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:: Friday, OCT. 1 - Thursday, OCT. 7 ::

The Chicago International Film Festival opens on Thursday and runs through October 21. Check our blog beginning this week for reviews of select films, posted intermittently during the run of the fest.


Multiple SIDosis: The Genius of Sid Laverents (Amateur Film Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Friday, 7pm
Introductory Admonition: Go See This Shit! I would venture that most of you have never heard of Sid Laverents. I had, but just that he was some amateur filmmaker. He had a reputation, but amateur films are generally not so interesting, right? Turns out this reputation was deserved. Laverents, who lived to be 100 (a film hobbyist parallel to Manoel de Oliviera?), was no ordinary amateur. He began making films at age 50 (after an earlier career as a one-man band during the Depression) and his work in this program demonstrates both the influence of the vaudeville tradition and an ironic, dry, and frequently self-deprecating sense of humor. He would have been right at home making short films in the 1930s and 40s alongside Edgar Kennedy, the Pete Smith Specialties, and Robert Benchley. The earliest film showing, IT SUDSES AND SUDSES AND SUDSES (1963) could easily have been an Edgar Kennedy comedy. Laverents' wife (played by his wife) stocks up on his favorite shaving cream. When he opens the medicine cabinet, the cans fall into the sink, toilet, bathtub and begin foaming. And foaming. And foaming. The bathroom is engulfed and Sid has to escape out the window. It's lowbrow, slapstick fun, but as good as any studio product two decades before. Laverents' makes himself the butt of the joke and his feel for comic timing and gags puts this over. In THE ONE MAN BAND (1964), Laverents hauls out his former rig and plays a selection of songs (St. Louis Blues leads things off). It's a show-and-tell film, but Laverents' ability (he plays about a dozen instruments), his patter, and his seriousness combine to make this charming and infectious fun. (One wishes Vitaphone had filmed him back in the day.) Laverents' best-known film is MULTIPLE SIDOSIS (1970), an ingenious film in which he separates out the various one-man-band instruments and uses in-camera multiple exposures (more than a dozen!) to create a one-person orchestra. In insets in the frame, we see multiple images of Laverents playing a variety of instruments. What is remarkable is that it's sound. He's accompanying himself a dozen times over. It's a stunning bit of technical wizardry. I'm not making a case for these films as great art. They're not. But they are fun. Terrific fun. I can't remember the last time I had such simple, pure joy watching something. Seriously, go see this shit! Also showing is STOP CLONING AROUND (1980). The program is co-presented by Roctober magazine and its editor, Jake Austin, will introduce the program and screen additional excerpts and complementary historical shorts. The evening will also include a performance by the one-man band The Lonesome Organist. (1963-80, approx. 100 min total, Archival 16mm and 35mm prints) PF
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Bruce Bickford's World (Experimental Animation)
Conversations at the Edge at the Gene Siskel Film Center - Thursday, 6pm  
Bruce Bickford's singular vision exhibits the best of what the art world calls "outsider art." Driven completely by his articulate imagination and seemingly made only for himself, his films are singular creations and spending a block of time with them is like living inside someone else's visual stream of consciousness. Nothing in either his line animation or his Claymation work seems attached. Figures transform into other figures, moving like smoke floating through air. The scale of objects holds no steady relationship to other objects or their backgrounds as one thing morphs into an unexpected new thing: televisions turn into flying saucers, continents turn into faces, milkshakes turn into make-up, all moving at a mesmerizing pace. One barely has time to recognize one image before it starts to shift into something else. Bickford's work also has an epic quality; not only because of the sheer volume of clay and graphite that must be required to make his intricate scenes, but also because of his grandiose battle scenes and his interest in universal themes such as violence (especially gory violence) and sex. This screening includes the rarely screened PROMETHIUS' GARDEN (1988), the more recent INVERSION LAYER (1994) and THE COMIC THAT FRENCHES YOUR MIND (2007), and a collection of fragments and sequences, which will be accompanied live by Jeff Parker of Tortoise and experimental percussionist Frank Rosaly. The screening will be introduced and moderated by SAIC animation professor and artist, Jim Trainor. Bickford in person. (1980-2010, approx. 90 min total, Various Formats) CL   
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Raoul Walsh's THE ROARING TWENTIES (American Revival)  
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 4:45pm and Monday, 6pm  
A manic Looney Tune, where soldiers hop into trenches like rabbits and two men can be knocked out with a single punch, transforms into a post-Expressionist drama (watch out for the METROPOLIS references!) charting the rise and fall of Jimmy Cagney, a bootlegger who uses a taxi service as a front. Raoul Walsh's Tommy Gun opera has the distinction of being funny enough to qualify as a comedy and epic enough to qualify as a tragedy; conceived by Warner Bros. as a throwback to their scuzzy pre-Code gangster pictures, this pastiche (literally: some of B-roll shots are outtakes from the studio's early '30s movies) functions both as a downer the-world-moves-on ending to the genre and, aesthetically, a new beginning for both Walsh and American cinema (Martin Scorsese's filmography, for one, seems unimaginable without it). Jarring changes in tone, deep-focus shots, sight gags, rushing dolly-ins: this is primal, potent Walsh. The cast is pretty gully, too; third-billed Humphrey Bogart's image is so firmly entrenched in his later cynical good-guy roles that seeing him play an irredeemable douchebag packs a wallop. (1939, 104 min, 35mm) IV  
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Bob Rafelson's FIVE EASY PIECES (American Revival) 
Facets Cinémathèque - Check Venue website for showtimes 
