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:: Friday, MAY 17 -
Thursday, MAY 23 ::
Dan Sallitt's THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT (New American)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes
In the day and age of such impersonal forms of communication as social media and texting, verbal discourse is an apparent taboo: the phone is reserved for holidays and special occasions, while friending on Facebook can convey any number of meanings, from outright mockery to subtle flirtation. Oftentimes, honest communication takes place more on-screen then off, and that sad fact is humorously illuminated in Dan Sallitt's fourth feature film, THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT. The act in question is incest, and even though it's ironically referred to as being of an unspeakable nature, the film revolves around 17-year-old Jackie's unapologetic romantic affection for her older brother. It is presented within a cloistered family dynamic as being obvious but unspoken by everyone but Jackie herself, who alludes to her feelings with her mother and sister while outrightly discussing them with the brother in question. In the film, incest is neither scorned nor glorified, and the benign representation never dwells on the moral implications of such attractions. Instead, incest is used as a parallel for emotional growth as Jackie transitions to adulthood; even as a glaringly self-aware teenager, her incestuous yearning is rooted in a state of suppressed arrested development. Sallitt's refined yet humorous approach to the subject matter is distinctly European, a comparison which he invites with his dedications to masters of French cinema. As he dedicated one of his previous films to Maurice Pialat, this one is dedicated to Eric Rohmer, whose influence is apparent within the context of unrealized desire. Sallitt's European-inspired sensibilities combined with his flair for anti-climactic drama create a film full of "plausible moment[s] of existence" (a phrase he used in a Mubi.com interview to describe lead actress Tallie Medel's acting abilities, which is also applicable to his own directorial talent), even with the taboo of incest looming overhead. In the aforementioned interview, Sallitt also said, "Filming two people sitting in a room talking is the ultimate in cinema." This is apparent not only in the scenes that take place in a therapist's office, but throughout the entire film. The essence of pure cinema can be found in Sallitt's portrayal of pure communication and self-introspection. Dan Sallitt in person at the Friday and Saturday screenings. (2012, 91 min, HDCam Video) KK
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel's LEVIATHAN (New Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes
Everything is thrown around and flipped on its head in this much praised new documentary from Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab, everything from fish to machinery to our moral compass. Like the Discovery Channel's long running reality series Deadliest Catch, LEVIATHAN follows a commercial fishing ship into perilous waters, but in staunch contrast to its "reality" counterpart, LEVIATHAN's hero is the ocean, its villain is the ship, and its damsels in distress are fish and other sea creatures. The humans in LEVIATHAN are incidental, the flying monkeys who do the witch/ship's cruel bidding in a hypnotic state of merciless efficiency. In tackling the adventure-occupation subject matter familiar to reality television viewers but from an opposite angle, LEVIATHAN positions itself as the anti-reality TV. In this documentary there are no interviews, no narration, and hardly any dialogue, and any message or purpose must be inferred from what is seen and heard. And what is seen and heard in LEVIATHAN can be quite disorienting and disturbing. Amidst a steady drone of gushing water, howling wind, and clanking machinery, we see sting rays dismembered with hooks and machetes, crabs groping weakly around the corpses of their cousins, giant heaps of living fish sliced from head to tail fin by faceless butchers with assembly line rhythms, blood and guts pouring from the ship's portholes like the elevator shaft in the Overlook Hotel. But more than the eerie sound, the swinging machinery, and the gore, it is the lack of a human perspective that accounts for the horror of LEVIATHAN. With it, we could have contextualized the experience--just like our own experiences with fishing, only on a larger scale. Without it, we are left with no justification for the holocaust before our eyes. Previous reviews have compared LEVIATHAN to work by David Lynch, Herman Melville, and Gaspar Noe. Each of these comparisons rings true in some way: Lynch for the industrial horror and Melville for obvious reasons, but it is the Noe comparison which runs deepest because of the inhuman neutrality of the camera in both LEVIATHAN and Noe's ENTER THE VOID (2009). Down among the bodies of dead and half dead fish, flapping furiously or paralyzed in a final gasp, we feel as if we are lost in some Tibetan sphere of hell, not unlike the one portrayed in Noe's film. Perhaps, in this case, it is the sphere reserved for consumers of commercially caught fish. (2012, 87 min, DCP Digital Projection) ML
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Michael Klier's DER RIESE [THE GIANT] (German Documentary Revival)
White Light Cinema at the Nightingale Theatre - Sunday, 7:30pm
