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:: Friday, SEPT. 23 -
Thursday, SEPT. 29 ::
NOTE: Our interview with THE GOAT’s Andrew Neel will be available on our blog () later on Friday. An interview with Hannah Holm (A MAN CALLED OVE) will likely be posted on Saturday.
Sally Cruikshank’s Cabaret (Revival and New Animation)
Conversations at the Edge at the Gene Siskel Film Center – Thursday, 6pm
Conversations at the Edge opens another adventurous, robust season with the excellently wonky and vibrant animations of Sally Cruikshank. The works span the last 45 years and formats—recently restored 16mm and 35mm prints alongside Flash and a recent work featuring a chatbot named Whinsey—but all retain her unique sensibility. Her menagerie of anthropomorphic animals and zoomorphic people and objects co-exist on strange planes, scooting through worlds casually quotidian in their hypnogogic instability. It's the small frustrations and daily indignities that Quasi and Anita and Rollo and the other cast of undulating new wave weirdies deal with that maintain the flow as we share in the high-minded gag and set pieces that shape the films. The offhandedness with which time travel, dream exploration, desire, and jealousy are dealt belies the synaptic spaces these ideas can stretch. It's a fantastical world—or, a series of overlapping fantasies—unencumbered by the snoozy realities to which we so often feel bound. Cruikshank's work has always blended fantastical character design, buoyant locations, and existentially weighty slapdash slapstick. You can say it's dreamy but it's also deeply rooted in the hand and in drawing. It's a Crayola color palate if you take that first syllable seriously. Amidst the interspecies telekinesis and bouncy tunes, there's a real concern for the foibles and follies of being alive—whatever and whenever your body. And it's funny. It's really funny. The artist will be in attendance and we've been promised work from her Sesame Street era, the Quasi films, and archival sketches, storyboards, and photographs. (1971-2016, approx. 60 min total, 16mm, 35mm, and Digital Video, with some newly preserved prints) JM
More info at http://blogs.saic.edu/cate/fall-2016-season.
Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS (British Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Music Box Theatre) — Monday, 7pm
Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS still hasn’t been released on DVD in this country, so the only way you can officially see it at home is on a pan-and-scan VHS. But even if a decent American DVD existed, it would still pale in comparison to seeing this fever dream of a historical spectacle on a big screen. Russell thought big and made big gestures, overloading most of his movies with historical references, psychedelic stylization, and outsized acting. He’s the sort of director you love or hate, but never accuse of holding back. THE DEVILS comes from the middle of Russell’s most productive period as a director of feature films (he had been a prolific director of TV documentaries for years before that), when over a four year period (1969-1972) he released five of his strongest films, which cover the full range of his style and themes. Perhaps the most extreme of that lot, THE DEVILS maintains an unrelenting air of hysteria that makes the bold, psychosexual imagery seem that much more provocative. The story, taken from true events, deals with power struggle and religious persecution in 17th-century France, but the design—as is often the case with Russell—is brazenly anachronistic. (Derek Jarman, who would become an uncompromising director in his own right, is the credited production designer.) Past and present bleed into each other to hallucinogenic effect, while Russell’s sincere interest in religious and political history vies with his strong desire to gross people out. Oliver Reed, in the role he was born to play, is a morally corrupt priest with a large flock of loyal followers; Vanessa Redgrave is the mad nun who desires him and wants to destroy him. Preceded by Segundo de Chomon’s 1907 silent trick film THE RED SPECTRE (7 min, 16mm). (1971, 108 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.nothwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
H.P. Carver’s THE SILENT ENEMY (Silent American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E., 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) — Wednesday, 7:30pm
When it first played in New York, Mordaunt Hall of the Times described THE SILENT ENEMY as “an engrossing silent film study of the Ojibway Indian’s struggle for food for the coming of Columbus” and praised it for “bear[ing] the stamp of sincerity and authenticity.” Hall may have been wrong about the authenticity part (Northwest Chicago Film Society programmer and Cine-File contributor Kyle A. Westphal writes in his program notes that not all of the Ojibway in the movie were played by actual Ojibway), but he made a sound case for the filmmakers’ sincerity, praising their artistry and their effectiveness in relating the facts of Ojibway culture to an audience unfamiliar with it. He also lauded their presentation of animals, connecting film style to a certain pedagogical perspective: “There is a thrilling episode in which a mountain lion is seen in a fight with the comic bear cubs. The little animals at first elicit sympathy, for the lion looks far more dangerous and able to take care of half a dozen bears. But, to the amazement of the audience last night, it was the lion who needed sympathy, for the young bears showed that they were well equipped to give the lion more than he bargained for. This sequence is amazingly photographed, with every action of the snarling animals open to view. The bears appear to slap the lion with their claws and they see to it that the lion gets the full benefit of a few seconds’ rest, which the cubs take during the struggle.” Preceded by a TBA short. (1930, 84 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
