Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
x x x x x x
> Sign up
> Editorial Statement
> Last Week > Next Week
a weekly guide to alternative cinema- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
:: Friday, JULY 30 - Thursday, AUG. 5 ::


Maren Ade's EVERYONE ELSE (New German)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday and Monday, 8pm and Wednesday, 6pm 
Chris and Gitti, a sensitive couple with little discernible ambition, come apart during a lazy vacation in Sardinia, though their dissolution isn't the result of violent flare-ups so much as personal insecurities and deep-seated passive-aggression. In synopsis, Maren Ade's second feature sounds like the sort of low-budget relationship drama we've come so accustomed to forgetting in recent years; and, indeed, its opening stretches look out over a great pitfall of solipsism. But EVERYONE ELSE displays rare patience and its insights are well worth waiting for. It becomes apparent, for instance, that this seemingly aimless film is actually moving at a pace unique to its main characters--who, like many newly-serious couples, operate on their own time, governed in part by libido but just as much by curiosity, a willingness to drop everything for the revelation of a lover's secret, a shared discovery, a new inside joke. (It should be noted that Ade is as deliberate in her handling of time as Bela Tarr.) It's also revealed that what appeared to be the filmmakers' solipsism is actually the characters' denial of certain hard realities; and, in fact, this revelation becomes the driving force of the entire film. Chris and Gitti are well aware of the middle-class lifestyle they're trying to escape--It's the source of the film's title--as well as darker philosophic issues most everyone spends adult life trying to avoid. The film contains several monologues of self-examination reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman's chamber dramas, probably the closest point-of-reference for Ade's psychological examination, and the leads respond to the material with performances of uncommon complexity. Needless to say, this sort of filmmaking is an acquired taste (It requires that you see universal angst even in these thirty-something fuck-ups), but Ade and her cast are so thorough in their characterizations that even irritated viewers should be impressed with their perceptiveness; those receptive to their mission should find this downright unsettling. Once the couple's happiness is proven to be unsustainable, EVERYONE ELSE proceeds with the anxious tension of a horror movie. Every revelation of character carries a sense of unspoken threat, a nervousness that's in no way diminished by the sexiness of the leads or the edenic palette of Bernhard Keller's 35mm photography. (2009, 119 min, 35mm) BS 
More info at

Frank Borzage's I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 7 and 9pm

If one subscribes to the popular (if anything about the permanently unfashionable Borzage can be called "popular") notion of Frank Borzage as a "transcendental romantic," then I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU is the most Borzagean title imaginable: a sentence that includes the personal aspect of love (the "I" and "YOU" are specific individuals) while simultaneously painting love as something beyond time or space (it could be said, then, that THE LAST MISTRESS, also screening in town this week, is both Borzagean and anti-Borzagean: the story of a flawed, debilitating relationship that transcends everything). But as with all great directors, nothing is that simple about Borzage. The one thing that is certainly "transcended" in I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU is the Liberace-like production design (who exactly owns a gold-plated piano?), but if the film seems to be set in some kind of dream/nightmare universe with a palette as expressively garish as the one Tashlin used in CINDERFELLA (special emphasis on electric indigo and fuchsia)--a place where women wear Mountain Dew-colored dresses and no room is complete without Doric columns--it is also firmly grounded in it. The two forces at the film's center (love and art), the two obsessions shared by its rival pianist couple, do not so much cross the boundaries of space as become space itself. When the film cuts between them, or when it is taken over by one of the many musical interludes, it's not emotion passing over the world, but the earthly being shaped in accordance with human desire. (1944, 117 min, archival 35mm) IV
More info at

Satyajit Ray's NAYAK (Indian Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday 7pm