Not long after Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish famously introduced the prison panopticon as surveillance metaphor, Michael Klier's video essay made a near-exhaustive cataloging of the myriad forms of surveillance found in early 80s Germany: from air-traffic control towers, to the gas station, to the recording of a sleep study, to the interrogation room, to shopping malls, to television broadcasts, and to the platforms of mass transit. The constantly moving CCTV cameras suggest an act of searching, their electronic gaze always shifting, looking to record something. Given the inherent subjugative power dynamics of surveillance (the observer remains anonymous and omniscient while the observed knows only of one's own observation), this panoptic gaze can only be in search of crime or deviant behavior, which brings with it an assumption of guilt. A trap waiting to be sprung. Soundtracked with both Wagner and Mahler, the audio both inflates the surveillance act into a majestic, romantic duty as well as highlighting the inherent banality of the work being conducted (see too the few moments of unmoving workers stationed at a wall of televisions). Hannah Arendt might term it the banality of privacy invasion. Underlying this surveillant concern however is the poetic, graceful display of traffic patterns (both vehicular and pedestrian), captured by the clunky, deliberate movements of the camera. DER RIESE takes its most revealing turn 45 minutes in, when, for a few minutes, we are afforded the gaze through a strip club's security camera. From an extreme high angle, shot through concealing foliage, we see two naked women dancing on a rotating stage, flanked by a handful of men. The surveillance state as peeping tom, compelled to observe all. Klier was a colleague of Harun Farocki, and it is unsurprising to see that he shares Farocki's interest in using recontextualization as a tool to decode the meaning of images. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the final moments of DER RIESE, which move us away from the CCTV footage to depict a miniature countryside, patrolled by a roving, mechanical piston-camera--an industrialized means of surveillance idealized. In this anonymous warehouse, there are no people, no cars, just a tireless god roaming the perfect German landscape, recording everything. (1983, 82 min, DVD Projection) DM
Note: White Light Cinema is a project of C-F editor Patrick Friel
More info at www.nightingalecinema.org.
Zoe Beloff's THE DAYS OF THE COMMUNE (Experimental/Lecture)
Film Studies Center (University of Chicago, Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.) - Friday, 7pm (Free)
Filmmaker/stereoscopic artist/art forger/media historian Zoe Beloff's last project, THE CONEY ISLAND AMATEUR PSYCHOANALYTIC SOCIETY DREAM FILMS, still unseen in its native 16mm in Chicago but available as a deluxe book/DVD package, offered up home movies as sites of an amorphous, frustrated utopia. The promise of a new queer/Jewish/feminist/socialist order haunts the DREAM FILMS, brittle visions embedded just below the consciousness of mass culture. The past is not only not past, it's still actively contested and sinuous. DAYS OF THE COMMUNE sounds like an appropriate follow-up, only this time the exhumed 'text' has been squired to modern day. Transposing Brecht's 1947 play about the 1871 Paris Commune to the Zuccotti Park epoch and shooting on successive weekends with a cast of actors, academics, and amateurs, Beloff has assembled an incremental reclamation of radical history. With the players traipsing around NYC in nineteenth century costumes and plying French accents at their own discretion, the project denies any simple demarcation between past and present, theater and life. (The Wall Street Journal, amusedly checking up on the production last March, recorded a priceless scene: "At another point, actual police officers circled the pretend-revolutionary performers, peering at the cardboard rifles before moving on.") Originally presented as a web series and later as a gallery installation, accompanied by props and further historical context, this work-in-progress will be presented as a lecture and performance in this iteration. (And for those who want a speedier revolution, Beloff's Commune is about half the length of Peter Watkin's version.) Preceded by Jem Cohen's 2011 video GRAVITY HILL NEWSREEL NO. 5 (9 min, BluRay Projection). Curated and introduced by Artemis Willis, Ph.D candidate, U of C Department of Cinema and Media Studies. Zoe Beloff in person. (2012, 155 min, HD Digital File Projection) KAW
More info at www.filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu.
Julie Dash's DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (American Revival)
Film Studies Center (University of Chicago, Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.) - Thursday, 7pm (Free)
The narrator of Julie Dash's DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST is more than just a character in the film, but a symbolic representation of the film's message. The unborn child who tells the story of the Peazant family in their last days before migrating north is as much a reflection of the past as she is of the future; all that has come before her is as inherent to the family as the very blood within their veins, and it's that history which will propel them along the trying and changing times. The Peazant family are inhabitants of the southern Sea Islands and members of its Gullah culture, having preserved the identity of their African heritage in the face of slavery and post-war oppression. Before the move, the matriarch of the Peazant family contemplates her native beliefs while the family's younger members overcome their personal struggles. Rape and prostitution have afflicted several female members of the family, and the scorn from both society and their own clan present the unique obstacle of African American women within an already disparaged race. Dash uses magical realism not only in the story, but also as a filmmaking device that is reflective of the characters' culture. It was the first feature-length film by an African-American woman to receive theatrical release, and its historical context and female-oriented storyline set it apart from both other films of the time and other films put out by fellow members of the L.A. Rebellion. Julie Dash in person. (1991, 112 min, New 35mm Print) KK
More info at www.filmstudiescenter.uchicago.edu.