Luther Price: Flesh Fracture 16mm Screening (Experimental)
Mana Contemporary (2233 S. Throop St.) – Sunday, Noon (Program One) and 1pm (Program Two) [Repeats next Saturday at different times] (Free Admission)
One way to measure the ability of a songwriter is by how well they turn an apparent personal narrative into a universal human experience. They take what they have lived through (or think they should have) and mold it into words that can explain the hopes and fears of everyone. In an almost perfectly opposite position is the found-object artist, and specifically, the subspecies of the found-footage filmmaker. Their task is to take the scraps of mass media and turn it into their own personal story. Much like there are trite pop songs, there are also many dull found-footage films, where the voice of the filmmaker never comes through the images. In the hands of Luther Price, though, unknown industrial films, afterschool specials, and other relics of the recent past, create the perfect canvas for him to paint his thoughts and feelings (sometimes literally). Still not as well known as he should be, even within the obscurity that is the Experimental Film community, Price has created a wealth of cinema gems throughout his now more than 30 years of activity. In part, the reason he can sometimes be missed is the difficulty in seeing most of his work (Price almost never makes prints of his films, preferring to show his fragile originals). One approach he takes is to paint directly on to found footage (such as in his INKBLOT series) or to bury it in the dirt. In both cases he achieves abstract shapes that roll in rhythms of an energy chaos, ultimately finding new territory. The strongest articulation of his editing skill is in KITTENS GROW UP (2007, 29 min), so simple in its approach, yet powerful in impact. Utilizing long takes, with only a hint of the jarring audio scratches that populate many of Price's films, we go back and forth from a film about kittens learning life-skills to one about young children and their alcoholic father. The metaphor of child and kitten, both alone and scared in the world, is easy enough. The delicate task that is done so well here is using the footage of kittens to darken the mood, not soften it. Screening are – Program One: SHELLY WINTERS (2010), A PATCH OF GREEN (2004-05), THE MONGREL SISTER (2007), and KITTENS GROW UP (2007); Program Two: ROCKET (2007), GLUE-6789 (2005), INKBLOT #40 (2011), HELEN’S DREAMING: INKBLOT 15 (2008), AQUA WOMAN: INKBLOT 44 (2011), INKBLOT #22 (2008), and WALKING THE CROSS (2012). (Program One: 2004-10, approx. 53 min total, 16mm / Program Two: 2005-12, approx. 47 min total, 16mm) JH
Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe, Christopher Roth and Bartek Dziadosz's THE SEASONS IN QUINCY: FOUR PORTRAITS OF JOHN BERGER (New Documentary/Essay)
Facets Cinematheque - Check Venue website for showtimes
THE SEASONS IN QUINCY is a stimulating, deeply moving four-part essay about John Berger, whose book Ways of Seeing changed our relationship with art and culture. Berger is an art critic, drawer, storyteller, and, in the words of his great friend Tilda Swinton, radical humanist in the tradition of Spinoza. He also co-wrote a film I treasure, Alain Tanner's 1975 comedy drama JONAH WHO WILL BE 25 IN THE YEAR 2000. This new documentary about Berger takes place in Quincy, a peasant village in a valley of the French Alps where he moved in 1973 with his wife, Beverly. There is a vision of "the good life" here—of physical work and the intimate harmony of man and nature. In "Ways of Listening," Swinton visits the octogenarian's warm farmhouse. His fantasy twin (they share a birthday), she is a watchful listener as they peel apples for cobbler and talk about both being children of soldiers who never spoke to them of their wartime experiences. "Spring" is about animals and their relationship to man, time, and death, and an oblique elegy to Beverly, who died between the first film and the second. "A Song for Politics" features a rousing roundtable about the relationship between storytelling and altering the system. Ben Lerner notes Berger's "commitment to the possibilities of the world before us in a sensory, sensual, libidinal, erotic way, because those energies have to be harnessed to the political." In "Harvest," Swinton's teenage twins visit Berger in Paris, then go on to Quincy to visit his son Yves at his wonderful art studio. Berger invites them, when in the village, to go to Beverly's raspberry patch, pick some, and enjoy them near a photo of her, because "your pleasure will give her pleasure." It is a moment of grace amid the circle of seasons and generations. (2016, 89 min, Digital Projection – Unconfirmed Format) SP
More info at www.facets.org.
