Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, JAN. 9 - Thursday, JAN. 15 ::


Marcel Carné's LE JOUR SE LÈVE (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes

Widely considered a masterpiece of French poetic realism, Marcel Carné's LE JOUR SE LÈVE is noted as much for its narrative structure as it is for its place within the cryptic prewar style. It opens with a bang--literally. From there on out, languid dissolves take the viewer from the tortured protagonist's present to his recent past, revealing the events that led up to (or down from?) the film's first fateful moment. Based on a story thought up by one of his neighbors and adapted to the screen by poet Jacques Prévert (with whom Carné collaborated for more than a decade), the construction is what first attracted Carné; its flashback structure, now taken for granted, was among the first of its kind and has since become a commonly used device. The bang we hear is a gunshot, that of François (played by Jean Gabin) killing an as yet unidentified character. As the police surround his apartment and attempt to either arrest or kill him, François thinks back to the events that led him there. Of course his dilemma involves a woman--two in fact: the sweet, young Françoise (Jacqueline Laurent) and the more experienced, more embittered Clara (Arletty). As romantic tragedy is a defining factor of poetic realism, it suffices to say there's no happy ending in store for François. But romance aside, would there ever have been? François is a foundryman who had been employed in hazardous jobs his entire life. Poetic realism is distinct from straightforward realism (and the movements associated with it) in how the work embodies cinematic verisimilitude. It's suggested that François's unhealthy working conditions would have eventually led to his early demise, but it's not the trappings of his social class that kills him, it's his doomed romance. The ill-fated affair is representative both of his unfortunate lot in life as a member of the petite bourgeoisie and the way in which poetic realist directors conveyed their socio-political leanings. The film was released in 1939, the last year of the poetic realism "movement" before the war handicapped the French film industry altogether. Combined with imagery that evokes German Expressionism and would later inspire film noir, Italian neorealism and the French New Wave, the movement and the films born of it combine the atmospheric capabilities inherent to cinema and the lyrical persuasion of poetry. As per the Film Center's website, this new 4K restoration "brings back long-unseen footage censored under the Vichy regime (including a nude glimpse of Arletty, and the expunged credits of Jewish creative personnel)." (93 min, DCP Digital; New 4K Restoration) KS
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Diana Whitten's VESSEL (New Documentary)
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Friday, 7pm

Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts isn't interested in changing laws, per se; rather, she seems more interested in changing lives. She puts the "active" in activism, as corny as that may sound, in an age when many are content to merely hashtag their disgruntlement and call it a day. A former Greenpeace activist who's since devoted her life's work to helping women procure safe abortions, she started Women on Waves in 2000 in order to assist women in countries where abortion is still illegal. She and her organization partly do so by performing the abortions on international waters. (As animated infographics inform us, Women in Waves focuses primarily on medical abortions, which can be performed up to nine weeks after a woman's last period with only a couple of pills.) Director Diana Whitten details the organization's development from their maiden voyage in Ireland to their most recent endeavors in Morocco and Tanzania, among other locations. In addition to showing how they're helping women obtain abortions in neutral waters, the documentary also depicts their next steps after it becomes more and more difficult for them to sail. This involves advising women on how to perform abortions on their own by taking Misoprostol and other similar medications. The latter half of the documentary shows Gomperts and her motley crew helping women's groups in various countries to set up their own hotlines and even promoting their organization and its goals through illegal, but rather ingenious, means. (This includes hanging a promotional banner from a statue of the Virgin Mary in Ecuador, after which the hotline receives dozens of calls and messages.) Despite their heroic efforts, there is no hero worship involved; Whitten depicts these activists as sometimes-flawed individuals who occasionally disagree among themselves. But any conflict is easily resolvable in the face of their mission, which unites them and us alike. The last two years have produced several great films on the subject of abortion, including Martha Shane and Lana Wilson's AFTER TILLER (2013) and Gillian Robespierre's OBVIOUS CHILD (2014), a trend that hints at abortion becoming more normalized, or at the very least, more prevalent in popular discourse. But Whitten's film serves as a much-needed reminder that talk will only get us so far, and that there's still such a long way to go. (2014, 88 min, HD Video) KS
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Ana Lily Amirpour's A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (New American)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check venue website for showtimes