Orson Welles' THE TRIAL (International Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am
Casting a glib and voluble Anthony Perkins in the role of Josef K., a man compelled to court by a nebulous governmental authority who is ignorant of any crime, provides for a decidedly strange and personal adaptation of Kafka's unfinished story. At times a confounding film, Orson Welles' loose adaptation offers an unsettling and haunting expression of the modern experience. By putting K--and by extension the audience--into byzantine governmental systems, nightmarish and anonymous spaces, and contact with people sometimes better described as moving bodies, Welles "confronts the corruptions and self-deceptions of the contemporary world." Iconic images abound through Welles' aesthetic mastery, using sets and later (when the money ran out) abandoned locales in Paris, Zagreb, and Rome; the scale of an office floor the size of an airplane hangar is astonishing. Welles himself--also appearing as K's lawyer--is monumental in scale as well, looming over the picture in all his anxiety and discontent. (1962, 118 min, 35mm) BW
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Sam Neave's ALMOST IN LOVE (New American)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday 3 and 6:30pm; Monday and Wednesday, 8pm
Two takes, that's all it takes for Sam Neave to tell a moving story in his latest film ALMOST IN LOVE. The two sections of the film, set roughly eighteen months apart, are both single takes more than forty minutes in length. The first half of the film occurs on lead character Sasha's terrace, where the night takes an unexpected turn when he has to deal with the repercussions of his best friend dating his former girlfriend. In the second portion of the film, the audience finds itself invited to Sasha's wedding after-party, where the lives of the cast are evolved even further. Throughout the entire film, the camera plays an active character, dancing in and out of the real-time conversations and durational performances of the cast--making it easy for the viewer to feel as though she were a guest instead of a passive observer. Cinematographer Daniel McKeown manipulates the focus and movement of the camera to match the changing emotions of the film's characters, doing a marvelous job in showcasing the strong realistic and natural performances of the cast. Neave's simple but effective single-take strategy, choosing to rely on the performances of his actors and not post-production editing decisions, adds greatly to this story of misplaced love. It is clear Neave places his importance on his characters, and all other decisions are settled in a way to give actors room and time to grow in a gradual manner. Despite McKeown's beautiful camerawork, Neave's film transcends the typical 'movie' style and feels more akin to real life. Try to unlearn everything you have ever learnt about cinema and let Neave demonstrate a new way of storytelling. (2013, 83 min, HDCam Video) SRW
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
John Boorman's ZARDOZ (British Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Portage Theater) - Wednesday, 7:30pm
"THE GUN. IS. GOOD. THE PENIS. IS. EVIL." Thus spake the godhead Zardoz in an intriguing détournement of then-current societal values: in this film's world, possession of a firearm is an emasculating act. Let thine penis wither, and spread not seed but death. After this commandment, the hollow, disembodied head of Zardoz ejaculates rifles upon a writhing mass of savages, who gleefully fire these weapons. One such savage, the hirsute and bethonged Zed (Sean Connery), hitches a ride inside Zardoz's head to the refined world of the Vortex, populated by immortals bored with infinity. While in the Vortex, the film skitters along various themes but eventually settles in on the masculine existential threat posed by immortality and its disruption of humanity's procreative needs (again, another fun détournement: what use are men but for making babies?). Ultimately, the film becomes an androcentric reinterpretation of FANTASTIC PLANET (René Laloux, 1973), with Zed as a eugenically-perfected savior of mankind, sent to reintroduce virility and purpose to the male denizens of Earth. It's an unfortunate turn, but not unexpected. The film's initial radical message, much like its titular god, proves hollow, instead favoring a reinforcement of heteronormative ideals. It does however speak volumes that John Boorman would follow up his hyper-masculine DELIVERANCE (1972) with a film that at least at the outset questions male cultural dominance. That the film is also a highly entertaining fantasy should be noted as well. Preceded by a to-be-announced short. (1974, 105 min, 35mm) DM
More info at www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
Alfred Hitchcock's ROPE (American Revival)
Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) - Wednesday, 1 and 7:30pm (Free)
While maybe not Hitchcock's best film, ROPE is certainly one of his most curious. Based on an English play entitled Rope's End in which two elitist university students murder an acquaintance and hold a cocktail party over his hidden corpse, Hitchcock's 1948 film sanitizes it for American audiences. The play, ostensibly about the infamous Leopold and Loeb case, purports a homosexual relationship between the two male leads, and a supposed affair with their former professor--the inspiration for the murder--who also sniffs out the crime at the party. Hitchcock's film, by removing the offending gay cues and suggestive Britishisms--"my boy!"--leaves us mostly with elephants in the room. According to screenwriter Arthur Laurents, Warner Bros. purportedly never used the word homosexuality or its variants, preferring to use "it," and never acknowledged its basis on Leopold and Loeb. It is only fitting that Hitchcock's ROPE, often described as an experiment, would strike such tension with Hollywood filmmaking: dialogue-driven, single location, long takes, etc. Even its unique editing construction--long shots that attempt to hide cuts by disguise through clever camera movements--is interesting considering the Hollywood style of "invisible" editing. ROPE isn't exactly subversive, but it doesn't play by the rules either--a distinctive feature for much of Hitchcock's work. (1948, 80 min, 35mm) BW
More info at www.northbrook.info/events/film.