Pedro Almodovar’s WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (Spanish Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7 and 9pm
WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN was Pedro Almodovar’s break-out hit, the film that introduced him to a wider audience and secured widespread distribution of his work for the rest of his career. It isn’t as provocative as the Almodovar films that immediately preceded it (LAW OF DESIRE, MATADOR, WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?), yet it reflects a breathtaking fluency in all aspects of cinematic art that hadn’t been achieved to such a degree in his work until then. WOMEN is gorgeously designed; the costumes, decors, and camera movements are not only impressive on their own, they interact sumptuously. Favoring bold colors and ostentatious bric-a-brac, Almodovar creates something like a live-action cartoon or pop art painting. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the mise-en-scene, in fact, that the rapidly escalating plot developments can seem like a blur on a first (or even a second) viewing. The tone oscillates between melodrama and farce, charting a few calamitous days in the life of a frustrated actress (Almodovar’s first muse, Carmen Maura) who can’t get in touch with her married lover, whom she suspects is going to leave her. Almodovar shows great sympathy towards his characters’ desires and vulnerabilities while making light of hard drug use, terrorism, and the mentally ill, and the galvanic mixtures of good and bad taste match the visual design splendidly. If the film doesn’t add up to more than the sum of its parts, maybe that’s because Almodovar hadn’t yet developed the melancholy undertones that would transform and enrich his work from THE FLOWER OF MY SECRET and on. The mastery may be superficial, but it’s still mastery. (1988, 89 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Andrew Neel’s GOAT (New American)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes
After being mugged by two strangers and left physically and psychologically beaten over the summer, nineteen-year-old Brad (Ben Schnetzer) decides to rush his brother Brett’s (Nick Jonas) fraternity to prove that he is “not a pussy” after the incident. As hell week approaches and passes, the pledges are all subjected to harsher and harsher acts as part of their initiation for the sake of brotherhood. GOAT is not an easy film to stomach, largely in part due to two of its core themes—violence and abuse. These depictions make for a very harrowing viewing experience as the brothers harass, demean, and injure the pledges in increasingly harmful ways for much of the film’s runtime. The notion of Brotherhood is paramount here, both literally (Ben and Brett) and figuratively (the frat). Andrew Neel juxtaposes these two different fraternal relationships and their stark contrasts become increasingly evident as the plot progresses. The relationship between Ben and Brett is key to the narrative because it provides an insight into both worlds on either side of this brotherhood line. Schnetzer’s and Jonas’ on-screen relationship is laconic and brooding. Their chemistry brings out strong performances that elevate the film overall. GOAT is no ANIMAL HOUSE and far from most other fraternity movies. Its unflinching depiction of hazing and the damaging physical and psychological effects it can have on an individual are what make it stand out. (2016, 102 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Hannes Holm’s A MAN CALLED OVE (New Swedish)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday at 7pm
The grumpy, old curmudgeon is a tried and true character anti-hero archetype that has seen it’s fair share of memorable performances over the years. From the despicable Mr. Potter in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE to the somewhat racist yet secretly caring Walt Kowalski in GRAN TORINO, this character type is malleable enough to fit many narrative needs from film to film. In Hannes Holm’s A MAN CALLED OVE, Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is a grumpy, old retiree living alone after his wife had passed some time ago. He fills his time with simple activities—trying to enforce his neighborhood’s rules and visiting his deceased’s gravesite—but is also contemplating suicide until a young interracial couple and their kids move in and Ove and the family form an unlikely friendship. Much of OVE deals with generational gaps and how first impressions can sometimes be wrong once further inspected. It is tender and poignant in the way that it handles interpersonal relationships and the past, specifically Ove’s. Led by a strong performance from Lassgård, A MAN CALLED OVE is funny, heartwarming, and a little tragic with the right amount of accessibility to be appreciated by audiences of all ages. (2015, 116 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Alfonso Cuarón’s CHILDREN OF MEN (American/British Revival)
Siskel Film Center — Sunday, 5:15pm and Tuesday, 6pm
