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|a weekly guide to alternative cinema- -
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:: Friday, MAR. 27 -
Thursday, APR. 2 ::
European Union Film Festival
Gene Siskel Film Center
Mia Hansen-Løve's EDEN (New French)
Gene Siskel Film Center -- Sunday, 3pm and Wednesday, 7:30pm
It is a remarkable (albeit Francophilic) fact that one of the world's greatest living filmmakers--Claire Denis--and one of the world's greatest up-and-coming filmmakers--Mia Hansen-Løve--are, more-or-less, serious aficionados of club music, a relentless, ecstatic, and sometimes melancholic variety of genres which, to be honest, is poorly matched to many other emotions conventionally provoked by cinema. But like her protagonists in EDEN, Hansen-Løve has thrown caution to the wind and built an epic 21-year audiovisual mixtape around the prolonged young-adulthood of her brother, Sven Løve, a Parisian DJ whose social circle was obsessed with the soulful, vocals-heavy style of the 1980s-era Paradise Garage nightclub in New York (located around the corner from Film Forum). Her staging thrives in the events' thresholds--in those tunnels and stairways of echoing (and frequently Chicago-manufactured) basslines, spaces sometimes more memorable than the parties themselves--for those were the corporeal and mundane passages through which an apolitical generation in Europe and England found a temporary transcendence. But radically, EDEN's story is told less through plot and dialogue than in the gospel-influenced lyrics of the wall-to-wall soundtrack, stylistically constrained to express love, heartbreak, isolation, and communion. The addresser and addressee of these songs, once representing a choir speaking to god, comes to represent the voice of a lover to another; or from dancer to anonymous dancer; or from the DJ to the dance floor. "Follow me, where we can be free"; "Let's get close, closer than close"; "I'm trying to hold on to your love"; "One more time, one more time, one more time, one more time." (2014, 131 min, DCP Digital) MC
Christian Petzold's PHOENIX (New German)
Hitchcock's VERTIGO is masterful but decidedly farfetched, whereas Christian Petzold's PHOENIX is farfetched but still realistic, a contradiction that aptly defines this brilliant allegory of postwar guilt and reclamation. (Petzold openly acknowledges the VERTIGO correlation in many interviews.) It's about a woman--Nelly, played by Petzold's longtime muse, Nina Hoss--who undergoes facial reconstruction surgery after she's liberated from a concentration camp, presumably having been shot in the face by a Nazi. She learns that all of her family and most of her friends are dead and that her husband may have been the one who betrayed her to the Schutzstaffel. She pursues him anyway and finds that he's working in a club called the Phoenix, from which the movie takes its name. (The mythical bird that rises from its own ashes is also owed some credit.) Though the surgery significantly altered her appearance, he notices her "resemblance" to his thought-to-be-deceased wife and recruits her to help him acquire her inheritance. Co-written with the late Harun Farocki, "it's a metaphorical movie and it's also not a metaphorical movie," to put it in his words, with his guilt (or non-guilt) representing that of a nation and her regeneration representing that of its oppressed people. On paper, it seems absurd, like many of the American genre films that inspired both Petzold and Farocki, but on screen, it's executed with a surprising verisimilitude. (2014, 98 min, DCP Digital) KS
More info and full schedule at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Buster Keaton and Donald Crisp's THE NAVIGATOR (Silent American Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Thursday, 7pm
In Buster Keaton's heyday, his masterpiece THE GENERAL proved a financial disappointment and his soon-to-be-surrealist-classic SHERLOCK, JR. yielded critical indifference and ho-hum box office returns. But THE NAVIGATOR, Keaton's simple, narrowly sketched but marvelously choreographed adventure-comedy, became an enormous hit, the biggest of his career. Some aspects might give us pause today: the black island-dwellers, whose presence drives much of the action in the second half, are instantly and correctly assumed to be a fearsome gaggle of cannibals. It's a bit much to argue that THE NAVIGATOR advances an ideology of racism--but is a rote plot contrivance built upon racism any better? The best that can be said is that THE NAVIGATOR doesn't indulge in these tropes nearly as heavily as contemporaries like the ill-fated human sacrifice musical GOLDEN DAWN. One wonders, too, how Keaton's precisely organized sets and delicately engineered gags would fare today when the not-dissimilar dollhouse aesthetic of Wes Anderson simultaneously provokes thundering adulation and exhausted chagrin. (Both Keaton and Anderson favor fragmentary hijinks, capped off with a dispassionate, wide-eyed view of their elaborate constructions--an establishing shot in reverse.) The virtues of THE NAVIGATOR are very real, but tend to function in isolation; the picture lacks the emotional coherence of STEAMBOAT BILL, JR., or the socio-geographic specificity of OUR HOSPITALITY. Individual gags and shots are as witty as anything that Keaton ever produced--particularly the kludgy alterations to the vessel's enormous kitchen. The underwater scenes, which posed substantial technical and bodily challenges to Keaton and his crew, maintain an improbable frisson of spontaneity. And Keaton's co-star, Kathryn McGuire, is one game comedienne in a boyish sailor costume--though one wishes that more of the comedy grew out of her character, rather than simply acting upon it. With live musical accompaniment by David Drazin. (1924, 59 min, 35mm) KAW
More info at www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu.