Blake Edward's BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 7pm
Though it has one of the most well known plots in movie history, it is the more insidious aspects of this romantic favorite that lend it an enduring appeal. In the popular imagination neither Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) nor Paul Varjak (George Peppard) are remembered for how they pay their rent. To face facts, each of them is a kept person, accepting money from dates or steady lovers. Therein lies much of the appeal of these two characters, who eventually fall in love. Neither is perfect but they have big dreams. They use hope to get through today and to forget the past. Emblematic of this existence is the character of Cat, Holly's rice-paper-thin-metaphor of an orange tabby. Content when given a saucer of milk and happy to stay for some fun, this pet demands no commitments and wouldn't notice them anyway. As much a film about the masks we use to face the world as it is about love (which never really comes), it's fitting that Cat ends up being tossed from a cab into the pouring rain. Untethered and free is fun to a point, but only in the movies do the girl and the boy come back for a kiss, and rescue the sloppy and matted Cat from the downpour. (1961, 115 min, 35mm) JH
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Marie Losier's THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE (Documentary)
Chicago Filmmakers - Saturday, 7:30pm (at CF) and Monday, 7:30pm (at Studio Be, 3110 N. Sheffield Ave.)
Kahlil Gibran has this advice for those considering marriage: "...And stand together yet not too near together; for the pillars of the temple stand apart..." Well, engineering has come a long way since then. Losier's film is the holographic wedding tape of a post-corporeal monolithic love-affair between former Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle frontman Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (formerly George P-Orridge, etc.) and the mysterious LES dominatrix Lady Jaye. From the day they met, Genesis and Jaye were drawn closer and closer to a unified aesthetic that they described as "Pandrogyne," a body project that blended and exaggerated their features through style and surgeries, creating a composite, fetishized other that they would both greet in the mirror. Loose temporal editing makes it difficult to admire the progress of their work; did they ever get it how they wanted it, or was it as hit-or-miss as it looks? Apparently the gender of the future borrows Zsa-Zsa Gabor's X-chromosome. But if this sounds unflattering, flattery would be most unwelcome. This is not a vanity project: what is most striking is P-Orridge's unflinching commitment to spiritual freedom. This changing body is merely a container for his spirit, or as his use of the royal 'We' suggests, their spirits. Those familiar with P-Orridge's long career of will be pleased to see that time has only softened his curves, not his restless curiosity and button-pushing output. (2010, 75 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) JF
More info at www.chicagofilmmakers.org.
Abbas Kiarostami's LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE (New Japanese)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 and 10:15pm; Sunday, 3:15pm
In recent years, master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami has moved out of his native Iran into the eclectic arena of world cinema: LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE, set and shot in Japan, is his second film to be made outside of his home country after the critically acclaimed CERTIFIED COPY (2010). Despite his emerging status as a symbol of international cinema, Kiarostami remains true to his roots in both of his recent productions. That's not to mean that aspects of Iranian culture are evident in these films, but that his artistic voice remains the same despite the stamps in his passport. LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE is about the chance meeting between a young call girl and an elderly client, a deceptive union that is more familial than sexual. Such seemingly chance meetings occur often in Kiarostami's films, with the relationships toeing a fine line between being fortuitous or fated. Much of the film takes place in a car, bringing to mind his films TEN (2002) and the Palme d'Or winning film TASTE OF CHERRY (1997). And just as in those and some of his previous films, the forward shots of singular persons within such a claustrophobic space combine uneasy feelings of voyeurism with replications of personal conversation, which create a perplexity that parallels the story. That which is lurid might actually be innocent, or even pure: prostitution is maybe just friendship, broken marriage could be a chance at new love, and death can be overruled by life. As always, Kiarostami doesn't care to correct his viewer's assumptions one way or the other. Though his work provides a wealth of material over which one could exhaust their brain, it's better to watch with the heart. (2012, 109 min, DCP Digital Projection) KK
More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
Quentin Lee's WHITE FROG (New American)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday, 8pm and Wednesday, 6pm