Rarely is a movie at once upsetting and invigorating, yet Alfonso Cuarón’s CHILDREN OF MEN manages to embrace that paradox for pretty much its entire running time. The film imagines a dystopian near-future where no children have been born for 18 years. Humanity is in its death throes, and late capitalism has entered a hideous, extreme state, with pockets of extreme wealth surrounded by abject misery all over the world. The planet on display is all the more horrifying for looking so similar to the one we already inhabit, the filmmakers exaggerating, but only just so, present-day images of inequality, environmental devastation, and social unrest. (Slavoj Zizek has provocatively described the movie as a sequel to Cuarón’s Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN in its skeptical portrait of class relations.) It’s also a fully realized world, designed in such remarkable detail that one gets a sense of what life is like for people across different social classes and in most areas of experience. The innovation doesn’t stop there. Throughout CHILDREN OF MEN Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki execute extraordinary mobile long-takes that cover multiple complicated actions and narrative developments; the music selections are thoughtful and jarring; and Michael Caine delivers one of his best latter-day performances as a dope-smoking political cartoonist who serves as one of the movie’s few figures of sanity. All told, it’s of the supreme achievements of studio filmmaking in the first decade of the 21st century. (2006, 109 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Erich von Stroheim's GREED (Silent American Revival)
Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) - Wednesday, 1 and 7:30pm (Free Admission)
Spoilers! The story of GREED, of von Stroheim's slavish fidelity to the text of Frank Norris's Naturalist novel, McTeague, of his obsessive, tyrannical treatment of his actors while on location for months in Death Valley, of MGM's butchering of his 8-hour cut into shreds and melting down the cut scenes for scrap silver, is surely so legendary that whatever dubious relationship to truth it once had is no longer relevant. It is the go-to example to illustrate so many spurious arguments: the impossibility of 'straight' adaptation, the dangers of trusting the Money Men, the dangers of allowing directors too much freedom, and so on. Von Stroheim's lost original version has become, not merely a sort of Holy Grail of silent cinema enthusiasts but an Icarian fable all it's own, warning through example of the punishment meted out to the hubristically ambitious, the psychotic perfectionist. But let us set all this aside, for GREED is so very much more than a mere legend. Quite simply, in this critic's estimation, GREED is the single best film ever made. Let me be clear: the GREED that was taken out of von Stroheim's hands, that Thalberg and his hackworkers took to pieces, the GREED that von Stroheim found so upsetting to watch years later that he compared seeing it to peering into a coffin—this shortened, adulterated, mutilated, damaged, and disavowed movie is the best I've ever seen. Whatever von Stroheim's original version might have actually been, the intensity, power, and overwhelming beauty of the GREED we have far outweighs the longing we might feel for the GREED we don't. There's a tremendous amount in GREED to discuss—its discussions of capitalism and violence, the masterful handling of a romance poisoned over time by its own lovers, the complex network of symbolism echoing through its iconography, the emotive and heart-rending performances by Zasu Pitts and Gibson Gowland. But think now just of the closing moments of the film. Having murdered his wife, McTeague has fled the authorities into the desolation of Death Valley, pursued to the end by his friend and betrayer, Marcus. Marcus has McTeague at gunpoint. McTeague's horse suddenly bolts, carrying off with itself the only canteen of water left between the two men, and Marcus, panicked, shoots the animal. What follows is the most moving moment in any work of art I know of, delivered through the crystalline perfection of von Stroheim's direction: a close up of a pair of fists, a lolling, crushed head, the briefest of kisses pressed atop a freed canary. As the visual patterning draws to a close, McTeague's avariciousness has proven itself the greatest, but it is the world itself that will dominate him, exterminate him, and indeed, as Nature must, forget him. No film more magically dwells on, depends on the fleshy interstices that we do our level best to imagine separate us from mere beasts, more tragically understands the depths of depravity humanity will sink to in any effort to maintain the illusion of civilization. In that rift between our selves and our actions, our dreams, pouring out like the film's bloodied gold through a dead horse's saddlebags, never fail in von Stroheim's world to be the final casualties. Live accompaniment by Dave Drazin. (1925, 140 min, 35mm) KB
More info at www.northbrook.info.