The films of the so-called American New Wave were united by an effort to translate European arthouse aesthetics to a U.S. idiom. They fluctuated wildly in their success, but FIVE EASY PIECES is one of the era's few enduring masterpieces. Much of its success derives from its central antihero, Bobby Eroica Dupree, an invention worthy of epic literature but realized in wholly cinematic terms. Carol Eastman (working under the pseudonym Adrien Joyce) wrote the character specifically for Jack Nicholson, an actor whose moodiness and darting intelligence have never been better deployed. Dupree's alienation is always a wonder to behold, as the character constantly switches allegiance between his performing-arts background (which comes through in moments of off-handed arrogance) and the perceived authenticity of the working class (which he attempts to emulate by living in a trailer and affecting macho self-confidence). Everything he does is a failed attempt to divert his angst: Working on an oil rig, picking up every blue-collar girl that comes his way, even (in the movie's creepy final shot) trying to rid himself completely of his identity: Nothing can satisfy this soul determined to live in exile. Working with the great naturalist cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, Rafelson says as much about the film's locations as he does the lead character, plumbing the zeitgeist in such disparate locations as the oil rigs of central California and an upper-class manor off the coast of Washington state. This beautiful but haunted island is the setting of FIVE EASY PIECES' final act, where Nicholson's prodigal son returns to visit the dying father he loathes. The place is populated exclusively, it would seem, by neurotic musical prodigies: It's the closest equivalent in U.S. movies to the penitential "resorts" that Ingmar Bergman's late-period characters are always flocking to; and this may be, overall, the most profound U.S. film to take inspiration from Bergman's cinema. While taking a page from Bergman's drama of painful self-examination, FIVE EASY PIECES--collaborative filmmaking at its finest--extends such scrutiny to an entire generation. Note: Facets will be screening a new print of the film in celebration of its 40th anniversary. It purportedly restores all of the film's grainy, sun-bolstered majesty. (1970, 97 min, 35mm) BS
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Charles Marquis Warren's LITTLE BIG HORN (American Revival)  
Bank of America Cinema - Saturday, 8pm  
Probably best known for its inclusion in Manny Farber's famous/notorious/seminal "'Best Films' of 1951" round-up, this cheapie Lippert Western (was there any other kind?) marked the directorial debut of the vastly-underrated Charles Marquis Warren, a man of wealthy, cultured origins (F. Scott Fitzgerald was his godfather) who realized that he simply preferred to write pulp cowboy and soldier stories. Of course he could never shake those high-brow East Coast origins, and what should have been just a quick Custer's Last Stand retelling instead becomes a languid drama heavy on psychological details; the indoor mise-en-scene is almost Fassbinderian in its careful framing of actors and use of mirrors, while the outdoor scenes have a shadowy naturalism. In many ways, this is the first Late Western (see ULZANA'S RAID below), and its sparing use of action paradoxically makes it all the more tense. This is artful filmmaking that never resorts to cheap artiness. (1951, 86 min, 16mm) IV
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Robert Aldrich's ULZANA'S RAID (American Revival) 
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Monday, 7pm 
This rarely-screened anti-Western comes from director Robert Aldrich's (KISS ME DEADLY, THE DIRTY DOZEN) fruitful, if generally brutal late period. As Doc's programmers point out in their summary, Aldrich was one of Hollywood's few Classical-Era directors to truly thrive after the Hays Code was lifted in 1968: What's most resonant in films like EMPEROR OF THE NORTH (1973)--and, by many accounts, this movie--is not the introduction of vulgar language or graphic violence into his lean, old-school style, but how these things seem to crystallize Aldrich's bleak vision. To cite Sam Adams' glowing reappraisal from 2004: "That ULZANA'S RAID is set in frontier-era Arizona in no way prevents Robert Aldrich's Western from being among the finest movies ever made about Vietnam. As a group of American soldiers track down a rampaging Apache warrior leading 'a force of indeterminate number,' their moral certainties slip away, and blood logic replaces the rules of war. In an astonishing sequence, a wagon containing a fleeing settler couple is set upon by Apaches. The soldier protecting them runs for safety as the husband is butchered, then returns, as if to save the woman, only to shoot her through the head. Fleeing again, he falls from his horse, and rather than turn his pistol on his attackers, he kills himself. Later, he's described by seasoned commander Burt Lancaster as 'a good man.' Like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, ULZANA'S RAID is a movie so thoroughly encapsulating its own time that it contains its own opposite. Is it a cry of anguish at the depths to which men will sink to defend so-called civilization, or an angry protest of the enemy who would force them to respond in kind? Can it be both?" (1972, 103 min, 35mm) BS
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The Movies of Michael Lopez (Experimental Video/Animation) 
Roots & Culture Gallery (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Sunday, 8pm  
The work of Michael Lopez is comical, bleak, and reveals Lopez as an artist unafraid to try out a wide breadth of mediums and themes. His animation work, populated by humanoids reminiscent of characters found in 70s cartoons, uses scrolls of fabric and paper to continually move his images forward, creating a nearly hypnotic effect. Lopez's figures are not quite human; instead, they are often presented in silhouette or appear faceless. They are trapped in seemingly nihilistic narratives that appear unable to reach any definable conclusion. But the crafting of the images is careful, the subtle changes betraying more attention to composition than the DIY-aesthetics Lopez employs would initially suggest. His video work is similarly complex. With rambling improvised dialogue and simple homemade sets, they provide tiny moments of emotional truth couched in otherwise absurd diatribes and arguments. Some of Lopez's fabric work will be on display in the gallery during the screening. (Various Years, approx. 70 min total, Various Formats) CL