Ambition can either save or kill any project, and in Quentin Lee's latest film WHITE FROG, it very nearly kills it. The film touches on the issues of poverty, homosexuality in a Christian home, death, Asperger's Syndrome, therapy, daddy issues, and being an upper middle-class Asian American. Beneath the haphazardly thrown about storylines, though, lies an insightful message of familial love between two brothers, even after the eldest son's sudden death. Eldest son Chaz Young seems to have it all; smart, funny, charming--he could have easily been a star in a 1950's television show. That is, of course, until his life ends and his well-kept secrets are unearthed by his younger brother, Nick. Nick, who has difficulty performing everyday social interactions, is taken in by his elder brother's friends and begins the journey of living up to the potential that his brother always saw in him. Unlike Nick's journey, director Quentin Lee doesn't allow his film to follow through on its own potential to deal with serious and poignant issues of living in modern-day America. Held back by his polished take on the dark issues of strained familial ties, questions in faith, and the horror of poverty, everything is dealt with in an unrealistically positive manner. As opening film for the Gene Siskel's Asian American Showcase, and with a well-organized cast and technically strong production, Lee's film shouldn't be written off. Audiences who crave neo-realistic style will surely be disappointed, but for anyone who favors a touching and sweet narrative over a nitty-gritty view on the world, WHITE FROG is diverting and entertaining. Showing as part of the Asian American Showcase. (2012, 93 min, DCP Digital Projection) SRW
More info at www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Ines Sommer and Kathy Berger's BENEATH THE BLINDFOLD (New Documentary)
Bodies of Work Festival of Disability Arts and Culture (Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S Cornell Ave.) - Sunday, 2pm (Free)
Four victims of torture speak out against its practice worldwide as they come to terms with their past horrors in Sommer and Berger's affecting documentary. Emotionally draining, BENEATH THE BLINDFOLD spares little of the lasting psychological trauma the victims continue to endure. The filmmakers allow their subjects to bluntly tell their stories, lingering in the quiet moments. This full and poignant treatment heightens the resonance of their experiences. Much of the documentary details the victims' need for catharsis, therapy, or both. Blama, a Liberian forced into conflict, captured, and made to drink cleaning fluid, spends his time learning to take care of the hospitalized as recompense for his own time convalescing. Another victim, Hector, performs in a one-man show the stress positions, waterboarding, and electrocution he endured under authoritarian Colombian rule. The film quite clearly comes down hard against the use of torture, following its subjects to anti-war rallies in Chicago and protests at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning. These generic left-wing demonstrations are contextualized and made meaningful: the simple act of arriving is portrayed as a personal victory for Hector and Matilde, a torture victim from Guatemala. BENEATH THE BLINDFOLD is competent but staid, using B-roll where one would expect and expert interviews to broaden the scope of the issue at appropriate times. This largely contributes to the earnestness of the film and keeps the subjects its central focus however, offering a quietly compelling argument for the end of torture. The filmmakers and Maria Venegas, a torture survivor and human rights activist from Chile, in person. (2012, 80 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) BW
More info at bodiesofworkchicago.org.
Steven Spielberg's JAWS (American Revival)
Patio Theater - Friday and Saturday, 9:30pm; Sunday, 5pm
If PSYCHO forever changed bathroom behavior, then JAWS no doubt gave us pause before diving head first into the ocean; but like the best horror movies, the film's staying power comes not from it's superficial subject matter, in this case a mammoth, man-eating shark and the ominous abyss of the deep blue sea, but from the polysemic potential and wealth of latent meanings that these enduring symbols possess. JAWS marks a watershed moment in cinema culture for a variety of reasons, not excluding the way it singlehandedly altered the Hollywood business model by becoming the then highest grossing film of all time. A byproduct of such attention has been the sustained output of scholarly criticism over the years. At the time of its release, JAWS was interpreted as a thinly veiled metaphor for the Watergate scandal (an event that was slightly more conspicuous in the book), but since then a variety of readings have emerged, including socioeconomic and feminist analyses; however, Marxist theorist Fredric Jameson may provide the most intriguing interpretation by connecting the shark to the tradition of scapegoating. Like Moby Dick or Hitchcock's titular birds, the shark functions a sacrificial animal onto which we project our own social or historical anxieties (e.g., bioterrorism, AIDS, Mitt Romney). It allows us to rationalize evil and then fool ourselves into thinking we've vanquished it. But by turning man-made problems into natural ones we forget that human nature itself is corrupt, exemplified here by Mayor Vaughn who places the entire population of Amity Island in peril by denying the existence of the shark. Jameson's reading is in keeping with the way in which Spielberg rarely displays the shark itself (the result of constant mechanical malfunctions); as opposed to terrifying close-ups, we get point of view shots that create an abstract feeling of fear, thus evoking an applicable horror film trope: the idea is much more frightening than the image. JAWS is a timeless cautionary tale because it appeals to the deep-rooted fears of any generation. And because sharks are scary. (1975, 124 min, Unconfirmed Format) HS
More info at patiotheater.net.
