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:: Friday, AUG. 21 - Thursday, AUG. 27 ::


Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne's LORNA'S SILENCE (New Belgian)
Piper's Alley - Check Reader Movies for showtimes

The Dardenne brothers are conceivably the most important directors in European cinema today, passionately invested in overlooked members of society while making films that are both artistically accomplished and exciting to watch. Staying close to their working-poor characters with hand-held camerawork redolent of cinéma vérité and Maurice Pialat, the Dardennes ask viewers to live alongside the disadvantaged, not simply to regard them. In this way, they also seem the last practitioners of a spiritual film art once upheld by Dreyer, Bresson, and Tarkovsky, where the influence of Christian humanism challenges the viewer to take a more enlightened attitude toward human suffering. LORNA'S SILENCE is another masterpiece in the Dardennes' formidable body of work, characteristically unsparing and humane. The focus this time is on an Albanian immigrant (Arta Dobroshi) married to a Belgian heroin addict (Jeremie Renier) to gain citizenship. Her plight is just as thoroughly realized as their other protagonists (Apart from Frederick Wiseman, does anyone else make such gripping mise-en-scene out of public housing?) and no less cathartic. It should be noted that the brothers' view of poverty has at least one root in film noir: In this instance, the heroine must disentangle herself from a plot to murder her husband before tragedy strikes. But their mastery as filmmakers builds on the urgency of the material to convey the dire experience of so many illegal immigrants. As in ROSETTA or L'ENFANT, there's no sanctimoniousness here--the story moves too breathlessly for that. Like those other films, LORNA'S SILENCE grows in intensity until its characters find themselves, literally, in a matter of life or death. The power of life wins out, as usual, but it is with such passion, relief, and gratitude that the viewer leaves exhausted, more appreciative of their own humanity. LORNA'S SILENCE is at times difficult viewing (It doesn't gloss over the agonies of heroin addiction or human trafficking), but the characters' pain is always tempered by a feeling for life's majesty that is universally recognizable. There are few greater achievements in political filmmaking. (2008, 105 min, 35mm) BS
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Roy Andersson's YOU, THE LIVING (New Scandinavian)
Facets Cinémathèque - Check Reader Movies for showtimes

This is comedy that is drier than a Churchill martini, so deadpan it makes Buñuel look like The Three Stooges. YOU, THE LIVING is a hilarious, frequently surreal series of tableaux that may or may not take place in the afterlife. It's even better than Andersson's previous film, SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR, utilizing many ingenious trompe-l'oeil effects. It's dreamlike and anything but ponderous. Picture Rene Magritte running amok in an IKEA showroom populated by (among others) a lovesick teenage girl who's infatuated with a goth guitarist, a tuba-playing psychiatrist, a melancholy carpet salesman, and an Arab barber. Each scene is captured in a single shot, and characters in one scene sometimes reappear in another. In the second half, people keep pausing from their actions to look up at something; when we finally discover what it is, the moment is both elegant and terrifying. (2007, 95 min, 35mm) RC
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Silver Traces: Films by Bruce Wood (Experimental)
White Light Cinema at The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee) - Friday, 8pm

Is there anything more exciting than seeing excellent films by a gifted new artist or a regrettably forgotten talent? White Light Cinema does the latter tonight, revisiting the work of former Chicagoan Bruce Wood. After getting his BFA at Mass Arts, Wood came to Chicago specifically to study under Stan Brakhage at the Art Institute. While the Brakhage's influence can certainly be felt (as well as influences from painters like Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell, and the graphic cinema of Hans Richter and Robert Breer), Wood created something unique and quite powerful. The two earlier works are the longest, each about half an hour, and establish a world of black and white abstraction, of swirling, pulsing shapes, of a raging vacillation between stillness and explosions of form. FROZEN FLIGHT (1977) is certainly a tour-de-force, but seems to be the weakest of the program. THE BRIDGE OF HEAVEN (1977) features elements both starkly structural (frames in frames, grids, x's, A-frames) and sensually dancing (swirling clouds of grain, creeping white suggestive blobs). The two later films are shorter and seem to be more focused and direct. Brakhage's influence can be felt most keenly in BETWEEN GLANCES (1978), which (only half-jokingly) seems like an expression of "closed-eye vision" from inside of one of Warhol's Silver Clouds. The probable masterpiece of the night is THE SMELL OF DEATH (1977, printed and "released" 2004). The film alternates between three modes. First, the slowly fading image of an "X"--suggestive of a failing system (medical equipment? the body?). Then skeletal fingers caressing the surface of the film (from the viewpoint of the dying's last sense of this world? or of the dying's reaching out onto the next?). Finally, stuttering torn pulses of light--something like flesh being destroyed. It's a great film--and perfectly encapsulates Wood's talent for giving a fully formed world born of simply Black and White. (1977-1978, 95 min total, 16mm) JM
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Note: This event was organized by C-F editor Patrick Friel.


