Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, JUNE 8 - Thursday, JUNE 14 ::


Hayao Miyazaki's NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (Japanese/Animation Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center— Friday, 6pm; Saturday, 3pm; Wednesday, 6pm
How better to kick off a summer long retrospective on beloved animation factory Studio Ghibli than with the film that made the whole operation possible, and—if we're setting aside all modesty—ushered in a veritable golden age of animation? NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND is in so many ways the prototypical Hayao Miyazaki film: a sprawling environmentalist parable with a headstrong female protagonist, a girl with blinding, childlike optimism who faces down a world thrown into chaos. Recurring Miyazaki themes, including his fascination with flight and his abiding love of nature, are front and center here, all wrapped up in a cavalcade of cartoon adventure for all ages. A princess with more agency, not to mention spunk, than Disney had yet to devise, Nausicaä is the favorite daughter of the Valley of the Wind, one of the world's last refuges against the ever-encroaching Toxic Jungle, the inhospitable fallout of a global war occupied by giant insects known as the Ohmu. Gradually, a larger picture of the world is painted, as neighboring military powers Tolmekia and Pejite threaten the safety of the planet in their misguided quests to push back against the Jungle. The film packs in an alarming amount of back-story, thanks largely to Nausicaä's knack for interior monologue, a habit forgivable not just because this is still ostensibly a children's film, but also for the gasp-inducing visuals that often accompany her chronic narration. Joe Hisaishi's score is a marvel too; an oscillating mix of nostalgia-inducing synthesizers and his typical swelling orchestral compositions. Presented alternately in the original Japanese version with subtitles (Friday) and in the respectable 2005 English dub (Saturday and Wednesday), NAUSICAÄ remains one of Miyazaki's most arresting and under-appreciated masterpieces, and marks the perfect start to this ongoing retrospective. Peter Sobczynski, film critic for, will lead a discussion after the Friday screening. (1984, 116 min, 35mm) TJ
Isao Takahata's ONLY YESTERDAY (Japanese/Animation Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center — Saturday, 5:15pm; Tuesday, 6pm; Thursday, 6pm
Never released in the U.S. in theatres or on Region 1 DVD, the reflective tear-jerking masterpiece ONLY YESTERDAY is almost certainly the best Miyazaki production you haven't seen. Combining Truffaut at his most personal and critical with Ozu at his most laid-back (with just a touch of Rohmer—see SUMMER below), ONLY YESTERDAY follows the shy office worker Taeko as she vacations to the beautiful rural Yamagata valley to work on her cousins' small farm. Her journey, interspersed with poignant and recognizable flashbacks to various crucial and/or awkward moments from her life as a 5th grader, is a sort of interiorized epic which takes impressive advantage of the contemplative stillness and quick movements that are both a labor-saving device and a stylistic advantage of hand-drawn animation. However, hovering just above the surface of this seemingly introverted and peaceful film (with the usual Ghibli didactic environmentalism) is a subtle but deadly serious critique of bureaucratic public schooling: every remembered letter grade, red mark, and moment of institutionalized inequality or humiliation is etched onscreen with a razor-blade precision, and what appears to be Taeko's interior battle with herself is progressively revealed as a battle with the traumas of the cultural reproduction of cram school society. It's also a hypnotic ode to the nature-and-technology dialectic of country life; if downtown Chicago doesn't seem completely transformed to you when you walk outside, you might have watched the wrong movie. Japanese version with subtitles for all three screenings. (1991, 118 min, 35mm) MC
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Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor's GIRL SHY (Silent Revival) 
Music Box — Saturday, 12pm 
The swiftest, sweetest, and funniest of Harold Lloyd's silent features stars Lloyd as a painfully shy tailor's assistant who is writing a book advising bachelors on the art of landing a girlfriend. "The Poor Boy" takes his manuscript to a publisher and is laughed out of the office. Luckily, our hero falls in love with the gorgeous Jobyna Ralston, who, unluckily, is engaged to be married. GIRL SHY is most famous for a terrifically sophisticated chase scene in its last reel that anticipates the last few minutes of THE GRADUATE, but Lloyd's film and final shot are much more certain and sympathetic than Mike Nichols'. Both films have similarly downtrodden subject material, but Lloyd's never feel lonely or even seems to date like the romantic comedies of the past several decades. Lloyd's energy always pays off and always feels natural. Rarely revived for many years because of Lloyd's stringent exhibition standards (Lloyd owned most of his feature films and wouldn't allow any screenings not accompanied by a theater organ or orchestra, and had a $300,000 fee for television screenings, knowing they would be presented at improper frame rates), the prints of his films now available, which have been restored by UCLA and are now distributed through the Lloyd Estate, represent some of the best looking silent material available on film. A Harold Lloyd film on 35mm is something that should be experienced at least once a year; here's your chance. Live Organ Accompaniment by Dennis Scott (1924, 80 min, 35mm) JA
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Eric Rohmer's SUMMER (LE RAYON VERT) (French Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) — Friday, 7pm
It's unclear if Rohmer's 1980s Comédies et Proverbs series could have been an improbable influence on Studio Ghibli, but there are more than enough points of comparison with Takahata's ONLY YESTERDAY in the sunny, improvisational, and surprisingly tense SUMMER (originally entitled LE RAYON VERT, a reference to the optical "green flash" phenomenon sometimes seen on the horizon at sunset). Rohmer here takes the perspective of the antisocial Parisian depressive Delphine (Marie Rivière) during her July vacation, unconsciously seeking a moment of transcendence, constantly struggling to engage with the dismissive conversations and interests of secular urbanity. No other metropolitan auteur has shown more interest in the countryside's tourist economy of recreation and aleatory romance; in SUMMER the seasides stay in the background, as Delphine attempts to transcend the ennui of heteronormative superstition. (1986, 98 min, 35mm) MC
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Billy Wilder's DOUBLE INDEMNITY (American Revival) 
Music Box — Sunday, 11:30am 