Tommy Wiseau's THE ROOM (Cult)
Music Box Theatre - Friday, Midnight
A woman announces, "Well, the results came back--I definitely have breast cancer," and that's the last we ever hear of it. A group of men don tuxedos for no apparent reason and then toss around a football. A drug dealer threatens to kill someone and then disappears for the rest of the movie. Upon awaking, a man picks up a rose from his night table, smells it, and throws it on top of his sleeping girlfriend. A recurring rooftop "exterior" is obviously a studio set, with a backdrop of the San Francisco skyline digitally composited behind the action. Accidental surrealism can be even more potent than the conscious kind, and THE ROOM is some kind of zenith of its type, the equal to anything Ed Wood committed to celluloid. Although what's on screen looks like it cost about $14.99, the actual budget was upwards of $6 million, in part because actor/producer/writer/director Wiseau shot simultaneously in 35mm and HD (supposedly he didn't understand the differences between the two formats). Now the film has become a worthy successor to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, with enthusiastic fans performing a series of rituals at each screening. Ross Morin, assistant professor of film studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, calls it "one of the most important films of the past decade. Through the complete excess in every area of production, THE ROOM reveals to us just how empty, preposterous and silly the films and television programs we've watched over the past couple of decades have been." (2003, 99 min, 35mm) RC
More info at www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Steven Spielberg's RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (American Revival)
Logan Theatre - Thursday, 11pm
A monument in the Cold War's conservative cinema of reassurance, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is today undeniably a fairy tale about the origin of the atomic bomb. While in reality, nuclear weapons were the intentional outcome of a race between America and Germany's large-scale militarization of the physical sciences, here they are represented not as a technological invention of bureaucratic rationalism but as an archaeological re-discovery, of the Old Testament's famously powerful Ark of the Covenant. Mild-mannered, crushworthy, U of C-educated anthropology professor Jones--teaching at a time when one was morally obligated to kill as many Nazis as possible in the course of one's fieldwork--teams up with his former advisor's daughter (now a hard-drinking expat Nepalese barmaid) to engage in battles of dubious detective-work and elaborately staged, violent fisticuffs with rival archaeologist Belloq, a variety of expendable German soldiers, and the seemingly re-indentured residents of Egypt. At stake is the primary fetish object of the Books of Joshua and Samuel, certainly the closest material embodiment of God in the Bible; however, like GHOSTBUSTERS--which also treated the Abrahamic religions as a mere historical elaboration on occult Mesopotamian ritual--RAIDERS romanticizes the agnostic and empirical logic of its hard-nosed protagonist, who eventually realizes that the only way to escape The Lord's wrath is to close one's eyes to His power. This reassurance returns conclusively in the coda, which seems to say: oh, the wrath of God, we'll never use that again; we're just filing it away with the fruits of America's other positivist projects in some Library of Babel-sized warehouse. (1981, 118 min, Unconfirmed Format) MC
More info at www.thelogantheatre.com.
John Hughes' THE BREAKFAST CLUB (Contemporary American Revival)
Logan Theatre - Friday, Saturday, and Monday, 11:30pm
For people of a certain age, Anthony Michael Hall's voiceover that bookends this film will forever define the only roles everyone at their high school had to play: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. And for the brat packers who formed our ensemble cast, these labels would stick with them for the rest of their careers. Watching this film makes you recall a time when Molly Ringwald (the princess) was the Emma Stone of her day, and Emilio Estevez (the athlete) was the Zach Ephron. Both were young and cute, with girl/boy-next-door good looks, and it seemed that their careers could last forever. Hall was so good as the pressure-cooked nerd who couldn't get an A in shop class that he would spend then next decade-plus trying to show his range. Ally Sheedy (the basket case) is the exception that proves the rule, as she was able to lose that label as soon as the credits rolled. Our criminal, played by the now shaggy Judd Nelson, defined cool rebellion for the better part of a decade and is surely the highlight of the film. As John Bender, he insulted the school principal right to his face ("Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?"), hid dope in his locker (and in AMH's underwear), saw through everyone's bullshit and called them out on it, and got to make out with the prom queen. John Bender was also full of some real malice, and had the cigarette burns on his arm to show us why. Ultimately, he forced a bonding ritual on his fellow high school students, and seemed to be the life of the party. He was the hero of the film, but what is left out of the diegesis may be Hughes' most important comment of all. We know that Bender's triumphant fist pump to close the movie ("Don't you...forget about me!") is the high point of his life. At best he is destined for a crappy job in a bleak suburb, stuck in a loveless marriage with kids he can't stand. At worst he's drunk and alone, recounting how he blew his last best chance with that pretty little rich girl. Easily John Hughes' most mature effort up to that point, the film encapsulated the social structure of the white, middle-class, suburban high school experience of the 1980s. It celebrated the characters and the institutional halls they roamed, but also paid respect to their anxieties and problems, and never implied that these weren't the best years of their lives. (1985, 97 min, Unconfirmed Format) JH
More info at www.thelogantheatre.com.