Distributor Kino/Lorber has cannily but misleadingly marketed A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT as the "first Iranian vampire western." The film's writer/director, Ana Lily Amirpour, was born in London to Iranian parents and raised in America; it was shot in Bakersfield, California (standing in for a fictional Iranian ghost town named "Bad City"); the cast consists almost entirely of Persian-American actors speaking Farsi; and, aside from a stray spaghetti-western-inflected song or two on the diegetic-heavy soundtrack, the movie bears almost no relationship whatsoever to the western genre. It would be more accurate to describe this stylishly crafted, auspicious debut feature as an adult version of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN--a poignant love story about the coming together of two lonely souls, one of whom just happens to be a vampire. The fact that the titular bloodsucker is a hijab-wearing young woman (the excellent Sheila Vand) who only preys on "bad men" has drawn both political and feminist allegorical readings from critics, although this is arguably giving too much credit to a film whose substance is primarily to be found in its surface pleasures. Still, what a surface. Amirpour and director of photography Lyle Vincent weave a potent alchemical magic with their high-contrast black-and-white cinematography--Amirpour's almost exclusive focus on nighttime exteriors in weird industrial locations (i.e., Bakersfield's oil refineries, factories, and railroad yards) recalls the nightmarish atmosphere of her hero David Lynch's ERASERHEAD but, combined with her impeccable taste in pop-music cues, creates a dreamy/druggy vibe that is both entrancing and wholly her own. It's probably too early to tell whether the movie's weaker second half is the result of Amirpour's failure to build narrative momentum or a byproduct of the fact that her true talents may lie outside the realm of traditional storytelling altogether; A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT's single best moment is a non-sequitur involving a drag-queen dancing with a balloon. In this startling non-narrative sequence, the charm of the choreography between performer and balloon is almost perfectly matched by the charm of the choreography between camera and performer. (2014, 99 min, DCP Digital) MGS
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Federico Fellini's I VITELLONI (Italian Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7 and 9:15pm

According to history Federico Fellini's second feature, I VITELLONI, should never have existed. After the commercial failure of THE WHITE SHEIK Fellini and co-writer Tullio Pinelli approached producer Luigi Rovere with an early draft of LA STRADA. Intimidated by the liminal nature of its genre, Rovere quickly handed it off to fellow professor/producer Lorenzo Pegoraro. Also bothered by its lack of commercial appeal Pegoraro encouraged the young screenwriters to pen a comedy. And thus Fellini, Pinelli, and longtime collaborator Ennio Flaiano pooled their childhood experiences and birthed I VITELLONI. Met with immediate acclaim, the film follows a group of idle youths in provincial Italy through a series loosely stitched together episodes and adventures. These vitellonis (a cross between the Italian for beef and veal meaning roughly an immature loafer) spend their days plotting hijacks and chasing skirts. Shenanigans include an extravagant masquerade ball, an interrupted beauty pageant, and actor Albert Sordi's drag tango. No doubt influenced by its neorealist predecessors (who found interest in seemingly innocuous small events), I VITELLONI's profound originality lies in its negation of the norms of storytelling, an attribute often derided as immature and naive. But these disparate stories reveal the characters not through dramatic evolution but gestures and attitude--a wry joke, particular gait, or hairstyle. What's crafted is an image behind traditional "psychological cinema"; what Andre Bazin has aptly called a "mode of being". For a film that never should have been I VITELLONI is astonishing in its daring and a must-see for any Fellini fan. As André Bazin has noted, "everything was already contained in I VITELLONI and set out there with magisterial genius." (1953, 104 min, 35mm) CGB
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Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 6, 8:30, and 11pm and Sunday, 1:30pm

