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, DEC. 5 - Thursday, DEC. 11 ::


Jean Vigo's L'ATALANTE (French Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Friday. 7pm

There are movies that put you to sleep, and then there are movies that remind you that you are asleep: Jean Vigo's cryptically peerless L'ATALANTE, only somewhat recognizable as narrative cinema, sometimes seems as close a document as any of the inspired dreamlife of a modernizing Europe. Deliberately given an uninteresting screenplay by his producer, the literally feverish (he would die of Tuberculosis later that year) 28-year-old Jean Vigo orchestrated (and improvised) the playful and violent titular floating world (partially filmed on an actual barge in the Seine) which would magically transport its honeymooning, rural protagonist Juliette (Dita Parlo) into the strange crowds and technological chaos of Parisian urbanity. And in his legendary performance of the barge's old hand Jules, Swiss actor Michel Simon portrays the rage and kindness of the perpetually besotted with an empathy worthy of WITHNAIL AND I's Richard E. Grant. Meticulously restored in 1989 from Vigo's notes, the resultant ludic limbo--where the provincial certainty and simplicity of heterosexual kinship is perpetually thrown into doubt--will be either recognizable as The Way We Live Now, or as an explicitly political affront to the dozing apathy of cultural conservatism in all of its forms. (1934, 89 min, 35mm) MC
Showing with Jean Epstein's 1947 masterful short LE TEMPESTAIRE (22 min, DCP Digital)
More info at

Isao Takahata's THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA (New Japanese Animation) and Hideki Ono, Keiko Nakazono, and Yoko Terakoshi's ISAO TAKAHATA AND HIS TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA (New Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes*

Making-of documentaries are typically informative, but rarely are they considered crucial to one's overall appreciation of the film in question. Several making-of documentaries, including BURDEN OF DREAMS (about the production of Werner Herzog's 1982 film FITZCARRALDO) and HEART OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER'S APOCALYPSE, are cinematic achievements in their own right, but these successes don't negate the fact that much allegedly "privileged" behind-the-scenes footage is mere DVD bonus fodder. And while ISAO TAKAHATA AND HIS TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA (2014, 82 min, DCP Digital) isn't necessarily on par with the work of Les Blank and Eleanor Coppola, it does provide great insight not only into the effort that went into Takahata's magnum opus, but also into his role at the famed Studio Ghibli and his relationship with the cast and crew. (Contrary to most write-ups about Takahata, he doesn't draw and therefore isn't an animator in the traditional sense.) THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA (2013, 137 min, DCP Digital) undoubtedly speaks for itself, its beauty so ethereal that it's almost as otherworldly as its title character, but its delicate line drawings and impressionistic backgrounds are brought to life even more when informed by the tacit dedication that went into every stroke. As the documentary tells us, THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA is based on a 10th-century Japanese folktale called "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter," which is said to be Japan's first novel. It's also interesting in that it's a work of proto-science fiction, elements of which were made more conspicuous in Kon Ichikawa's 1987 adaptation, PRINCESS FROM THE MOON. Studio Ghibli is no stranger to the blurred lines of magical realism or the outright fantasticality that's inherent within the science fiction genre. THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA exists somewhere between these extremes, though its aesthetic is singular to Takahata's vision. The documentary details the eight-year process, from the film's producers having to convince Takahata to make another movie after the disruption caused by his 1999 film MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS, to a delay in production caused in part by Takahata's perfectionist tendencies. But throughout it all, Takahata maintains a guileless composure that further infuses the viewing experience with his infectious earnestness. In one particularly poignant scene, Takahata reconvenes with friend and Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki after a press conference announcing this year's Ghibli releases (the other being Miyazaki's masterpiece THE WIND RISES) and Miyazaki's retirement. Another scene depicts Takahata's and his crew's reaction to the film's completion, the emotion in which is similar to the scene from Mark Levinson's PARTICLE FEVER where physicist David Kaplan and his colleagues celebrate the successful identification of the Higgs boson. The film lives up to this intensity; it's virtually indescribable, a visual tour de force of the highest order. The film's score, composed by Joe Hisaishi, cements the impact. Studio Ghibli announced this past August that it would be temporarily halting production following Miyazaki's retirement. Regret is a shared theme between this and THE WIND RISES, making them an appropriate finale should this really be the end. KS
*Note that THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA is showing in both English-dubbed and subtitled Japanese versions, and is showing for a four-week run; the documentary has only four screenings total: Saturdays, December 5 (5:30pm), 13 (5pm), and 27 (5:30pm) and Sunday, December 28 (5:30pm).
More info at