MORE SCREENINGS AND EVENTS
Also at the Film Studies Center (University of Chicago, Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.) this week is L.A. Rebellion: Shorts Program 3, screening on Saturday at 7pm. Introduced by Sergio Mims, co-founder and co-programmer of Chicago's Black Harvest Film Festival, this show includes Halie Gerima's 1972 experimental narrative CHILD OF RESISTANCE (36 min, 16mm), Shirikiana Aina's 1982 documentary BRICK BY BRICK (33 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format), an excerpt from Carroll Parrott Blue and Kristy H.A. Kang's 2003 DVD-ROM project THE DAWN AT MY BACK: MEMOIR OF A BLACK TEXAS UPBRINGING (10 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format), and Melvonna Ballenger's 1978 film RAIN (16 min). All Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format except where noted. Free Admission.
The Black Cinema House (6901 S. Dorchester Ave.) presents Black Radical Imagination on Sunday at 6pm. This program of African American science-fiction-themed work includes AFRONAUTS (Cristina De Middel, 2012, 5 min), REIFYING DESIRE 3 (Jacolby Satterwhite, 2012, 17 min), MAE'S JOURNAL (Amir George, 2013, 12 min), THE CHANGING SAME (Cauleen Smith, 2001, 10 min), and PUMZI (Wanuri Kahiu, 2010, 21 min). Unconfirmed Formats. Seating is limited; RSVP by emailing email@example.com to reserve seats. Free admission. www.blackcinemahouse.org
On Wednesday at 7pm, Lillstreet's Emerging Artists Lecture series presents Marianna Milhorat: Unfamiliar Lands at the Lillstreet Loft (4437 N. Ravenswood Ave. 2nd Floor). Local filmmaker and artist Milhorat will share and discuss her work.
On Sunday at Noon, High Concept Laboratories (1301 W. Wabansia) presents Artist-Build Tools and Slippery Standards: A Conversation with Jon Satrom. Satrom will discuss his interest and work in "dirty new media," glitch, databending, and more. Brunch and coffee included.
Columbia College Chicago presents their year-end arts extravaganza, Manifest, on Friday. As part of the activities, there are several screenings of student work. Sprite Films Behind-the-Scenes (1104 S. Wabash, 302; 11am-12pm); FrameWork Interviews--4 years in 2 minutes (1104 S. Wabash Lobby Plasma Screen and Conaway Center Computer Lab; 1-5pm); Curious Eye Experimental Screening (1104 S. Wabash, 504; 3 Screenings: 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm); Curious Body Experimental Installations (1104 S. Wabash, 503); Viva Documentary Student Screening (1104 S. Wabash, 502; 3 Screenings: 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm); MFA Film & Video Screening (1104 S. Wabash, 302; 1:15pm); Advanced Practicum Sneak Peek (Media Production Center, 1600 S. State St.; 2 Screenings: 1:30pm and 3:30pm); Music Video Premiere and Showcase (Quincy Wong Center at 623 S. Wabash; 1:30pm); and Animation Studio Production Showcase and Screening (Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash, 8th Floor; View art work at 3:30pm and 6:30pm; 2 Screenings: 4pm and 7pm). Free Admission for all screenings. More info at www.colum.edu/manifest-2013.
The Bodies of Work Festival of Disability Arts and Culture presents several screenings as part of the festival. This week features 4 Films by Stephen Dwoskin screening on Thursday (and repeated Saturday, May 25) at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Dwoskin, who died last year, was a prominent figure in the UK experimental and alternative film community, but is little known in the U.S. (the MCA curator and yours truly think this is the first screening of his work in Chicago in about two decades, so this is a rare chance to see a sampling of his work). Screening are PAIN IS... (1997, 80 min, 16mm; Noon), AGE IS... (75 min, 2012, Digital File; 1:30pm), BEHINDERT (1974, 96 min, DVD Projection; 3pm), and BALLET BLACK (1986, 86 min, 16mm; 4:30pm). Free with museum admission. Also showing are BENEATH THE BLINDFOLD (see Also Recommended above), and Niko von Glasow's 2008 documentary NOBODY'S PERFECT (90 min, Unconfirmed Format) at the Logan Center for the Arts (University of Chicago, 915 E 60th St.) on Wednesday at 6pm. Free Admission. bodiesofworkchicago.org
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: the Kartemquin Spring Showcase is at Sunday at 5pm, but is listed on the Siskel website as being sold out. Showing in the Asian American Showcase are Debbie Lum's 2012 film SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE (84 min, HDCam Video; Saturday, 8:15pm and Thursday, 6:15pm), Jason DaSilva's 2013 film WHEN I WALK (80 min, HDCam Video; Sunday, 3pm and Monday, 6pm; DaSilva tentatively in person at the Sunday screening), and S. Leo Chiang's 2012 film MR. CAO GOES TO WASHINGTON (72 min, HDCam Video; Tuesday, 6:15pm).
