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:: Friday, JAN. 16 - Thursday, JAN. 22 ::


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. University of Chicago professor Daniel Morgan, author of "Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema," in person at the 7:45pm Thursday screening. (2013, 70 min, 3-D DCP Digital) MGS
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Frank Capra's THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

In my write-up of Frank Capra's THE MIRACLE WOMAN from a few weeks ago, I noted that, of the fifteen films he directed in the 1930s, it was one of only two that lost money, a fact later attributed to it having been banned in the UK. The other was THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN, which was never banned, but performed poorly in large part because of its seemingly offensive nature. (It also has the distinction of being the first film to screen at Radio City Music Hall, though it was pulled after only eight days.) Despite the criticism it's received over the years--back then for its lurid depiction of miscegenation, nowadays for its flagrant Orientalism--it is arguably Capra's masterpiece. Based on the eponymous novel by Grace Zaring Stone and set in China during the Chinese Civil War, it's about a beautiful American missionary (Megan Davis, played by Barbara Stanwyck in her fourth collaboration with Capra) who's detained by the infamous General Yen (played not by a Chinese actor, but by Swedish actor Nils Asther) after she and her fiancé are incapacitated. The rest of the film is a curious push-pull between Megan's devotion to her faith and her growing desire for the charismatic general. What's noteworthy about the plot is that despite its rather stereotypical portrayal of the "godless" Chinese, it also confronts Megan's own dogmatic convictions. Capra doesn't condemn one or the other; instead, they're portrayed as being comparably stubborn, further highlighting their disparate attraction. Stylistically, this film is more impressive than anything he did before or after. With help from cinematographer and longtime collaborator Joseph Walker, its chiaroscuro lighting and informed framing are reminiscent of Sternberg. The set and costume design are particularly luscious, a far cry from Capra's typically understated aesthetic. A surreal dream sequence can only really be explained as a sort-of Nosferatu rape fantasy, in which Yen, first appearing as a Fu Manchu-style criminal with long, pointy fingernails, turns into Megan's dashing savior. (Ironically, despite the film's racist elements, Capra uses these hyperbolic stereotypes to visually denounce Megan's bigoted projections.) Having emigrated from Sicily in the early 1900s, it's possible Capra saw himself in the "exotic" General Yen, especially in regards to how he was viewed by members of the opposite sex who belonged to different social classes. (Joseph McBride touches upon this in his excellent book Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, a must-read for anyone interested in the director.) Some speculate that he took on such a serious subject matter simply to win an Oscar; however, as McBride recounts in his book, "In the late thirties [Capra] described his favorite of all his films." Even though it was a failure at the box office, it endures as a masterwork born from one of cinema's most misunderstood careers. (1933, 88 min, 35mm) KS
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Dan Sallitt's HONEYMOON and ALL THE SHIPS AT SEA (American Revival)
Chicago Filmmakers and Beguiled Cinema at Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash, 8th Floor, Columbia College) - Friday, 7pm

