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:: Friday, JULY 23 - Thursday, JULY 29 ::

Ah, summer in Chicago!  A time to take it easy, let your cinephilic obsessions slide, go see something big or loud or dumb (or all three) at the multiplex. But not so fast! Local programmers and venues have made those of us who love film a bit crazy with an abundance of riches. Whether it's Doc Films usual insane summer schedule (where nearly everything is some kind of great), the Silent Film Society of Chicago's summer series (which starts today with Harold Lloyd's THE FRESHMAN in 35mm), a 35mm IB Technicolor print of Allan Dwan's SLIGHTLY SCARLET in Facets "Night School" series, rarely shown experimental films by James Herbert at Chicago Filmmakers, Jodie Mack's contribution to curator Alexander Stewart's always-a-blast Zummer Tapez series at Roots & Culture, rare music film items from filmmaker Bill Daniel's collection at the Nightingale, Alain Resnais' latest continuing at the Music Box, Abbas Kiarostami at the Film Center, Frank Tashlin directing Martin and Lewis at the Bank of America Cinema, there is just no let up! So, avoid that evil skin-cancer causing sunshine and head to the dark of the theater. Everyone is bound to find something of interest below and to make it a little harder on you all, we're listing a very generous selection of Crucial Viewings this week (we certainly think they are crucial).  -Editor


Zummer Tapez: Jodie Mack (Video Mix Tape) 
Roots & Culture Gallery (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Sunday, 8pm  
Animator Jodie Mack has brightened Chicago's experimental film scene for the last half-decade with her trademark clash of abstraction and familiarity. Often collage based, her work exhibits a rigorous understanding of formalist structures while sidestepping the alienation sometime affiliated with experimental short form. Mack's world is one of vivid color, lively music, and wordplay. Rather than obscuring the connection to cinematic genre, Mack embraces it, creating in the process work that is visually inventive, invested in form and still unabashedly fun.  Her Zummer Tapez program promises a transcendent mix of movie musicals, abstract animation, internet vocal performances, all edited together at Mackspeed, which is almost assuredly faster than most of us. Mack will also be doing a presentation on optical toys on Thursday at Enemy (1550 N. Milwaukee) at 7pm in the venue's Dorkbot series. (Various Years, approx. 60 min total, Various Formats) CL