Ivan Reitman's GHOSTBUSTERS (American/Cult Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 & 9pm and Sunday, 1pm
Rare are the opportunities to watch an institution deliberately brainwash itself, but that's what'll be going down Saturday night at Doc films, when a new crop of undergraduates (who probably aren't aware that Bill Murray used to be a comedian) subject themselves to the 1984 summer blockbuster GHOSTBUSTERS: a film that once wittily inscribed a bourgeois, rationalist ideology onto a inestimable cross-section of Generation X. Amateur occultist Dan Aykroyd's screenplay, a contemporary updating of the corny Abbott & Costello and Bob Hope comedy-horror features of his youth, is sustained by an ingeniously savvy understanding of Reaganomic mythology that makes Frederic Jameson look like Dave Barry. The titular expelled Columbia University parapsychology postdocs get in on the ground floor of an emerging urban economy: the containment of the psychic energy of investment capital, sublimated into ludic, phantasmic form. Manifesting in historic arenas of the old-money upper class (Ivy League libraries, Upper West Side apartments, posh turn-of-the-century hotels), these gilded ghouls rise from the grave to celebrate industrial deregulation and income-tax cuts (Slimer in particular representing a ravenous and futile hyperconsumption), but unsurprisingly bring chaos to the liberal, environmentalist enclave of Manhattan. As the protagonists' success ushers in an era of celebrity entrepreneurship (see THE SOCIAL NETWORK, playing elsewhere this week), the infantile collective Ghostbusters id repeatedly transgresses the demands of a variety of old-fashioned academic, bureaucratic, or municipal-juridical superegos to now-classic comic effect. Like the College, GHOSTBUSTERS is suffused with a particular heteronormative, ascetic intellectual machismo from start to finish. Feminine promiscuity, for example, is definitively linked here to demonic possession, and the absurd Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man (unleashed by the secular unconscious as a direct result of the Ghostbusters' attempt to physically mediate between an empirical positivism and occult theology) is defeated only through the violation of a puerile "stream-crossing" taboo, with our heroes simultaneously jizzing nuclear-powered laser beams into the glammy, gender-ambiguous Gozer's icy ziggurat. A very serious diversion. (105 min, 35mm) MC
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Kent Mackenzie's THE EXILES (Classic Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Thursday, 7pm
A major point of reference in Thom Andersen's essay film LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF, this independent production from 1961 provides vivid evidence of California subculture rarely acknowledged by the movies. Or more appropriately, subcultures--it's about the lives of Native Americans who left their reservation for Los Angeles (hence the title) and takes place largely in working-class neighborhoods that have since been demolished. Director Kent Mackenzie, still in film school at USC at the time, encouraged his non-professional cast to improvise so he could most accurately capture their lives. Many critics have compared his approach to John Cassavetes' contemporaneous work in SHADOWS (1959), and Roger Ebert, reviewing this new print, went as far as to put the film on the same level: "[THE EXILES] would have been a key work of the New American Cinema, the Cassavetes generation, if it had ever been seen. It played three film festivals, never got picked up for distribution, has survived only in a low-quality 16mm print. Now the UCLA Film and Television Archive has restored it, apparently working from the original materials, and it looks like it was made yesterday." Ebert went on to laud to film for its bittersweet depiction of alcoholism. (1961, 72 min, 35mm) BS
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Thomas Comerford's THE INDIAN BOUNDARY LINE (Experimental Doc)
Chicago Filmmakers - Friday, 8pm
Tom Comerford's newest film, both quiet and compelling, collages together the story of the treaty that established the boundary between Native-American land and Settler territory in the locale we now know as Roger's Park. THE INDIAN BOUNDARY LINE is an extension of the vocabulary Comerford develops in his earlier pinhole pieces. He builds site-specific histories of local places inviting the viewer to sit in these locations and re-walk their paths. A regionally-scaled piece, it provides a space for us to consider the look of the land before we were born and the decisions, political and personal, that paved the way for us to live here now. As Chicagoans, we get to recognize some of these spaces as our own, which make us culpable members of the history that has slowly stripped away almost every reference to the area's original inhabitants. Playing on the tensions between the conditions of the two worlds present and past, comfortable and unconquered, developed and free, Comerford's movie displays a resonant compassion and a visual patience that infuses forgotten history with new life. Showing with his LAND MARKED/MARQUETTE (2005) and his and Bill Brown's collaborative film CHICAGO-DETROIT SPLIT (2005-06). Comerford in person. (2005-2010, approx. 76 min total, Various Formats) CL

