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:: Friday, JAN. 29 - Thursday, FEB. 4 ::


Critical Mass: The Legacy of Hollis Frampton
Frampton’s A LECTURE Presented by Michael Snow – SOLD OUT
(Special Event / Film Conference)

Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) – Friday, 7pm (6pm reception)

Hollis Frampton Conference

Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) – Saturday and Sunday, beginning 10am each day (9:30am Continental Breakfast)
The citywide, multi-venue celebration of Hollis Frampton wraps up this weekend with three days of inquiry and exploration. Legendary filmmaker and Frampton collaborator Michael Snow kicks it off Friday night with a sold-out reading of Frampton’s performative A LECTURE. There's still a slim chance you can get in if someone doesn't show up, and it's worth taking the risk. Often Frampton's films attempt to utilize the cinematic form to analyze its own psychosomatic processes, and while successful, they can be rather cloistered. By contrast, with A LECTURE he crafted a performance between narrator and projectionist that, although germane to an academic discussion of how one interacts with the silver screen, is more-so a tale of the people and tools that mesh and fight before we get to sit back and enjoy Bogie and Bacall. Self-consciously deconstructing the social act of going to the movies sounds boring, but Frampton's intelligence and humor make it fun. As the performance begins a voice asks: “Please turn out the lights. If we're going to talk about movies, we might as well do it in the dark.” It's interesting that he's says “we,” because for the next sixty minutes or so “we” will sit passively while “he” uses the essence of cinema to engulf us. We are one with the world on the screen. The voice emanating from the speakers of the auditorium was always intended to vary, and the choice of Snow for Friday should be an inspired one. On Saturday and Sunday all are welcome when some of the top scholars, historians, and makers of experimental cinema hold court (along with a healthy dose of upcoming ones) with a series of panels looking at Frampton's work and legacy. Participants include historian and author Scott MacDonald, filmmaker and preservationist Bill Brand, filmmaker and musician Tony Conrad, historian and author P. Adams Sitney, film and video maker Keith Sanborn, Canadian filmmaker and author Bruce Elder, SAIC’s Bruce Jenkins, and the U of C’s Tom Gunning, who organized the conference. JH
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Films by Gregory Markopoulos (Experimental Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Tuesday, 7pm
Despite the welcome availability of his films again (after a couple decades of withdrawal), retrospectives, an exhibition catalog, and new preservation work, Gregory Markopoulos is still (sadly) the lost man of the American avant-garde. While the acclaim he received in the 1960s is returning, it is going to be a while yet before he is as casually referred to as other masters of experimental film like Brakhage, Anger, and Breer. Though his films are accessible again (thanks to his partner, filmmaker Robert Beavers), they are also infrequently shown. So this program of mostly early works is doubly crucial, for their rarity and their greatness. Markopoulos’ films are thematically marked by his life-long interest in Greek mythology (naturally so, given his Greek heritage) and formally by his intricate and unique editing. He shuffles time in his films—quick edits flash forward and back, co-mingling past, present, and future into a time out of time. Author P. Adams Sitney refers to this as “atemporal construction” and rightly notes Markopoulos as one of the most radical narrative filmmakers. (He was, more specifically, an experimental maker who frequently made radical experimental narratives.). Sitney also notes Markopoulos’ insightful use of color. Indeed, he was one of the great colorists of cinema, along with Douglas Sirk and Vincente Minnelli, imbuing particular colors with symbolic meaning within the framework of his films. All of these thematic and formal elements can be seen in his early trilogy Du sang, de la volupté, et de la mort, comprised of PSYCHE, LYSIS, and CHARMIDES (1947-48). Markopoulos’ non-narrative side is showcased in the stunning SORROWS (1969), a delicate and haunting “portrait” of place featuring carefully controlled in-camera double-exposures. Also showing: FLOWERS OF ASPHALT (1951) and SWAIN (1950). (1947-1969, 107 min total, 16mm) PF
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Andrea Arnold’s FISH TANK (New International)
Music Box
– Check venue website for showtimes
The sophomore feature from Andrea Arnold is a raw and unsettling portrait of 15 year-old Mia, a girl living in a dismal UK housing project with her dysfunctional mom and little sister. Katie Jarvis delivers a robust portrayal as her character confronts her developing sexuality and personal independence. Much like her first film, the BAFTA-sweeping RED ROAD (2006), Arnold doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the flaws of her female characters. Mia's teenage experience is disconcerting and made even dangerous at times by her surroundings. She is foul-mouthed and cagey, but to Arnold's credit we don't hesitate to identify with her. The scope of the movie is completely Mia's experience; the camera moves with her in almost every shot. When her mother gets an attractive new boyfriend, played by Michael Fassbender, things start to spiral downward fast. FISH TANK fits well in the British tradition of social realism movies, but banishes any sentimentality in exchange for allowing its characters to respond fully to their ever-worsening circumstances. Still, in all that goes wrong, Arnold provides Mia, and thereby the audience, small moments of rest, beauty, and limited transcendence. (2009, 122 min, 35mm) CL
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Andrew Bujalski’s BEESWAX (New American)