Mathieu Amalric's THE BLUE ROOM (New French)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes

"Life is different when you live it and when you go back over it after." So says Julien Gahyde (director and co-writer Mathieu Amalric), an adulterous--and possibly murderous--farm equipment sales rep, in response to a gendarme's incessant questions concerning an ambiguous crime. Gahyde's year-long affair with a beautiful but unstable pharmacist, Esther Despierre (co-writer Stephanie Cleau), also married, ends in tragedy but this erotic thriller is ingeniously constructed to only teasingly parcel out the narrative information; the nonlinear structure, which has its origins in Georges Simenon's 1964 source novel, shuttles back and forth in time between the illicit lovers' meetings in the titular hotel room and a series of police interrogations and eventual criminal trial much later, all the while daringly eliding the crime (or crimes) at the film's center altogether. The "exchange of murders" conceit may be familiar from Alfred Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN but the impressive formal control is Amalric's own. As an actor, he's long specialized in playing unhinged fuck-ups for other filmmakers but, under his own sure directorial hand, allows himself an impressive restraint to match the rigor of his mise-en-scene: Amalric's famously expressive peepers do less work here than the disorienting close-ups and boxy aspect ratio, which combine to convey a potent sense of claustrophobia and doom. THE BLUE ROOM is as tight and compressed as Amalric's earlier ON TOUR was messy and sprawling and, at only 76 minutes, manages to be both free of flab and capable of sticking to one's ribs. Potential viewers are forewarned to pay special attention to the closing minutes--a final twist is so subtle it will go unnoticed by many. (2014, 76 min, DCP Digital) MGS
More info at

Shirley Clarke's THE COOL WORLD (American Revival)
Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) - Thursday, 7pm (Free Admission*)

"There's no question that my career would have been different if I was a man," said Shirley Clarke in an interview from 1993. Unfortunately, Clarke's name is still comparatively obscure despite her incredible contribution to the New American cinema of the 1960s, with films that teeter between reality and fiction, and rival John Cassavetes and direct cinema makers like the Maysles and Frederick Wiseman. Clarke was also a central figure, now forgotten, in the New York early video movement where she ran workshops in her Chelsea Hotel loft, the participants of which were called THE TEEPEE VIDEOSPACE TROUPE (1970-78). However, it is doubtful that there is no Shirley Clarke Criterion release because of misogyny. Clarke, who died in 1997, sold the rights to many of her films, and these rights are scattered; THE COOL WORLD is owned by Wiseman's company, Zipporah (he produced the film). [Since the original of this was written, Milestone Films has been undertaking a massive effort to restore and release much Clarke's work, theatrically and on home video, though this seems not to include COOL WORLD, which is still owned by Zipporah.--Ed.] THE COOL WORLD is an unflinching semi-narrative set in Harlem's slums following African-American teenagers embroiled in gang violence. Clarke's use of non-actors, themselves living in the situations in which the film finds them, undoubtedly influenced filmmakers like Larry Clark, although she manages to capture her "characters" without it feeling exploitative. More than anything, THE COOL WORLD appears motivated by a profound desire to portray the injustices of racist America as a call to action, as well as to humanize her subjects and portray the complexities of their lives. (1963, 125 min, 16mm) BC
*Free admission, but limited seating; RSVP at
More info at


Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD (New American)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 and 10pm & Sunday, 3:30pm

Why revisit BOYHOOD? Exhibit A: with unthinking universal acclaim more befitting a generic Pixar or Marvel endeavor, the collective corpus of extant BOYHOOD reviews are a sign that contemporary film criticism (and its extraordinarily brief post-screening turnaround times) needs to be burned to the ground and its ashes tossed to sea. This is not because the movie isn't any good--it's because the myth of its diachronic production revealed the majority of pundits' inability to distinguish between fiction, documentary, and/or real life. (Even a relatively reflective late submission in the New York Review of Books explicitly assumed that there must be footage left over for one or "several" features.) Once one accepts that BOYHOOD is a conventional narrative fiction, with actors, a script, and the usual Linklater IRL influences (such as the armchair philosophy and/or unsubtle musical taste of Ethan Hawke) that happens to have had an extraordinarily staggered production schedule, it might become possible to consider--as few critics seemed to have managed to do--what the subject matter of the film might be. For example, it's not about "time" (none of the scripted content has anything interesting to say about that). A little bit is about adolescent psychological development--note the academic lectures moving from teacher to student: Pavlov replaced with Bowlby. But now observe the film's morality of technicity: 35mm cameras, cars, guns, blues-rock, (small amounts of) drugs: good, everything else (TV, beer, steroids): bad. It's pure Austin, TX, but Linklater's take on video games, cell phones, and the mobile Internet is far from incidental (no director points a camera at Halo on Xbox--or holds a lengthy Facetime conversation within a single static frame--by accident). Ellar Coltrane's Max Weber-esque speech on the iron cage of social media is the film's passionate précis; and its suggestive conclusion for the youth of today--to tune in, drop out and Be Here Now at Big Bend National Park--as radical a statement as one would find in any 2014 film festival. What Twitter-crippled, deskilled scribe could resist it? (2014, 163 min, DCP Digital) MC
More info at

Leslie Buchbinder's HAIRY WHO & THE CHICAGO IMAGISTS (New Documentary)
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (756 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Thursday, 6:30pm

For the longest time there was a dearth of scholarly coverage of the Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists. Prominent figures like Ed Paschke and Karl Wirsum were periodically spotlighted as solo artists, but it was difficult to contextualize their work within a larger historical narrative. What was the relationship between the Hairy Who and other cliques in the Chicago art scene like the Monster Roster and Nonplussed Some, not to mention the Pop artists based in NYC? This is the subject of Leslie Buchbinder's new documentary, HAIRY WHO & THE CHICAGO IMAGISTS, which functions as a brilliant treasure trove of interviews and archival photographs, aided by animations by cartoonist Lilli Carré. The Imagists drew inspiration from comic books, tattoo flash, and the iconography of local spectacles such as Maxwell St. market. However, unlike their East Coast, postmodern counterparts, the Imagists had a sincere love of mass culture. In this sense, they leapfrogged much of the debate that has preoccupied the contemporary art discourse over the past several decades, presaging what some critics refer to today as "metamodern." The influence of the Imagists can be seen in the work of Gary Panter, Mike Kelley, and John Kricfalusi. Moreover, in an extended interview with the director (which can be read on the Cine-File blog), she expands on the intimate link between Imagists and the cinema--just another footnote in what amounts to the most comprehensive chronicle of Chicago's most vibrant, iconoclastic, and carnivalesque chapter in art history. Followed by at discussion between curator Lisa Stone (Roger Brown Study Collection) and artists Barbara Rossi and Philip Hanson. (2014, 105 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) HS
More info at

Tommy Wiseau's THE ROOM (Cult Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Friday, Midnight