Raymond Chandler shepherds his procedural style to the screen in Billy Wilder's quintessential noir, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, helping to bring the genre to a boil. Ironic, given that its placement in the canon of Hollywood cinema is attributable to a chilly murder plot by two frozen-souled conspirators. Told in flashback from his desk and in a bloody suit, insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) narrates how, while an on a routine sales visit, he falls for Mrs. Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), a femme fatale housewife plotting her husband's demise. Fully seduced, Neff uses his knowledge of his industry to foil investigators and kill Mrs. Dietrichson's husband "accidentally"—invoking a clause in the policy that pays double. Mrs. Dietrichson's dark past crops up to break the spell on Neff—who even then stays in it too long—as Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), fellow insurance agent and confidant, sniffs out their scheme. With so many imitators, DOUBLE INDEMNITY shines with wonderful idiosyncrasies: Neff on crutches imitating a broken-legged Mr. Dietrichson, the unabashed sexiness of Mrs. Dietrichson, the authentic bare bulb dialogue, and so many venetian blinds. Without them, the murder and investigation might become overly flat. But through its methodical telling, Wilder's film allows us to contemplate the significance of what is essentially a fatalist's cynicism—after all, we know the ending the whole time—" killed him for money, and for a woman. I didn't get the money, and I didn't get the woman." (1944, 107 min, 35mm) BW
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Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson's SOUND OF NOISE (New Swedish/French) 
Chicago Cinema Society (at the Logan Theatre) — Friday and Saturday, 11:15pm
Referred to as "Bonnie and Clyde on drums" by Indiewire, SOUND OF NOSIE is half heist film, half guerilla art prank. The film follows a band of elite drummers as they transform everything from a hospital operating room (complete with unconscious patient) to a convoy of construction vehicles into a makeshift drum kit for a citywide jam session. Viewed as sonic terrorists by the police, the group plays a cat and mouse game with a tone deaf, anti-music detective (ironically named Amadeus), using a metronome as their calling card. The two sides would likely bond over some John Cage if they took the time to get to know one another, but luckily there's a love story to smooth everything out. The narrative itself is predictable and paper thin, but SOUND OF NOISE is worth watching exclusively for its innovative musical numbers, which are at once high-minded, Fluxus-esque creations and accessible public art pieces. (2010, 102 min, Blu-ray Video Projection) HS
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Robert Zemeckis' BACK TO THE FUTURE (American Revival)
Music Box — Friday and Saturday, Midnight
Back in the mid-1980s, the white, suburban, heterosexual American male was in crisis, threatened on all sides: globally, by the Middle East's control of oil production; culturally, by the emergence of chart-topping R&B and rap that imperiled the perceived hegemony of heavy metal and unspirited blues-rock; and locally, in the unrelenting crime waves of urban gangs, emerging from a dissolved patriarchy and reportedly expanding ever-outwards from the city centers. The successful reconstitution of this masculinity was produced primarily by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale's BACK TO THE FUTURE, an admittedly glorious genre-crossing inversion of the Oedipus mythology (protagonist Marty must overcome not a present, unconscious desire for his mother and rivalry with his father, but instead must overcome his mother's desire for him and actively facilitate the transformation of his milquetoast father into a confident figure of authority). The conflict is enacted in the oneiric space of small-town 1955 California, primarily through the repeated ritual humiliation of the seemingly-invincible Teutonic drive-creature Biff, but also through Marty's requisition—on behalf of wimpy caucasians everywhere—of the heritage of both civil rights (encouraging the local malt-shop busboy to become mayor) and rock n' roll (producing, for Chuck Berry and an audience of bewildered squares, "the sound you've been looking for"). All of this (including the role of the Benjamin-Franklin-esque Doc Brown) is then not simply in the service of some trite, individualist Protestant ethic ("if you put your mind to it, you could accomplish anything": murmured mantra-like from start to finish); for those voters still baffled by the persistency of conservative politics, why look any further? (1985, 116 min, 35mm) MC
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Francois Truffaut's THE WILD CHILD (French Revival)
Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) — Saturday, 2pm
The auteur theory teaches us to treat filmmaking as the second, secret narrative of a movie, with the director as its protagonist. In some ways, Francois Truffaut is one of cinema's most complicated characters, which is probably why his films remain popular—the appeal is as much the idea of Truffaut as the films themselves. He was a polemical radical and a conservative—or, rather, he was a polemical radical because he was a conservative. He was amiable but also very withdrawn. He was a humanist and, occasionally, a misanthrope. His best known films (the Doinel cycle, the Nouvelle Vague era movies) mostly follow the humanist tendency and his least successful (A GORGEOUS KID LIKE ME, which remains unreleased in the United States) come mostly from his misanthropy. But in the tragic films there's a lot of tenderness (like in THE SOFT SKIN and THE BRIDE WORE BLACK) and his gentlest films have little pockets of bitterness (the absent mothers of THE 400 BLOWS and SMALL CHANGE). THE WILD CHILD, like his two great Henri-Pierre Roche adaptations (JULES AND JIM and TWO ENGLISH GIRLS), is defined by a weird synthesis of these tendencies. It's almost romantically anti-romantic. Nestor Almendros, a cinematographer known for his soft colors, works here in black and white: the result is vivid without quite being sentimental. Truffaut himself (underrated as an actor) plays one the two lead roles as an early 19th century physician who sets out to study (and educate) a boy (13-year-old Jean-Pierre Cargol) raised away from civilization. Part of the Cine-Teens series at the Alliance Française, intended for teen viewers (and their parents). (1970, 83 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) IV
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Deep Leap Microcinema, an itinerant screening series organized by still-new-to-town Jesse Malmed (who is also a Cine-File contributor), presents its first program in Chicago. Kill Your Idols (65 min total, Digital File Projection) takes place on Friday at 8pm at Heaven Gallery (1550 N. Milwaukee Ave, 2nd Floor). The program includes work by Rick Silva, Roger Beebe, Laurel Degutis, Ben Russell, Leigh Brodie, Eric Fleischauer, Theo Darst, Evan Meaney, Clint Enns, Benjamin Schultz-Figueroa, Mary Helena Clark, Michael Hubbard, Lee Webster, Pete McPartlan, and Jeff Guay. Several of the filmmakers in person.

