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:: Friday, AUG. 6 - Thursday, AUG. 12 ::


Super-8 Rides Again (Special Event)
Chicago Filmmakers - Friday, 8pm 
In the vernacular of cinema nothing says nostalgia and family quite like Super-8mm. With its simple light-tight cartridge and auto-exposure cameras it really was the format that gave the everyman a chance to capture memories when it was introduced in 1965. By reducing the technical skill required for filmmaking down to simply pointing and shooting it exponentially increased the number of home-movie makers and foreshadowed the era of video and the widespread documentation of weddings, school plays, and the oh-so-common Christmas mornings. While the amateur aesthetic this would suggest is not to be ignored during the unique show at Chicago Filmmakers tonight, nostalgia takes a back seat to a celebration of community. Twenty local filmmakers have each been given a single roll of film to shoot and no one, not even the filmmakers, gets a chance to see the results before they screen.* The format inspires introspection and familiarity, and it is sure to be central to a number of the films. For my contribution I walked around the Damen blue line stop early on a weekday morning and took ten-second portraits of people in my neighborhood. Both an experiment and a chance to talk to strangers on the street (I probably asked 75 people before I had enough willing participants), to me the film was a fitting reflection of the show. Being a part of an artistic community like that in Chicago is much like the city we call home: friendly, under the radar, formally challenging, and happy to take a risk. Many of the filmmakers will be in person. (2010, approx. 70 min, Super-8mm) JH 
*The only exception was for C-F's own Christy LeMaster, who discussed the screening on WBEZ's 848 on Thursday. Listen here.
More info and a list of participants at