Casey Affleck's I'M STILL HERE (New American)
Logan (2646 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Check Reader Movies for showtimes
The closest U.S. equivalent to date of certain provocations by Lars von Trier (EPIDEMIC, THE IDIOTS), in which recognizable hallmarks of interdicted footage-- haphazard editing, incriminating and otherwise ugly behavior--are reconstituted in a facsimile of avant-garde art. As in some of von Trier's films, what at first appears a simple game of cinema (How much of this is actually staged?) mutates into a creepier meditation on transgression and its cost: If you don't find this repulsive, chances are you'll be chewing on it for days. Joaquin Phoenix, ostensibly playing himself, creates a hypnotically grotesque creation, a combination of every worst tendency of The Artist personified: gluttonous, self-important, condescending, convinced his every whim will yield genius. After announcing his retirement from acting, Phoenix spends the next year in search of perfect self-expression, first by recording hip-hop (for which he has no discernible talent) and then in public acts of self-destructive behavior that function as unwitting performance art. That entertainment "journalists" would devote so much attention to Phoenix's stunts is a given: It's no secret that the "industry" has become an unholy monster, preying on any non-conformist activity that happens to be enacted by celebrities. Where I'M STILL HERE gains its heft is in the ostensibly private moments, when Phoenix binges on drugs, riles up his colleagues and soliloquies endlessly on himself. Mad flailing in the general direction of enlightenment, Phoenix's journey inevitably takes on the tenor of movie drama--in no small part because we're watching movie stars in the hermetic world of luxury. Like von Trier, Phoenix and co-writer/producer Casey Affleck became famous actors at an early age, and this may explain their unique ability to see constructed drama in the messiest situations. (Conversely, they locate a certain emotional authenticity in highly staged scenarios.) The strength of their worldview makes I'M STILL HERE a consistent work of filmmaking despite the extreme variance in image and sound quality from one scene to the next: This may be the weirdest-looking U.S. feature since Michael Mann's PUBLIC ENEMIES, which also used video to defamiliarize famous events, and it may also be one of the toughest to crack. (2010, 108 min, 35mm) BS

