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:: Friday, JUNE 11 - Thursday, JUNE 17 ::


Max Ophüls' LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI (Italian Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Friday 7pm 
Block out-Docs Doc this week with the second entry in its "Revivals and Rediscoveries" series, which, supposedly/hopefully, will be an ongoing thing and which--for us non-Evanstonians--is well worth the Purple Line fare or the gas money. The film in question is LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI, a.k.a. EVERYBODY'S WOMAN, and if you don't know the film, then you might know the director, Max Ophüls; and if you know the director, then you might also know how hard it is to see any of his pre-1950 films, whether in 35mm or on DVD, in this country. LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI, rarity of rarities, is Ophüls' only Italian production and possibly the greatest out of all the ones he made before coming to America in 1941. This tragic comedy follows a movie star re-experiencing her rise to fame while under anesthesia following a suicide attempt. A shy, beautiful girl who gets blamed for everything men project on to her, she is introduced getting kicked out of school after a teacher who'd once made a pass at her decides to leave his family. Maybe because he directed some of the most intense dramas in the history of movies, Ophüls is immensely underrated as a comedy director, even though many of the tools he'd use to make those (often very funny) dramatic films--a perfect sense of rhythm (for scenes, performers, camera movements) and a gift for dramatic irony--could just as easily be used to make great comedies. That LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI begins with a Rene Clair-like shot of a record player might at first suggests that it's a work of good comic imitation, but it's innovation through-and-through, the sort of film-jokes only good old Max could make, as in the case of the tracking shot that passes through the walls of a hotel suite as a producer arrives at closed door upon closed door, always convinced that his actress is on the other side. (1934, 97 min, 35mm) IV
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Opening Night Program - Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival
Gene Siskel Film Center - Thursday, 8pm  
Once again, local experimental film enthusiasts can rejoice; this weeks sees the opening of the 22nd Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival. Curated by Cine-File's own Patrick Friel, it is one of the most respected experimental fests in the country. Global in it's scope, Onion City provides what is often the only Chicago screening of many works. This year's Opening Night program includes lots of heavy hitters from the experimental genre. Apichatpong Weerasethakul explores memory in a rural Thai village in A LETTER TO UNCLE BOONMEE. TREES OF SYNTAX, LEAVES OF AXIS by Daïchi Saïto is a sumptuous treat for both the eyes and the ears as it is composed of hand-processed 35mm with an arresting violin score by Malcolm Goldstein. Michael Robinson pushes further into narrative structure with his haunting IF THERE BE THORNS. Sharon Lockhart captures a distanced view of play and playgrounds in Lodz, Poland in PODWORKA. Using found footage, animation, and a boatload of ironic humor. Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby get the laughs in BEAUTY WITHOUT PITY. A longtime presentation by Chicago Filmmakers, Onion City is definitely one of the city's cultural gems. Onion City continues through June 20; check next week's list for the remainder of the festival. (2008-2010, approx. 110 min total, various formats) CL 
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Note: The Onion City festival is programmed by C-F editor Patrick Friel.