When the enterprising distributor The Cinema Guild picked up the low-budget comedy/drama THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT in 2012 it considerably upped the profile of writer/director Dan Sallitt, a New York-based critic and filmmaker whose sparse filmography (he's made exactly one film per decade over each of the past four decades) constitutes one of the hidden treasures of independent American cinema. Beguiled Cinema, the programming endeavor of local critics Ben and Kat Sachs, has teamed up with Chicago Filmmakers to present this rare double-feature screening of Sallitt's second and third films at Columbia College's Film Row Cinema, an event that should be considered unmissable for local cinephiles. Both movies are visually austere, dialogue-based dramas centered on two characters in conflict. The earlier of the two, 1998's HONEYMOON, is a mature and astonishingly frank portrayal of marriage about two old friends, Mimi (Edith Meeks) and Michael (Dylan McCormick), who decide to tie the knot on a whim. These urban professionals seem intellectually and emotionally compatible and their friends have long remarked that they would make the "perfect couple." It isn't until their honeymoon at a lakeside cabin in rural Pennsylvania, however, that they first attempt physical intimacy--in a series of awkward and halting encounters that must rank as the most honest portrayal of sexual dysfunction ever committed to celluloid. Mimi and Michael's decision to stick out the marriage ultimately leads to an ambiguous finale that will likely serve as a Rorschach test for the personal philosophy of each viewer. What's not in doubt is the phenomenal chemistry between Meeks and McCormick, who convey the evolution of a years-long relationship telescoped into just a few days. Even more compressed, and impressive, is the 64-minute ALL THE SHIPS AT SEA from 2004. The lean running time of this virtual two-hander, about a series of philosophically-inflected discussions between two very different sisters, belies the wealth of feeling and ideas that Sallitt has crammed into it: respectable Evelyn (Strawn Bovee) teaches theology at the college level while her estranged, potentially suicidal younger sister Virginia (Meeks again) returns home after being kicked out of a religious cult. As the women struggle to re-establish their former sibling bond, the notion of exactly who is helping who is kept tantalizingly in flux. New City's Ray Pride will introduce the screening. The A.V. Club's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky will lead a Q&A afterwards. (1998 and 2004, 154 min total, 16mm and DVCam) MGS
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Samantha Fuller's A FULLER LIFE (New Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 6:45pm and Monday, 6pm

With A FULLER LIFE, Samantha Fuller, daughter of maverick filmmaker Samuel Fuller, has made an unconventional but entertaining documentary about her father. The first-time director daringly eschews traditional interview segments in favor of having a dozen motion-picture luminaries appear before her cameras only to read excerpts from her dad's superb, posthumously published memoir, A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting, and Filmmaking. Among the readers, most of whom worked with or were friends of the late, great Fuller, are: Jennifer Beals, Robert Carradine, Joe Dante, Bill Duke, James Franco, William Friedkin, Mark Hamill, Monte Hellman, Buck Henry, Tim Roth, James Toback and Constance Towers. Some misguided critics have damned A FULLER LIFE with faint praise by likening it to a mere star-studded "audio book" but this is hardly a fair analogy since many of the film's pleasures are image-based. The "chapters" are visual records of the subjects reading their texts in a specific location, one that seems suffused with an almost mystical energy: Fuller pere's legendary garage-office, a place affectionately known as "the shack," which functions today as a virtual shrine to his impressive careers as newspaperman, soldier and filmmaker. Each segment is also cleverly intercut with scenes from both Fuller's official oeuvre, from 1949's I SHOT JESSE JAMES to STREET OF NO RETURN 40 years later, as well as home movie and documentary footage he shot throughout his life (including powerful wartime images of a recently liberated concentration camp in Falkenau, Czechoslovakia, footage that was recently added to the Library of Congress's National Film Registry). Finally, the film's most disturbing sequence, the Dante-narrated "Sicily Black and Blue," is embellished by an inspired use of animation. All of this adds up to a fitting tribute to a vital American artist, one whose ballsy and highly personal "yarns" were both ahead of their time and inextricably tied to the colorful, adventurous life of their creator. As a writer/director, Sam Fuller may have specialized in genre fare (especially war movies, westerns and crime films) but, whether working as an independent or within the Hollywood studio system, he stamped everything he did with his outrageously entertaining, "yellow-journalist" style. Within his idiosyncratic idiom, Fuller's commitment to racial equality, long before such a stance was fashionable in American cinema, looks especially interesting today. A FULLER LIFE is a must for Fuller's admirers and an ideal introduction to his work for the uninitiated. (2013, 80 min, DCP Digital) MGS
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Ruben Ostlund's FORCE MAJEURE (New Swedish)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes

While holidaying in the French Alps and facing an impending natural disaster, Tobias (Johannes Kuhnke), a yuppie family-man from Sweden, behaves in a cowardly fashion in front of his wife, Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli), and their two young children. The marital discord that results spreads like a virus to another vacationing couple, Tobias's friend Kristofer (Kristofer Hivju) and his much younger girlfriend Fanny (Fanni Metelius). This masterful drama piles complex emotions--shame, fear, embarrassment, anguish--on top of one another and then, amazingly, finds a way to somehow mine the most emotionally excruciating moments for a vein of rich, black comedy. Writer/director Ruben Ostlund's meticulous attention to sound and image, and his love of formal symmetry, make FORCE MAJEURE a more apt point of comparison with the films of Stanley Kubrick than anything Jonathan Glazer has ever done. The only thing preventing me from calling this a full-fledged masterwork is the inclusion of a couple of unnecessary scenes at the very end: Ostlund's illustration of how both male protagonists are desperate to redeem themselves in the eyes of the women who love them through dramatic external action is redundant; he has already conveyed this notion with more subtlety and power in the preceding hour and 45 minutes. (2014, 120 min, DCP Digital) MGS
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Dušan Makavejev's WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM (Yugoslavian/West German Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Sunday, 7pm

In addition to being a joyous articulation of Dušan Makavejev's radical politics, the free-form aesthetic of WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM conveys a sense of limitless possibility rarely felt in narrative film outside of musicals. Beginning as a documentary about the radical theorist Wilhelm Reich--a heretical student of Freud's who championed free-flowing sexual energy as a revolutionary force--the movie goes off in several directions that ponder how his ideas have resonated in the real world. These directions include documentary profiles of a transsexual named Jackie Curtis and Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein, a guerilla musical starring Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs, a cartoonish fictional story about sexual relations in Makavejev's native Yugoslavia, and (a constant in the director's work) satirical re-appropriations of Stalin-era propaganda. Makavejev, one of the most imaginative editors in cinema, intercuts between these elements so playfully it seems like he's making it up as he goes along. In actuality, the film is filled with rhymes, contradictions, and a symphonic sense of counterpoint. It's a near-inexhaustible work of art, forever young; whether this is the first or the tenth time you've seen it, you're guaranteed to pick up something new. (1971, 85 min, 35mm) BS
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Jean-Luc Godard's VIVRE SA VIE (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 3pm and Thursday, 6pm

If you think Godard's theoretical approach to filmmaking always outshines his ability to produce portraiture that is believable and emotional and not just one of political or allegorical types, then check out VIVRE SA VIE. His fourth feature tells the tale of a working class young woman, Nana (Anna Karina), as life goes from bad to worse. Despite the breakdown into chapters (complete with title cards) the film is at first an unstructured manifesto intended to convince the audience that capitalism only leads to the commoditization of all things, but this is merely a thread in the complex nature of the film. Communication is flawed, character and cinema are experienced and molded, and there are more than thirteen ways to look at ones wife through a viewfinder. At times Godard is mimicking the tropes of documentary, at others he is relying on overt reference (Dreyer's THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, for example), and at others he is doing what he does best (using framing and composition to make sure that no one present misunderstands the emotional distance a character feels). One would he hard pressed to find another film with such an abrupt and sad ending that still makes one leave the theater with a smile. Poetic, beautiful, and concise. (1962, 85 min, 35mm) JH
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Jean-Luc Godard's CONTEMPT (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 4:45pm and Tuesday, 6pm