King Vidor's OUR DAILY BREAD (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 7pm 
If Doc Films' recent revival of THE JACK-KNIFE MAN (1920) was any indication, the films of King Vidor are filled with hidden treasures waiting to rediscovered. JACK-KNIFE contained camera movements at least a decade ahead of their time and surprising changes in perspective, suggesting a universal sympathy, that remain daring even today. Perhaps Vidor's silent and early sound films feel so pioneering because Vidor entered into cinema almost literally as a pioneer: He paid his way to Hollywood by shooting newsreels along his route from Galveston, Texas, to California. Later, when he couldn't procure studio financing for the features he wanted to make, it was second nature for him to turn independent producer. This production method seems appropriate for OUR DAILY BREAD, an early sound drama about down-on-their-luck Americans joining efforts to launch a collective farm. Because of its socialistic subject matter, the film is widely considered one of the key U.S. movies of the Depression--though, ironically, Vidor was one of Hollywood's most outspoken conservatives. More likely than not, Vidor felt certain sentiments in the air and responded to them with characteristic imagination. This should make for exciting viewing, an ode to agriculture and human ingenuity comparable to certain Soviet films of the period. (1934, 80 min, 16mm) BS
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Anthony Mann's T-MEN (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 7 and 9pm 
Comparisons between the recent films of Michael Mann and the classic output of Anthony Mann may come a bit too obviously, but the police thriller T-MEN offers convincing proof of their common proclivities. Like the director of MANHUNTER and MIAMI VICE, Anthony Mann was fascinated by the workings of U.S. law enforcement, particularly the minutiae of technology and undercover work. He depicted each with great investigative detail, stuffing his narratives with so much procedural data as to make the subject matter feel abstract. Throughout the 1940s, Mann had a great partner in the cinematographer John Alton (later a frequent collaborator of Vincente Minnelli), another artist with tendencies toward abstraction. In T-MEN, Alton and Mann shoot entire suspense sequences in extreme close-up, construct geometric framings of rooms and building facades reminiscent of German Expressionism, and deliberately under-light night scenes so the darkness seems to want to swallow the rest of the image. (All of this should look great on the restored 35mm print that Doc will be showing.) The obscured heroes of T-MEN are Treasury Department agents assigned to infiltrate a counterfeiting ring. They're not easy to warm to, despite being rational, street smart, and morally upright. Because they're so effective as T-Men, they're practically inhuman--or is it the other way around? The film doesn't offer an answer; their nature remains ambiguous. The leads (Dennis O'Keefe and Alfred Ryder, both aptly anonymous-looking) are sworn to procedure; and over the course of the film, they lose more and more of themselves as a result. Trading their identities for crime-world aliases, Agents O'Brien and Genaro spend the next several months in thrall to the current of counterfeit money. Following any lead they can get on the far-reaching syndicate, they're moved from Los Angeles to Detroit to San Francisco and back to L.A. again. (The constant, dehumanizing travel especially anticipates Michael Mann.) Part of what makes T-MEN haunting as well as suspenseful is that its heroes are constantly having to take part in immoral activity to prove their criminal cover--and they do this, the stolid narrator keeps reminding us, out of none but the surest commitment to law and order. Beneath the terse storytelling and icy surfaces, the most complex moral paradoxes are being knotted. That the film begins with a documentary prologue about the true workings of U.S. government makes it even more provocative. (1947, 92 min, archival 35mm) BS
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Don Siegel's INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 and 9pm 
When you re-watch a movie that has been prodded, analyzed, inspected, and dissected as much as this cold war classic has, it frees you up. Unburdened from the necessity of having to pay attention to "what it means," you're suddenly at leisure to examine the film's details, trapped in cinematic amber, including all the banal little bits of business. One: Dr. Miles J. Bennell is a terrible motorist. He's always lurching through gearshifts, making turns going too fast, failing to break enough in advance, even hitting curbs. Then again, as studies have shown, drowsy driving is as bad as drunk driving. Speaking of drinks, when Miles and Becky go out to dinner they're never able to have so much as a sip of those mouthwatering martinis. They'll remain on the restaurant's bar for eternity. The movie is packed with such throwaways. Siegel's strictly no-nonsense style only heightens the impact of those moments when he allows for visual poetry. Who can forget the image of Miles and Becky lying side by side underneath the boards as their pursuers search for them, or the terrible epiphany only moments later when the blinding whiteness of Becky's eyes tell Miles that all is lost? (1956, 80 min, 16mm) RC 
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Prince's UNDER THE CHERRY MOON (American Revival)
Facets Cinémathèque
- Saturday, Midnight  