William Wyler's BEN-HUR (American Revival)
Park Ridge Classic Film Series at the Pickwick Theatre (5 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge) - Wednesday, 7pm
Like a lot of us, my first memories of watching BEN-HUR revolve around a very, very long evening spent hunkered down in front of the TV, one with endless commercial breaks and concurrent snacking. Viewed this way, a stop-and-start spectacle lasting about five hours, it's no wonder the film comes off like a soap opera set in the ancient world. Which isn't a criticism; after all, it takes some damn fine storytelling to hold one's attention for such an extended period of time. But BEN-HUR, even fifty years later, is so much more, not the least of which is blue-ribboned Exhibit A in the case study of They Just Don't Make 'Em Like That Any More. When February 2016 rolls around and Mark Burnett's remake hits the multiplexes, Morgan Freeman will be onscreen in the role of Ilderim. But the estimated 10,000 human extras that appeared in Wyler's film will be played by pixels. As will a great deal of the sets and locations. And, one can confidently predict, a fair number of the horses in the obligatory chariot race. Seen on a big screen, DCP or no, in "real time" (i.e. about four hours with intermission), a viewer can appreciate and revel in BEN-HUR's truly mammoth scope, hordes of actual people and costumes and props filling vast landscapes. But, crucially, it's also easier to admire Wyler's sensitivity and restraint in the dialog scenes, a necessary counterpoint to all that pomp and circumstance. The face of Christ, of course, is never shown, and the most horrible effects of leprosy are left to the imagination. Coupled with its eye-popping splendor, it's the humanity and compassion that make BEN-HUR a classic. With prelude music by Jay Warren beginning at 6:30pm. (1959, 222 min, DCP Digital) RC
More info at www.parkridgeclassicfilm.com.
Frederick Wiseman's HIGH SCHOOL (Documentary Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Tuesday, 7pm
HIGH SCHOOL, Frederick Wiseman's second film, has been found heavy-handed and didactic by some critics in comparison to his later productions, which can strain for an unattainable impartiality. But the hoi polloi subjectivity-thermometer of IMDB's user reviews suggests that, if anything, it has retained its multiplicity of interpretations: for the radical anti-authoritarian, it is a concise proof-of-concept of Ivan Illich's 1971 classic text Deschooling Society; and for the less critically minded, it is a series of captivating snapshots of an urban generation-gap long past. It's unclear which meaning the film might have for Doc Films local audience--the students of prestigious University of Chicago, who have played the game depicted here and won. This generation beyond the draft, granted the possibility of an intellectual freedom unknown to the 1968 Northeast-suburban Philly students here portrayed: what can it mean for them, for this film to say--with directness, honesty, all the clichés that make up the notion of verité--that the primary purpose of schooling is to produce obedient soldiers for a rationalist war machine? (1968, 75 min, 16mm) MC
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
David Zellner's KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER (New Japanese/American)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes
"This is a true story." KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER opens with these four words and the nostalgia is on. With dreams of Spanish Conquistadors in her head, Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) longs to break free from her monotonous life working as an Office Lady in Tokyo. When she discovers a hidden, waterlogged VHS copy of FARGO, she realizes that it must surely be a secret treasure map. After rewatching the film many times and taking diligent notes (plus cross stitching a treasure map), Kumiko sets out to find the briefcase full of money Steve Buscemi buried in the snow nearly twenty years ago. David Zellner's film offers a grandiose take on the effects isolation and depression can have on a person's mind. Kumiko's only true companion is her pet bunny, Bunzo. Her distaste for human interaction outside of work only causes her obsession with finding the treasure to intensify and reach into immoral and illegal territory. The film strikes a good balance between humor and drama much like its in-film counterpart. Zellner's mise-en-scène is utilized perfectly as he juxtaposes the metropolitan Tokyo streets with the rural tundra of Minnesota. A blending of East meets West ensures that many strained cultural barriers will arise, and this is where Rinko Kikuchi truly shines. Her character delivers brilliance even when only speaking very few lines in English. She is determined to find her treasure and no one will tell her otherwise. Her delusions in combination with her lowly life truly make you hope that her quest will come to fruition. Does she realize how crazy her hunt sounds? Much like the characters in FARGO, it's hard to tell where the sanity lies. But do yourself a favor and look up the "true story" that this film is based on, and then tell me if art really does imitate life or not. Maybe in the end, Kumiko is not so crazy after all. The Friday 7:30pm screening includes a post-film discussion with a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. (2014, 105 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND (Italian Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Friday and Saturday, Midnight
