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, JUNE 4 - Thursday, JUNE 10 ::


Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (New "Complete" Restoration)
Music Box - 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, 153 min, HDCam digital video) IV 
More info at

Budd Boetticher's DECISION AT SUNDOWN (American Revival)
Bank of America Cinema - Saturday, 7pm  
While it doesn't have as many of the sweaty, sensually charged qualities of Budd Boetticher's six other collaborations with Randolph Scott, DECISION AT SUNDOWN does as much as any of the Ranown westerns (or those of Sam Fuller of Anthony Mann) to predict the morally ambiguous landscapes of the revisionist westerns of the 70s (THE HIRED HAND, THE GREAT NORTHFIELD MINNESOTA RAID, McCABE AND MRS. MILLER). DECISION finds Scott as his weakest, his most vulnerable, and his most dishonest while the bulk of his overwhelming sex appeal is disarmed by his own lust for revenge. In place of the cool, tender, and collected Scott--who saved Maureen O'Sullivan from outlaws in THE TALL T--is a crazed maniac bent on killing the man responsible for his wife's suicide. Here, in the same way that Boetticher orchestrates series of violent encounters in his other westerns, he documents Scott's moral decay with a jagged style not unlike, as Andrew Sarris would note, that of a bullfighter (Boetticher's first profession). Tarantino, of all people, probably put Boetticher's approach to the psychological western best, referring to an exchange between Lee Marvin and Walter Reed in SEVEN MEN FROM NOW--in which Marvin insults Reed in front of his wife--as a rape scene, and such is the approach that Boetticher takes throughout DECISION AT SUNDOWN: heated and brutal. It's the most uncomfortable of Boetticher and Scott's films to watch, but it's just as worthwhile. DECISION AT SUNDOWN is showing in a newly struck print. (1957, 77 min, 35mm widescreen) JA
More info at

George A. Romero's SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (New American/Canadian)
Music Box - Check Venue website for showtimes 
SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD finds the 70-year-old Romero contentedly out of step with popular tastes: The most closely hovering influences seem to be Anthony Mann's THE FURIES (1950) and John Ford's THE QUIET MAN (1952). Horror aficionados will be disappointed, but fans of the American Western will find much to savor: caravans of armed men on horseback, debates on the cost of social order, alliances forged in codes of reckless individualism. The film takes place on a mostly-deserted island off the coast of Delaware, where two large landowning families respond to the fall of civilization by reenacting the Hatfield-McCoy rivalry. The living dead are essentially window-dressing here, reminders of a modern world Romero's happy to take a break from. Where his previous zombie movies assessed the American zeitgeist by imagining social responses to apocalypse, SURVIVAL forgoes both zeitgeist and apocalypse to consider the culture's foundational myths. Central is the larger-than-life image of the property holder, which Romero, our great cultural commentator, sees as representing tyranny and personal freedom in about equal measure. This makes SURVIVAL as ineffective as allegory as any of Romero's greatest films; but the director's talent for quick-sketch philosophy remains as strong as ever. The dialogue touches on such themes as children's responsibility to their parents and the role of tradition in modern life--subjects as old-fashioned as the 50s Hollywood pacing. That the ideas are spoken by a cast of earnest non-celebrities (like Romero's landmark independent films of the 60s and 70s, SURVIVAL has the prosaic, democratic charm of community theater) only bolsters the film's acquired-taste value. But for those willing to compromise their expectations and meet Romero on his level, it is one of the major releases of 2010. (2009, 90 min, 35mm widescreen) BS
More info at


Johan Grimonprez's DOUBLE TAKE (New Essay Film)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Friday, 7pm
Note: We are honoring the distributor's restriction that this advance screening at Block Cinema not have any print or online reviews. We do have a review on the email version of Cine-File (check there if you are subscribed; sign up if you are not!) and we will run that on our website once the film plays theatrically. In the mean time, for our web-only readers, let's just say it is indeed recommended (highly) and you should go. (2009, 79 min, video) PF
More info at

Harmony Korine's TRASH HUMPERS (New American; Director Q&A)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes  
With it's creepy atmosphere, toilet bowl-dirty aesthetic and anarchic mise-en-scène, TRASH HUMPERS is like some kind of mutant that grew out of a puddle of vomit from a dark, East-Coast alley in a Lloyd Kaufman Troma movie. It's bound to test your tolerance for how much vulgarity you can handle. But while a lot of shock-cinema puffs up and stretches out bad taste to make it more cartoonishly palatable, TRASH HUMPERS seems more interested in tuning into the ghoulishness and eeriness that exists at the lower frequencies of bad taste. TRASH HUMPERS isn't a movie that singles-out and shines a light on something that's disgusting (like when John Waters has us watch Divine eat fresh dog shit), it lets its grossness find its own way to you, like a smell that slowly appears under your nose or some slime that you gradually notice is causing your shoe to stick. While TRASH HUMPERS does have its obvious acts of indecency, it doesn't employ clarity to offend you but, rather, vagueness to unsettle you. Because of the way it likes to roll itself in its own lo-fi VHS-aesthetic muddiness, its sharpest points and roughest angles have become dampened and rubbed out. It's like meeting a monster that's already dead (actually): it's not really scary, but it is pretty creepy and it's unthreatening enough for you to wonder at it.  (2009, 78 min, 35mm) KH
More info at
Harmony Korine in person at the Friday 8:45pm screening.

Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn's BLONDES IN THE JUNGLE
(New Experimental Narrative)
Gage Park: Camp Bell (4929 S. Campbell) - Sunday, 8pm
If you could put a healing balm on the psychic wound that is the '80s, it would probably contain a dose of the original toxin. BLONDES IN THE JUNGLE (Best Narrative winner at the 2009 Chicago Underground Film Festival) is just such a remedy, screening for free in Gage Park, on the southwest side. This is the perfect vantage point from which to ask: "who are these smug blond preps, and what are they doing in Honduras in 1987?" Well, Amber will tell you, her performatively bored tone a precise hybrid of amateur porn dialogue and jaded ivy-league gossip. She, Chino, and Jerome wander through the rainforest searching for a rumored fountain of youth, carrying a tape deck that never runs out of batteries. The sweet jams that emerge from it precipitate a self-consciously whack animation sequence and other lines of flight. (The music is credited to El Jefe and the Executive Look, a fictional 80s World Beat band made up of contemporary New Yorkers.) The blondes blow coke, bicker, and speculate about all manner of dated pop culture. Mock inane 80s dialogue is intercut with silent observations of jungle life: waterfalls spilling, ants climbing, the wind rustling leaves. This juxtaposition is so plausibly absurd that the critical heavy lifting does itself. A visit from Bret Easton Ellis slyly hooks the blondes in right where they belong socially, even so far away from their places of privilege. But unlike Ellis's novels, which describe a similarly ingrown and frivolous scene, BLONDES IN THE JUNGLE takes a panoramic view, at the same time gently revealing hypocrisies and reveling in a surplus of pleasures. Preceded by shorts by Chicago filmmakers Jon Ullyot, Nick Edelburg, Justin Meredith & Jenna Caravello. (2009, 48 min, Digital projection) JF

Roman Polanski's THE GHOST WRITER (New International)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes 
After admitting right away that he knows "nothing about politics," a professional hack (Ewan McGregor) accepts an assignment to ghostwrite the memoirs of a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) hiding out from the media in America. McGregor arrives by ferry on Martha's Vineyard, which resembles a cross between Shutter Island and Plum from SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD. His predecessor washed up on the shore, an apparent suicide. Like the great characters of classical American cinema, McGregor is a man with no scruples forced into an ethical murk from which he can only extricate himself by making moral decisions. Composed of geometric architectural lines, overcast skies, shades of blue (cerulean, ceil, and iceberg), wet sand, and lighting so careful it sometimes resembles a photo spread, this may be Roman Polanski's most precise movie--and it's that startling preciseness that makes the images feel so ambiguous. Every plastic (and often artificial--this is a Franco-German co-production set in the US and the UK) detail we see reminds us of how little we actually understand about what's going on--something reinforced by the facts that, though Brosnan and McGregor have been set up as possible heroes or villains, the film belongs to Olivia Williams (who plays Brosnan's wife) and that, though THE GHOST WRITER sets itself up as an anti-Blair thriller, its intentions soon reveal themselves as something much larger than mere political allegory. Clear and obscure, with a typically hummable/menacing score by Alexandre Desplat (his best work since BIRTH) and the greatest final shot of 2010. (2010, 128 min, 35mm) IV     
More info at


Doc Films (University of Chicago) concludes its spring calendar with Martin Scorsese's SHUTTER ISLAND, on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, and Jacques Audiard's A PROPHET, on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Landmark's Century Centre Cinema opens Jean-Pierre Jeunet's MICMACS and continues with Mia Hansen-Love's THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN.

Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week is a screening of Rare Films from the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday at 7pm, with an introduction by curator Dave Filipi of the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: THE BAD SLEEP WELL (Friday and Saturday), YOJIMBO (Saturday and Tuesday), and DERSU UZALA (Sunday and Thursday) screen in the Akira Kurosawa series; and Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher's documentary OCTOBER COUNTRY screens Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday.

Also at the Music Box this week: Cy Endfield's 1961 film MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
(showing in the Ray Harryhausen series) and METROPOLIS (see above) are the Saturday and Sunday matinees; Tom Six's HUMAN CENTIPEDE and Robert Moore's 1976 MURDER BY DEATH are the midnight films Friday and Saturday.

At Facets Cinémathèque this week: The Human Rights Watch Film Festival (which opened last night at the MCA) continues at its primary host venue with screenings through Thursday. Among the titles showing are AFGHAN STAR, Joe Berlinger's new documentary CRUDE, and BURMA VJ. The complete schedule is on Facets' website. Also, this Saturday at midnight sees the return of "Facets Night School," which has been turned over to guest lecturers this time round, instead of the regular Facets' staff. Screening is Jack Hill's 1964 horror film SPIDER BABY, with a talk by film writer Jason Coffman.

At the Chicago Cultural Center this week, in Cinema/Chicago's summer series, are Wei Te-Sheng's 2008 Taiwanese film CAPE NO. 7 (Saturday, 2pm) and Kang Hyung-chu's 2008 Korean film SCANDAL MAKERS (Wednesday, 6:30pm, repeated next Saturday).

Chicago Filmmakers' Reeling Monthly Series presents the 1995 film TO WONG FOO, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING! JULIE NEWMAR on Friday at 8pm.

The Nightingale hosts Upgrade Chicago! on Tuesday at 8pm, with a presentation by Chicago artist, filmmaker, and curator Catherine Forster.

Saturday Cinema (1369 W. Chicago Ave., 2nd Floor) concludes its window display series on Saturday with all four films by David Price and Andy Roche showing. View the films from the sidewalk (outside) and join closing reception (inside) from 8:30-10:30pm.

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

CINE-LIST: June 4 - June 10, 2010


CONTRIBUTORS / Julian Antos, Josephine Ferorelli, Kalvin Henely, Christy LeMaster, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

> Editorial Statement -> Contact