Iceberg Projects (7714 N. Sheridan Rd.) presents Used Parts, a program featuring new video works by Doug Ischar, Ben Fain, and Carrie Schneider, on Saturday at 8pm.

Realtime/Glitch, a new digital media series, takes place at Enemy (1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., 3rd Floor) on Friday at 9pm. Participating are A B Miller, Jon Satrom, Andy Ortmann, and CakeFactory (Alex Halbert).

Roots & Culture (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) kick's off Alexander Stewart's Zummertapez series with local filmmaker and musician Will Goss on Sunday at 8pm. The Zummertapez artists are asked to make a mix-tape that includes selections of their own work accompanied by work that inspires or influences them or resonates with their work.

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Studs Terkel Film & Video Festival Part 2 (Unconfirmed Formats) on Friday at 7pm. This second of three events celebrating Terkel's 100th birthday, organized by Media Burn Archive, features two 1975 works by Videopolis: IT'S A LIVING (60 min) and STUDS TERKEL WITH NELSON ALGREN (10 min). The screening will be introduced by Sara Chapman, Executive Director of the Media Burn Independent Video Archive, and Judy Hoffman, one of the creators of IT'S A LIVING. Video Projection - unconfirmed formats for both titles.

Chicago Filmmakers and Drinking and Writing Theater co-present the Tied House Film Festival (Unconfirmed Runtime; Unconfirmed Formats) on Saturday at 4pm at Haymarket Pub & Brewery (737 W. Randolph St.), with short work by Sean Benjamin, Mike Finch, Maria Gigante, Steve Mosqueda, Monte Ramos, Adam Smith, Victor Spatafora, Marie Ullrich, Larry Underwood, Renato Velarde, and Janet Wilson.

Local filmmakers Elizabeth Coffman and Ted Hardin will be screening their 2011 documentary VEINS IN THE GULF (78 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) at Uncommon Ground (1401 W. Devon Ave.) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. A special admission fee will include a Cajun dinner prior to the screening. You can make reservations at (773) 465-9801 or buy tickets at the door.