Satyajit Ray's famous realism is more literary than pictorial/dramatic, and it manifests itself in the fact that he takes his goddamn time. Robin Wood once rightly called Ray the best director of children, but he also happens to be the best director of the infirm elderly, and the only director in whose cinema they don't seem out of place. Part of that may be that Ray's directing is defined by patience towards his subjects; if it takes a while for someone to stand up, he can wait. The easy thing to say is that Ray made 2 1/2 hour "70-minute films," devoting images, ideas, and details (location, characterization, custom) to the sorts of plots even the most concerned filmmakers wouldn't think warranted the running time (the oft-repeated story is that François Truffaut walked out of PATHER PANCHALI's world premiere). But that only makes his films sound bloated, when in fact they're lean, and it's possible that no other filmmaker hinted better at the complexity of the world without ever pointing it out. Ray's a "problem filmmaker," not a "solution filmmaker," and, like all of his best films, NAYAK uses its excess of scenes to complicate what should be a simple story. A train ride undertaken by a famous actor is the launching point for a profusion of dreams, flashbacks, conversations, social miniatures, and interviews through which a group of what at first appear to be one-dimensional characters (the Actor, the Nosy Reporter, the Fan, the Old Crank Who Steals the Show, etc.) become part of a larger framework that explores the way the past shapes present selves. #1 Satyajit Ray superfan Wes Anderson would lift NAYAK's setting and part of its structure (as well as its sensitivity to the traumas of its "privileged" characters) for THE DARJEELING LIMITED, a movie that also abounds with visual references to this film. (1966, 130 min, 35mm) IV
More info at


Catherine Breillat's THE LAST MISTRESS (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday 6pm, Sunday 3pm and Wednesday 8:15pm

Georges Bataille: "Paradoxically, intimacy is violence, and it is destruction, because it is not compatible with the positing of the separate individual." Giovanna Mezzogiorno's descent into madness in the second half of VINCERE takes that line as a suggestion, but the relationship that accepts it as a rule is the one between THE LAST MISTRESS' Ryno and Vellini, which begins as l'amour fou and then plunges into oblivion. It's the first half of the 19th century; Ryno, played by Fu'ad Aït Aattou (Louis Garrel's self-importance + Ashton Kutcher's smugness), is a handsome fop set to marry a wholesome girl from a wealthy family. However, he has a bad reputation, and one evening he sits down with his bride's grandmother to tell the story of the last ten years of his life in an attempt to prove that he's changed his ways. That account is largely the story of his all-consuming, sometimes abusive, eventually insane affair with Vellini (Asia Argento), professional mistress, woman of ill repute, and the love of his life, whether he accepts it or not. An enticing enigma, Vellini, like those characters in Godard's early films that base their entire lives on movie-images, has a head full of paintings, and contorts herself into the shape of an inviting Goya or a tragic Fuseli for the men around her. And it's here that we return to that Bataille line and the paradox of Ryno and Vellini's relationship, which revolves around the two constantly switching places as to which one is incapable of imagining the other as anything but an extension of themselves (as, in essence, an image). Whenever Ryno breaks free (or thinks he has), Vellini is there like a ghost to drag him back into Hell. Argento--with that gap between her teeth and those too-broad shoulders and that deep voice)--is almost as scary as Beatrice Dalle here, and looks a good fifteen years older than the boyish Aattou (in reality, it's only 5); her performance, one of the greatest of the last twenty or so years, is a catalogue of leans, saunters, careful turns of the neck and shoulders that explode into feral fits. You can never tell whether she's going to fuck Aattou or stab him (sometimes it's both). Catherine Breillat's reputation may be that of a "provocateur," but her real vitality as a director/screenwriter lies in the best (or maybe the only good) kind of academicism: she's a subtext-miner and analyst. That's why her two best films, which also happen to be her two most recent ones, are both adaptations of well-established works: BLUEBEARD (which screened at this year's EU Fest) and this one. Breillat may not have much pure imagination (ANATOMY OF HELL, FAT GIRL and ROMANCE all seem to be self-conscious texts in search of a plot), but she has something almost as good: an imaginative intelligence. That's more or less THE LAST MISTRESS in a nutshell: a masterwork of imaginative intelligence, of counter-point, as much on Argento's part as on Breillat's. (2007, 104 min, 35mm) IV
More info at
Note: The Film Center's screenings of Breillat's SEX IS COMEDY have been canceled.