David Cronenberg's THE FLY (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 9:30pm
David Cronenberg may have finally shed the moniker of "former midnight-movie director," but it's worth noting that the major themes of his recent work have been present all along. This revival of THE FLY is a reminder of how much Cronenberg has always been in control of his ideas—and, as importantly, how he could use them to truly unsettle an audience. The film was a potentially thankless project (a remake of a 50s sci-fi/horror item affectionately remembered as camp), but Cronenberg transformed it into something wholly personal, an existentialist allegory about growing alienated from your own body. It's discomforting filmmaking from literally the first shot, a classic Cronenbergian close-up that isolates the main character (Jeff Goldblum, in the performance of his career) in a frame purposely devoid of context: the surrounding milieu (in terms of both space and time) is rendered unclear, and the overly technical sci-fi jargon, delivered with deadpan assurance, only complicates things further. It takes a few minutes to determine that, no, we're not in a dream; the rest of the film can be seen as a deepening of that initial uncertainty. As Goldblum's scientist transforms into a giant insect (an extremely nuanced process, thanks to Cronenberg's scientific imagination and some of the finest make-up of any movie), the more sympathy he arouses in the journalist who's fallen for him. Some critics have read the film as an AIDS metaphor; and on that level, it ranks with the best of Derek Jarman and Todd Haynes. But the central romance—in which love is strengthened by the impossibility of love—resonates in a number of directions, sustaining the film across multiple viewings. (1986, 95 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Jean Cocteau's BLOOD OF A POET (French Revival)
Film Rescue at UIC (400 S. Peoria St., Room 3226) – Monday, 7pm (Free Admission)
Jean Cocteau's first film—made two decades into a monumental career that encompassed literature, theater, and graphic art—is one of the most forthright attempts to fashion cinema after the manner of poetry. It's defiantly non-narrative, taking place within an artist's dream and advancing a largely metaphoric visual language. And the defiance is not merely formal: BLOOD OF A POET is also one of the first explicitly homoerotic films, and it contains references to smoking opium as well. As he would do throughout his work, Cocteau embellishes his style with a variety of visual effects (such as running the film backwards, which he did to more imaginative effect than arguably any other filmmaker), creating the impression that movies contain an endless store of magic tricks. This doesn't hold a candle to Cocteau's later movie masterpieces (LES PARENTS TERRIBLES, ORPHEUS), but it's still a stunning example of how a neophyte filmmaker can make the medium entirely his own. Preceded by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s 1928 Surrealist short UN CHIEN ANDALOU (16 min, 16mm). (1930, 55 min, 16mm) BS
More info at www.facebook.com/events/1039983276118461.
Jean Renoir's LA CHIENNE (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 5pm and Monday, 6pm
Reflecting on LA CHIENNE in his autobiography My Life and My Films, Jean Renoir wrote that it was "a turning-point in my career; I believe that in it I came near to the style that I call poetic realism." For Renoir, this style demanded full use of the sounds, spaces, and personalities discovered during filming—in a word, falling in love with the world around him. This rush of emotion yielded significant technical breakthroughs: LA CHIENNE was among the first movies to record sound during shooting rather than in post-production; and the canny framing marked some of the first exercises in what would come to be known as deep-focus photography. For Renoir, the film was a personal milestone because it contained the first role he wrote for the actor Michel Simon, an expressive, boisterous presence who most thoroughly conveyed the director's abundant love of humanity. But, as LA CHIENNE reminds us, Renoir's love was by no means sentimental or forgiving. This tale of a lonely clerk whose life is ruined by the machinations of a prostitute and her pimp is deeply cynical, adoring of its characters in the way a Punch-and-Judy puppeteer might claim to "love" his characters. (As if to emphasize the point, the film is actually introduced by puppets.) According to Renoir, the producers were disappointed that the film was not more of a comedy, but thanks to the lurid subject matter it still became a hit upon release. It went on to inspire no less than Fritz Lang, who remade the film as SCARLET STREET (1945), and Andre Bazin, who regarded it as one of the most important works of early sound cinema. (1931, 95 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) BS
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Don Coscarelli's PHANTASM (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Saturday, 9:30pm
