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:: Friday, JULY 22 -
Thursday, JULY 28::
André Téchiné’s SCENE OF THE CRIME (French Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Sunday, Noon, Monday, 9:30pm, and Wednesday, 5:30pm
Truth is stranger than fiction in André Téchiné’s SCENE OF THE CRIME. Still, thirteen-year-old Thomas lies to everyone: his complaisant grandparents, his own recently separated parents, a disappointed priest, and even the escaped convict who threatens him at the beginning of the film. He tells the young man that his parents are dead, something that’s proven to be untrue mere moments later; his father arrives at the grandparents’ house expressing hope that he’ll soon have custody of the boy, while his mother—Lili, played by Catherine Denueve in one of several collaborations with Téchiné—is elsewhere preparing for a long night at her nightclub on the lake. Téchiné foils the banality of so-called simple living with a pair of criminals and their devoted female friend (maybe lover?), a connection that isn’t explored as much as the relationship between Lili, Thomas, and their family, instead serving as a metaphorical representation of the freedom that Lili, and maybe even Thomas, so desire. Téchiné seems to suggest not only that family life and country living are complex, but perhaps that they’re too complex, almost totally void of the id and all its elemental impulses. Much like his New Wave idols and post-New Wave contemporaries, he frequently references film and literature in his work, though such citations are more speculative than admiring. Something of a domestic noir, SCENE OF THE CRIME borrows the beginning of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and toys with the boy-who-cried-wolf trope born of Aesop’s Fables, though his intentions in doing so are unclear. The noir genre, Dickens’ formidable classic, and those famous fables are all canonical; Téchiné uses them as outlines to be filled with his incisive narratives. He similarly uses long shots to frame landscapes and locations before transitioning into medium shots that both bring us closer to and keep us at a distance from the characters. Lili eventually finds her freedom in an unconventional way, leaving us even more confused but just as captivated. Indeed, truth is stranger than fiction, but the truth of this fiction is even stranger still. Showing as part of the 2016 Chicago French Film Festival. (1986, 90 min, DCP Digital) KS
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Andrew L. Stone's THE NIGHT HOLDS TERROR (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Friday, 7 and 9pm
The real life hostage situation that began when Gene Courtier picked up a hitchhiker on his way home from work in 1953 came during a period when Hollywood was obsessed with similarly-themed invasion stories—the thugs from the street were now invading your car, your place of work, and even your home itself! Before William Wyler's take on the Courtier story made its way to theaters as THE DESPERATE HOURS, this low-budget programmer so prided itself on authenticity that it used the real names of the victims and filmed much of the action on location, prompting one of the criminals (viciously portrayed by a young, tightly-wound John Cassavetes) to file a suit with Columbia Pictures. THE NIGHT HOLDS TERROR expands on the fatalism of Edgar G. Ulmer's DETOUR in arguing that a simple wrong decision can be enough to destroy a life—in the early-goings, Courtier's (played by Jack Kelly) voice-over continuously remarks on how each and every audience member can relate to the plot (“who hasn't picked up a hitch-hiker before?,” he argues). It is when the film progresses from the similar ground covered in Ida Lupino’s THE HITCH-HIKER and into an authentic suburban home that director Andrew L. Stone finds the most suspense. The kitchen becomes a claustrophobic hellhole and a common household item like a pair of scissors becomes a key weapon. Among the film's advocates is Quentin Tarantino, who selected it for the first installment of his own film festival in 1996. (1955, 86 min, 16mm) EF
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
James Solomon's THE WITNESS (American Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes
In Queens no one can hear you scream. At least that’s the handwringing hyperbole that accompanied the now infamous New York Times coverage of Kitty Genovese’s murder in 1964. Martin Gansberg’s original article, "37 Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police," was an indictment of the slain 28-year-old’s neighbors, none of whom it alleged came to her aid during a protracted, scream-filled stabbing by Winston Moseley. Gansberg’s account was eventually found to be apocryphal, but Kitty Genovese, not unlike Linda Taylor a decade later, became a journalistic cause célèbre: flattened and amplified, she became lazy shorthand for the ills of urban America. James Solomon’s documentary THE WITNESS is Kitty’s younger brother’s attempt to reclaim his sister from the public domain and exorcise his own demons by