Leontine Sagan's MÄDCHEN IN UNIFORM (German Revival)
Center on Halsted (3656 N Halsted) - Friday, 7pm
The story of a fourteen year old girl's relationship to both her teacher and her headmistress at a traditional German boarding school, Leontine Sagan's MÄDCHEN IN UNIFORM is a film marked both by controversy and multiple stages of critical assessment. Although popular in Europe upon release in 1931, the film was banned both in the US (to be released only after significant cuts) and by Goebbels following the Nazi assumption of power. It was not shown again in Germany until a 1977 television broadcast, while screenings at New York and Chicago women's film festivals in the mid-70s generated a significant reevaluation of the film, heralding it as a landmark of queer cinema, with some suggesting that it may be the first film with an openly lesbian storyline. In his seminal survey of Weimar cinema, From Caligari To Hitler, Siegfried Kracauer reads the film as a progressive response to the rising tide of fascism that was to overtake Germany in 1933. Despite its abstention from the expressionism that dominated the 1920s, Kracauer sees MADCHEN, along with films like DOCTOR MABUSE and THE CABINET OF DOCTOR CALIGARI, as exploring ideas of despotism and rebellion, with the tyrants of their story lines as nothing less than prefigurations of Hitler. MADCHEN's anti-fascism dominates much of the early commentary on the film, which sees it as a critique of the authoritarianism of the Prussian school system and an exploration of the emotional ramifications of life under dictatorship. However, such a reading obscures the film's palpable lesbian cadence. As B. Ruby Rich has written, " ... most important to the film's reputation through the years has been its significance as an anti-authoritarian and prophetically anti-fascist film....In emphasizing the film's progressive stance in relation to the Nazi assumption of power, however, film historians have tended to overlook, minimize, or trivialize the film's central concern with love between women... One of the few films to have an inherently gay sensibility, it is also one of the most central to establishing a history of lesbian cinema." (1931, 87 min, DVD). EB
More info at
Screening will be introduced by UIC Germanic Studies professor Sara Hall.

Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (Italian Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes 
For many, the greatest film about filmmaking and Federico Fellini's finest hour. 8 1/2 is a work of such grandeur that it demands to be seen on a big screen--if nothing else but for the Chagall-esque final images, a celebration of the "carnival of life" as dreamt by a passionate artist on a massive oceanside set for a film that will never be made. It's also a film that demands to be heard in a theater, as the music of Nino Rota (Fellini's frequent collaborator) is rarely less than ravishing. "Fellini's camera is endlessly delighting. His actors often seem to be dancing rather than simply walking... [and Rota's] music brought a lift and subtle rhythm to their movements," wrote Roger Ebert in his "Great Movies" review, a deft formal analysis of a director often accused of groundless style. But if there's a movie defensible for groundless style, it's 8 1/2, a portrait of a film director's vibrant inner life as a mosaic of memories, dreams, sex fantasies, and ever-surprising images. Marcello Mastroianni, at the height of his star power, managed to make an iconic performance by standing in for Fellini, but the whole cast is ultimately dwarfed by the scope of Fellini's imagination. To again quote Ebert's review: "Few directors make better use of space. One of his favorite techniques is to focus on a moving group in the background and track with them past foreground faces that slide in and out of frame. He also likes to establish a scene with a master shot, which then becomes a closeup when a character stands up into frame to greet us. Another technique is to follow his characters as they walk, photographing them in three-quarter profile, as they turn back toward the camera. And he likes to begin dance sequences with one partner smiling invitingly toward the camera before the other partner joins in the dance. All of these moves are brought together in his characteristic parades. Inspired by a childhood love of the circus, Fellini used parades in all his films--not structured parades but informal ones, people moving together toward a common goal or to the same music, some in the foreground, some farther away... I have seen 8 1/2 over and over again, and my appreciation only deepens. It does what is almost impossible: Fellini is a magician who discusses, reveals, explains and deconstructs his tricks, while still fooling us with them." (1963, 138 min, 35mm) BS
More info at

Robert Flaherty's MAN OF ARAN (International Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7pm

Robert Flaherty may not have actually invented the documentary, but he invented Werner Herzog, and as is often the case, the original is better than the copy. Bouregois fantasies of marginalization, all of Flaherty's best films are morally problematic (if not outright reprehensible), and yet every one of them is an enduring work of art, redeemed by what could be called Flaherty's unconscious poetic urge. Flaherty tries to convey the ethnographic fact of his subjects but fails, and in his romanticism is instead guided to a greater basic truth . Flaherty's early fixation with human hardship reaches its apex with MAN OF ARAN, in which the director arranges a villageful of poor Irishmen into fictional families, anachronistic pageants and staged "actualities" (the shark-hunting at the center of the film's most famous sequences hadn't been practiced since the 19th century) that create striking metaphors for his own sense of human smallness. Inauthentic and totally true. (1934, 76 min, 16mm) IV
More info at

Fred Niblo's BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST (Silent American Revival)