Lucio Fulci is known as one of the grand masters of over-the-top and ridiculous gore. THE BEYOND is no exception, for the gore is plentiful, but Fulci wisely throws in enough bizarre plot twists and genuinely creepy moments (not to mention a pounding choral score by Fabio Frizzi) to make this the director's strongest work of the 80s. Set in a sleepy bayou of Louisiana (continuing Fulci's obsession with "Old America"), a young woman has just inherited an old hotel, which she soon discovers is, according to local legend, built on one of the seven doorways to hell. With the help of a visiting pathologist and s strange blind woman, she tries to stop the forces of evil from coming through the gateway and destroying the world. Fulci's not so subtle commentary on class and race conflicts makes its presence felt throughout the film, though it is most apparent in the opening lynching scene. THE BEYOND is, at its heart, an Italian outsider's look at the "corrupt" American south; where better to put a gateway to hell? The film also features the best 'Scope cinematography of Fulci's career. (1981, 87 min, 35mm) JR
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb's THIS IS NOT A FILM (Contemporary Iranian)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Tuesday, 6pm
The disingenuously titled THIS IS NOT A FILM, Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb's surprise entry to last year's Cannes Film Festival (it was smuggled to France via a pen drive inside of a cake), is by its very nature one of the most vital films in recent memory. Simply made but far from simple, it's a radical cri de coeur from a filmmaker whose itch to express himself remains intact despite efforts by Iranian authorities to silence him. As Panahi makes unambiguous in the film through candid mobile-phone conversations, he will likely go to jail. This devastating reality does not seem to interfere with his capacity to reflect lucidly on his filmmaking process in relation to Iranian censorship, and to speak playfully and generously with the (few) people around him. The film reaches an unexpected crescendo in the final ten minutes or so, as Panahi follows his doorman on rubbish-collection routine. Unexpectedly cathartic, this sequence is a powerful testament to Panahi's filmmaking dexterity, his capacity to find poetic substance in the most ordinary of situations. THIS IS NOT A FILM is built from nothing, and yet every moment has a powerful urgency to it. SAIC professor Daniel Eisenberg lectures. (2011, 75 min, HDCam Video) GK
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Orson Welles's CITIZEN KANE (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7 and 9:30pm
What's left to say about CITIZEN KANE? These days, it's difficult to imagine anyone sitting down to watch it without first being warned that they are about to view The Greatest Film of All Time, an accolade so frequently affixed that it should by now count as a subtitle. Yet it remains a master class in aesthetic design in which all the production elements (bustling staging, overlapping dialogue, choose-your-own-adventure plotting, lighting so chiaroscuro that most of the shadows fall on the ceiling, editing so fluid it is better described as rhythm) work together so seamlessly as to seem impossible without one another. Famously the first and last studio project the boy wonder had final cut on, this boasts an unusually tidy rise-and-fall narrative for Welles; if his later, compromised studio films (THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, LADY FROM SHANGHAI, TOUCH OF EVIL) ultimately prove more rewarding, it is perhaps because their Rosebuds are obscured and their mysteries preserved. (1941, 119 min, 35mm) MK
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Calin Peter Netzer's CHILD'S POSE (New Romanian)
Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) - Tuesday, 6:30pm (Free Admission)
Just as Asghar Farhadi's 2011 film A SEPARATION was declared by critics to be a Hitchcockian thriller, so, too, could that label be applied to Calin Peter Netzer's film, the enormously accomplished CHILD'S POSE. Winner of the prestigious Golden Bear at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival, CHILD'S POSE is only Netzer's third feature-length film and the first to garner such acclaim. In the film, Luminita Gheorghiu (who had a significant role in Cristi Puiu's 2005 film THE DEATH OF MR. LARZARESCU) plays Cornelia, a poised aristocrat whose son has accidentally killed a child while speeding on the freeway. Much like A SEPARATION, CHILD'S POSE is a domestic drama in which the everyday lives of its protagonists are disrupted by an event that toes the line between circumstance and negligence, and just as in A SEPARATION, there's a latent intimation that, while everyone's morality is being called into question, no one is truly at fault. (Or, possibly, that everyone is somehow at fault.) However, this somewhat benign premise is shrouded in a distinct sense of tension that often characterizes Hitchcock's best thrillers. Also similar to Hitchcock's films is the presence of a domineering mother (complete with faded platinum blonde hair) with a son whose emotional detachment to his fatal actions is ascribed to her oppressive demeanor. Shaky hand-held camera movements and seemingly jaundiced cinematography add further dimensions to a thriller that is one of the best films to emerge from the Romanian New Wave in recent years. (2013, 112 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) KS
More info at www.af-chicago.org.