Gene Siskel Film Center – Check venue website for showtimes
Andrew Bujalski's somewhat cultivated association with the non-style/marketing ploy/auteurist hot potato known as mumblecore (a term as nebulous and loosely applied as grunge) will likely put him at a disadvantage with the average Cine-File-perusing folk. But there’s ample evidence to suggest that he takes his work more seriously than many of the directors with whom he’s been lumped together: for starters, he shoots on film and takes several years between features, each of which has taken place in a different city and has subtly differing rhythms matched to each new locale. BEESWAX, Bujalski’s third film, tracks twin sisters in Austin and carries an appropriately stoned vibe—at once relaxed and paranoid. It also marks a departure from his earlier work in more obvious ways: it’s his first feature in widescreen and he doesn’t act in it, instead drawing fine lead performances out of twin non-actors Tilly and Maggie Hatcher as well as disarmingly funny supporting turns from directors Alex Karposky and Bob Byington. FUNNY HA HA and MUTUAL APPRECIATION charted the arrested development of inarticulate twenty-somethings, so it follows that Bujalski’s first film of his thirties can be viewed as a coming of age film. His first two films were sometimes chided as myopic—as though addressing global concerns were the responsibility of such a flagrantly modest filmmaker—but in BEESWAX the unmistakably adult world of contracts and lawyers intrudes on his characters' idle chitchat. Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher) is getting squeezed out of her once-friendly co-ownership of a thrift store and must navigate the only thing more cryptic than relationships in a Bujalski film: legal documents. The muttered dialogue and awkward exchanges that divided viewers of his previous films are here applied to business, and though the stakes are more practical, the emotions they uncover are surprisingly familiar. In its roundabout way, BEESWAX gently confronts a good portion of Bujalski’s audience with truths they probably don’t want to address: that they’re not in their 20s anymore, and they should probably start an IRA and get it together already. Bujalski, Tilly Hatcher, and actress Anne Dodge will appear at various screenings over the weekend. (2009, 100 min, 35mm) MK
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Jacques Tati’s JOUR DE FETE and MR. HULOT’S HOLIDAY (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Showtimes noted below
Orson Welles made a good joke about Jacques Tati once, something about how he was the only actor who disappeared in close-up. Of course for Tati it was never about actors but action: an actor is alone, but one acts against something, even if it's just a wall or a fence. Comedy, Tati postulated, should involve as many people as possible; it's selfish for us to have "comedians" when so many people, the audience included, could take part in a joke. That's why he disliked Chaplin—the Tramp was too "special," too apart from humanity. We allow him that much, the same way that we allow Nabokov to dislike Dostoevsky; Tati was the greatest comedy director after Chaplin, and formally even more revolutionary. The Film Center will be starting off its Tati retrospective by screening his first two feature films this week. JOUR DE FÊTE (1949, 79 min, 35mm; Saturday, 4:45pm and Monday, 6pm), Tati's first feature, made before he invented his famous M. Hulot character, stars the director as a country postman, just one horse in a merry-go-round town on Bastille Day. The original color version of the film, long unavailable in the US, will be screened. MR. HULOT'S HOLIDAY (1953, 88 min, 35mm; Saturday, 3pm and Wednesday, 6pm) is the seaside comedy of mannerisms that debuted Tati's signature character—his Tramp, we could say, whom he tried for years to downplay and eventually planned to kill off in a film he never managed to get financed. Hulot, with his hat and pipe, has a weird posture, an awkwardness that caricatures Tati's own lanky frame in a manner completely unlike Chaplin, who hid his fairly handsome face behind a false moustache and make-up and kept his wiry build secure in a baggy costume, therefore preventing his appearance from being the butt of any jokes until MONSIEUR VERDOUX—and then only as a parody of sophistication. Chaplin loved the close-up: it was an effective emotional tool that also focused attention on himself. But Tati disappeared in close-up because he was always out in the open: half of every one of his jokes is on himself. A true and devoted clown. IV