A weird tribute to pre-Code comedies made with the pacing and humor of a 1930s production and the aesthetics of a high-minded 80s music video transposed to some unusually (but beautifully) classical images courtesy of legendary Fassbinder and Scorsese collaborator Michael Ballhaus (he shot this one between AFTER HOURS and THE COLOR OF MONEY)--a mixture of new and old that borders on the Caraxian--UNDER THE CHERRY MOON is very certainly a vanity project, with special emphases on vanity and the most academic uses of project as a verb and whatever other terms you can think of that bring out the fact that this is an analysis of fantasy played as straight fantasy self-consciously. Shot from a script by No Wave Feminist and Nicholas Ray associate Becky Johnston (who'd eventually end up writing much more "respectable" and less self-aware fare in the 1990s), UNDER THE CHERRY MOON stars Prince in the Maurice Chevalier role, playing a good-hearted gigolo out to woo the women of Monaco. As a tiny man who wears a lot of make-up and wallpaper-patterned suits, Prince is inherently funny, and while the Prince of today is known for his apocalyptic self-seriousness, the Prince of mid-1980s realizes this and goes along with it, playing up his charming ridiculousness and shortness when he's not busy throwing in visual references to Jacques Demy's LOLA, having Ballhaus carefully frame and light his ass, making Jerry Lewis-like (a good point of comparison for the wackiness to earnestness ratio here) use of a 360° pan, or indulging in some gay-panic-free homoerotic humor with Jerome Benton of The Time. An Ernst Lubitsch parody directed as cross-pop-cultural pastiche, the movie's an ornate mirror for a man who's got no problem poking fun at his reflection. Part of the Facets Night School series; the talk is by music writer and studio engineer Andrew Horton. (1986, 98 min, DVD) IV
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E.A. Dupont's MOULIN ROUGE (Silent British Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7pm 
Ewald André Dupont was once a Film History 101 staple, but his reputation, founded largely on his 1925 film VARIETY, has declined considerably since the 1970s. Dave Kehr, usually forgiving, once put down VARIETY because "the blatancy that makes it so easy to teach is also its chief drawback as art." In a way, Dupont was the Rouben Mamoulian of the Silent Era, and like Mamoulian, he made much better films than his reputation as a technician with an "empty style" (whatever than means) suggests. It's odd to recommend a movie about dancers and dancing on account of a scene set largely in two cars, but more so than the dressing room sobbing or the floorshow routines, the movie's chase sequence represents Dupont's strengths as a director and just how far it's possible to go by thinking only about form. Racing across the night, the cars and their drivers turn into jittering shapes and textures; the sense of danger in the sequence is more potent--and more human--than the melodrama that surrounds it. (1928, 84 min, 16mm) IV
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Fred Niblo's THE MARK OF ZORRO (Silent American Revival)
Silent Film Society of Chicago at the Portage Theater - Friday, 8pm 
Typical Douglas Fairbanks fun. This year's Silent Summer Festival is pretty heavy on the Fred Niblo, and after last week's BEN-HUR: A TALE OF CHRIST they're presenting THE MARK OF ZORRO, a bit of breezy swashbuckling hokum in which costumed Fairbanks fences and leaps his way across a variety of tableaux while dodging an army of endless identical henchmen. In its action scenes, ZORRO scampers along with the fervor of a Méliès trick film, though the movie and its multi-level sets still owes more to the idea of spectacle prevalent in late 19th century theater than do, ironically, the theater-influenced films of D.W. Griffith (it's more photographed action than images); Niblo's relentlessly immobile frame gives the movie the entertaining/hypnotic quality of watching someone play the original Prince of Persia at quadruple speed (more correctly, it's the other way around, though then you get into the complicated, possibly tenuous link between 19th century theater and video games). Accompanied by Louisville, CO's Mont Alto Orchestra, a quintet who specialize in performing the popular music of the Silent Era. (1920, 107 min, 35mm) IV 
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Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (New "Complete" Restoration)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes 
The now-famous story of METROPOLIS' new restoration--nearly half an hour of footage recovered from a newly-discovered 16mm print that had been sitting in Argentina since 1928, comprising a more or less definitive version only a few minutes shorter than the premiere print--has eclipsed just exactly what those restored 25 minutes do to this Introduction to Film History juggernaut/music video reference-point, a delirious fantasy that's had the unfortunate fate of being boiled down to its "iconic moments," muddled politics (courtesy of an ostensibly "socialist" script by future Nazi Thea von Harbou) and its status as the only Fritz Lang movie to not have any real people in it (besides, of course, villain Rotwang). If previous versions (most notably the enthrallingly ridiculous one produced by Giorgio Moroder, which runs half the length of this one) made METROPOLIS seem more like a von Harbou film than a Lang one, the now "complete" version of this sprawling future fever-dream actually resembles a movie someone as smart as dear old Fritz would make. More nuanced because it is more excessive, the restored METROPOLIS is a film that understands (and feels through) its artificiality--as well as the fixations with death and female sexuality inherent in its material--instead of presenting it as straight allegory; it's fitting that the first piece of restored footage, arriving about seven minutes in, is a brief sequence of a man applying make-up to a woman. Since METROPOLIS tells its story (about a 21st century city made possible by a caste of underground-dwelling workers) through two substitutions--the son of the city's ruler taking the place of a worker; a vicious cyborg taking the place of a saintly young woman--previous versions have inevitably picked the son (Gustav Fröhlich) over the worker (Erwin Biswanger), and the cyborg over the girl (both played by Brigitte Helm; in this case it's understandable, because she is more interesting playing a villain). This version restores the ample screen time devoted to 11811, the prole who trades places with heir apparent/smirking naïf Freder, and to 11811's adventures in upper-class decadence (especially in a scene that now seems essential--a car filling up with flyers for a local night club, dissolving into a montage of excesses), as well as many apocalyptic hallucinations and black-gloved intrigues (especially so in the case of striking Lang regular Fritz Rasp; essentially an extra in previous versions, this cut presents him as a major character in both the realities of the plot and in Freder's nightmares). (1926, 147 min, DigiBeta video) IV 
More info at