As brutal and disturbing a zombie film as can be found. Angus Scrimm's Tall Man, a demonic undertaker, zombie-maker, and slave-master of a hellish alternative world or dimension, is a crucial figure in modern horror iconography, an image of evil that manages impossibly to be both wholly alien and banally quotidian. Told through the eyes of Mike, an impressionable and recently-bereaved teenager, PHANTASM is a complicated, compelling, and deeply affecting meditation on the phase of our lives in which we suddenly come to understand and, perhaps, accept the inevitability of our own deaths, a mediation that features body-snatching, ethereal balls of knives, and robed killer midgets. Each moment seems slightly off-key, like the lurching rhythms of a broken calliope or a reflection cast in an antique mirror: every lens choice, every movement in the frame, every pattern of edits is built to unease and discomfit us. Truly the stuff of nightmares, Coscarelli's film is unforgettable. (1979, 90 min, DCP Digital) KB
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Terry Gilliam's TIME BANDITS (British Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Saturday, 1:45pm
If Andrei Tarkovsky crafts profound lyric poems about dreams and the time-space continuum, then Terry Gilliam might be his lowbrow, comic book counterpart. Indeed, anachronistic whimsy abounds in TIME BANDITS, the first feature in Terry Gilliam's "Trilogy of Imagination." The film centers on Kevin, a precocious young history buff who discovers that his bedroom closet is a time portal to the past. After inadvertently joining forces with a team of treasure hunting dwarves, he travels to various centuries, encountering Napoleon, Robin Hood, Agamemnon, and others. Each dwarf has been said to represent a member of the Monty Python troupe (Gilliam himself is embodied by Vermin, the plucky leader of the group). The word "logic" is not part of Gilliam's vocabulary, and the sooner one can jettison the need for any hint of historical accuracy or narrative coherence, the sooner one will be susceptible to the film's charm. Though it has the trappings of a children's movie, TIME BANDITS features some delightfully disturbing images, namely undead minotaurs who emit fireballs from their empty eye sockets. In fact, under its fanciful surface, this is essentially a story about a boy who's so ignored by his parents that he welcomes what befalls them. Gilliam attempts to inject the film with some social commentary by offering a perfunctory critique of techno-modernity and consumer culture, but luckily this gets lost amidst all the wackiness. As with any Gilliam film, TIME BANDITS boasts plenty of psychedelic eye candy and visual wizardry, including spatial distortion, inverted images, and M.C. Escher-esque set design. (1981, 116 min, DCP Digital) HS
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Murnau's SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS (Silent American Revival)
Facets Cinémathèque – Sunday, 4pm
One of the most imaginative films ever made and probably the greatest ever made about love—but that makes it sound like homework. Murnau's SUNRISE is as much a discovery now as it was in 1927, if not a greater one, as it's no longer common for serious films to believe in universal experience. (As Lucy Fischer noted in her excellent BFI Classics book, the film's subtitle implies that the feelings of men and women—or homosexuals and heterosexuals, for that matter—are essentially the same.) Murnau's compassion for the central couple seems ever-expanding: their every emotion seems to trigger some new stylistic innovation. The movie's first major passage—depicting the Woman from the City's attempt to seduce the farmer (George O'Brien) away from his wife (Janet Gaynor, adequately filling the role of the Eternal Feminine)—mixes naturalism and expressionism to bring the characters' inner lives vibrantly to life. Murnau famously instructed O'Brien to put lead weights in his shoes during these scenes; there is no mistaking the man's guilt. This section climaxes with a collage of superimposed images—several of them intentionally distended—that illustrates the woman's lure of "Come to... THE CITY!" It is a thrilling effect, principally because it requires the viewer's imagination to complete it: as one's eyes dart around the frame, trying to take it all in, the scene appears luxurious or terrifying depending on where they fall. (Directors of special-effects movies still have a lot to learn from Murnau.) The orchestration of detail is one of the film's many allusions to symphonic music, the most obvious being its three-movement structure, wherein key motifs of the first section (the farm-on-the-lake setting, the theme of love in peril) are contradicted in the second and brought to resolution in the last. The second movement, which could bring any viewer to swoon, may be the film's crowning achievement. It takes place in one of the most dream-like cities in cinema, a setting brought into being by the couple's re-avowal of their love. Here, Murnau's effects (which include a funny freeze-frame at a portrait studio and some great suspense involving a runaway piglet) invite the viewer to share in the characters' joy, reflecting their spontaneity and their astonishment. For all the marvels of the filmmaking, though, the film's transcendental power never seems to be for its own sake. It is Murnau's response to the universal capacity for feeling (and not just romance—but generosity and loyalty and courage) that drove him to create a monumental new art form using the greatest attributes of all the others. The screening will be introduced by Facets' director Milos Stehlik and will be followed by a discussion and wine reception. (1927, 94 min, Unconfirmed Format) BS
More info at www.facets.org.