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Steven Soderbergh's THE INFORMANT! (New American)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 & 9:15pm and Sunday, 3:30pm
With THE INFORMANT! Steven Soderbergh builds on his recent experiments with filmmaking technology and narrative to make one of his most enjoyable movies. The film continues in the journalistic vein of CHE and THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, but the tone is lighter—even silly—with Soderbergh's characteristically rapid approach yielding a breathless, non sequitur tone. At the center of it is Matt Damon's glorious comic performance as Mark Whitacre, the corn industry executive who alerted the FBI to a price-fixing scandal in the mid-1990s. Damon plays him as smart but self-deluded and driven by an implausible degree of optimism; Soderbergh matches him with a style at once entertaining and puzzlingly off-kilter. Many have noted the odd decisions of hiring showboating composer Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line, Woody Allen's BANANAS) to write the score or casting so many comic actors (Patton Oswalt, Joel McHale, and—in a welcome return to the screen—the Smothers Brothers) in non-comic roles. Just as integral to the sweet/tart taste is the cinematography, which finds Soderbergh working with a sunnier palette than usual while just as fixated with harsh backlighting as he was in GIRLFRIEND. Much of the film makes you want to laugh without knowing why: add to that the confidence with which so much information is relayed and you get the most accurate reconstruction of a bipolar's manic phase the movies have yet presented. The DSM-specificity of Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Burns' depiction brings to mind the work of Lodge Kerrigan (which Soderbergh has helped to finance), just as the Old Hollywood pastiche of THE GOOD GERMAN seemed a response to Todd Haynes' FAR FROM HEAVEN (ditto). Such allusions confirm Soderbergh's place at the crossroads of American cinema—as much as his pioneering work with the RED camera does, which allowed him to shoot this $25 million production in record time. As a result, THE INFORMANT! is the rare work that finds common ground between mainstream and arthouse filmmaking; and it possesses a stinging social conscience as well. The film is just as outraged by corporate malfeasance as the Soderbergh-produced MICHAEL CLAYTON, but in playing it for laughs THE INFORMANT! goes further in conveying its jaw-dropping obscenity. (2009, 108 min, 35mm) BS
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Denis Villeneuve’s NEXT FLOOR (New Canadian Short)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) – Thursday, 7pm
A fitting short in theme and tone to play before Bunuel’s THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (which it is), NEXT FLOOR is an enigmatic and eviscerating dark comedy (of sorts) that is anything but subtle. Eleven diners—from the monied class, as evidenced by their clothing—gorge themselves on an appallingly decadent meal (calf fetuses, armadillo, etc.) while being attended to by a hustling wait staff and a stone-faced Maitre D. This gastronomic excess becomes metaphoric and leads to their downfall—quite literally, though I won’t spoil what happens. NEXT FLOOR is a biting indictment of class, one that feels relevant given the continuing gap between rich and poor and the financial scandals of late. While the diners themselves look like they come from the late 19th or early 20th century, they are in fact presented as anachronistic remnants of the past; their dining space is an abandoned and dilapidated industrial looking building. They are a pocket of privilege in a world falling apart around them. Villeneuve has referred to the film as surrealist and, indeed, the characters look like they could have walked out of Bunuel’s 1930 L’AGE D’OR. NEXT FLOOR is something of a one-note “joke”—but it is a wicked and sharp one and provides enough openness of interpretation and narrative ambiguity to keep it just this side of bombast. Oh, and the 35mm widescreen cinematography is completely gorgeous. (2008, 11 min, 35mm) PF
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www.blockmuseum.northwestern. edu.