Quentin Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (New American)
Various Venues - Check Reader Movies for theaters and showtimes

You can take PULP FICTION and KILL BILL, but please leave Christoph Waltz talking to the French dairy farmer, the guessing games at La Louisiane, Daniel Brühl’s awkward courtship of Mélanie Laurent. That is, leave INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. It’s juvenile, wrongheaded, self-aggrandizing, stupid, completely spot-on, probably Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, maybe the only moral film anyone has made about “the war” since THE BIG RED ONE. A great big caricature of a movie, gentle in tone and abrasive in structure. Here’s a so-called war film with war nowhere to be found: just people sitting and speaking the most beautiful dialogue Quentin Tarantino has ever written. Apparently, when you strip his characters of recognizable pop culture references, they become human beings (references abound, but to a popular culture most audience members won’t be familiar with, and more so in the mise-en-scene than the dialogue). They cry, they whimper, they become tense, they act stupidly. They’re set up as gags (the multi-lingual “Jew hunter,” the film-critic-turned-officer, the intrusive SS officer), but they feel real, all of them, except maybe Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine: chin and chest puffed out like Desperate Dan, he carries himself like Robin Williams’ Popeye. He’s the punchline to the film; the issue is that film itself isn't a joke. In fact, it’s dead serious: maybe you need a full and rowdy theater to catch it, but the Nazi audience at the film premiere sounds the same as the audience cheering the rare violence in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Tarantino knows this. (2009, 153 min, 35mm) IV

Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW (Classic Revival)
Music Box – Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

Grace Kelly was never lovelier, "the right girl for any man with half a brain who can get one eye open." Thus spoke Thelma Ritter to Jimmy Stewart's sardonic photographer. The three function as a superb trio, as jazzy as Franz Waxman's score; equally matched and indivisible, perhaps the only such formation in any Hitchcock film. Through an alchemy yet to be duplicated, Hitchcock and writer John Michael Hayes got together and somehow fashioned the most perfect screenplay ever created. The characters' dialogue as written and performed meshes seamlessly with Hitchcock's own monologue—one which brilliantly uses camera, editing table, and sound design. Especially the latter. Its diegetic soundscape remains thrillingly unique. And its pacing is flawless; it's tightly conceived yet never seems to be in a hurry. No matter how many times you've seen it, this is one movie that never stops offering up new pleasures. (1954, 112 min, 35mm) RC
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Hayao Miyazaki’s PONYO (New Animation)
Multiple Venues – Check Reader Movies for theaters and showtimes

Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, PONYO, is once again given a Disney treatment in the belief that American’s can’t handle something in its original language. Disney works to enhance their own brand by casting Noah Cyrus, Hannah Montana's little sister, and Frankie Jonas, another of the Jonas Brothers, to voice characters, along with Matt Damon, Tina Fey, and Liam Neeson. The youngest Jonas provides the voice for Sosuke, a pure-hearted 5-year old who lives in a cliff-bound house overlooking the ocean with his mother Lisa (Fey) and ship captain father (Damon), and who one day encounters Ponyo (Cyrus), a magical fish who wants to turn into a human. Much lighter than previous Ghibli Studios successes like SPIRITED AWAY or NAUSICAA, PONYO contents itself for much of its running time with gags about ham or senior citizens, which are pleasant but tend to lose focus. Still, PONYO's hand-painted seascapes are likely to be the most beautiful animated images to be seen in American cineplexes this year. Despite the Anglo-fied voice-overs, Miyazaki's direction reflects the real joys of animation; watching his skill with something as simple as a character's hair blowing when they stick their head out of a car window can be inspiring. (2008, 100 min, 35mm) LN