Chicago South Asian Film Festival  
Columbia College and Chicago Cultural Center - Friday-Sunday  
So many movies are produced every year on the subcontinent that a purely geographic designation makes this film festival sound a little vague. And Indian movies made for Indian audiences that are big enough to travel overseas typically radiate such strong corporate, socially normative vibes that they fit uneasily in the usual foreign film venues. If you saw a flyer for the North American Film Festival tacked to a bulletin outside the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi, you might feel similarly under-informed. But with sixteen films scheduled to screen this weekend, this staunchly independent program has some excellent topical threads and a clear vision of what's worth supporting. The lives of children, the personal costs of crime, and the experience of illness all trace thematic through-lines. Most of the films are from India, with a few more titles from the diaspora, one from Pakistan and one from Bangladesh. ASHES, a feature-length drama about a drug dealer and his mentally ill brother, is directed by and stars Evanston native Ajay Naidu. Nearly half the films are directed by women, including DO PAISE DI DHOOP, CHAR AANE KI BARISH, which is the directorial debut of Indian art-house leading lady Deepti Naval, and RASPBERRY MAGIC by Leena Pendharkar, which screened in Chicago earlier this year in the Chicago Asian Showcase. Nina Paley's epically bittersweet Ramayana cartoon SITA SINGS THE BLUES is also screening as part of the free Saturday program, which is the perfect answer to the dilemma her movie presents: Because Paley offers her movie for free on the internet, must one pay the price of admission to see it on a big screen? The unusual economy of the Festival is worth mentioning here more generally; admission to the first screening is $100 (it includes dinner and an open bar). The following day, half the screenings are free. The structure is somehow reminiscent of the Hunger Awareness Dinner, but who is the poor here, and who is the very wealthy? JF
See website for complete schedule and showtimes:


The impressively arrayed GLI.TC/H festival of new media, video, and web-based work began on Wednesday with a gallery opening and continued Thursday with the Rosa Menkman show at Conversations at the Edge. But things move into full-gear today and run through Sunday at various venues with screenings, live performances, workshops, and more. Visit for complete information.  