David Robert Mitchell's IT FOLLOWS (New American)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes
Who hasn't had a dream where you're being chased? You run, and you run, and you run, but there's just no getting away. This is the premise for David Robert Mitchell's nightmarish psychosexual film IT FOLLOWS. The film evokes memories of 1970s and '80s teen slasher cinema, such as FRIDAY THE 13TH and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, in which sex often has horrific consequences. Just five minutes in and it's easy to tell that IT FOLLOWS is not a typical trip to Camp Crystal Lake. Mitchell's minimalistic approach to horror is fiercely and brazenly original while also being downright scary to watch. His use of the 360-degree pan leaves the viewer in a state of endless disquiet, mimicking the characters' constant fears of what could be just over their shoulders. No scene feels safe because terror could be lurking just around the corner or off frame, to be revealed with a simple turn of the camera. Forget blood, guts, and monsters; the simple sight of another human being has never been so effectively terrifying. The origins of the follower are intentionally never explicitly established; the open question of what "it" truly is adding to the film's pervasive dread. Day or night, it does not rest and stalks its prey like a manic bounty hunter. The film offers many striking visuals, juxtaposing the urban decay of Detroit against Michigan's beautiful wilderness and lakefront coastlines. A haunting, lingering synthesizer score by Disasterpeace (Rich Vreeland) further bolsters the film's otherworldly ambiance and harkens back to the movie's 1970s/80s thematic ancestors. IT FOLLOWS was one of this year's Sundance Film Festival's darlings, and for good reason; it's a nightmare brought to life. (2014, 100 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.org.
Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi's WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (New New Zealand/American)
Music Box Theatre - Friday and Saturday, Midnight
Once upon a full moon, vampires were considered to be pure horror. With Bram Stoker's original Dracula, Bela Lugosi's 1930s and 40s Universal films, the iconic German expressionist film NOSFERATU, and Carl Theodor Dreyer's VAMPYR, their gothic mythology was firmly rooted in the collective conscious. These immortal creatures of the night relied on charm, sexuality, and dark magic to enchant and lure their victims. Over time, filmic (and other popular culture) representations of vampires strayed from the original formula, delving into comedy, romance, science fiction, and more. All of these varieties inevitably led to the ill-conceived TWILIGHT and its unavoidable sequels. The vampire film had reached a point of stagnation. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS breaks free of this vampire-moribundity, and is also one of the most original and refreshing comedies in recent memory. This mockumentary combination of The Office meets LET THE RIGHT ONE IN meets The Real World satirizes what life would be like for a vampire living today, dealing with the mundane aspects of contemporary urban life. SHADOWS dares to asks such questions as who's going to clean the dishes, what clothes should vampires wear to the club, and is a human an appropriate plus one to bring to an undead masquerade ball. The answers play out in droll, hilarious fashion, aided by FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS' Jermaine Clement and Rhys Darby, who dazzle as two of the bloodsucking flatmates. Bram Stoker may be rolling over in his grave seeing what has transpired since his vaunted masterpiece, but for the viewers, SHADOWS rewardingly proves that there is still blood left in the veins of the vampire movie. (2015, 86 min, DCP Digital) KC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.org.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
The Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center screens Alberto Grifi and Massimo Sarchielli's 1975 Italian documentary ANNA (225 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) on Thursday at 6pm. The film will be introduced by Dennis Lim, Director of Programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York.
Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) screens Derek Jarman's 1978 film JUBILEE (106 min, DVD Projection) on Saturday at 8pm. The film repeats on Wednesday at 6:30pm at Columbia College Chicago (Hokin Hall, 623 S. Wabash Ave.). Both screenings will be introduced by queer cinema scholar Rebecca Lavoie.
The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) presents Specificity in Practice: Recent Work by Victor Burgin on Thursday at 7pm, with Burgin in person. Screening are Burgin's 2010 video A PLACE TO READ and his 2013 video MIRROR LAKE (Both Unconfirmed Running Times, HD File Projection). It's at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.). Free admission.
