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, SEPT. 10 - Thursday, SEPT. 16 ::


Otto Preminger's CARMEN JONES (American Revival)
Music Box - Wednesday, 7pm 
At the height of his popularity, Otto Preminger drew as much attention from manipulating controversy (c.f., his public battles with Hollywood censorship) as he did from his formidable skills as a filmmaker. Case in point, in 1953 he leapt at the chance to direct a film based on CARMEN JONES, a stage revue that transplanted Bizet's Carmen to a modern African-American setting. Intended as an independent production, it ended up an A-list feature for Twentieth-Century Fox and Preminger's second in CinemaScope--an ideal format for the director's inquisitive formal interests. In the words of biographer-critic Chris Fujiwara, "[Preminger's] response to the increased width of the frame [was] to expand the characters' fields of action and motion, emphasizing the vastness of both their physical environment and the sphere of moral decision." Physical environment is indeed a key factor in CARMEN JONES, which was shot largely on location: The South Side of Chicago, seldom used in American movies prior to this, becomes a prominent setting. Likewise, Preminger rewrote all the dialogue of the stage show (which he considered flat) in favor of more realistic speech that addressed the impulsive sexuality of the material. (It also helped him to elicit distinctly modern performances from the gifted cast, which included Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, and Diahann Carroll.) And yet, the realist flourishes hardly add up to anything you'd call "realism." As Fujiwara notes, "the absence of jazz, blues, gospel, or contemporary popular music [all the songs are set to the original Bizet score] accentuates the artificiality of the film." More notably, the film lacks a single white character, which makes "white racism... the major structuring absence of CARMEN JONES." In short, it is another technically inspired, psychologically acute, and ultimately bewildering film from this notoriously contradiction-loving filmmaker--no less majestic to behold as it is to contemplate. (1954, 105 min, 35mm widescreen) BS
More info at

(New Experimental Documentary)
Conversations at the Edge
at the Gene Siskel Film Center - Thursday, 6pm  
CATE jumps back into the school year with a beautifully-lensed and patient documentary by local filmmaker Danièle Wilmouth set in rural Pennsylvania. Eleanore is the matriarch of Wilmouth's family (her grandmother) and the timekeeper is Ronnie, her developmentally disabled adult son (Wilmouth's uncle). As Eleanore has cared for Ronnie for over 60 years, their lives have become a quiet dance of routine and companionship, until Eleanore's failing health requires her to seek other ways to make sure Ronnie is cared for after her death. Wilmouth tells the story gracefully and doesn't push her subjects to talk about how they are handling the change. Rather, her camera focuses in on the tiny details of small town living. A moving portrait of separation and mortality, ELEANORE gracefully displays the heart-wrenching sadness of losing your other half. Wilmouth in person. (2010, 76 min, video) CL    
More info at

Henri-Georges Clouzot's LA VÉRITÉ (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 5pm and Wednesday, 6pm
Henri-Georges Clouzot's last film before the personal and aesthetic crisis of L'ENFER is also his finest non-documentary feature, fully and freely realized through the style the director had been developing since the 1930s and would try to ditch soon afterward. Like many Clouzot productions, it's a compulsively perverse undertaking: a story of Paris Bohemians rendered in carefully detailed, classical French studio style. LA VÉRITÉ opens in a courtroom, where Brigitte Bardot, her hair worn up to indicate her seriousness (it makes her look like Tippi Hedren), is on trial for murder. Soon we're flashing back to the life she led: living in attic apartments, hanging 'round cafes with hapless hepcats, wearing tight sweaters and those awful late '50s bras that make breasts look like knees. Though Bardot's naïve seductress has a picture of Jean-Claude Brialy tacked above her bed, it's frog-voiced conductor Sami Frey that she ends up falling for. Clouzot tackles this Nouvelle Vague milieu with Tradition of Quality resolve, and though LA VÉRITÉ has less of the caricaturing that dominates Clouzot's earlier work, it still displays his gift for cartoon characterization, defining bit players through their comb-overs, beards, noses, oversized blazers and tobacco pipes. What emerges from this strange combination of new world and old technique (a film about people born in 1939 that could've been made in 1935!), is a nostalgia for the present, equal parts tragic and comic. Clouzot's underrated sense of editing, with its strong but subtle rhythms, is put to great use in the conducting scenes, which recall the director's excellent collaborations with Herbert von Karajan. These sequences, in which the world seems to take on a hierarchy and furious order through music, make Bardot's attraction to Frey more palpable than any of his haughty banter. (1960, 130 min, 35mm) IV     
More info at

