Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, JAN. 30 - Thursday, FEB. 5 ::


John Carpenter's THEY LIVE (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Friday and Saturday, Midnight

A defiant take on Reagan's proto-fascism, THEY LIVE is an affectionate view of working-class Los Angeles that mirrors a sincere appreciation of disreputable pop culture. Casting pro wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as the leader of a working-class insurgency is one of the most audacious choices of John Carpenter's long career, and it may be the most crystallized expression of the director's politics. Carpenter's skepticism towards contemporary life is rooted less in ideology than in a loyalty to old-fashioned genre storytelling, whose handmade qualities have been endangered by the automated culture of the corporate age. THEY LIVE famously depicts the corporate network of banks, TV stations, and multinational businesses as a secret alien plot; and while this makes for an effective sci-fi premise, it's executed too often as camp to make for effective political filmmaking. (Far more resonant are Carpenter's images of shantytowns comprised of former factory workers--a subtle reference to the collective miseries of Depression-era cinema in an era obsessed with individual success.) But, of course, Carpenter never aspired to be George Romero: His virtues lie elsewhere, in eccentric character touches, dynamic action sequences, and a consistently inventive use of the 'Scope frame. It should be noted that Carpenter was one of the few Hollywood filmmakers who insisted on shooting in widescreen throughout the VHS era, when most mainstream movies were shot in narrower ratios to be ready, like lambs to the slaughter, for panning and scanning. (1988, 93 min, 35mm) BS
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Films by Maya Deren (Experimental Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Sunday, 7pm

Leaving aside the filmmaking for a moment, it is fair to say that only a few individuals rival Maya Deren's importance in the development of the American Experimental cinema, and none of the early figures can rival the tales of her rich life and forceful personality. There's an often-repeated rumor that she once used her Voodoo powers, acquired while researching for an anthropology book in Haiti (The Divine Horseman), to pick up a refrigerator and toss it at a houseguest who had overstayed his welcome. An astute theorist and tireless promoter of the art, Deren's early films took the psychodrama of European filmmakers such as Jean Cocteau and morphed them to create a foundation for the personal-lyrical filmmaking of early Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger, and her later films foreshadowed the Structuralist work of Michael Snow and Ernie Gehr. Though she only completed a handful of films in her short life, they are each almost unanimous classics of the genre. Talk to any film professor worth their salt and you'll hear about the groundbreaking editing in MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON, the elegant spatial manipulation of A STUDY IN CHOREOGRAPHY FOR THE CAMERA, and the formal shamanism in MEDITATION ON VIOLENCE. Although her work is now quite accessible on DVD, all true believers of the Church of Cinema need to march down to Hyde Park to see these films as they were intended. Also showing: AT LAND and RITUAL IN TRANSFIGURED TIME. (1943-48, approx. 60 min total, 16mm) JH
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Alex Ross Perry's LISTEN UP PHILIP (New American)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) -- Saturday, 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday, 3:45pm

A savage depiction of the white male urban scribe sadly with target audience of same, LISTEN UP PHILIP satirizes what, one must suppose upon perusal, deserves and wants to be satirized. The result is a meta-theatrical bondage experience in which the symbols of prestige of the privileged New York intellectual are carefully reconstructed/tormented for full-screen mockery: the summer sojourn upstate that becomes a winter adjunct position; the tipsy Brooklyn bike lane romances and brownstone stoop breakups; and most memorably, graphic designer Teddy Blanks' heroic sendup of literally a half-century's worth of trade hardback cover stylistics. In a form of wish-fulfillment for actual New York transplants, the previous life history and socioeconomic status of our young protagonist ciphers is irrelevant to the proceedings--in this case, the merry devastation of ontological male jerkiness; and in what really shouldn't be a breath of fresh air, PHILIP's triptych structure serves to highlight the floor-mopping superiority of legitimate thespians Elisabeth Moss and Jonathan Pryce (really sweating it out here). DP Sean Price Williams' luscious Super 16mm is, additionally, one last stern reminder of the true indeterminacy of waves of refracted sunlight falling through the New England autumn leaves. (Normally this would merely be very recommended; but in Hyde Park on a Saturday night each of the characters will also be in attendance.) (2014, 108 min, DCP Digital) MC
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Wim Wenders' PINA (Contemporary Documentary/Dance Film)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Sunday, 3pm, Tuesday, 6pm, and Wednesday, 7:45pm