re-personalizing Kitty’s death. Bill Genovese, who was 16 when his older sister was murdered and who lost both his legs above the knee in Vietnam at 19, is a classic documentary character. The movie unfolds like a whodunit and Bill, white-haired and spectacled, drives, wheels, and sometimes crawls his way to any living witness willing to talk. He’s a man on a mission: The false narrative put forth by the Times robbed the Genovese family of closure and their faith in humanity, but each dissenting voice Bill uncovers is a step toward redemption. A surprisingly vivid portrait of the real Kitty Genovese emerges as her family, friends, and lovers reveal closely held secrets. Bill’s final attempt to reclaim his sister’s death is a reenactment worthy of Hitchcock and one of the most bracing documentary moments of the year. (2015, 89 minutes, DCP digital) JS
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Roberto Minervini’s THE OTHER SIDE (New Documentary)
Facets Cinematheque - Check Venue website for showtimes
This is direct cinema at its most unnerving, providing an all-too-close look at the lower depths of modern American society. It begins as a portrait of a 30-something Louisiana meth head named Mark, a former (and probably future) convict who lives in squalor and seems to do little in the way of earning a living. Mark is not without his sensitive side—he pays tender visits to his mother and grandmother, helps a pregnant stripper shoot up before she performs, and gives his grown sister meth without making her pay up-front—and his relatives seem like a close-knit bunch. Yet all of the subjects we meet seem motivated by little besides indolence and hatred; Roberto Minervini (an Italian-born documentarian currently based in Texas) often shows them sitting around, doing nothing except spewing ignorant, racist invectives against Barack Obama. This hatred assumes a more malignant form in the film’s final third, when Minervini switches focus to a libertarian militia based somewhere near Mark’s hometown. In these passages, everyone spewing hateful rhetoric carries a gun and is ready to shoot it, illustrating our nation’s problem with firearms as painfully as the earlier parts illustrate our nation’s problem with drugs. (2015, 92 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) BS
More info at www.facets.org.
Hayao Miyazaki’s PRINCESS MONONOKE (Japanese Animation Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Friday and Saturday, midnight
As morally complicated as it is visually complex, PRINCESS MONONOKE was Hayao Miyazaki’s darkest, most contemplative film prior to THE WIND RISES. Like WIND, MONONOKE advances a skeptical view of war and technological progress. It adopts a Medieval setting to portray, in the director’s words, “the very beginnings of the seemingly insoluble conflict between the natural world and modern industrial civilization.” What makes the film intellectually challenging, however, is that Miyazaki refuses to demonize industrial civilization in delineating the story’s conflict. MONONOKE takes place in a mythological feudal Japan where humans interact freely with gods and demons. Much of the second half concerns the persecution of forest spirits by the denizens of Irontown, a refinery/village that’s producing the first iron Japan’s ever seen and which wants to destroy parts of the surrounding forest in order to expand. In a simpler film, Irontown would be a land of dumb brutes, yet Miyazaki presents the village as progressive, even enlightened. The town’s leader, Lady Eboshi, radically refuses to acknowledge the Emperor’s authority, putting her centuries ahead of her time; she also employs former prostitutes, lepers, and other social outcasts in the town’s operations. (Miyazaki claims to have taken inspiration from John Ford’s westerns in his depiction of a diverse small community.) One can’t help but admire the resolute spirit of Irontowners even as they aspire to commit genocide against the gods—Miyazaki’s humanism is so profound that he sees good even in characters that perform evil deeds. Similarly, the film’s hero, Ashitaka, often seems callow and insecure when doing good. Ashitaka is attacked by a demon at the start of the film and spends the rest of the picture slowly dying from a curse that’s placed on him. The young man’s fate parallels that of the forest spirits: he’s doomed to die, but he’s determined to use whatever strength he has left to fight for the protection of the natural world. And as depicted by Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli team, the natural world seems magisterial enough to die for. (1997, 134 min, 35mm) BS
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Michael Nørgaard’s THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES (Danish Contemporary)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes
The first entry into the “Dept. Q” trilogy (adapted from Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Danish crime novels), THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES is reminiscent of several American television serials. When Carl and his partner are shot during an investigation, the homicide detective finds himself displaced from his department after a long recovery and situated in Department Q, a police branch focused on closing cold cases from the past twenty years. Carl’s character evokes shades of Jimmy McNulty from THE WIRE with his stubborn attitude and unrelenting investigation style. Nørgaard’s direction is admirable given his primarily comedic background and he draws every inch of nuance given to him from the somewhat episodic script. His use of space strives for an air of isolation. Characters are positioned in corners of the frame, in closeups, or in literal enclosures to heighten the aloneness felt by one of the central figure’s kidnapping. Partnered with the film’s dynamically changing color palette, the atmosphere shifts fluidly from feelings of seclusion to remorse to dread. The archetypes present in this film are nothing new, but Nørgaard finds the right modifications in them to keep the story from becoming predictable. THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES may recall an elongated episode of CRIMINAL MINDS or COLD CASE but its cool delivery and well-developed characters keep it more inspired than some routine television crime dramas. The other two films in the “Dept. Q” trilogy also play at the Siskel this week. See More Screenings below for details. (2013, 97 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Akira Kurosawa's RAN (Japanese Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday, 2pm, Saturday, 3pm, and Monday, 6:30pm
RAN is a film of exile—conceived in it, consumed by it. After the critical and box office failure of DODES'KA'DEN (which is, in fairness, a candy-colored slog hopelessly attuned to its director's worst instincts), Kurosawa found his already-shaky position in the Japanese film industry collapse completely. Supplanted by younger, more radical directors, he had to turn to Mosfilm to underwrite DERSU UZALA and leaned upon grown-fanboys Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas to sponsor KAGEMUSHA. All the while Kurosawa was quietly planning RAN—borrowing elements from King Lear and the life of sixteenth-century warlord M?ri Motonari for the script and painting storyboards for a film that he feared might never be shot. When French producer Serge Silberman came through with financing, RAN became the most expensive film in the history of the Japanese film industry, to the apparent indifference of Kurosawa's countrymen. Most every critic of RAN has noted a parallel between the 75-year-old Kurosawa and the aging warlord Hidetoro, and indeed, both preside over kingdoms teetering on the flaming brink. Legacies can be extinguished in an instant, but respect must be paid. RAN certainly has a homicidal stateliness about it; the film feels exquisitely brooded over, drained of all spontaneity, as if even the grey clouds had no choice in the matter. It plays closer to the operatic insularity of Tarkovsky's THE SACRIFICE than the CGI epics that would follow in its wake. It's definitely the last of its species. (1985, 162 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) KAW
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR (New Thai)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Saturday, 7 and 9:30pm
It's a fitting choice for a director whose films feel like reveries to set his latest in a clinic for soldiers who are unable to wake up. Likewise, the hallucinatory gradient glow of lamps placed beside the patients' beds to calm their dreams are analogous to the particular narrative and stylistic approach that makes Weerasethakul's work so unique and immediately recognizable. The protagonist, Jenjira (played by Jenjira Pongpas), is a volunteer at the hospital who "adopts" one of the soldiers as her own son. Outside the few hours he is awake, her main channel of communication is a medium whose skill allegedly once garnered a job offer from the FBI. The agents of the soldiers' malady are dead kings--disturbed by a government project to lay a fibre optic cable near their graveyard--enlisting their spirits to wage otherworldly wars. The loose narrative structure that propels the film forward is just as concerned with detailing Jen's life experiences as it with resolving the soldiers' situation, unspooling in leisurely sequences that can feel both casual and monumental. By the end, you realize how much personal and temporal ground you've covered without even noticing as it was happening. The elements of the story certainly encourage metaphorical readings, engaging Thai history up to the present day. For all the enigmas of Weerasethakul's cinema, in the context of the 2014 coup and continued military control of the country, the final five minutes of CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR feel remarkably explicit. What is political cinema? Let us hope that, as opposed to the myriad Sundance-anointed "issue films" coming soon to a theater near you, it's something like this. (2015, 122 min, DCP Digital) AK
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