Silent Film Society of Chicago at the Portage Theater - Friday, 8pm
Based on Lew Wallace's novel of the same title, Fred Niblo's 1925 silent film was a sensational hit in many aspects. As the trailer--which is as elaborate as the film itself--boasts, it hired 15,000 extras for the spectacular battle scenes and the climactic chariot race. Ramon Novarro plays Judah Ben-Hur, a young wealthy Jewish man who is arrested by his childhood friend Messala (played by Francis Bushman). Now a powerful Roman commander, Messala sends Ben-Hur's mother and sister to jail and confiscates their family possessions. Ben-Hur is sentenced to be a galley slave and on his way to a Roman warship, he is unknowingly touched by the hand of the Christ. During a battle with pirates, Ben-Hur rescues a Roman admiral, Arrius. The admiral adopts Ben-Hur as a son and he grows up as an excellent chariot racer, believing that his family is dead.  Ben-Hur gets his revenge on Messala by defeating him in a chariot race and leaving him fatally injured. With his last breath, Messala tells Ben-Hur that his mother and sister are not dead but living in a village of lepers. Having been converted to Christianity, Ben-Hur's mother and sister are cured of their leprosy at the crucifixion of the Christ. Following the novel's structure, the film of BEN-HUR parallels the story of Judah Ben-Hur and the contemporaneous life of Christ, switching back and forth between scenes of each and bringing them together at times. With its four million dollar budget BEN-HUR is the most expensive silent film ever made. The grand scale of this elaborate production is beautifully captured with excellent camera work. It is hard to remember this is pre-CGI, as the sea battle and the chariot race scenes are lengthy (over ten minutes) and spectacular. Fatal accidents among the racers were captured and later led to new safety rules. To someone who is not a silent film connoisseur, the acting is unexpectedly smooth and subtle. The film includes selected scenes (such as the Nativity scene) in two-strip Technicolor, which at the time of its release was considered in poor taste. For many modern audiences who might be more familiar with the 1959 remake (starring Charlton Heston), Niblo's BEN-HUR is certainly, as its advertising claimed, "The Picture Every Christian Must See"--and perhaps non-Christians as well. Jay Warren provides live organ accompaniment. (1927, 143 min, 35mm) HB
More info at


Kartemquin Films is holding a fundraiser for local filmmaker Usama Alshaibi's in-progress documentary AMERICAN ARAB on Thursday from 6-9pm at The Stan Mansion in Logan Square. Complete details here.

Bank of America Cinema screens Andre de Toth's acclaimed 1944 film NONE SHALL ESCAPE on Saturday at 8pm. 
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Richard Blackburn's little known 1973 horror-suspense film LEMORA: A CHILD'S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL screens Saturday.       

At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Neil Jordan's new film ONDINE plays for a week; note that the scheduled screening of REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS in the Facets Night School series on Saturday has been cancelled. 

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Ana Sofia Joanes' new documentary FRESH plays for a week; Quentin Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN screens Saturday and Tuesday; Robert Rodriguez's ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is on Saturday and Monday; and Alina Szpak's new drama PLAYER screens on Saturday and Thursday (showing with Aleksandra Hodowany's short LAST DANCE). Filmmakers in person. 
Chicago Filmmakers screens Yael Hersonski's 2009 documentary A FILM UNFINISHED on Sunday at 3pm. The film, which investigates the historical reality of an hour long uncompleted Nazi propaganda movie, will be introduced by UIC history professor Dr. Richard Levy. Co-presented by Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies. 
At the Music Box this week: Michael Paul Stephenson's documentary BEST WORST MOVIE opens. It's about the film TROLL 2. Director Stephenson and actor George Hardy in person at the 9:45pm show Friday; and, what are the chances (?), it happens that Claudio Fragasso's 1990 film TROLL 2 is showing Friday and Saturday at midnight; the other midnight program is Spike and Mike's New Generation Animation, which also has additional showings Friday-Sunday only (including the weekend matinee slots); Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio's new documentary CROPSEY plays Monday-Thursday; the other matinee program this Saturday and Sunday is Silly Silent Slapstick Shorts, which features five early Harold Lloyd comedies with live organ accompaniment; also, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE continues. 

Chicago Cultural Center hosts Cinema/Chicago's presentation of Raphael Nadjari's 2004 Israeli film STONES on Saturday at 2pm and Ricardo Darín's 2007 Argentinean film THE SIGNAL on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Both from DVD. 

Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens THE BREAKFAST CLUB (from DVD) on Wednesday at 9pm on the East Lawn of the Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

CINE-LIST: July 30 - August 5, 2010


CONTRIBUTORS / Hyunjung Bae, Erika Balsom, Christy LeMaster, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

> Editorial Statement -> Contact