Champion Fishermen: Films by Jason Halprin and JB Mabe
(New Experimental)
Chicago Filmmakers - Friday, 8pm  
Jason Halprin and Josh Mabe, both transplants to the city but now firmly entrenched in the experimental film scene here, will share their recent work in a two-man, mostly silent screening at Chicago Filmmakers. Both makers practice in a mostly lyrical vein and work almost exclusively in celluloid. Halprin will show pieces from his long-running Super-8 diary project and some earlier 16mm work. Interested in the fragments, movements, and rhythms of everyday places and events, Halprin's film often ask the audience to zero in on the hundreds of variations created in the smallest moment. The home-movie feel of his super-8 works create warm, inviting, brief meditations on familiar picturesque places. Mabe will be presenting his featurette-length 16mm film, THE DEVIL AND THEMSELVES. Captivated by texture and light, Mabe eschews representational imagery almost entirely to fill the screen with experiments in color and depth. Mabe's film is more minimalist, it's length allowing for a more leisurely contemplation of his images and editing rhythms. Halprin and Mabe have shared sensibilities in their work, but the results are different and complementary when seen together. (2004-2010, 75 min, Super-8mm and 16mm) CL 
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A/V Geeks Present: S Is for Sissy (Educational Film Revival/Camp)
The Nightingale at Cinema Borealis (1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., 4th Fl.) - Sunday, 8pm 
Orphan films--those ownerless and uncared for works often left to deteriorate in basements and attics, or literally to be thrown away--have been steadily inciting a revolution in the preservation world, demanding to be seen and heard. The recognition of these works as an integral part of our visual histor(ies) is partially thanks to the efforts of folks like Skip Elsheimer, who has been saving and screening (both in public and online) educational and instructional films collected from school and government auctions (and any other place he can find them) for more than a decade with his project the A.V. Geeks. This week Elsheimer comes to Chicago with a curated program of instructional films, setting the sissies among us on a path to manliness--which most likely does not involve personal hygiene. Boys who play with dolls or listen too much to their mothers are in for it. Works screened include NEUROTIC BEHAVIOR - A PSYCHODYNAMIC VIEW (1973), which examines how Peter's toilet regime affects his prowess with the ladies and FEARS OF CHILDREN (1951), where overbearing parents are chastised for creating wimpy offspring. (1951-1985, unknown run time, 16mm) BC
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Jean-Pierre Jeunet's MICMACS (New French)
Landmark's Century Centre Cinema - Check Venue website for showtimes 
Critics have been calling Jean-Pierre Jeunet's (THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, AMELIE) latest "more of the same," but it's actually something of a breakthrough for the world-famous entertainer: Inherent in every scene is a deep concern for the contemporary world all but absent from his previous work. MICMACS is quite blatant in its rage at the international munitions industry, which it depicts unambiguously as a monster. But because this monster is quite real, the film has a more pungent aftertaste than any he's made since LOST CHILDREN, if not DELICATESSEN. All of the director's recognizable quirks--storybook framing, retro-futurist decor, winsomely naive heroes--seem in this context like defense mechanisms against a world turned brutal and mechanized. Comedian Dany Boon (in a performance styled after Chaplin's Little Tramp) plays Bazil, a tender soul who lost his father to a land mine and, because of a convoluted accident, has to go through adulthood with a bullet lodged in his brain. Searching for the root of his misfortune, he discovers that his home town is the base of two powerful munitions makers--as well as a gang of misfits who will help him take revenge on them. The gang should be familiar to fans of comic books or Jeunet's first two films: There's a girl who can perform complex math in her head, a beautiful lady contortionist, an old man who makes Rube Goldberg-style inventions out of garbage, et cetera. But their adventures are consistently surprising, especially in the wealth of details that attend each step of the action. The production design is so intricate that you start to take it for granted after a while (It's likely a film that rewards multiple viewings), especially when the tempo is operating at Chuck Jones intensity so much of the time. But just beneath the surface-qualities is a rather moving plea for peace. Even the characters' vengeance is non-violent, which suggests less cartoonishness on Jeunet's part than an evolved moral sensibility. (2009, 105 min, 35mm widescreen) BS
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Michael Haneke's THE WHITE RIBBON (New German)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes
I'll tell you this: the scene in THE WHITE RIBBON where a little boy is told about death is better than the whole of THE PIANO TEACHER. In fact, THE WHITE RIBBON is Haneke's best film after CODE UNKNOWN. Lars Von Trier called THE BOSS OF IT ALL "a light comedy;" Haneke has called this one "a film about the rise of fascism." Both are puckish statements of intention, not descriptions of the results. It all starts with a wire strung between two trees to trip a horse. A year or so before World War I, in a small Protestant community, the balance created by the ordinary cruelties of the upper class is undermined by extraordinary cruelties by mysterious perpetrators. Everyday negligence is responded to with planned attacks. All of these events are investigated by a schoolteacher (played by Christian Friedel as a young man and by the voice of Ernest Jacobi as an old one), who is the first Haneke character who could be called a "hero" rather than a "protagonist." Haneke's camera, like Visconti's or Sirk's or Mizoguchi's or von Sternberg's, has always held a privileged position, an ability to either stare at what the director feels the audience would avert their eyes from, or to see shapes, patterns, and causes that the characters can't. There's a scene in THE WHITE RIBBON, shot in a single immobile take, where a poor man comes to look at the corpse of his wife, who's just been killed in a sawmill accident. Her upper body is blocked out of view. The man, his head held low, approaches the bed she's been laid on and, in a moment of unknowable misery, becomes obscured. It's at this moment that Haneke relinquishes the aforementioned privilege and it becomes clear that THE WHITE RIBBON is the most openly empathetic film he's ever made. (2009, 137 min, 35mm) IV
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Michel Hazanavicius' OSS 117: LOST IN RIO (New French)
Music Box - Check Venue website for showtimes  
Jean Dujardin and his village-idiot-grin return in the second movie in Michel Hazanavicius' re-launching of the once-popular OSS 117 series. The conceit is pretty simple: to re-frame a mid-20th century espionage thriller franchise (which involved 8 films and over 200 books, the first 90 written by creator Jean Bruce--who, appropriately enough, died in a Jaguar crash) as a comedy. But what separates the new OSS 117 movies from their obvious American counterparts, the Austin Powers movies--besides the fact that they're better directed and less indulgent towards their star--is that where the Austin Powers movies grow out of a sort of fondness or sweetness, the jokes in OSS 117 are all bile. This is not an "affectionate parody." And while the central joke of the Powers movies was the agent's out-datedness in the modern world, the OSS 117 movies are set in the 1960s (more specifically, the cinema of the 1960s, recreated with jarring set/location mismatches and rear-projected car chases). The joke is no longer the reductive "the world has changed," but the more incendiary idea that the world of those films never actually existed--that there was never a right time to present these sorts of characters as heroes. The dialogue given to Dujardin is the subtext of spy movies literally stated: Agent 117 blurts out misogynist, racist, and imperialist gibberish (LOST IN RIO, which teams him with Mossad agents, also mines his unconscious anti-Semitism), and most of the other characters are his straight-men (the notable exceptions: an equally horrifying CIA agent and an ex-Nazi who surreally delivers Shylock's trial speech from The Merchant of Venice as a plea for sympathy--"Hath not a Nazi eyes?"), forced to either politely react to his jackassery or fix his blunders. Dujardin himself is more or less The Rock plus Terry Crews--a handsome leading man who knows exactly how ridiculous and useless his handsomeness is, playing a character convinced that God made the world for people like him. (2009, 101 min, 35mm) IV
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Frederic Mermoud's ACCOMPLICES (New French)
Facets Cinémathèque - Check Venue website for showtimes
Frederic Mermoud's ACCOMPLICES intercuts a Gilbert Melki/Emmanuelle Devos policier in gray and brown with a mild case of l'amour fou in red and gold. Two sets of partners (the film's English title when it played festivals), one set professional, the other romantic and criminal. The result is something like an unusually arty episode of LAW & ORDER: SVU (complete with hustlers), but anyone familiar with the SVU formula knows that that's not as bad as it sounds. The film's strengths lie in Devos--her relationship with her partner is actually more interesting that the crime they're investigating, and not merely the kind of "character development" window-dressing you usually find in these kinds of mid-budget thrillers--and unlike most actresses cast as police officers, her half-maternal/half-resolved face actually makes her look like a cop. (2009, 95 min, 35mm) IV
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The Hungry Brain (2319 W. Belmont Avenue) hosts a screening of films by Brandon Wetherbee of local podcast You, Me, Them, Everybody Monday night at 9pm. The screening includes the premiere of Wetherbee's THE SHUFFLE, with an original score by Daniel Knox. The event is 21+.