G.W. Pabst's THE JOYLESS STREET (Silent German Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) — Wednesday, 7pm
From Michael Koller's program notes for the Melbourne Cinematheque, reprinted in a 2004 issue of Senses of Cinema: "[I]t is for Pabst's political acerbity that [THE JOYLESS STREET] is truly memorable. Many contemporary critics viewed the film as a stirring moral protest, and by modern expectations of a silent film, the explicit portrayal of sexual promiscuity is surprising." What may be equally surprising for contemporary audiences who know Pabst mainly as the director of PANDORA'S BOX is that JOYLESS was an influential work of the so-called "New Reality" movement, a naturalistic successor to the extremes of German Expressionism. The film garnered much praise for the quality of the performances, particularly that of a young Greta Garbo, seen here in her second film role. The sensitivity reflected by the behavior tempers the harsh melodrama of the plot, a cautionary tale about young women tempted by prostitution in times of economic distress. "Even the most villainous character [is allowed] a moment of dignity," Koller adds. "A prime example of this occurs... when the butcher, the most abhorrent character in the film, portrayed by Pabst's long-term collaborator Werner Krauss, awkwardly attends a brothel in his Sunday best. He is rejected by Garbo, yet once he removes his gloves he is granted a minute of peace and shown eating a slice of cake." (1925, 125 min, 16mm) BS
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Frank Capra's IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (American Revival)
Art Institute of Chicago (Price Auditorium) – Saturday, 1pm (Free with Museum Admission)
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, 105 min, Digital Projection – Unconfirmed Format) JA
Showing as a double feature with William A. Wellman’s 1931 film THE PUBLIC ENEMY (83 min, Digital Projection).
More info at www.artic.edu/calendar.
Gordon Quinn and Gerald Temaner's INQUIRING NUNS (Documentary Revival)
The Millennium Park Summer Film Series at Millennium Park (Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph St.) – Tuesday, 6:30pm (Free Admission)
Call it Chronique d'un Chicago. The pair of nuns traversing the streets of Chicago asking pedestrians, "Are you happy?" is Kartemquin Films' direct response to Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch's 1961 Parisian documentary CHRONIQUE D'UN ETE, explicitly so. In the car en route to the first series of interviews, director Gordon Quinn explains to his volunteer nuns the structure of Morin and Rouch's film, hoping the sisters can similarly draw out interesting, serendipitous responses from their interviewees. What's most intriguing about NUNS is the possible response bias from interview subjects. Next to Vietnam (this being shot in 1968, everyone eventually mentions the Vietnam War, generally after being probed with, "What makes you unhappy?"), the most discussed topic is religion. It's a source of meaning and happiness in the lives of many, yes, but the striking thing is in the amount of time it often takes people talking to two nuns to mention religion, especially given the nuns' open interview technique. When a nun gives a person a neutral response, could it be that the person begins crafting answers to elicit a positive response from the nuns? What answer could it be but religion? This is perhaps the film's biggest weakness—rather than a sociological exploration of the responses and their possible causality, the documentary is instead content to stay effervescent yet superficial, exemplified when the sisters interview a novitiate nun at the Art Institute. Still, the documentary's slice-of-life approach and occasional moments of genuine insight temper any misgivings about its lack of depth. Preceded by a discussion with Kartemquin Films’ Founder and Artistic Director Gordon Quinn, University of Chicago professor Jacqueline Stewart, and Newcity film editor Ray Pride. (1968, 66 min, Unconfirmed Format) DM
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Northwest Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E., 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) screens the rare full-length version (recently restored) of James Whale’s 1937 film THE ROAD BACK (100 min, 35mm Restored Archival Print) on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Preceded by Charley Bowers’ 1918 animated short A.W.O.L. (5 min, 16mm).
Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) screens Jo Kamimura’s 2016 film NEWS FROM CHULA/JUANA (90 min, Digital Projection) on Saturday at 8pm.
Chicago Film Archives and Black Cinema House present Movies Under the Stars: Our Lives at Work on Friday at 9pm at the Archive House (Rebuild Foundation, 6918 S. Dorchester Ave.). Screening are: WHERE DID YOU GET THAT WOMAN (Loretta Smith, 1982, 30 min; Smith in person), EVERYDAY PEOPLE (JoAnn Elam, 1979-80, 22 min, work print), and GAME (Abigail Child, 1972, 39 min). Unconfirmed Formats. Outdoor screening. Free admission.