Andre de Toth's LAST OF THE COMANCHES (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 and 9pm
LAST OF THE COMANCHES is more or less an Indians-and-cavalry remake of Zoltan Korda's 1943 escape-the-Afrika-Korps actioner SAHARA (itself another LOST PATROL variation), meaning it's about as sublimely generic as it gets. The set-up (two groups band together to fight off an enemy while also trying to hold on to a source of water in a desolate landscape) has been kneaded like dough with every iteration. One-eyed Hungarian lawyer-turned-director Andre de Toth (See! De Toth and Cayette have more in common than just first names!) was as unlikely a Western director as Fritz Lang, but while Lang's Westerns work because of a tension between director and material, De Toth's are the result of the comfortable success of an unlikely marriage. Here's a guy who should has no business making cowboy pictures but who feels totally at home with them. Made on the heels of his superb SPRINGFIELD RIFLE, LAST OF THE COMANCHES is an exercise (in the best, most vigorous sense) in Western action, with brawny pans in the battle scenes, a lead role by the unjustly neglected Broderick Crawford (once a big name, he eventually disappeared into the netherworld of mid-20th century TV) and some surprisingly Michael Bay-like explosions. [Word is that this is a "drop dead gorgeous" print in excellent condition. - Ed.] (1953, 85 min, 35mm) IV
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Allan Dwan's SLIGHTLY SCARLET (American Revival)
Facets Cinémathèque - Saturday, Midnight
"A dame is a dame--there's bound to be something you can nail her on!" It's French New Wave Influence Week here in Chicago, with ARTISTS & MODELS (Bank of America), THE WRONG MAN (Doc), a Billy Wilder (the Music Box), an early Joseph H. Lewis (Doc again) and, at Facets' Night School midnight screening series, Jean-Luc Godard favorite SLIGHTLY SCARLET, a slyly brutal picture by the two-fisted (but never ham-fisted) Allan Dwan. Possibly Dwan's finest late-period film (he was 71 by the time it was released), full of pulpy nuance and subtle garishness, it's the tale of two red-haired sisters (Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming) caught in the middle of a big city gangsters-vs.-politicians opera. Dahl is an on-the-make secretary, and Fleming is the troubled sibling whose kleptomania recently landed her in jail. Rarer than the color noir (and SLIGHTLY SCARLET is one--shot in RKO "Superscope" to boot) is the noir that could only have been shot in color, and the images strike an odd balance between DC Comics and Francisco Goya. Dwan had an unparalleled rhythm for editing, often the most overlooked aspect classical Hollywood films; the expressiveness of the cutting here ("I often shoot with scissors in my eyes!" he once said), from the startling opening sequence onward, finds its only real contemporary in the work of Samuel Fuller. This screening is part of Facets' "Night School" series and will be introduced by Cine-File contributor (and Doc Films Chair and Bank of America Assistant Manager and ubiquitous projectionist) Julian Antos. (1956, 99 min, 35mm IB Technicolor print) IV
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Alfred Hitchcock's THE WRONG MAN (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 7 and 9:30pm 
Alfred Hitchcock adopted a tone of stark realism to tell the true story of a family man (Henry Fonda) falsely incarcerated because he resembled a serial bank robber. The film spares the audience no upsetting details--in Fonda's humiliating imprisonment, the accusations of his former colleagues and, ultimately, his wife's (Vera Miles) going mad from the stress of their plight. THE WRONG MAN denies the audience much of Hitchcock's familiar playfulness (Even grace notes like Hitch's "spot the director" cameo are omitted) in order to address his ongoing themes of guilt and marital discord with blunt seriousness. Needless to say, it was one of the director's least popular American releases; but for the young film critics at Cahiers du cinema who would later spearhead the French New Wave, it was a revelation. A 27-year-old Jean-Luc Godard made it subject of his first lengthy essay, and Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol devoted an entire section to it in their book Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films. Their descriptions are worth quoting at length [Note: there are spoilers], as they demonstrate how Hitchcock's experiments with realism, rooted in a firm moral position, made possible many of their own experiments: "The most diverse styles blend very happily in this film, and their successive use in no way disturbs its perfect homogeneity. We are spared many intervals (spatial or temporal), but certain seemingly unimportant moments are evoked in exactly the time they take in real life. This is true of the scene of the handwriting check, or the one in which Balestrero's wife phones the lawyer. The point of view is only seemingly subjective. Though we see things with Balestrero's own eyes... the protagonist remains outside us, just as he is outside himself.... The film's conclusion [in which Balestrero is freed but his wife remains committed to an asylum] is obviously ambiguous, but this is no hedge: the ambiguity is in things themselves. It is characteristic of Hitchcock to show us both sides of the coin. His work moves between two poles which, like extremes, can meet. We have called this moment 'exchange': let us recognize that it here finds its most noble expression in the idea of interchangeable guilt of all mankind." (1956, 105 min, 35mm) BS
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Abbas Kiarostami's CLOSE-UP (Iranian Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday and Wednesday, 6pm, and Monday, 8pm 
Without abandoning the poetic realism at the heart of New Iranian Cinema--or the poetics of Iranian art in general--Abbas Kiarostami fashioned with CLOSE-UP one of the great Modernist tricks in movie history. Upon learning that a poor man named Hossein Sabzian had been living with a middle-class family by pretending to be the filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Kiarostami set out to make a film of the story with all of the major participants playing themselves. The premise would suggest familiar ironies about life imitating art and vice-vera, but CLOSE-UP consistently subverts even these expectations. The film begins at the scene of Sabzian's arrest, but shoots it from the perspective of a cab driver dropping off a journalist who's covering the event. And then this scene is cut short by a shift in focus to that of a stray aerosol can rolling down the street. Throughout CLOSE-UP, the most compelling aspects of character and place are rendered odd by the camera's refusal to editorialize on them--though, suspiciously, the surface tone remains one of cheery naturalism. Like the central conman uninterested in money, everything has its reasons: they're simply buried in the complexity of their presentation. This coy sensibility has roots in the glorious descriptions of nature in classical Persian poetry, but it's also a reflection of Kiarostami's unique faith in cinema. This filmmaker became famous for open-ended movies that must be completed by the viewer's imagination, and this film--which opens itself up to greater suspicion with every turn--comes closest to providing a raison d'etre for his innovations. Instead of merely following a movie obsessive's transformation of life into cinema, CLOSE-UP sees a wave of imagination spread out over everything it touches. (1990, 97 min, new 35mm print) BS