Conceived as a collaboration between Wim Wenders and avant-garde choreographer Pina Bausch, PINA's production, talked about between the two since the mid-80s, hit a major stumbling block with Bausch's sudden death in 2009. Bausch's dance troupe at Tanztheater Wuppertal encouraged Wenders to continue the project, and we are now blessed with what is unequivocally both the best documentation of modern dance and the best 3D movie yet made (sorry, STEP UP 3D). PINA's elegiac mode works as a remembrance of the masterful dancer as well as an introduction to the individuals in Tanztheater's ensemble, achieved by the bold choice of inserting solo performances by troupe members throughout the four Bausch choreographies Wenders restages, with all of these performances captured in an absolutely stunning application of 3D photography. Wim Wenders appears to understand that "3D" does not mean "three dimensional" in a physical sense--3D gives no genuine depth to objects, but rather aligns figures along the Z-axis in the much the same way as a pop-up book or diorama might. Wenders exploits what is otherwise a glaring problem with 3D's nominal verisimilitude and embraces the artificiality of the 3D process. For Kontakthof, Wenders allows a flashbulb to isolate two dancers, effectively flattening the composition and cutting out the figures we are to focus on, to stunning effect. In Café Müller, Wenders acknowledges 3D's obvious artifice, winkingly compositing an overhead shot of the dance's first movement inside a diorama placed in the middle of a field, the chairs that are tossed about in the piece appearing at first as dollhouse furniture. Wenders' use of 3D is nothing short of revelatory, but it is Pina Bausch's choreography that truly captures the viewer. The honesty and physicality of bodily movement in these performances drives a visceral emotional response from the viewer, particularly in the first performance, Le Sacre du printemps, in which the intense movements of the dancers are stamped into a layer of brown earth (and kudos to whomever mic-ed the troupe, as every thump, huff, and slap is reproduced incredibly). The body and its seemingly innumerable gestures provides Bausch a fascinating catalogue of human movements from which she cultivates specific actions from certain dancers according to the abilities of each, resulting in highly specified choreographies. PINA's tightly rehearsed intense physicality delivers on 3D's supposed promise of the immediacy of experience, and it stands out as both a singular work amongst a legendary filmmaker's storied career as well as a fitting tribute to a brilliant choreographer. SAIC Professor Daniel Eisenberg lectures at the Tuesday screening. (2011, 103 min, 3-D DCP Digital) DM
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Jean-Luc Godard's GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D (New French)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes

In Jean-Luc Godard's 1996 film FOR EVER MOZART, the director poses the question, "In the 'I think, therefore I am,' is the 'I' of 'I am' no longer the same as the 'I' of 'I think' and why?" GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D seeks to answer this Cartesian inquiry with a resounding "no" by offering a philosophical meditation on the fractured nature of identity in our era of mass communication. In his astonishing first feature in 3-D, the now-84-year-old Godard pointedly shows, through an almost impossibly rich tapestry of stereoscopic images and sounds, how language and technology have conspired to create barriers that separate humans not only from each other but also from themselves ("Soon everyone will need an interpreter to understand the words coming from their own mouths," is one characteristically epigrammatic line of dialogue.) The film is split into three parts: "Nature" (a section demarcated by a title card reading "1"), which focuses on Josette and Gedeon (Héloïse Godet and Kamel Abdelli); "Metaphor" (a section demarcated by a title card reading "2"), which focuses on Ivitch and Marcus (Zoé Bruneau and Richard Chevallier); and a short third part (beginning with a title card reading "3D"), which introduces a third couple--Godard and his longtime collaborator Anne-Marie Mieville, who are not seen but whose voices are heard on the soundtrack. The real "star" of GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D, however, is not a human at all but rather Godard's mixed-breed dog Roxy, who is frequently depicted alone, frolicking in nature, commanding both the most screen time and serving as the subject of some of the film's most dazzling stereoscopic effects. The shots of Roxy's handsome snout in the maw of Godard and cinematographer Fabrice Aragno's homemade 3-D-camera rig, which convey an overwhelming feeling of love for the animal on the part of his owner/director, are so rapturously beautiful they may make you want to cry. The film ends by juxtaposing the sounds of a dog barking with that of a baby wailing on the soundtrack, thus linking Roxy not only to nature but, implicitly, to a state of unspoiled innocence that humans possess only prior to learning to speak. Godard's poetic use of 3-D in GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D, the best such use of the technology in any movie I've seen, puts this groundbreaking work in the class of his (and the cinema's) great achievements. (2013, 70 min, 3-D DCP Digital) MGS
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Spike Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING (American Revival)
Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) - Friday, 7pm (Free Admission*)