Jacques Tourneur's EXPERIMENT PERILOUS  (American Revival)
Music Box - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am  
George Brent, looking and sounding like a cultured bear, turns to the man who is pointing a loaded revolver at him: "I once said you were logical, even brilliant...but you are also mad." A major Tourneur with only a minor reputation, this somewhat labyrinthine RKO production is set in three distinct places at once: (1) at the dawn of psychiatry; (2) in a late-Gothic version of 1903 New York; (3) in a universe where life is the surface formed by an endless series of ambiguities that defer reality. From its bizarre opening, where Brent is approached by a woman (Olive Blakeney) he believes to be crazy, to its multiple narrators and movements through time, EXPERIMENT PERILOUS glides through a world where sanity is always in doubt. As the plot unfolds (or maybe, more accurately, folds in on itself), Brent's easygoing psychiatrist gets wrapped up in the life of a married couple (Hedy Lamarr and Paul "poor man's Adolphe Menjou" Lukas) and the question of Lamarr's sanity, all of which somehow leads to him tumbling down a spiral staircase in a burning house. (1944, 87 min, 35mm) IV  
More info at


Ben Russell's TRYPPS #7 (BADLANDS) (Film Installation) &  
The Artist's Talk as Illustrated by a Selection of Moving Images
(Experimental and Documentary Shorts)

Museum of Contemporary Art - Ongoing (Trypps) & Tuesday, 6pm (Artist's Talk)  
Local filmmaker Ben Russell's new experimental short film TRYPPS #7 (BADLANDS) plays as an installation in the MCA's 12x12 New Artists/New Work exhibition series this month. This ten-minute piece, shot on Super-16mm and projected digitally, features a young girl standing in the Badlands observing herself in a contraption of mirrors while on a psychotropic journey. Several emotions pass across her face over the course of the film: concern, delight, curiosity, exhaustion. Russell highlights the shifts in the image with an articulated series of resonant gong sounds and other ambient noise. The overall effect is hypnotic. TRYPPS #7 continues to expand on one of Russell's frequent areas of interest--film as mystical experience. The barren landscape and the attentive observation necessary to track the subtle shifts that flash on the girl's face leads the viewer into a focused point of concentration providing a sort of quiet transcendence. This installation also muddies the traditional male gaze. We are watching the girl watch herself more than we are acting as eyes for Russell as director. The film also creates an other-worldly quality by pulling at the boundaries of the frame when the mirror contraption revolves, constantly removing the subject and sliding the sky, the ground, or the far off landscape into her place. CL
In lieu of the customary "artist's talk," Russell has curated a screening of short films that have formal and thematic commonalities with TRYPPS #7 in particular and the entire TRYPPS series in general. From the wonderful early trick film by Segundo de Chomón and Ferdinand Zecca, THE RED SPECTRE (1907), to UK filmmaker Ben Rivers' lovely portrait of a Scottish recluse, THIS IS MY LAND (2006), the program touches on the magical, the mystical, and the documentary. Also included are Kenneth Anger's harrowing and brilliant INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER (1969), famed ethnographers Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon's film of young Yanamano boys playing grown-up, CHILDREN'S MAGICAL DEATH (1974), Gunvor Nelson's lyrical and delightful MY NAME IS OONA (1969), Forcefield's THIRD ANNUAL ROGGABOGGA MOTION PICTURE (2002), and Gerard Holthuis' MARSA ABU GALAWA (CARELESS REEF PART FOUR). (1907-2006, 68 min total, 16mm and 35mm) PF
More info here.