Also at the Music Box this week: the new "complete" restoration of Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS continues; Nathan Juran's 1964 adventure FIRST MEN IN THE MOON is in the Saturday and Sunday matinee slot (as is METROPOLIS); and the weekend midnight films are HUMAN CENTIPEDE (Friday and Saturday), DEMOLITION MAN (Friday only), and THE ROOM (Saturday only).

Bank of America Cinema screens Busby Berkeley's 1942 film FOR ME AND MY GAL on Saturday at 8pm. 

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: the Akira Kurosawa retrospective continues with DODES'KA-DEN (Friday and Saturday), SANJURO (Saturday and Thursday), and KAGEMUSHA (Sunday and Tuesday); the documentary WINNEBAGO MAN has a sneak preview in the "Just for Laughs" series on Wednesday, with director Ben Steinbauer in person; and the new narrative DADDY LONGLEGS plays for a week, with directors Josh and Benny Safdie in person at all shows Friday and Saturday. 

Also at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema this week: Neil Jordan's ONDINE opens. THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN TATTOO and EXIT THOUGH THE GIFT SHOP both continue. 

Also at Facets Cinémathèque this week: Sergio Corbucci's 1966 spaghetti western DJANGO is in the spotlight at midnight Saturday in Facets' Night School series, with a talk by Michele Zaladonis. 

The Chicago Cultural Center continues to host Cinema/Chicago's summer series with Kang Hyung-chul's 2008 Korean film SCANDAL MAKERS (Saturday, 2pm) and Krzysztof Czajka's 2009 Polish documentary BYE, BYE GDR! TO LIBERTY VIA WARSAW (Wednesday, 6:30pm; repeats next Saturday). Both from DVD. 

Also at Chicago Filmmakers this week: the Dyke Delicious series concludes for the year with a retro program of shorts on Saturday. Social hour at 7pm, screening at 8pm.

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CINE-LIST: June 11 - June 17, 2010


CONTRIBUTORS / Beth Capper, Christy LeMaster, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

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