Gary Graver's 3 A.M. (Adult/Cult Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 9:45pm
The last major decade (the 1970s) of Orson Welles filmmaking life was filled with unfinished projects, countless reworking of older unfinished films, and occasional stirrings to craft a new epic. Perhaps the strangest player throughout this period was Gary Graver, a rather undistinguished exploitation filmmaker who became one of Welles' last confidants and protégés. Graver himself soon became a maverick director of sorts, crafting close to 100 X-rated and exploitation films (many direct to video) between the mid 70s and the late 90s. Despite Welles' seeming respect for Graver, his films range from passably watchable to downright dreadful—except for his debut hardcore production, 1975's 3 A.M. Shot over the course of a week near Monterey California, 3 A.M. not only ranks as Gary Graver's finest hour but as perhaps the most Bergman-esque X-rated film ever made. It deals with themes ranging from infidelity, to claustrophobia, isolation, identity conflicts, suicide, and more. The narrative focuses on a family (husband, wife, wife's sister, and the couple's two teenagers) who live in a metaphorical glass house on the beach. Though isolated from the rest of the world, their extreme closeness to each other drives them mad with hatred and jealousy. Opening with the revelation that sister-in-law Kate (played with great theatrical prowess by one of sexploitation's finest thespians/over-actors, Georgina Spelvin) has been having an affair with her sister's husband, events soon lead to Kate's accidentally killing her brother-in-law, getting away with it, but not being able to hide her feelings of guilt and loneliness from her grieving relatives. 3 A.M. is an uncompromisingly dreary film but features an excellent script by under-appreciated genre-film screenwriter Tony Crechales (who also scripted Graver's other near-masterpiece, THE ATTIC) and photography by Michael Stringer, who makes great use of the open landscapes which surround the beach-house setting, while simultaneously using long takes and moodily lit rooms to highlight the desperation and isolation felt by the characters. Although Spelvin is really the only noteworthy actor in the production, Charles Hooper's quiet and unassuming performance as Ronnie, the teenage son, is surprisingly deep and complex for such a film and the decision his character makes in the closing minutes unequivocally alters the course of his family's lives. Although it's hard to say how much of the film's success is thanks to Graver, as opposed to the good screenplay he was working from and his talented cast and crew, 3 A.M. is still his undeniable masterpiece and it ranks amongst the most complex and intellectual sexploitation films ever made. (1975, 86 min, 16mm) JR
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Erich von Stroheim’s QUEEN KELLY (American/Silent Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Friday and Tuesday, 6pm
The little moral (if you can call it that) of almost every Erich von Stroheim film is that every fate is worse than death. The plot of QUEEN KELLY is one of Stroheim's cruel and unusual fantasies: in a fairy-tale kingdom a virtuous girl (Gloria Swanson) is swept off her feet by the dashing aristocrat, only to discover that she's going to be a whore and not a princess. QUEEN KELLY could be subtitled, in the style of MASCULIN FEMININ, "FRAGMENTS OF A FILM SHOT IN 1928 IN BLACK AND WHITE." Fragments—but what a film. The scraps of von Stroheim's unfinished monster are maddening: 101 minutes of a planned 240, but still more potent that thousands of finished films made with their directors' complete control. Swanson's gradual decline is devastating, an innocent daydream that slowly fades into a queasy reality and then into an inescapable nightmare. Virginia Wright Wexman lectures at the Tuesday screening. (1929, 101 min, 35mm) IV
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Jean-Pierre Melville's LE CERCLE ROUGE (French Revival)
Music Box - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am
Alain Delon, mustachioed and raincoated, must commit a crime. And of course the police must try and stop him. Men must hide, find accomplices, shoot each other at point blank range, plan a heist. Their faces, photographed in Eastmancolor, have a tone halfway between consumptive and pallid. Their footsteps are muffled, their voices are quiet; they have to listen intently just to hear each other. LE CERCLE ROUGE is Jean-Pierre Melville's most merciless film. Everywhere else, Melville's men, like Michael Mann's (and unlike Anthony Mann's), are free but compelled. But in LE CERCLE ROUGE, there's no more compulsion, only the mechanics of plot. It's not because of some personal moral code that the characters act, but because of the roles they've been given: the thief, the inspector, the security guard, the killer. Honor's got nothing to do with it. Life is a sort of machine through which a person is fed for seventy or so years. Not that Melville's characters ever live to that ripe old age—but maybe that's for the best. Death isn't "fated"; it's a different sort of inevitability, social rather than metaphysical. (1970, 140 min, 35mm) IV
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The Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center presents a program of work by experimental video artist Dara Birnbaum on Thursday at 6pm, with Birnbaum in person.