Landmark's Century Centre Cinema screens Richard Kelly's 2001 cult film DONNIE DARKO (113 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Léa Pool's 2011 Canadian documentary PINK RIBBONS, INC. (98 min, HDCam Video) plays for a week; Nathan Adloff's 2012 local film NATE & MARGARET (78 min, HDCam Video) screens Friday at 8:15pm, Monday at 6pm, and Tuesday at 8:15. Adloff in person at all three screenings; Radim Spacek's 2009 Czech/Slovak film WALKING TOO FAST (146 min, 35mm) screens Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 4:30pm. Spacek in person at the Saturday screening; Erika Hnikova's 2011 Czech/Slovak film MATCHMAKING MAYOR (72 min, 35mm) screens Sunday at 3pm and Monday at 8pm; Best of Just for Laughs Shorts (76 min total, Various Video Formats) is on Wednesday at 8:15pm; and Adam Hamdy and Shaun Magher's 2011 British comedy PULP (87 min, DCP Video) is on Thursday at 8:15pm.

Also at the Music Box this week: Malgoska Szumowska's 2011 film ELLES (96 min, 35mm) opens; Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda's 2011 film I WISH (128 min, Unconfirmed Format) and Philippe Falardeau's 2011 Canadian drama MONSIEUR LAZHAR (94 min, Unconfirmed Format) both continue; and Josh Trank's 2012 CHRONICLE (84 min, 35mm) is the second Midnight film on Friday and Saturday.

Facets Cinémathèque presents Julie Gavras's 2011 French/Belgian/UK production LATE BLOOMERS (95 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week long run.

The Portage Theater presents Weekend of Comics! Monsters! Movies! this Saturday and Sunday. The lineup is: Saturday - GHIDORAH THE THREE HEADED MONSTER (Noon), GORGO (2pm), HOWARD THE DUCK (3:45pm), JAWS (5:20pm), AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (7:20pm), and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (9:45pm); Sunday - MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (Noon), KRULL (2pm), and THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN (4pm). Unconfirmed Formats for all titles.

The Chicago History Museum screens Jeff Santo's 2004 documentary THIS OLD CUB (86 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) on Sunday at 1:30pm.

The Chicago Cultural Center presents two screenings as part of the Cinema/Chicago summer series: Mark A Reyes' 2008 Filipino film MOMENTS OF LOVE (104 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) is on Saturday at 2pm; and Pau Freixas' 2010 Spanish film HEROES (104 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) is on Wednesday at 6:30pm (repeats June 16).

The DuSable Museum screens the 2008 documentary TRACES OF THE TRADE: STORIES FROM THE DEEP NORTH (86 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) on Sunday at 2pm.

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (756 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Jeremiah Zagar's 2008 documentary IN A DREAM (80 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) on Thursday at 6pm.

The Sex +++ Film Series at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (800 S. Halsted St.) screens Kirsty MacDonald's 2009 documentary ASSUME NOTHING (82 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) on Tuesday at 7pm.

Also at the Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) this week: Olivier Dahan's 2007 film LA VIE EN ROSE (140 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) screens on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Introduced by locally-based director and assistant director Bob Dahlin; on Thursday at 6:30pm, Hassan Benjelloun's 2010 Moroccan film THE FORGOTTEN (105 min, Video Projection - unconfirmed format) screens as an Opening Night film for the 10th Annual Chicago African Diaspora International Film Festival. The festival continues June 15-21 at Facets Cinémathèque.

Transistor (3819 N. Lincoln Ave.) screens Tate Taylor's 2011 film THE HELP (146 min, DVD Projection) on Monday at 8pm.

The Art Institute of Chicago currently has experimental filmmaker Paul Sharits' 1975 16mm four-projector installation SHUTTER INTERFACE on view, through August 1. It is showing in the Modern Wing as one of the finalists under consideration for purchase for the AIC by the Acquisition Committee of the Society for Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. Also on display is filmmaker, musician, and artist Tony Conrad's 1973 paper work Yellow Movie 3/5-6/73, which, though not a moving image work, is cinematic in its inspiration. Check last week's Cine-File for a review of SHUTTER INTERFACE. More info at

Adds Donna (4223 W. Lake St.) presents the exhibition Faith Made, featuring video installation work by Allison Trumbo and Michael A. Morris and additional work by Adam Farcus. The show runs through July 8.

Nocturama a video installation work by local filmmaker Melika Bass continues at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.), running Friday-Tuesday (sundown to sun up), until July 15 (except for June 8 and July 13). Organized by Michael Green.

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CINE-LIST: June 8 – June 14, 2012

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Julian Antos, Michael Castelle, Tristan Johnson, Harrison Sherrod, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Brian Welesko, Darnell Witt

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