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Soundings: Films of James Herbert (Experimental Revival)
Chicago Filmmakers - Friday, 8pm  
James Herbert is certainly best known for making most of REM's music videos in the early to mid-80s (including the classic "It's the End of the World as We Know It"), but in the art film world he is known for his extensive filmography that spans four decades--focusing mostly on powerfully romantic, rigorously formal, richly tactile studies of youthful nudes. These subjects move with unexpected rhythms caused by the vagaries of speed in Herbert's hand-cranked projections, which would then be re-photographed. The films in this program are taken from a high point in Herbert's career, and will give a fantastic introduction to those who are, sadly, unfamiliar with his work. The odd film out, CANTICO (1982, 35 min) uses Herbert's cinematographic techniques to evoke a medieval setting. Herbert's oft-studied subject--the nude couple--appear in the other three films: FRONTIER (1984, 20 min), which finds a couple arguing; PIANO (1988, 20 min); and SOUNDINGS (1986, 20 min) which contemplates a couple as they wander though a rural landscape. (1982-86, 95 min total, 16mm) JM
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David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY (Cult Revival)
Music Box - Wednesday, 7:30pm 
David Lynch loves to play in the dark. His longtime cinematographer Frederick Elmes once remarked that "with David, my job is to determine how dark we're talking about." There's sort-of-dark, and really-dark, and pitch-black-dark; all of these kinds and more are put to gripping use in LOST HIGHWAY. The most breathtaking example (perhaps echoing a shot from THRONE OF BLOOD) is a scene that takes place in a shadowy hallway. Avant-garde sax player and demi-protangonist Fred Madison slowly moves from lightness to dark, appearing to slowly dissolve before our very eyes. It's the sort of infinitely subtle visual moment that home video just can't adequately reproduce, and LOST HIGHWAY is packed with them. For too long this movie has overshadowed by its more-celebrated follow-up, MULHOLLAND DR. But the fact is the two movies function as a true diptych, exploring similar themes of doubling and identity in ways that complement each other. To ignore LOST HIGHWAY is to discount some of Lynch's most indelible moments: including an unforgettably disquieting sex scene, the eerie Natalie Woodishness of a leather-clad Natasha Gregson Wagner, a gorgeous use of This Mortal Coil's "Song to the Siren," Richard Pryor's out-of-left-field cameo (it was his final film), and of course Robert Blake's unforgettable performance as the sinister Mystery Man. A.V. Club critic Scott Tobias will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterwards. (1997, 135 min, 35mm) RC
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Frank Tashlin's ARTISTS AND MODELS (American Revival)
Bank of America Cinema - Saturday, 8pm
Three ARTISTS (Frank Tashlin, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin) and countless MODELS of what 20th (and 21st) century art could be. Controlled and spastic, intelligent and popular--we'd call it a "synthesis" if it didn't predate the elements it combines so fluidly; ARTISTS AND MODELS is the original, Pop before Pop, more avant-garde than the avant-garde, a masterpiece of modernism, post-modernism, and everything that comes after it, as durable as Shakespeare and just as silly and rich with ideas. Advertising colors and wild noises, suave Martin running amok and idiot Lewis charming the ladies. Martin is the talentless painter and Lewis is his hapless roommate, who describes fantastic adventure plots in his sleep. Their upstairs neighbors are a pair of pretty girls who also happen to make superhero stories for a living. A brash, complicated, bizarre, loud, intellectually rigorous, totally brainless movie about art and commerce, friendship, sexual inadequacy, and everything in between, with comic books, cartoon Communists, Rivettian codes, REAR WINDOW parodies, singing, dancing, and Shirley MacLaine. Or, to put it simply: the pinnacle of human expression, a movie against which all other movies should be measured. (1955, 109 min, 35mm) IV
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Laurent Cantet's THE CLASS (Contemporary French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Sunday, 3pm and Wednesday, 8pm
The French title, ENTRE LES MURS (between the walls) better suggests the clear-eyed focus of this film. We do not leave the premises of the Parisian public middle school; the lighting is always institutional and the camera keeps a respectful distance from human bodies. This distance and the observant even-handedness of the storytelling is twice as interesting when you consider that Francois Begaudeau, who plays Monsieur Marin, an exacting literature teacher, is the co-author (with Cantet) of the screenplay and the author of the autobiographical novel on which the screenplay is based (as well as of a fictional account of the life of Mick Jagger and is a former contributor to Cahiers du Cinema). Even with this degree of creative control, he scripts and plays himself charismatically but modestly, forgoing STAND AND DELIVER heroic cliché. Many of the classroom power-struggles and conflicts that arise around identity formation will be familiar to educators and to former middle-schoolers of any nationality; the teachers have momentary lapses of judgment, the students have endless changes of heart. But some of the most interesting material uniquely concerns France and Francophonie. The legacy of May '68 can be seen in the school's daily life, as in the proceedings of the disciplinary committee and in faculty meetings where student ambassadors are always in attendance, but not always well-behaved. And in a keen piece of scriptwriting, M. Marin's strident defense of formal, Academie Francaise French to immigrant students takes a complex political turn when he describes the student ambassadors with a word that has a second, unofficial meaning. Cantet's HUMAN RESOURCES also plays at the Siskel this week, see More Screenings below. (2008, 128 min, 35mm) JF