John M. Stahl’s 1934 version of IMITATION OF LIFE screens Saturday at 8pm at the Bank of America Cinema.

Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: on Friday, the program Landscape Annihilates Consciousness includes experimental videos by Sterling Ruby, Jacqueline Goss, Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby, Steve Matheson, and Brendan Fernandes; the documentary VISUAL ACOUSTICS: THE MODERNISMS OF JULIUS SCHULMAN screens Saturday; and Luis Bunuel’s THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (with the short NEXT FLOOR, see above) plays on Thursday.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Spike Jonze’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE screens Friday night and Sunday afternoon; Preston Sturges’ 1947 comedy MAD WEDNESDAY is Sunday; Tony Richardson’s 1962 British drama A TASTE OF HONEY is on Monday; David Lynch’s WILD AT HEART is Wednesday; and John Ford’s THE QUIET MAN is the early Thursday film.

The 2002 Argentinean gay crime thriller BURNT MONEY is showing Friday in the Reeling Monthly series at Chicago Filmmakers

At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Benoît Pilon’s Canadian drama THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE plays for a week and Facet’s Night School series returns with the 1989 Indonesian curiosity LADY TERMINATOR (Saturday at midnight), with a talk by Lew Ojeda.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center  this week: Hurt McDermott’s comedy BLACK MAIL screens Friday, Saturday, and Wednesday, with McDermott in person at all three shows; Karen Shakhnazarov’s 2009 film WARD NO.6 (Sunday and Thursday) and Andrei Konchalovsky’s 1970 film UNCLE VANYA (Sunday and Monday) begin a series of adaptations from Chekhov writings.

Also at the Music Box this week: Terry Gilliam’s THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS continues; Wes Anderson’s THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX is midnight Friday and Saturday and in the matinee slot Saturday and Sunday; and MYSTERY TEAM is the other weekend midnight film.

Columbia College Chicago’s Cinema Slapdown can’t top the last installment, which featured Blago waxing poetic about Elvis, but Thursday finds philosophy professor Dr. Stephen Asma battling Film & Video Dept. assistant professor and filmmaker Julian Grant about the merits (or demerits) of Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. It’s at Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash, 8th Floor, at 7pm.

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CINE-LIST: February 5 - February 11, 2010


CONTRIBUTORS / Jason Halprin, Michael King, Christy LeMaster, Joe Rubin, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

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