Marcin Wrona’s DEMON (New Polish Horror)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes
In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is malevolent spirit that wanders searching for a soul to enter and possess. Once a victim is possessed, the dybbuk can only be expelled through exorcism. The Coens’ opening prologue to A SERIOUS MAN is one of the finer depictions of this entity on screen. In the late Marcin Wrona’s DEMON, an English groom is possessed by a dybbuk during his wedding reception at his new wife’s family farm. Wrona heavily employs isolation as a theme. Either through tight framing or compartmentalizing a character from the rest of the cast on the edges of the screen, a RULES OF THE GAME approach to cinematography to raise the tension. There is a subtle approach to horror in this film. The music rises and swells; the lighting alternates between the angelic whites of the wedding reception to the sinister shadows of the outdoors or a cellar. Wrona also comments on the generational gap between Poland’s young and old; the young seeking to be more free spirited and the older generation still harboring some xenophobic resentments after the past hundred years of the country’s history. The juxtaposition of Catholicism, Judaism, and Atheism is interesting as no one set of beliefs can truly explain or justify what is happening. There is a murky quality about the film that is amplified through usage of rain, dirty mirrors or windows, and mud. These pseudo-barriers are metaphorical representations of the walls that stand between the character’s notions on the night. Steeped in religious mysticism, DEMON is Wrona’s final film and one that executes the ‘possessed person’ genre in beautiful fashion thanks to the larger cultural questions that it asks. (2015, 94 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Frank Capra's IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre – Saturday, 11:30am
During the production of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, Claudette Colbert purportedly referred to Capra's slapstick opus as the worst picture in the world, a criticism she'd repeat until the film was lauded with all five major Academy Awards. It's a messy work, and it's easy to see how Colbert could have objected, but the intricacies of Capra's earnest patchwork (Thanks, Columbia) give the film its merit. Colbert and Clark Gable seem humbled but lovably obstinate, as their mild trepidations about the script bleed into the film itself (as do various inconsistencies in editing and continuity). But IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT never feels like a film that doesn't want to be made and seen. Capra moves in quick, broad strokes, so that small details get picked up by happenstance and only make themselves apparent on repeated viewings. Stepping back, the film's personality is almost perfectly crafted, and there isn't anything about it that doesn't come across as genuine. The same could be said of nearly all of Capra's work, but his surefooted pacing renders this his most immediately likable. (1934, 101 min, DCP Digital) JA
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) presents Listen to This: Videos by Tom Rubnitz on Thursday at 7pm. Screening are a number of queer/performative/camp/comedic works by Rubnitz, including: FROM THE FILES OF THE PYRAMID COCKTAIL LOUNGE (1983), JOHN SEX: THE TRUE STORY (1983), PSYKHO III: THE MUSICAL (Co-directed by Mark Oates, 1985), HUSTLE WITH MY MUSCLE (1986), BUMP AND GRIND IT (1986), UNDERCOVER… ME! (1989), STRAWBERRY SHORTCUT (1989), PICKLE SURPRISE (1989), SUMMER OF LOVE PSA (1990), and LISTEN TO THIS (1992). (1983-1992, approx 67 min total, Digital Projection)
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Josh Lewis & Simon Liu: Recent 16mm Films from Negativland Lab on Thursday at 7pm, with Lewis and Liu in person. Each will be screening a selection of 16mm experimental films and some double and triple 16mm projector works, all made between 2011-2016.
South Side Projections screens Judy Hoffman’s 1975 documentary HSA STRIKE ’75 (21 min, DVD Projection) and Madeline Anderson’s 1971 documentary I AM SOMEBODY (30 min, DVD Projection) on Monday at 6:30pm at SEIU Healthcare Headquarters (2229 S. Halsted Ave.) in their ongoing Alternative Histories of Labor series. Followed by a panel, featuring Judy Hoffman of Kartemquin Films and the University of Chicago, Claudia Fegan of Stroger Hospital, Bonita Williams of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, and Howard Ehrman, a member of the HSA negotiating and strike committees. Free admission.