On Saturday, beginning at 11:30am, the School of the Art Institute's 5th Undergraduate Film/Video Festival takes place at the Gene Siskel Film Center. There are three short programs of new work, followed by refreshments. 

The Transformation Show, curated by Ben Russell, screens at 7pm on Tuesday at Gallery 400 (UIC). The program includes the fantastic Adam Beckett's 1973 film EVOLUTION OF THE RED STAR, the 1970 British Structural classic BERLIN HORSE by Malcolm LeGrice, Larry Gottheim's delicate 1970 landscape film FOG LINE, as well as GARGANTUAN (John Smith, 1992), THREE TRANSITIONS (Peter Campus, 1973), FORCED INANIMATE CONNECTION: CLIMAX MODELLING (Sterling Ruby, 2002), SECONDARY CURRENTS (Peter Rose, 1982), LOSSLESS #3 (Rebecca Baron and Douglas Goodwin, 2008), and VINELAND (Laura Kraning, 2009). 

Sean Baker's new drama PRINCE OF BROADWAY opens at Piper's Alley for a week run. 

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Raoul Walsh's 1933 ME AND MY GAL is Saturday and Wednesday; Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker's new documentary KINGS OF PASTRY plays for a week; Edward Dmytryk's 1947 noir CROSSFIRE screens Friday and Tuesday (James Naremore lectures at the Tuesday show); Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath's new documentary about the Cambodian genocide, ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE, has five screenings during the week; Tahmineh Milani's new feminist Iranian drama, PAYBACK, plays Saturday and Sunday; and Joe Beshenkovsky's new documentary LAPORTE, INDIANA is on Thursday. 

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: on Friday night and Sunday afternoon it's Christopher Nolan's INCEPTION; Also Friday, at 11:45pm, is Marino Girolami's 1980 horror film DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D.; Doc kicks off it's huge two-part D.W. Griffith series (part two in the Winter) on Sunday with a selection of the master's Biograph shorts from 1908-1913; on Tuesday, yet another master, Stan Brakhage, and his staggeringly great Egyptian Series and Arabics (if there had been time, these would have been written on and at the top of the Crucial section. Seriously.); On Wednesday at 7 and 9pm it's Stanley Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY; and the Thursday selections are David Lean's 1946 Dickens film GREAT EXPECTATIONS (7pm) and S.F. Brownrigg's 1973 horror film DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (9:30pm). 

At the Music Box this week: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Allen Ginsberg bio-pic HOWL opens; Gaspar Noé's ENTER THE VOID continues; on Sunday at 7pm there is a sneak of Sam Taylor-Wood's new bio-pic on John Lennon's teen years, NOWHERE BOY, followed by a performance by members of his original band, The Quarrymen. The Saturday and Sunday matinee is Jacques Tourneur's great 1957 horror film CURSE OF THE DEMON (HOWL also plays in the matinee slot); and the Friday and Saturday midnight films are ED GEIN, THE MUSICAL and SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD

Also at Facets Cinémathèque this week: Facets' Night School series becomes Facets' Fright School in October. Up first is William Castle's 1960 classic 13 GHOSTS on Friday at midnight, introduced by John Aranza, owner of Horrorbles, the appropriately-themed store located in Berwyn. On Saturday at midnight is Gilberto Martinez Solares' 1975 Mexican horror film SATANICO PANDEMONIUM, with a talk by Facets' own Lew Ojeda. 

Local animator Lilli Carré's 16mm animation THE JITTERS screens on Saturdays, through October 30, between 8-10m as part of the Saturday Cinema series. It's rear-projected in the second floor window at 1369 W. Chicago Avenue: stand out on the sidewalk to watch.

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CINE-LIST: October 1 - October 7, 2010


CONTRIBUTORS / Michael Castelle, Josephine Ferorelli, Christy LeMaster, Doug McLaren, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

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