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Gary Sherman's RAW MEAT (Cult Revival)
Music Box - Friday and Saturday, Midnight 
Like his 1981 film DEAD & BURIED, which sarcastically examines the politics of "All American towns," Gary Sherman's debut feature RAW MEAT (which was made while the director, American born, was living in England) examines homelessness through a group of cannibalistic nomads who hide out in the London Underground. With a cast headed by Donald Pleasence and featuring cool mod cinematography by Alex Thompson, as well as a sultry jazzy score, MEAT spends as much time on police procedural as it does exploring the dangerous London subway tunnels. Sherman has clear affections for his British settings and treats his locations like an inquisitive tourist, which makes the film all the more palatable to a domestic audience. And despite focusing on the homeless, Sherman doesn't really seem to have any sympathies for them, instead presenting them as psychotic scum. But here the film wisely opts for black comedy instead of heavy-handed drama and even a touch of very self-aware sarcasm, proving Sherman was very much in on all of his jokes. Pleseance's character even mildly reflects the inspector in Hitchcock's FRENZY (also 1972). However, RAW MEAT can be compared directly to Douglas Hickox' sublime 1973 hybrid of slasher and black comedy, THEATRE OF BLOOD, which also happens to feature a band of murderous homeless. Both Sherman and Hickox intelligently restrain themselves from creating direct parody, but manipulate audience's reactions to their "villains" in radically different ways. Sherman's homeless are more or less mutated cave men whereas Hickox provides a more comforting and sympathetic depiction. In this way, RAW MEAT succeeds much more as a horror film and THEATRE more as a melodrama. However, the result in RAW MEAT, the removal of any sense of humanity from the "living zombies" of The Underground, makes the audience really not care all that much (for better and worse). Although Sherman would delve more into the character of "zombies," of sorts, in his 1981 masterpiece DEAD & BURIED, RAW MEAT is still a cool and edgy piece of mod horror. Not the director's greatest film, but a very impressive start. (1972, 87 min, new 35mm print) JR
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Joseph H. Lewis' SECRETS OF A CO-ED (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 7pm
In 1942, Joseph H. Lewis was still busy arting and Freuding up B productions (mostly Westerns; he earned the nickname "Wagon Wheel Joe" for inserting objects into the foreground to "improve compositions" when he'd get bored with the action he was filming) and had only just started to get his hands on the sort of genuinely Freudian material out of which he'd build punchy/dreamy 70-minute works of art. Though SECRETS OF A CO-ED is still best known for the long take in the courtroom scene (6 minutes of a 67 minute film!), it's a lot more substantial than a reputation built on a single shot would suggest--a thorough, economical/hysterical film greatly aided by having the sort of plot Lewis would make his own, with more than enough sexual obsession and father issues (which, unlike Anthony Mann's Greek-tragedies-on-horseback, are nightmarish: here's it's a father who has a secret life as a criminal) to keep JHL busy. A movie with a title like a stag film, raw and sometimes downright nasty. (1942, 67 min, 16mm) IV
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Billy Wilder's LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (American Revival)
Music Box - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am 
Audrey Hepburn is the jeune fille whose father, Maurice Chevalier (who else in Billy Wilder's Paris, borrowed wholesale from Lubitsch?), is a private eye specializing in trailing cheating wives. More often than not, they're cheating on their husbands with Gary Cooper's decaying American playboy, with whom Hepburn becomes infatuated after seeing his image in a surveillance photograph (youth and death, united at last!). After she overhears one of her father's clients plotting to gun down Cooper in the hotel suite where he meets the man's wife nightly, she decides to rescue him. Sneaking across a balcony, she arrives at the window outside Cooper's suite, and the scene that follows in one of the simplest and most beautiful Billy Wilder ever directed. First there's a close-up of Hepburn's face, the expression vaguely startled. The next shot is of Cooper and the cheating wife, but the camera is not placed where Hepburn would be; it's not from her point of view. Instead, it's startlingly close to the couple, who are dancing slowly to a hired Gypsy band. The shot is only a few second long, but it's the closest Wilder would get to any of his characters until THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Wilder, whose camera is always judging, is here completely without judgment. The lovers are covered by a warm shadow, and the details of their skin and their clothing are tactile; exact, but not caricaturistic. It's not that witty Billy is letting his guard down--it feels more like he realizes that here, his sarcastic stance is useless. This is something wit and cynicism can't affect, and he lets the camera linger a little, before the next shot comes and the comedy resumes. Like all of Wilder's romances, LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON has been vastly underrated in favor of the showier cynical films. Yeah, Wilder appears to be a cynic on the surface, but the joke is on the people who believe in surfaces. It's the sort of thinking that Wilder despised above all: people who see themselves and others as types. The romantic Wilder is not a "secret Wilder"--it's a persona hidden in plain sight. (1957, 130 min, 35mm) IV
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On Sunday at 7pm, the Nightingale presents filmmaker Bill Daniel in person with his program The Last Pogo Dance Films. This collection of mostly silent "music" films (either found or shot by Daniel), from the 1960s-80s, includes rare footage of The Beatles, Johnny Cash, The Avengers, Sonic Youth, the Butthole Surfers, and more. The evening will conclude with a performance by the Blue Ribbon Glee Club.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week is Hans Richter's 1947 experimental feature DREAMS THAT MONEY CAN BUY on Wednesday. 