Despite its massive popularity and canonization as the classic film, VERTIGO remains one of the most insidious, disturbing movies of all time, particularly as it relates to the tortuous labyrinth of the psyche. Out of all the films in the Hitchcock oeuvre, VERTIGO resonates with the most Freudian overtones. Indeed, there exists a strong thematic thread between the two men: both are essentially concerned with peeling back the facade of normalcy to reveal something perverse lurking underneath. As with psychoanalysis, nothing is as it seems in VERTIGO. The story--about Scottie (James Stewart), a former detective being lured out of retirement to investigate the suspicious activities of Madeleine (Kim Novak), his friend's wife--is a pretense for an exploration into the (male) creation of fantasies, a subject that's integral to how we experience movies on the whole. From the very beginning of the film it's almost as if Scottie is subconsciously aware that Madeleine is an unattainable illusion. When he gazes at her in the flower shop, it feels as if the two are situated in different realms of reality. Even when Scottie and Madeleine are at their most intimate, he's kept at a distance by the enigma of her femininity. It's precisely because of this Delphic quality that Madeleine is elevated to the status of fantasy object after her death. In fact, her death only enhances her desirability, the notion that sex/Eros and death/Thanatos are intimately intertwined being one of Freud's most groundbreaking theories (though partial credit should be given to Sabina Spielrein, as David Cronenberg's A DANGEROUS METHOD suggests). Scottie's transformation of Judy into Madeleine in the second half of the film suggests that male desire hinges on the alignment of fantasy and reality; however, Judy is complicit in her metamorphosis from her true self into a fantasy object, evoking John Berger's supposition that "Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at." The famous silhouette shot of Judy in the hotel room emphasizes the bipartite nature of the female psyche--a woman might love you, but she'll simultaneously take part in a nefarious murder plot at your expense. In the end, Judy/Madeleine is anything but a certified copy--she's tainted, corrupt, and cheapened. VERTIGO suggests that one cannot (re)create something that never truly existed in the first place. As Slavoj Zizek puts it: "We have a perfect name for fantasy realized. It's called nightmare." (1958, 128 min, 35mm) HS
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Jean-Luc Godard's BREATHLESS (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 5pm

The cinematic equivalent of "Like a Rolling Stone," Jean-Luc Godard's first feature was a near-unprecedented marriage of pop culture and intellectual sensibilities, breaking numerous rules of the form and paving the way for a good deal of art in the 1960s. The film's stylistic breakthroughs have been so influential as to seem familiar now--particularly the newsreel-like cinematography and randomly employed jump cuts (which Jonathan Rosenbaum has compared to "a needle skipping gaily across a record"). But beneath the carefree attitude is a rich poetic sensibility, arguably the one consistent trait throughout Godard's varied body of work. In BREATHLESS' justly celebrated centerpiece--an extended lovers' interlude between Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg--Godard mixes literary quotations and frank sexual dialogue across a romantic depiction of time being gloriously wasted. All three elements were revolutionary in 1960, though the explicit use of citation may have attracted the most attention at the time. This was, after all, the film that marked the explosion of the French New Wave, the first filmmaking movement presided over by film critics. And from the opening title card (a dedication to B-movie studio Monogram Pictures) to the climactic shoot-out, BREATHLESS is fascinated by the cinema's influence over real life. Belmondo's petty thief tries to act like Humphrey Bogart, and Seberg was cast, according to Godard, as a continuation of her role in Otto Preminger's BONJOUR TRISTESSE. Five years after the film was released, Godard would make the famous proclamation that a director must put everything into a film; but BREATHLESS--which combined storytelling, criticism, autobiography and formal experimentation more boldly than any narrative film before it--was the first glimpse of what this may look like. (1960, 90 min, 35mm) BS
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Carolyn L. Kane, author of Chromatic Algorithms: Synthetic Color, Computer Art, and Aesthetics after Code, presents a talk entitled "Lillian Schwartz, Experimental Color, and Digital Art at Bell Laboratories, 1965-1984" on Thursday at 5pm at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E 60th St.). Free Admission

Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) screens Brenda Goodman's 2014 documentary SEX(ED) (77 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 8pm (7pm Social Hour) as part of the Dyke Delicious series.