A woman announces, "Well, the results came back - I definitely have breast cancer," and that's the last we ever hear of it. A group of men don tuxedos for no apparent reason and then toss around a football. A drug dealer threatens to kill someone and then disappears for the rest of the movie. Upon awaking, a man picks up a rose from his night table, smells it, and throws it on top of his sleeping girlfriend. A recurring rooftop "exterior" is obviously a studio set, with a backdrop of the San Francisco skyline digitally composited behind the action. Accidental surrealism can be even more potent than the conscious kind, and THE ROOM is some kind of zenith of its type, the equal to anything Ed Wood committed to celluloid. Although what's on screen looks like it cost about $14.99, the actual budget was upwards of $6 million, in part because actor/producer/writer/director Wiseau shot simultaneously in 35mm and HD (supposedly he didn't understand the differences between the two formats). Now the film has become a worthy successor to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, with enthusiastic fans performing a series of rituals at each screening. Ross Morin, assistant professor of film studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, calls it "one of the most important films of the past decade. Through the complete excess in every area of production, THE ROOM reveals to us just how empty, preposterous and silly the films and television programs we've watched over the past couple of decades have been." (2003, 99 min, 35mm) RC
More info at


The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) screens Vito Pandolfi and David Maria Turoldo's 1963 Italian drama GLI ULTIMI (THE LAST ONES) (92 min, DCP Digital Projection; New Restoration) on Friday at 7pm, with archivist Luca Giuliani (Head of Cultural Projects at the Cineteca del Friuli, Gemona, Italy) in person.

Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) screens Blake Eckard's 2013 independent feature GHOSTS OF EMPIRE PRAIRIE (83 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 8pm at Chicago Filmmakers (with Eckard in person) and on Wednesday at 6:30pm at Columbia College (Hokin Hall, 623 S. Wabash Ave.). Screens with Jon Jost's 1964 short CITY (15 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format).

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Follow Focus: Daviel Shy and THE LADIES ALMANACK on Sunday at 7pm. The Nightingale inaugurates a new process-oriented series with this event and will host four screenings during the course of the next year, each one in a different season and highlighting a different element of the production process of this new film ending with a rough cut screening in Fall of 2015. The production of a commissioned art object will also raise funds for the film. Admission price at each of the four screenings includes part of a limited edition, risograph-printed Ladies Almanack Tarot Deck. This first event will include a treatment presentation by director Daviel Shy, exclusive trailer release, and dramatic readings from Djuna Barnes' 1928 novel The Ladies Almanack. Reception with artists to follow the screening.

The Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station in Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Kevin Pickman's 2014 film WE GREW UP HERE (95 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 8pm, with Pickman in person. Free admission.

No Nation Gallery and Tangentail Unspace Lab (1542 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd Floor) present Children Without Parents: The Funeral, a program of films and installation work, on Saturday at 8pm. The event will include installation work by Joseph Carr, Calum Walter, and Cameron Worden; a performative funeral, including a eulogy read by Casey Puccini, beginning at 9pm; followed by Puccini's 2012 film CHILDREN WITHOUT PARENTS (79 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) and previews by artists Brian Wiebe, Taylor Wood, and Drew Hanks. Free admission.

The Emanuel Congregation (5959 N. Sheridan Rd.) screens local filmmakers Silvia Malagrino and Sharon Karp's 2014 documentary A SONG FOR YOU (83 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 1pm, with Malagrino and Karp in person.

The Art Institute of Chicago screens Josef Filipowic's 1968 documentary DIARY OF A HARLEM FAMILY (20 min) and Kartemquin Films' 1974 documentary NOW WE LIVE IN CLIFTON (26 min) on Friday at 2pm (both DVD Projection) in the Ryan Education Center. Free admission.

The Black Cinema House, Experimental Sound Studio, and Chicago Film Archives present two screenings/performances of Kinosonik #1 on Saturday at 8pm at ESS (5925 North Ravenswood Ave.) and Sunday at 4pm at BCH (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.). The event features musicians Olivia Block and Tomeka Reid performing live scores to a selection of four films from the CFA collection (1953-c. 1972, All Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format). Free admission at both venues, but due to limited seating at BCH, RSVP at Check the BCH website or for a list of the works showing.

Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria, UIC) hosts Sistah Sinema Chicago's screening of Jules Rosskam's 2012 film THICK RELATIONS (80 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm. Co-star Jackie Boyd in person.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Mike Judge's 2006 film IDIOCRACY (84 min, 35mm) is on Friday and Tuesday at 6pm, with a lecture by Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Tuesday show; Lina Plioplyte's 2014 documentary ADVANCED STYLE (72 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 11:30am and 1pm; Bernardo Bertolucci's 1971 film THE CONFORMIST (115 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Saturday at 4:30pm, Sunday at 3pm, and Monday and Wednesday at 6pm; and Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton's 2014 concert film BJÖRK: BIOPHILIA LIVE (97 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 8:15pm and Tuesday and Thursday at 8:30pm.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Chris Columbus' 1990 film HOME ALONE (103 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 7, 9:15, and 11:15pm and Sunday at 1pm; and Max Nosseck's 1940 Yiddish film OVERTURE TO GLORY (77 min, 35mm; Free Admission) is on Sunday at 7pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Anthony Powell's 2013 documentary ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE (91 min) opens; Ruben Östlund's 2014 film FORCE MAJEURE (118 min, DCP Digital Projection) continues; Richard Knight Jr. and Peter Neville's 2012 local film SCROOGE AND MARLEY (91 min) is on Saturday and Sunday at Noon; the Sound of Music Sing-A-Long is on Saturday at 11:30am; a surprise film is showing in 35mm on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; and Jim Sharman's 1975 film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Mariana Rondón's 2013 film BAD HAIR (93 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run.

Retrospective titles at the Logan Theatre this week: Wes Anderson's 2009 film FANTASTIC MR. FOX (87 min) is on Friday and Saturday at 11pm and Sunday and Monday at 10:30pm; Jon Favreau's 2003 film ELF (97 min) is on Saturday and Sunday at Noon; and John Landis' 1983 film TRADING PLACES (116 min) is on Thursday at 10:30pm. All Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format.

The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 200) screens Lev Arnshtam's 1960 film FIVE DAYS, FIVE NIGHTS (100 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 6pm. Free admission.

The Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Fabien Constant's 2013 documentary MADEMOISELLE C (113 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6:30pm, introduced by fashion expert Nena Ivon.

At Chicago Public Library locations this week: George Clooney's 2014 film THE MONUMENTS MEN (118 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) screens at the Roosevelt Branch (1101 W. Taylor St.) on Friday at 10am. Free admission.

The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N Michigan Ave., Suite 1450) screens Luigi Comencini's 1972 film THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO (134 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.

DuSable Museum screens Tariq Nasheed's 2011 documentary HIDDEN COLORS: THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF PEOPLE OF ABORIGINAL, MOOR AND AFRICAN DESCENT (109 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 2pm.

At the Patio Theater this week: Steven Spielberg's 1984 film INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (118 min) screens on Friday at 7pm. Free admission; and a double feature of Tom Berninger's 2013 documentary MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS (75 min) and Martin Shore's 2014 documentary TAKE ME TO THE RIVER (95 min) is on Thursday at 6pm. All Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format.



Anri Sala's 2003 digital video installation Mixed Behavior (8 min loop) opens on Friday and runs through March 1 at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago presents Lucy McKenzie and Richard Kern's 2014 single channel video The Girl Who Followed Marple (10 min loop) through January 18.


The Northbrook Public Library film series is on hiatus during renovations at the library. Expected completion is Spring 2015.

The Northwest Chicago Film Society is again on hiatus for their weekly series, with the closing of the Patio Theater. They plan to do occasional screenings as opportunities arise.

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

CINE-LIST: December 5 - December 11, 2014

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Beth Capper, Michael Castelle, Rob Christopher, Kathleen Sachs, Michael G. Smith, Harrison Sherrod, Darnell Witt

> Editorial Statement -> Contact