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Moment Of Truth: Christian Horror And "Scare" Films: Christian Horror Nollywood Style on Wednesday at 8pm. Screening are: Ugo Ugbor’s 2007 Nigerian films 666: BEWARE THE END IS AT HAND (67 min, Digital Projection) and THE SIGNS OF ENDTIME 2 (70 min, Digital Projection). Free admission.
Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, presented by Chicago Filmmakers, continues through Thursday with more than 40 programs of features, documentaries, and shorts. Full schedule and details at http://reelingfilmfestival.org.
Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Diego Corsini’s 2015 Argentinean/Spanish film PASSAGE OF LIFE (100 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm; and Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray’s 2011 documentary UNFINISHED SPACES (86 min, DVD Projection) on Thursday at 6pm. Both are free admission, but RSVPs are required for SPACES (www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2568627).
Black Cinema House at the Stony Island Arts Bank (6760 S Stony Island Ave.) screens the “Chicago” episode of the television documentary series Art in the Twenty-First Century on Tuesday at 7pm. The screening will be followed by conversation with featured artists Chris Ware, Barbara Kasten and Theaster Gates, moderated by Yesomi Umolu, Exhibitions Curator at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Free Admission.
International House (Assembly Hall, 1414 E. 59th St., University of Chicago) screens Oguma Eiji’s 2015 documentary TELL THE PRIME MINISTER (109 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 5pm, with U of C professor and director Eiji in person. Free admission.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Box Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack’s 2016 documentary MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE (114 min, DCP Digital; check the Siskel website for info on sold out screenings and in-person appearances) concludes a two-week run; Adam Nimoy’s 2016 documentary FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK (111 min, DCO Digital) and Jonathan Kesselman’s 2016 film JIMMY VESTVOOD: AMERIKAN HERO (84 min, DCP Digital) both play for a week; Alfred Jaar’s 2009 documentary short THE ASHES OF PASOLINI (38 min) and Luca Trevisani’s 2016 short SUDAN (15 min) are on Saturday at 1pm, showing in conjunction with Expo Chicago (with Trevisani in person); and E.A. Dupont’s 1925 German silent film VARIETÉ (95 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Saturday at 3pm, with live musical accompaniment by Dave Drazin.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Alison E. Rose’s 2015 documentary STAR MEN (90 min, Unconfirmed Format) is on Friday at 6:30pm, with director Rose and Professor Donald Lyden-Bell (featured in the film) in person; David Butler’s 1936 film PIGSKIN PARADE (93 min, 35mm) is on Monday at 7pm; Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan’s 2014 animated Palestinian film THE WANTED 18 (75 min, DCP Digital) is on Tuesday at 7pm; and Mamoru Hosoda’s 2009 animated Japanese film SUMMER WARS (114 min, Digital Projection) is on Thursday at 7pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Ron Howard’s 2016 documentary THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS (138 min, DCP Digital) continues; Sam Jones’ 2002 documentary I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART: A FILM ABOUT WILCO (92 min, Unconfirmed Format) is on Thursday at 7:30pm; Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 film THE ROOM (99 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7:30 and 11pm, with Wiseau in person; and Jim Sharman’s 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight.
Also at Facets Cinémathèque: Sophie Goodhart’s 2016 film MY BLIND BROTHER (86 min, Unconfirmed Format) plays for a week.
The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of Alejo Moguillansky amd Fia-Stina Sandlund’s 2014 Argentinean film THE GOLD BUG (102 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
Block Museum (Northwestern University) presents Salaam Cinema! 50 Years of Iranian Movie Posters through December 11.
Iceberg Gallery (7714 N. Sheridan Rd.) presents George Kuchar: Bocko through October 30. The show includes Kuchar’s 1978 film THE MONGRELOID, paintings, and photographic ephemera—all related to Kuchar’s pet dog Bocko.
The Renaissance Society (5811 S. Ellis Ave., Cobb Hall, University of Chicago) presents a solo show of UK filmmaker Ben Rivers’ moving image works, Urth, through November 6.
Luther Price: Flesh Fracture has been extended at Mana Contemporary (2233 S. Throop) through September 30. Included in the show are selections of Price’s handmade 35mm slides from the series Sugar Fractures, Utopia, and Meat Chapter 3. Also on view are video projections of Price’s 1990/1999 Super-8mm films HOME and MEAT.
The Art Institute of Chicago presents Ragnar Kjartansson and the National's single-channel video work A LOT OF SORROW (2014, 6 hours 9 min looping) through October 17.