Todd Solondz's LIFE DURING WARTIME (New American)
Music Box - Check Venue website for showtimes

The simplest techniques can often have the most complex results. The Cliff Notes structure and rigid shot-reverse-master approach of LIFE DURING WARTIME makes it an uncommonly transparent movie: it's always clear not only how the scenes fit together (why the dead boyfriend shows up, why Charlotte Rampling talks to Ciaran Hinds, why the existence of certain characters is ambiguous) and how they relate to previous scenes, but how each was filmed. Since abandoning pretensions to being Woody Allen (FEAR, ANXIETY & DEPRESSION), Todd Solondz has set out to become the American Bertrand Blier instead, producing his own UN, DEUX, TROIS, SOLEIL! (PALINDROMES) as well as films marked by Blierian cleverness (STORYTELLING), ugliness (WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE), and weary distance (HAPPINESS). But Solondz is too forgiving and too eager to present himself as an uncynical naïf to be blunt and mean; that, in turn, is what makes him Solondz instead of (merely and completely) the American Bertrand Blier. WARTIME, which stands with the first part of STORYTELLING as Solondz's best work, is both his most formally aware and least self-conscious movie; maybe this is because Solondz no longer worries about being accused of "formalism" and because the various conceits (ghosts, changes in lighting, clear statements of theme and purpose, "dialogue" and "monologue" as crisply delineated as "wide shot" and "close-up") are less forced than the relative naturalism of WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. Through its bullshit-less clarity, through its paring away of everything that doesn't relate to its clearly stated ideas, WARTIME becomes both Solondz's most nuanced statement of his artistic intentions (and simple morals) and his most direct and entertaining feature. (2009, 98 min, 35mm) IV 
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(American Revival)

Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 5:45pm and Thursday, 6:15pm
As befitting their retrospective of domestic auteurism's ultimate man-child, the Siskel screens ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN--reputedly the favorite movie of a five year-old Quentin Tarantino. While this supposedly humorous, reflexive pastiche of 30s Universal horror icons (re-played by Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr.) might be said to be an influence on Tarantino's own supposedly humorous pastiches, what the film (among others in its vein, e.g. ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY) most prominently presages is the seemingly novel genre interpolations of 1984's GHOSTBUSTERS--which effectively alternated between pure comedy and suspense/horror scenes almost entirely via the use of eerie string-section cues in the latter. But while GHOSTBUSTERS cleverly transposed the stale Gothic villains of its progenitors into a threateningly pantheistic Mesopotamian occultism (and opposed that in turn to an empiricist entrepreneurship), FRANKENSTEIN is uninterested in making said villains remotely relevant to postwar politics, and more fascinated with generating stylistic bouillabaisse from the studio's corpus of available sets and costumes. Most strikingly, the potentially whimsical psychological dichotomy of the leads is constrained by Bud Abbott's unyieldingly stern sobriety. An idealized, infallible superego if there ever was one, he perhaps represents the solemn, patriarchal voice inside Tarantino's head that manages to generate in perpetuity his form of adolescent, discriminatory rebellion. Like many of those works, this is a legitimate historical curiosity as a theatrical screening, but I wouldn't go on a date. (1948, 83 min, 35mm) MC
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Quentin Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (New American)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 2:45pn and Tuesday, 6:30pm
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
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The Bank of America Cinema screens Joseph Losey's 1954 drama THE SLEEPING TIGER on Saturday at 8pm. 
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Andrew Jacobs' 2008 documentary FOUR SEASONS LODGE screens Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday; and the Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video opens Friday and runs through September 2. Programs this week include the Opening Night shorts program A Black Harvest Feast, feature films INDIA OF K-TOWN and MY AMERICAN NURSE 2, and the shorts program Black History - Lost and Found. Check the Film Center website for details and visiting artists. 

Also at Facets Cinémathèque this week: Victor Nuñez's 2009 drama SPOKEN WORD plays for a week.
Also at the Music Box this week: Kate Davis and David Heilbroner's new documentary STONEWALL UPRISING opens; THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE continues; Stanley Donen's 1963 Audrey Hepburn/Cary Grant comic thriller CHARADE is the Saturday and Sunday matinee; and the weekend midnight films are Ivan Reitman's 1973 horror film CANNIBAL GIRLS (Friday and Saturday; showing from video), Spike and Mike's New Generation Animation (Friday only), and Tommy Wiseau's THE ROOM (Saturday only). 

The Chicago Cultural Center hosts Cinema/Chicago's presentation of Ricardo Darín's 2007 Argentinean film THE SIGNAL on Saturday at 2pm and Gianni Zanasi's 2007 Italian film DON'T THINK ABOUT IT on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Both from DVD. Also this week, on Sunday at 1pm, is Gary Hawkins and Emily LaDue's new jazz documentary IN MY MIND.

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CINE-LIST: August 6 - August 12, 2010


CONTRIBUTORS / Michael Castelle, Rob Christopher, Jason Halprin, Christy LeMaster, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

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