Spike Lee's long and prolific career has been maddeningly uneven but he is also, in the words of his idol Billy Wilder, a "good, lively filmmaker." Lee's best and liveliest film is probably his third feature, 1989's DO THE RIGHT THING, which shows racial tensions coming to a boil on the hottest day of the year in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Lee himself stars as Mookie, a black deliveryman working for a white-owned pizzeria in a predominantly black community. A series of minor conflicts between members of the large ensemble cast (including Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Giancarlo Esposito, and John Turturro) escalates into a full-blown race riot in the film's incendiary and unforgettable climax. While the movie is extremely political, it is also, fortunately, no didactic civics lesson: Lee is able to inspire debate about hot-button issues without pushing an agenda or providing any easy answers. This admirable complexity is perhaps best exemplified by two seemingly incompatible closing-credits quotes--by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X--about the ineffectiveness and occasional necessity of violence, respectively. It is also much to Lee's credit that, as provocative and disturbing as the film at times may be, it is also full of great humor and warmth, qualities perfectly brought out by the ebullient cast and the exuberant color cinematography of Ernest Dickerson. (1989, 111 min, DVD Projection) MGS
* Free admission, but limited seating; RSVP at
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The Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival, presented by Chicago Filmmakers, continues with five programs (four shorts programs and SAUERBRUCH HUTTON ARCHITECTS, a feature by the late German documentarian/film essayist Harun Farocki) on Friday and Saturday at Columbia College's Ferguson Theater (600 S. Michigan Ave.). Full schedule at

Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) and South Side Projections present Remembering Harold Washington on Sunday at 2pm. Screening are RUNNING WITH THE MAYOR (Community TV Network, 1984, 12 min, DVD Projection), WHY GET INVOLVED (Jean Young, 1983, 30 min, DVD Projection), and an excerpt from CHICAGO POLITICS: A THEATRE OF POWER (Bill Stamets, 1987, 50 min excerpt of 90 min film, Unconfirmed Format), with Javier Vargas, who worked on RUNNING WITH THE MAYOR as a student, Bill Stamets, and others TBD in person. Free admission, but limited seating; RSVP at

Threewalls (119 N. Peoria St., Suite 2C) presents Interruption/Intervention, a program of work made between 1969-91 and selected by Robyn Farrell, on Thursday at 6:30pm. The event will include a Skype conversation with artist Jaime Davidovich, whose work is currently on display at Threewalls. Screening are: Jan Dibbets' TV AS A FIREPLACE (Fernsehgalerie Gerry Schum) (1969, 4 min excerpt of a 33 min video), David Hall's TAP PIECE (TV Interruptions) (1971, 4 min) and his INTERRUPTION PIECE (TV Interruptions) (1971, 3 min), Valie Export's FACING A FAMILY (1971, 5 min), Peter Weibel's THE ENDLESS SANDWICH (1972, 37 sec), Christopher Burden's TV COMMERCIALS (1973-77, 4 min), Richard Serra and Carlotta Fay Schoolman's TELEVISION DELIVERS PEOPLE (1973, 6 min), Richard Serra and Nancy Holt's BOOMERANG (1974, 10 min), Stan Douglas' TELEVISION SPOTS (1987-88) and MONODRAMAS (1991) (8 min total), and Jenny Holzer's TELEVISED TEXTS (1990, 13 min). All Digital File and DVD, shown in a combination of video projection and on a monitor.

Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria St., UIC) screens Harun Farocki's 2003 documentary/essay film WAR AT A DISTANCE (54 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 7pm. Free admission.