Black Cinema House at Bing Art Books (307 E. Garfield Blvd.) screens Spike Lee’s 1991 film JUNGLE FEVER (132 min, Video Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm. Free Admission.
Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) hosts Viewing Party: Celebrate the Pioneers of African American Cinema on Sunday at 7pm. BCH will be live-streaming Turner Classic Movies’ presentation of several works featured on the new Kino Lorber DVD/Blu-Ray Pioneers set. Showing are Oscar Micheaux’s 1938 film BIRTHRIGHT, Roy Calnek’s 1926 silent film TEN NIGHTS IN A BAR ROOM, Rev. S.S. Jones’ Home Movies (1924-26), and the 1937 newsreel WE WORK AGAIN.
The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 200) screens Frauke Finsterwalder's 2013 film FINSTERWORLD (95 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6pm. Free Admission.
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents an outdoor screening of Rupert Julian’s 1925 silent film THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (93 min, Digital Projection – Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 8:30pm, with live musical accompaniment by Echo Haus. Free Admission.
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Thomas Salvador’s 2014 French film VINCENT (78 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday and Wednesday at 6pm; Antoine Barraud’s 2015 French film PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST (127 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 3pm and Thursday at 6pm; David Ruhm’s 2014 Austrian/Swiss film THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE (87 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; and the three films of the Danish “Dept. Q” series play this week: Mikkel Nørgaard’s 2014 THE ABSENT ONE (119 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 5pm, Sunday at 3pm, Tuesday at 8pm, and Wednesday at 6pm; Hans Petter Moland’s 2016 A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH (112 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday and Thursday at 8:15pm, Sunday at 5:15pm, and Thursday at 6pm; and see Also Recommended above for our review of the first film of the trilogy, THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES.
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Justine Nagan’s 2009 documentary TYPEFACE (63 min, Digital Projection) is on Thursday at 7pm.
Music Box Theatre this week: Roger Ross Williams’ 2016 documentary LIFE, ANIMATED (89 min, DCP Digital), Todd Solondz’s 2016 film WIENER-DOG (90 min, DCP Digital), and David Farrier and Dylan Reeve's 2016 documentary TICKLED (92 min, DCP Digital) all continue; Scott Sanders’ 2009 film BLACK DYNAMITE (90 min, 35mm) is on Friday at Midnight; and the 2016 Chicago French Film Festival runs Friday-Thursday, with eleven new features and a retrospective screening of André Téchiné’s 1986 film SCENE OF THE CRIME (see Crucial Viewing above for our review). Among the films showing are: Eva Husson’s controversial BANG GANG (A MODERN LOVE STORY), Alice Winocour’s DISORDER, Michel Gondry’s MICROBE AND GASOLINE, and Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol’s animated feature PHANTOM BOY. Check the MB website for the complete schedule.
Also at Facets Cinémathèque this week: Rich Fox’s 2015 documentary THE BLACKOUT EXPERIMENTS (80 min, Unconfirmed Format) plays for a week-long run.
Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Javier Fuentes-León’s 2015 Peruvian film THE VANISHED ELEPHANT (110 min, DVD Projection) on Tuesday at 6pm.
The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of local filmmaker Jack C. Newell’s 2015 film OPEN TABLES (76 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.
The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Peyton Reed's 2015 film ANT MAN (117 min, DCP Digital) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free Admission.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
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.
Luther Price: Flesh Fracture is on view at Mana Contemporary (2233 S. Throop) through August 12. 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 Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago exhibits Phil Collins’ 2004 video EL MUNDO NO ESCUCHARÁ (56 min) through August 21.
The exhibition Kartemquin Films: 50 Years of Democracy Through Documentary is on view at Expo 72 (72 E. Randolph St.) through August 20. The exhibit will include film stills, documents, cameras, and other material related to the organization’s history, and new items will be added through the show’s run. More info and a list of scheduled gallery talks at www.ktq50.org/exhibit.
The Arts Club of Chicago (201 East Ontario St.) presents the exhibition Sharon Lockhart Rudzienko though August 13. The show includes Lockhart’s newest film RUDZIENKO (2016, two channel video installation), along with related photographic work.