Also at Facets Cinémathèque this week is Patrick Hoelck's 2009 drama MERCY, which plays for a week. 
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Jennifer Burns' documentary on Vincent P. Falk, VINCENT: A LIFE IN COLOR, returns for a week run. Burns and Falk in person at many of the screenings, check the Film Center's website for details; Bryan Poyser's new film LOVERS OF HATE plays Friday, Saturday, and Thursday; Quentin Tarantino's KILL BILL: VOL. I and KILL BILL: VOL. II both play Saturday and Tuesday; and Laurent Cantet's 2000 film debut HUMAN RESOURCES screens Sunday and Monday (also see THE CLASS above). 
Also at the Music Box this week: Alain Resnais' WILD GRASS continues (and is also in the matinee slot Saturday and Sunday); so does THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. The other midnight film Friday and Saturday is [REC] 2

The Silent Film Society of Chicago kicks off their annual summer series with a 35mm print of Harold Lloyd's 1925 classic THE FRESHMAN on Friday at 7pm at the Portage Theater. Also at the Portage this week on Saturday is a quadruple feature of JETSONS: THE MOVIE, THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT, THE LAST STARFIGHTER, and IT CAME WITHOUT WARNING

Mess Hall (6932 N. Greenwood Ave.) screens Kubrick's DR. STRANGELOVE (from DVD) on Saturday at 7pm. The event includes a discussion lead by writer Hugh Iglarsh. 

Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens Guy Ritchie's recent film SHERLOCK HOLMES (from DVD) on Wednesday at 9pm on the East Lawn of the Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive.  

The Chicago Cultural Center continues with Cinema/Chicago's summer series with Alexandra Leclère's 2004 French film ME AND MY SISTER (Saturday, 2pm) and Raphael Nadjari's 2004 Israeli film STONES (Wednesday, 6:30pm). Both from DVD. Also this week, on Friday at 7pm, is Riccardo Gabrielli's 2006 film WHEN THE WAVES BREAK, co-presented by the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago.

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CINE-LIST: July 23 - July 29, 2010


CONTRIBUTORS / Rob Christopher, Josephine Ferorelli, Christy LeMaster, Josh Mabe, Joe Rubin, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

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