SOUTH MAIN (Documentary)
Chicago Filmmakers – Saturday, 8pm

When a public housing project in South Central Los Angeles is shuttered due to gang violence, the law-abiding residents find themselves displaced. Director Kelly Parker shows the story of three such families and their struggles with the transition to life in Section 8 housing in 2005. A fiancé who is killed in a drive-by-shooting the night before the move and increased bills that leave the family closer to poverty are the content of the stories told here, but the style is what makes this film original. In a departure from cinéma vérité, the camera remains mostly static—save for the handheld shots taken by the family members—and the filmmaker is content to let the matriarch of each family directly address the camera for extended monologues. Although this strategy is not always successful, sometimes drawing more attention to the presence of the camera than is necessary, Parker ultimately benefits from her minimal production scale and the familiarity with her subjects that it allows. Additionally, the intentional stylistic choice of allowing the camera to be a presence rather than an extension of the filmmaker works to keep the film from becoming a sweeping statement about poverty, and privileges the individual stories that it tells. (2008, 77 min, DVD) JH
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John Hughes' SIXTEEN CANDLES (Cult Revival)
Music Box – Friday and Saturday, Midnight

I wonder whether the Music Box's decision to play two films by the recently deceased John Hughes—beginning with his 1984 debut feature SIXTEEN CANDLES—is a mere coincidence or a shrewd move. Regardless, CANDLES is probably the best and most palatable of Hughes generally entertaining productions. It's Samantha's (Molly Ringwald) sixteenth birthday and her life isn't going as planned. Not only did her family forget this special day, but also she doesn't know how to approach the boy of her dreams. Adding to her complications, she has also "loaned" her underwear to a geek so he can win a bet that he's had sex. It's funny how early-80s teen comedies make high school seem more interesting (or "profound") than it actually ever is. But SIXTEEN CANDLES, which has the ambiance of an after-school special but the dialogue of a teen sex comedy, magically works because of the unlikely combination. The near-constant sexist and racist humor (e.g., a gong is sounded each time the Chinese exchange student, named Long Duk Dong, appears on screen), along with its dated musical and fashion sense and a delightfully predictable finale, has helped to make the film a cult classic. But when stripped of nostalgia and kitsch value, SIXTEEN CANDLES remains a worthy interpretation of high-school life, as it can only be experienced in the movies. (1984, 94 min, 35mm) JR
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Also at the Music Box this week: Ole Christian Madsen’s Danish WWII thriller FLAME & CITRON and Doug Pray’s documentary ART & COPY, about advertising innovators, both open Friday. DEAD SNOW (Friday) and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (Saturday) are the other midnight films (see 16 CANDLES above).

The Chicago Outdoor Film Festival (Grant Park) concludes on Tuesday (dusk) with Sidney Pollack’s 1982 comedy TOOTSIE.

Bank of America Cinema presents the Sherlock Holmes double feature THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1939, Sidney Lanfield) and THE WOMAN IN GREEN (1945, Roy William Neill) on Saturday at 8pm.

Facets Cinémathèque’s Saturday midnight “Night School” series screens the 1985 Chevy Chase film FLETCH (DVD projection), directed by Michael Ritchie. Eric Holst gives the talk.

At the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR, Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary on the acclaimed fashion designer, has week long run; Karen Shakhnazarov’s 2008 Russian drama THE VANISHED EMPIRE has four screenings; and week three of the Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video includes six program, many with artists in person. Highlights include the Lawrence Lee Wallace’s locally made IF YOU LOVE ME.

At the Portage Theater this week: the Silent Film Society of Chicago’s summer festival continues on Friday (8pm) with Raoul Walsh’s 1924 fantasy adventure THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, with live organ accompaniment by Dennis Scott; on Saturday is a quadruple-feature of horror and fantasy films (all showing from DVD): cult director Monte Hellman’s 1960 BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE (5pm), the 1966 TV-spin off MUNSTER, GO HOME! (6:30pm), Ridley Scott’s 1985 LEGEND (8:45pm), and the 1944 Boris Karloff feature HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (10:15pm); the new horror film PICKMAN’S MUSE, directed by Robert Cappelletto, has a free screening on Sunday (1pm); and the Portage’s Wednesday matinee series features the 1946 Paul Muni film ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER (1:30pm).

The Chicago International Film Festival’s summer series continues at the Chicago Cultural Center on Wednesday (6:30pm) with the 2008 Swiss film LIFE FOR SALE (DVD projection), directed by Dominique de Rivaz. A post-screening discussion will be led by Hank Sartin, Film Editor at Time Out Chicago.

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CINE-LIST: August 21 August 26, 2009


CONTRIBUTORS / Rob Chirstopher, Jason Halprin, Christy LeMaster, Josh Mabe, Liam Neff, Joe Rubin, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

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