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Roman Polanski's 1968 film ROSEMARY'S BABY (136 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7, 9:15, and 11:30pm and Sunday at 1pm; Chris Marker's outstanding 1993 essay film THE LAST BOLSHEVIK (120 min, DigiBeta) is on Sunday at 7pm; Joseph H. Lewis' classic 1950 noir GUN CRAZY (86 min, DVD Projection) is on Monday at 7pm; Fred Schmidt-Arenales' 2013 film YOU SHOULD GO (47 min, DVD Projection) is on Monday at 9pm; Tsuchimoto Noriaki's 1971 Japanese film MINAMATA: THE VICTIMS AND THEIR WORLD (105 min, 16mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Werner Herzog's 1979 film WOYZECK (82 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7 and 9pm; Rob Reiner's 1984 mockumentary THIS IS SPINAL TAP (82 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:30pm; and a free rescheduled screening of Peter Clifton and Joe Massot's 1976 Led Zeppelin concert film THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME (137 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 11:15pm (Free).
Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Ben Wheatley's 2012 comedy SIGHTSEERS (88 min, Unconfirmed Format) opens; and Jim Sharman's 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight.
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens Ami Livne's 2012 Israeli film SHARQIYA (85 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 7pm; and Zeinabu irene Davis' 1999 film COMPENSATION (90 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) and Iverson White's 1985 short Dark Exodus (28 min, New 16mm Print) in the ongoing multi-venue L.A. Rebellion series. Zeinabu irene Davis in person and a sign language interpreter will be present for the discussion. Free.
Facets Cinémathèque screens Kim Ki-Duk's 2012 South Korean film PIETA (104 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run.
Landmark's Century Centre Cinema screens Joss Whedon's 2005 fantasy film SERENITY (119 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.
The Chicago History Museum screens Kartemquin Film's 1983 documentary THE LAST PULLMAN CAR (56 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 1:30pm. Free admission.
The Chicago Cultural Center continues the Cinema/Chicago international film series with Juliusz Machulski's 2008 Polish film HOW MUCH DOES THE TROJAN HORSE WEIGH? (117 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm; also showing this week is Nicole Newnham and Maren Grainger-Monsen's 2013 documentary THE REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISTS (95 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm. Free admission for both.
The Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Martha Coolidge's 1983 film VALLEY GIRL (99 min, DVD Projection) on Wednesday at dusk. www.facebook.com/squarelogan
The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1450) screens Carlo Mazzacurati's 2010 film THE PASSION (106 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm.
Also at the Patio Theater this week is Steven Spielberg's 1991 film HOOK (144 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 1pm (the website is unclear whether it screens on Sunday at well).
ONGOING FILM/VIDEO INSTALLATIONS
I Think We're Ready to Go to the Next Sequence: The Legacy of HalfLifers continues at Gallery 400 (UIC, 400 S. Peoria St.) through June 15. Included are works by the HalfLifers (Torsten Zenas Burns and Anthony Discenza) as well as work by 23E Laboratories, Jason Robert Bell, James Fotopoulos, Kari Gatzke, Lauren Marsden, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Bjørn Melhus, Shana Moulton, Caspar Stracke and MASTERS OF TIME AND SPACE, and Jennet Thomas.
The Presence of Absence continues at the Hairpin Arts Center (2800 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd Floor) through June 2. Curated by Northwestern University Department of Radio-TV-Film Professors Dave Tolchinsky and Debra Tolchinsky, and presented by Contemporary Arts Council, the show features work by installation/conceptual artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, new media artist Christopher Baker, filmmaker/installation artist Melika Bass, sculptor and School of the Art Institute professor Laurie Palmer, Colombian/Chicago painter Paola Cabal, installation artist Katarina Weslien, and filmmakers Robert Chase Heishman and Brendan Meara. The opening reception is Friday, May 10, from 5-7pm. Curators and Artists Talk, Saturday, May 18, 2-3pm.
Carrie Secrist Gallery (835 W. Washington Blvd.) continues Circle Spectre Paper Flame, a one-person show of recent work by Michael Robinson, including his 2012 video CIRCLE IN THE SAND, through May 18.
Andrew Rafacz Gallery (835 W. Washington Blvd.) continues Psychosexual through May 25. The show, which includes at least one video work (by former Chicagoan Kirsten Stoltmann).
The Museum of Contemporary Photography (Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan Ave.) continues the show Spectator Sports through July 3.