The Chicago Film Archives presents CFA Crashers: Greg Easterling on Tuesday at 6pm at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia Ave.). Easterling, from WDRV's overnight show, has selected the following films: FACTS OF LIFE  (Gilbert Moses, 1982, 29 min), BRAVERMAN'S CONDENSED CREAM OF THE BEATLES (Charles Braverman and Gary Rocklen, 1974, 15 min), "Elvis: A 1968 Comeback Special" (Steve Binder, 1968, 19 min excerpt), BEATLES ADVENTURE: DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET? (1965, 6 min, faded color), and GIVE MY POOR HEART EASE (Bill Ferris, 1975, 21 min). All 16mm.

Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) screens Charles Burnett's 1979 film KILLER OF SHEEP (83 min, DVD Projection) on Friday at 7pm. Free admission, but limited seating; RSVP at

The Spertus Institute (610 S. Michigan Ave.) screens the short documentary DEMAND (Unconfirmed Year and Running Time, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 2pm. The program includes a panel discussion on sex trafficking.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Manuel Cinema with their "feature-length performance of cinematic shadow puppetry" Mementos Mori beginning on Thursday and running through Sunday, January 18. The Thursday-Saturday performances are at 7:30pm and the Sunday one is at 3pm.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Justin Simien's 2014 film DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (108 min, DCP Digital; panel discussion following the Sunday screening) plays for a week; Mark Siska's 2014 documentary COMPASS CABARET 55 (94 min, DCP Digital) screens on Friday and Wednesday at 8pm, with director Siska in person at both shows; Jean-Luc Godard's 1961 film A WOMAN IS A WOMAN (84 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 3:15pm and Thursday at 6pm; David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg's 2014 documentary THE IMMORTALISTS (78 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 6:45pm and Monday at 6pm; and Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden's 2014 documentary ALMOST THERE (85 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7:45 and Sunday at 3pm, with artist Peter Anton and co-directors Rybicky and Wickenden in person at both shows. See the Siskel website for addition in person appearances and reception information.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Justin Simien's 2014 film DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (108 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday at 4:30pm; Jan N?mec's 1966 Czech film A REPORT ON THE PARTY AND THE GUESTS (71 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 7pm; Jacques Doillon's 1979 French film THE CRYING WOMAN (90 min, 35mm) is on Monday at 7pm; Ivan Reitman's 1981 comedy STRIPES (106 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Jacques Becker's 1960 French film LE TROU (132 min, 16mm) is on Thursday at 7pm; and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1947 British masterpiece BLACK NARCISSUS (100 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:45pm.

At the Music Box Theatre this week: The Spierig Brothers' 2014 film PREDESTINATION (97 min) and Andrey Zvyagintsev's 2014 Russian film LEVIATHAN (140 min) both open; Jennifer Kent's 2014 horror thriller THE BABADOOK (93 min) continues; William A. Seiter's 1929 silent comedy SYNTHETIC SIN (72 min, DCP) is on Saturday at Noon, with live organ accompaniment by Dennis Scott; Bill Kroyer's 1992 animated film FERNGULLY: THE LAST RAINFOREST (76 min) is on Sunday at Noon, with a lecture by MacArthur Senior Conservation Ecologist, Corine Vrisendorp; and Ruggero Deodato's 1980 Italian horror film CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (95 min, 35mm) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Format except where noted.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman's 2013 documentary REMOTE AREA MEDICAL (80 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run.

Retrospective titles at the Logan Theatre this week: The Coen Brothers' 1998 film THE BIG LEBOWSKI (117 min) is on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 10:30pm; Charles Crichton's 1988 film A FISH CALLED WANDA (108 min) is on Friday and Saturday at 11pm, and Sunday and Monday at 10:30pm; Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker's 1986 film RUTHLESS PEOPLE (93 min) is on Saturday and Sunday at Noon; and Jerry Lewis' 1963 film THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (107 min) is on Tuesday-Thursday at 10:30pm. All Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format.

Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Jalil Lespert's 2014 bio-pic YVES SAINT-LAURENT (106 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6:30pm. Hosted by Nena Ivon.



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.

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.



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 9 - January 15, 2015

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Camden G. Bauchner, Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Harrison Sherrod, Michael G. Smith, Darnell Witt

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