Maren Ade's EVERYONE ELSE (New German)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Sunday, 4:45pm, Tuesday, 7:45pm, and Thursday, 6pm
Chris and Gitti, a sensitive couple with little discernible ambition, come apart during a lazy vacation in Sardinia, though their dissolution isn't the result of violent flare-ups so much as personal insecurities and deep-seated passive-aggression. In synopsis, Maren Ade's second feature sounds like the sort of low-budget relationship drama we've come so accustomed to forgetting in recent years; and, indeed, its opening stretches look out over a great pitfall of solipsism. But EVERYONE ELSE displays rare patience and its insights are well worth waiting for. It becomes apparent, for instance, that this seemingly aimless film is actually moving at a pace unique to its main characters--who, like many newly-serious couples, operate on their own time, governed in part by libido but just as much by curiosity, a willingness to drop everything for the revelation of a lover's secret, a shared discovery, a new inside joke. (It should be noted that Ade is as deliberate in her handling of time as Bela Tarr.) It's also revealed that what appeared to be the filmmakers' solipsism is actually the characters' denial of certain hard realities; and, in fact, this revelation becomes the driving force of the entire film. Chris and Gitti are well aware of the middle-class lifestyle they're trying to escape--it's the source of the film's title--as well as darker philosophic issues most everyone spends adult life trying to avoid. The film contains several monologues of self-examination reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman's chamber dramas, probably the closest point-of-reference for Ade's psychological examination, and the leads respond to the material with performances of uncommon complexity. Needless to say, this sort of filmmaking is an acquired taste (It requires that you see universal angst even in these thirty-something fuck-ups), but Ade and her cast are so thorough in their characterizations that even irritated viewers should be impressed with their perceptiveness; those receptive to their mission should find this downright unsettling. Once the couple's happiness is proven to be unsustainable, EVERYONE ELSE proceeds with the anxious tension of a horror movie. Every revelation of character carries a sense of unspoken threat, a nervousness that's in no way diminished by the sexiness of the leads or the edenic palette of Bernhard Keller's 35mm photography. (2009, 119 min, 35mm) BS 
More info at

Fatih Akin's SOUL KITCHEN (New German)
Landmark's Century Centre Cinema - Check Venue website for showtimes 
Fatih Akin is one of the most popular European filmmakers currently active, but he may be one of the most misunderstood as well. His award-winner HEAD-ON (2004) was overrated in its native Germany simply because it acknowledged multiculturalism (Akin's movies are regularly set among first-generation Turkish Germans) and dismissed in the U.S. for perceived liberal platitudes about the same. The film was underrated for its generous script, which gave us a few dozen full-grown characters over a several-year period. In love with coincidence and unexpected character transformation, Akin accomplished the cinematic equivalent of certain John Irving or Haruki Murakami novels, spinning webs in every which direction and seeing them expand. His unobtrusive visual style (which became distant, almost plaintive in THE EDGE OF HEAVEN [2007]) only turned subjective to bring us closer to the characters he clearly loved. By most critical accounts, Akin's latest, SOUL KITCHEN, fully indulges the director's humanist imagination: The trailer suggests Akin's most upbeat fiction film--a relative of his joyful music documentary CROSSING THE BRIDGE--and the poster, after listing the first seven or so stars, promises "and many more." Tellingly, the story features music prominently: It's about a nebbishy restauranteur who gains newfound popularity--and, as should be expected with Akin, epic struggles with love, finance, and culture-clash--when he opens up a restaurant with a soul music theme.  I haven't seen it yet myself; I could only get a screener DVD, and Akin's oversized characters deserve to be appreciated on the big screen. (2009, 99 min, 35mm) BS
More info here.   