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents The Day After Groundhog Day Might Still be Groundhog Day: a kid* friendly screening of works by former kids* who have current kids* on Tuesday at 7pm. The program is a loose invitational for artists with kids to remake part of GROUNDHOG DAY or to make something inspired by it. We think. Cryptic details at

Black World Cinema presents Jean-Pierre Bekolo's 2005 Cameroonian film LES SAIGNANTES (THE BLEEDERS) (92 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm at Chatham 14 Theaters (210 West 87th St.).

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Arch Oboler's 1966 film THE BUBBLE (91 min, 3-D DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Friday and Thursday at 6pm and Saturday at 6:30pm, with Bob Furmanek, founder of the 3-D Film Archive, in person at the Friday and Saturday shows; Douglas Kass and Roger Kass's 2013 documentary EMPTYING THE SKIES (78 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday at 6pm and Wednesday at 8pm; Uberto Pasolini's 2013 film STILL LIFE (92 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; Jean-Luc Godard's 1966 film MASCULINE FEMININE (103 min, 35mm) screens on Saturday at 3pm and Thursday at 6pm; and Godard's 1963 film LES CARABINIERS (83 min, Archival 35mm Print) screens on Saturday at 5pm and Tuesday at 6pm (along with his 1955 short OPERATION CONCRETE, 20 min, Archival 35mm Print); Jack Arnold's 1954 film CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (79 min, 3-D DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 3pm and Monday at 6pm; and Adam Rifkin's 2014 documentary GIUSEPPE MAKES A MOVIE (82 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 5pm and Monday at 8pm, with Rifkin in person at both screenings.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 film NOTORIOUS (102 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday at 1:30pm; Jacques Doillon's 1985 film FAMILY LIFE (95 min, 35mm) is on Monday at 7pm; Dennis Dugan's 1996 film HAPPY GILMORE (92 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Federico Fellini's 1970 docu/fiction film I CLOWNS [THE CLOWNS] (92 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7 and 9pm; Stuart Rosenberg's 1967 film COOL HAND LUKE (127 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 7pm; and Jacques Rivette's 1966 film THE NUN (135 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:30pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's 2014 film TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (95 min) and Andrey Zvyagintsev's 2014 Russian film LEVIATHAN (140 min) both continue; Frank Capra's 1936 film MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (115 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am; and Hitoshi Matsumoto's 2013 film R100 (100 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens Frank Capra's 1937 film LOST HORIZON (132 min, DCP Digital; Restored Version) on Friday at 7pm; and Marc Grieco's 2014 Columbian documentary MARMATO (87 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 7pm.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Sean Mullin's 2014 film AMIRA & SAM (88 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run.

The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 200) screens Helmut Käutner's 1955 film SKY WITHOUT STARS (109 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 6pm. Free admission.

The Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Olivier Dahan's 2014 film GRACE OF MONACO (102 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6:30pm. Introduced by fashion design expert Nena Ivon.

The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave.) screens Federico Fellini's 1952 film THE WHITE SHEIK (83 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.



Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) continues Kate McQuillen's multi-media installation Old Flame through February 22. The installation is viewable only from the outside of the building, through the windows.

Threewalls (119 N. Peoria St., Suite 2C) continues Jaime Davidovich: Outreach 1974-1984 through March 21. The exhibition, which features video and television work by the Argentinean artist, is comprised of three programs of work, which will rotate over the course of the show; check for the schedule.

Melika Bass' solo exhibition The Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast, an immersive multi-channel video and sound installation, continues through April 19 at the Hyde Park Art Center.

Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria, UIC) continues the exhibition Visibility Machines: Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen through March 14.

The Renaissance Society presents Mathias Polenda's 35mm film installation Substance (7 min loop) through February 8.

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



Chicago Public Library screenings: Due to the frequency of late-additions (past our deadlines) and to their frequent inability (due to licensing restrictions) of publicly listing the titles of films they are screening, we will no longer be listing specific CPL screenings. Check their website for any films that may be showing.

The Patio Theater and the Portage Theater calendars have been confusing and constantly shifting--adding and removing events with little notice--and reportedly have been unexpectedly closed for scheduled events. We will no longer attempt to list any screenings there.

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.

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CINE-LIST: January 30 - February 5, 2015

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Michael Castelle, Jason Halprin, Doug McLaren, Ben Sachs, Michael G. Smith, Darnell Witt

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