South Side Projections presents Kevin Pickman's locally-made 2014 documentary WE GREW UP HERE (86 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 8pm, with director Pickman and costar Kate Schell in person. Followed by a live performance by musician Kate Schell. It's at Co-Prosperity Sphere (3219 S. Morgan St.).
The OpenIndie and Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) present Mariette Monpierre's 2011 film ELZA (80 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 8pm. Free admission.
The Chicago Film Seminar welcomes Adam Ochonicky (University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh) who will give a talk entitled "Nostalgic Frontiers" Spatiality, Violence and the Midwest in Badlands and A History of Violence." Zoran Samardzija (Columbia College) will provide the response. It's on Thursday at 6:30pm at the DePaul-Loop Campus in Daley Building (14 E. Jackson Blvd., Lower Level, Room 102; use the State St. entrance located at 247 S. State St.). Free admission.
The Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) screens Alfred L. Werker's 1949 film LOST BOUNDARIES (99 min, DVD Projection) on Friday at 7pm; and presents Shiri Burson's 2015 short film CHI-VOICES: A POETIC FILM SERIES (30 min, Blu-Ray Projection) on Sunday at 4:30pm. Free admission, but limited seating; RSVP at http://rebuild-foundation.squarespace.com/black-cinema-house.
The Park Ridge Classic Film Series at the Park Ridge Public Library (20 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge) screens Ernest B. Schoedsack's 1935 film THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (96 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm. Free admission. https://cinemaoftranscendence.wordpress.com/about/
Black World Cinema at the Studio Movie Grill Chatham 14 (210 W. 87th St.) screens Anne De Mare and Kirsten Kelly's 2014 documentary THE HOMESTRETCH (90 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm. http://blackworldcinema.net/blog/
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: William K. Howard's 1937 film FIRE OVER ENGLAND (92 min, DCP Digital) is on Monday at 7pm; Elio Petri's 1970 film INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION (115 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 7pm; and Stuart Gordon's 1985 film RE-ANIMATOR (86 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:30pm.
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Mary Dore's 2014 documentary SHE'S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE'S ANGRY (92 min, DCP Digital) continues on Saturday and Sunday at 12:30pm only; local filmmaker Michael Caplan's 2014 documentary ALGREN: THE MOVIE (87 min) is on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm and Monday at 7:30pm; and Sam Wood's 1937 Marx Brothers film A DAY AT THE RACES (111 min, 35mm) is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am. Unconfirmed Format except where noted.
Facets Cinémathèque plays Gaël Mocaër's 2013 French/Ukrainian documentary THE COAL MINER'S DAY (80 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run.
The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 200) screens Wolfgang Becker's 1997 film LIFE IS ALL YOU GET (118 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 6pm. Free admission.
The Whistler (2421 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents the Odd Obsession Film Series and Dance Party Ting on Saturday at 9pm. Film screening not listed.
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents an exhibition of nine video works by artist Keren Cytter. On view March 28 through October 4.
Aspect/Ratio Gallery (119 N. Peoria St., #3D) continues a solo exhibition of video, installation, and other work by Marco G. Ferrari through April 18.
Blanc Gallery (4445 Martin L. King Dr.) continues the exhibition Nacelle, a show of video work by Marco G. Ferrari, through May 1.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents German artist Clemens von Wedemeyer's HD video installation Muster (Rushes) (2012). On view February 21 to July 26.
David Weinberg Photography (300 W. Superior St., Suite 203) continues the exhibition Try Youth As Youth, which includes an installation version of Tirtza Even's NATURAL LIFE, plus work by Steve Davis, Steve Liss, and Richard Ross. Runs through May 8.
Melika Bass' solo exhibition The Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast, an immersive multi-channel video and sound installation, continues through April 19 at the Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell Ave.).
Chicago Public Library screenings: Due to the frequency of late-additions (past our deadlines) and to their frequent inability (due to licensing restrictions) of publicly listing the titles of films they are screening, we will no longer be listing specific CPL screenings. Check their website for any films that may be showing.
The Patio Theater and the Portage Theater calendars have been confusing and constantly shifting--adding and removing events with little notice--and reportedly have been unexpectedly closed for scheduled events. We will no longer attempt to list any screenings there.
The Northbrook Public Library film series is on hiatus during renovations at the library. Expected completion is Spring 2015.
The Northwest Chicago Film Society is again on hiatus for their weekly series, with the closing of the Patio Theater. They plan to do occasional screenings as opportunities arise.