Henri-Georges Clouzot's LE CORBEAU (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 3pm and Monday, 6pm
The Nazi-run film Continental Films might've taken its production orders from Joseph Goebbels, but it must have had one heck of a lazy oversight committee, considering it let slip three bleak anti-Occupation films in 1943 alone: Maurice Tourneur's LE VAL D'ENFER, André Cayatte's blatantly Socialist Zola adaptation SHOP GIRLS OF PARIS and, most famously, LE CORBEAU. Actually, LE CORBEAU is so bleak and bitter, it passed for an anti-Resistance film and got lead actor Pierre Fresnay imprisoned for six months after the Liberation. A big ball of Gallic gall, Clouzot's poison-pen drama centers on a series of anonymous letters that implicate the citizens of an anonymous town in all sorts of indiscretions. The director's misanthropic wit treats the thriller characters as something close to comic types and turns the town into a carousel of caricatures; accusations go 'round and 'round against the backdrop of André Andrejew's carefully detailed production design. (1942, 92 min, Archival 35mm) IV     
More info at

Bansky's EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (New Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes
What you should have done already was not read this or any other reviews for this new movie "about Bansky." If it's not too late, just go see it--because it's better not knowing anything on the way in. It's not that EXIT is the next M. Night Shyamalan movie, but it's not the next WILD STYLE either. It's worth coming to "fresh," knowing as little about the cult surrounding Bansky as possible. The notions of identity, authorship, and the nature of art resonate more authentically if you see it without preconceptions. It's working similar terrain as Orson Welles' F FOR FAKE, with its questions and suspicions and interrogations. Wearing a cloak of mystery, digital blackface, and a special effects voice, Bansky makes his on-camera debut in EXIT like a rock-star. He also directs competently. Or you could say directs your attention elsewhere, competently. Hey, what is competency when it comes to art anyway?  (2010, 87 min, 35mm) KH
More info at


On Thursday at 8pm Roots & Culture Gallery (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents the program Extreme Animals. It's described thusly: "Jacob Ciocci and David Wightman (Extreme Animals, Paper Rad, You Can't Do That on Television) present a mash-up of live music, video, staged theatrics, and global meltdowns." 

The Bank of America Cinema screens a 35mm print of Herbert Brenon's admired 1924 live-action version of PETER PAN on Saturday at 8pm. 
The Nightingale hosts the New Media Art series Upgrade Chicago! which welcomes guest Joe Hocking, who will share his new iPhone app (it involves some tech hi-jinks with the BP logo). Tuesday at 7pm. 

Chicago Filmmakers hosts an Open Screening on Friday at 8pm. Take work to share (20 minutes max) or just go to view. It's free either way. 
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Alfred Hitchcock's 1943 film SHADOW OF A DOUBT screens Friday and Tuesday, with a lecture by James Naremore at the Tuesday show; Judith Krant's 2009 comedy MADE IN CHINA plays Friday, Sunday, and Wednesday (Producer James Choi in person on Friday and Wednesday); Carl Kurlander's 2008 documentary MY TALE OF TWO CITIES screens on Saturday and Monday (Kurlander in person both days); Mike Cramer's semi-autobiographical 2009 drama DEAR MR. FIDRYCH plays once, on Sunday at 4:45pm, with Cramer in person; and local filmmaker Keith Dukavicius's 2004 featurette I AM JAMES MASON screens Thursday at 8:15 (with three recent shorts), with Dukavicius in person. 

Casey Affleck's new documentary, I'M STILL HERE, on his friend, actor and would-be hip-hop artist Joaquin Phoenix, opens at the Landmark's Century Centre Cinema

Also at the Music Box this week: Marco Amenta's 2008 Italian film THE SICILIAN GIRL opens; the Chicago United Film Festival runs all week, with a variety of independent features and midnight shows of FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (Friday) and PREDATOR (Saturday); and the other midnight film this weekend is Danny Cannon's 1995 Stallone film JUDGE DREDD

Facets Cinémathèque runs Joe Banno's 2009 drama SLEEPING AND WAKING this week. 

At the Portage Theater this week: the Wednesday matinee series screens the 1939 Laurel and Hardy film THE FLYING DUECES (1:30pm, from DVD); and Polish master Andrzej Wajda's 2007 film KATYN plays on Saturday at 7pm.

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

CINE-LIST: September 10 - September 16, 2010


CONTRIBUTORS / Kalvin Henely, Christy LeMaster, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

> Editorial Statement -> Contact