Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, AUG. 31 - Thursday, SEPT. 3 ::


Alfred Hitchcock’s MARNIE (Classic Revival)
Music Box – Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am
MARNIE may very well be Alfred Hitchcock’s most divisive film. The story of a neurotic, compulsive thief (Tippi Hedren) blackmailed into marriage by her employer (Sean Connery), MARNIE was maligned at the time of its release for its overt artificiality: Hitchcock employed painted backdrops and rear projection almost amateurishly; Hedren, never trained as an actress, was visibly uncomfortable in the title role; Bernard Herrmann’s score (his last for Hitchcock) recycled familiar elements of his previous work. And yet these attributes contribute to the film’s singular power, which exposes the artificiality of some of our most hallowed institutions (work, marriage, parenthood) against the primal dread they conceal. Dave Kehr has compared this to the work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and it’s every bit as stylized and unnerving as such a statement would suggest. (1964, 131 min, 35mm) BS
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Alain Cavalier's LE COMBAT DANS L’ÎLE (Classic Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Check Reader Movies for showtimes
The opening titles credit Louis Malle with the "supervision," and it's true; he produced the film as a way to get back at the Nouvelle Vague, whom he saw as a bunch of crypto-fascists. Maybe he never realized he was one, too, and that, unlike the Nouvelle Vague, he had no capacity for change. Anyway, let's be thankful that it was Alain Cavalier who directed it, and not Malle. Even in 1962, there was enough of Malle's hypercorrectiveness and goddamn taste to last a lifetime (if only he'd stuck to sailing with Cousteau!). The self-serious credits might make you think you're in familiarly dull territory, but then we have the first image: a woman's face emerging from the darkness, as though walking towards the camera, though, as we soon realize, she's sitting in the backseat of a car that has just passed a streetlight. We’re in unfamiliar territory, but so are the characters; as soon as they think they know what genre they’re in, the plot changes. In the middle of a domestic drama, a former actress (Romy Schneider) discovers a rocket launcher in the hallway closet. It belongs to her businessman husband (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a member of a militant right-wing cell. From there the film becomes a wistful thriller, then a romance and a love triangle (with Trintignant’s school friend, a printer played by Henri Serre), until Trintignant shows up at the end to try and bully everyone into a being part of his suspense story. (1962, 104 min, new 35mm print) IV
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Frank Borzage's 7TH HEAVEN (Classic Revival)
Silent Film Society of Chicago at the Portage Theater - Friday, 8pm
Along with Murnau's SUNRISE, Frank Borzage's 7TH HEAVEN was the most accoladed American film of 1927, and in fact received more nominations at the first-ever Academy Awards. Its stature has since been eclipsed by that of SUNRISE, but it remains a major film by one of American cinema's major artists. Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell play working-poor types in pre-World War I Paris. They are brought together by circumstance and are forced to marry; as this is a Borzage film, however, the arbitrariness of their union only intensifies the love that develops between them. In his later masterpiece THE MORTAL STORM (1940), Borzage would demonize Nazism by showing a good family ripped apart by its dictates; in 7TH HEAVEN, he depicts the Great War as a force that cruelly separated the lovers of Europe. Such ideas may seem facile on the page, but Borzage's greatness is in the utter conviction with which he argues them: No, there is nothing more important in life than to love and anything that prevents us from doing so should be treated with skepticism, if not repulsion. Even though Borzage spent the second half of his directorial career in the Sound Age, he remained one of the great silent filmmakers until his retirement in 1959: Few directors were as good at charting a direct passage from the image (especially the sensitive close-up of a loving face) to pure emotion. This revival of Borzage's third-to-last silent film gives Chicago a welcome chance to behold the artist in his element. (Portage Theater regular Dennis Scott will provide live organ accompaniment for this screening.) (1927, 110 min, 35mm) BS
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Zummer Tapez: Kent Lambert (Experimental)
Roots & Culture Gallery (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) – Sunday, 8pm
Roots and Culture gallery continues its Zummer Tapez series with local videomaker Kent Lambert presenting a collection of his own video work intermixed with pieces from his favorite kindred contemporaries. Perhaps better known as the lead songwriter and singer of the band Roommate, Lambert has also produced a number of often-hilarious found-footage videos over the years. Mining mainly VHS era clips, his work has roasted such stalwarts as Ken Burns (KEN BURNS GIVE YOU SOMETHING), John Ashcroft (SECURITY ANTHEM), and Philip Michael Thomas of Miami Vice fame (WHACK). Graced with a keen sense of editorial timing, Lambert uses his subject's own words to twist their egos into knots without going straight for the cheap laugh. But beyond humor, Lambert can turn his source material into sonic landscapes with a beat—à la EBN—and juxtapose images to unlock the cultural bias contained within. He will also present two new pieces, WHSVHS #1 and FANTASY SUITE, along with work by Animal Charm, Shana Moulton, Emily Kuehn, Michael Robinson, and more. (1999-2009, approx. 75 min, Video) JH
Lambert’s website is at
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Roger Corman's A BUCKET OF BLOOD (Classic Revival/Cult)
Bank of America Cinema - Saturday, 8pm
If you ever wanted to know why character actor Dick Miller is treated with such reverence in Joe Dante's movies (GREMLINS, MATINEE, etc.), look no further than A BUCKET OF BLOOD, the film that gave Miller his only leading role. It's one of the many low-budget features Roger Corman churned out on a seemingly weekly basis in the 50s and 60s, predicated on cheap shocks and lowbrow humor; what distinguishes this from the others is its surprising tenderness and cultural satire. Miller plays Walter Paisley, a terminally shy man trying to make it in the beatnik art world. After accidentally drowning his cat in plaster, he becomes a hit on the gallery circuit with a series of highly "realistic" statues. The sentiment of this black comedy is very much in line with the "sick" humor of the 1950s underground (which also included the stand-up of Lenny Bruce, the sketch comedy of Nichols & May, and the comic strips of Jules Feiffer), but Miller's sympathetic performance gives the film an added dimension. Short, soft-spoken (but proudly displaying his Bronx accent) and given to actorly quirks, Miller emerges as a genuine presence in a genre built largely on flatness and cliché. That the film is so funny is an added bonus. (1959, 66 min, 16mm) BS

FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (Contemporary Revival)
Music Box – Friday and Saturday, Midnight

Sometimes there is a moment of pure serendipity in one's life and, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. Case in point: the Chicago History Museum is presenting the film that not only taught countless youngsters how to properly play sick, but also showcased our city as the playground for Matthew Broderick's under stimulated Northshore slacker. In a performance that made him a bonafide leading man at the age of 23, Broderick creates a character so clever and charming that you can’t help but root for him. Beginning with a little white lie about a serious illness to get a final day off before going to college, Ferris schemes to cheer up his best friend Cameron with a VIP tour of the city. Wrigley Field, the Art Institute, Michigan Avenue, and the Sears Tower (“I think I see my dad”) are the backdrop for the greatest senior ditch day ever put on film. Its enduring appeal lies in the subplot, however, in which the evil dean of students, Edward Rooney (Jeffery Jones), vows to catch Ferris in the act and force him to repeat his senior year. The screening is free, and will take place on the lawn behind the museum starting at dusk. (1986, 103 min, 35mm) JH
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Also at the Music Box this week: YOUSSOU N’DOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE, a new documentary on the Senegalese singer, opens Friday. Director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi appears in person for the 7:20 shows on Friday and Saturday; Doug Pray’s documentary ART & COPY and the Danish thriller FLAME & CITRON both continue; and, in addition to FERRIS BUELLER (see above), the other midnight films on Friday and Saturday are DEAD SNOW (Friday only) and THE ROOM (Saturday only).

Chicago Filmmakers presents John Cameron Mitchell’s SHORTBUS in its monthly Reeling series on Friday (social hour at 7pm; screening at 8pm) and The Controlled Mistake: Experimental Films by Heather McAdams Part II, with filmmaker and cartoonist McAdams in person, on Saturday (8pm). The program opens with a live set by musician Matt Miller.

Facets Cinémathèque continues with Roy Andersson’s YOU, THE LIVING for another week (see last week’s review here); Satish Manwar’s 2008 Indian film THE DAMNED RAIN plays Saturday and Sunday at 12:30pm; and the “Facets Night School” selection this week is Michele Soavi’s 1994 horror-comedy CEMETARY MAN (Saturday, midnight), which is discussed by Patrick Ogle.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: the final week of the Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video features six programs, several with artists in person. Of particular interest is local documentarian Bob Hercules’ new film RADICAL DISCIPLE: THE STORY OF FATHER PFLEGER, a portrait of the South-Side activist priest. Hercules and, tentatively, Pfleger are scheduled to appear at both the Friday and Sunday screenings; On Monday, a new comedy-drama AMREEKA receives an advance screening before its theatrical run. Director Cherien Dabin will be in person; the edge drama DOWNLOADING NANCY has three screenings on Saturday and Monday.

The Portage Theater presents the 1936 James Cagney vehicle GREAT GUY in its Wednesday matinee series (1:30pm, projected DVD) and hosts the charity benefit event “Can’t Stop the Serenity” on Saturday, which features screenings of SERENITY and the three-episode DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-ALONG BLOG.

On Wednesday, the Chicago International Film Festival’s summer screening series at the Chicago Cultural Center presents David Marengo’s 2007 Italian film NIGHT BUS (DVD projection).

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CINE-LIST: August 28 September 3, 2009


CONTRIBUTORS / Jason Halprin, Christy LeMaster, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

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