts a shipwrecked sailor marooned on a tropical island. After a mysterious red sea turtle prevents his numerous attempts to flee the island, he flips the creature onto its shell and leaves it to bake in the sun on the beach. When the animal dies, the body is seemingly replaced with that of a red haired woman, and the man gains a companion. Many of the themes of THE RED TURTLE revolve around loneliness, acceptance, and man’s will to survive and, coupled with its basic narrative premise, draw an easy comparison to Robinson Crusoe. The film’s color palette is vibrant and lush and this brightness instills a sense of vitality and tranquility that invites the viewer to imagine the warm breezes rustling through the trees and the cool water lapping along the shores. There is a sense of whimsy that pervades the film and juxtaposed with the lack of dialogue, attunes the eye to the subtleties of the gorgeous animation and the mind to the minimalist, but affecting, story. (2016, 80 min, DCP Digital) KC
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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
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The Chicago Irish Film Festival opens on Thursday, March 2 and runs through March 5. Complete details at

The Chicago Film Seminar presents their Graduate Student Panel on Monday at 7:30pm. The presentations are “Gross-out as Gatekeeper: Disgust, Anti-comedy, and Taste Distinction in Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!” by Benjamin Aspray (Northwestern University) and “Film As Archival Object: Analog Film Materials and the Evidentiary Value of Archival Holdings” by Sabrina Negri (University of Chicago). Zoran Samardzija (Columbia College) will serve as respondent. The event takes place at DePaul’s Loop Campus in the Daley Building (14 E. Jackson Blvd., Room LL 102; use the State St. entrance at 247 S. State.). Free admission.

The Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) screens Curtis Harrington’s 1971 film WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? (101 min, 35mm) on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Preceded by Gus Meins’ 1933 Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly comedy BEAUTY AND THE BUS (18 min, 16mm).

Also at the Film Studies Center (at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., University of Chicago) this week is Tomás Hodan’s 2015 Czech Republic documentary FILM ADVENTURER KAREL ZEMAN (102 min, DCP Digital) on Thursday at 7pm, with Ludmila Zeman and Linda Zeman-Spaleny, Zeman’s daughter and granddaughter, in person. Free admission.

The Park Ridge Classic Film Series screens King Vidor’s 1928 silent film SHOW PEOPLE (82 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm at the Park Ridge Public Library (20 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge). Free admission.

At the Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) this week: Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn’s 2016 animated film TROLLS (93 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 2 and 7:30pm; and Matt Ross’ 2016 film CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (118 min, DCP Digital) is on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Roberto Sneider’s 2016 Mexican/Canadian film YOU’RE KILLING ME SUSANA (100 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Keith Maitland’s 2016 animated documentary TOWER (98 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9pm and Sunday at 3:45pm; Baldvin Zophoniasson’s 2014 Icelandic film LIFE IN A FISHBOWL (130 min, DCP Digital) is on Tuesday at 7pm; and Nacho Vigalondo’s 2007 film TIMECRIMES (92 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:30pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Norman Jewison’s 1967 film IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (110 min, 35mm) is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am; Trailer Apocalypse (approx. 90 min, 35mm), a collection of vintage film trailers (horror, exploitation, martial arts, etc.) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; the 2017 horror anthology film XX (80 min, DCP Digital), with segments directed by Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, and Jovanka Vuckovic, is on Saturday at 11:45pm, Sunday and Wednesday at 9pm, Monday at 7:30pm, and Thursday at 9:45pm; 2017 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts Program A is on Saturday at 11:30am; and 2017 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts Program B is on Sunday at 11:30am.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Tim Sutton’s 2015 film DARK NIGHT (85 min, Digital Projection), Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood’s 2016 documentary DYING LAUGHING (89 min, Digital Projection), and Henry Phillips’ 2015 film PUNCHING HENRY (98 min, Digital Projection) for week-long runs.

The Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest (400 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest, IL) screens Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s 1952 film SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (103 min, Digital Projection) on Friday at 7pm; and Otto Bells’ 2016 documentary THE EAGLE HUNTRESS (87 min, Digital Projection) on Thursday at 7pm.


The Art Institute of Chicago exhibition Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium opens on Saturday and runs through May 7. The large exhibition of work by the acclaimed Brazilian artist includes several films by him, and some related films. Included are Oiticica’s films BRASIL JORGE (1971), FILMORE EAST (1971), and AGRIPPINA IS ROME-MANHATTAN (1972); two slide-show works: NEYRÓTIKA (1973) and CC6 COKE HEAD’S SOUP (1973, made with Thomas Valentin); and Raimundo Amado’s APOCALIPOPÓTESE (1968) and Andreas Valentin’s ONE NIGHT ON GAY STREET (1975, 16mm).

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).

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CINE-LIST: February 24 - March 2, 2017

 Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Kian Bergstrom, Edo Choi, Kyle Cubr, Mojo Lorwin, Scott Pfeiffer, Joe Rubin, Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Darnell Witt

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