All the films that Jean-Luc Godard made in the 1960s are readily rewatchable for their infectious, trailblazing energy, but CONTEMPT also possesses a magisterial authority that anticipates the poetry of his awesome late period. The primary concern, as always, is Cinema: Taking place on the set of a big-budget film of The Odyssey improbably directed by Fritz Lang (who plays himself), CONTEMPT contains still-pertinent ideas about the ethics of making movies, with Lang representing artistic integrity and producer Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance) representing the crassest instincts of the medium. Torn between them is Paul, an ambitious writer coerced into penning the film's script; not only must he play mediator on the troubled shoot, but his professional commitments are about to cost him his marriage. The way in which Godard sets these conflicts against the classical presence of Homer inspired Jonathan Rosenbaum to write that CONTEMPT is a look at modern man as he may appear to the Greek gods. (Godard, writing in 1963, put it more obliquely: "It is about characters from L'AVVENTURA who wish they were characters in RIO BRAVO.") But the film is shot through with a sense of immediacy--especially during the 25-minute centerpiece depicting an argument between Paul and his wife (Brigitte Bardot). Playing out in real-time and jumping nervously from antagonism to reconciliation to sympathy, the scene is instantly recognizable to anyone who has experienced the death of a romance. Godard does little to hide the fact that his own marriage to Anna Karina was failing at the time (Bardot even dons a black wig at one point to resemble Karina), and his candor makes CONTEMPT perhaps the most confessional work of career. (1963, 103 min, DCP Digital) BS
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Jean-Pierre Jeunet's MICMACS (Contemporary French)
Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) - Wednesday, 6:30pm

Critics have called Jean-Pierre Jeunet's (THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, AMELIE) MICMACS "more of the same," but it's actually something of a breakthrough for the world-famous entertainer: Inherent in every scene is a deep concern for the contemporary world all but absent from his previous work. MICMACS is quite blatant in its rage at the international munitions industry, which it depicts unambiguously as a monster. But because this monster is quite real, the film has a more pungent aftertaste than any he's made since LOST CHILDREN, if not DELICATESSEN. All of the director's recognizable quirks--storybook framing, retro-futurist decor, winsomely naive heroes--seem in this context like defense mechanisms against a world turned brutal and mechanized. Comedian Dany Boon (in a performance styled after Chaplin's Little Tramp) plays Bazil, a tender soul who lost his father to a land mine and, because of a convoluted accident, has to go through adulthood with a bullet lodged in his brain. Searching for the root of his misfortune, he discovers that his home town is the base of two powerful munitions makers--as well as a gang of misfits who will help him take revenge on them. The gang should be familiar to fans of comic books or Jeunet's first two films: There's a girl who can perform complex math in her head, a beautiful lady contortionist, an old man who makes Rube Goldberg-style inventions out of garbage, et cetera. But their adventures are consistently surprising, especially in the wealth of details that attend each step of the action. The production design is so intricate that you start to take it for granted after a while (It's likely a film that rewards multiple viewings), especially when the tempo is operating at Chuck Jones intensity so much of the time. But just beneath the surface-qualities is a rather moving plea for peace. Even the characters' vengeance is non-violent, which suggests less cartoonishness on Jeunet's part than an evolved moral sensibility. (2009, 105 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) BS
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Also at Chicago Filmmakers this week: Brenda Goodman's 2014 documentary SEX(ED) (77 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Saturday at 4pm at Doc Films (University of Chicago); New Work by Jake Barningham & Michele Smith screens on Saturday at 8pm at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) and is repeated Wednesday at 6:30pm at Columbia College (600 S. Michigan Ave., Room 921), with Barningham and Smith in person.

The Chicago Film Seminar welcomes Indiana University professor Barbara Klinger, who will give a talk entitled Sonic Intertextualities: Transmedia and Radio Adaption of Hollywood Films in the 1940s on Thursday at 6:30pm. The respondent is Neil Verma (Northwestern University). It's at the DePaul Loop Campus (Daley Building, 14 E. Jackson Blvd., Lower Level, Room 102; use the entrance at 247 S. State St.). Free admission.

The Run of Life Experimental Documentary Series, presented by The Nightingale and Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) presents Adele Horne's 2012 documentary MAINTENANCE (91 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Monday at 7pm. Preceded by Ian Curry's RECTANGLE FACTORY (2012, 8 min, 16mm) and ALL DAY (2013, 10 min, 16mm triple projection).

Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) screens Julie Dash's 1982 film ILLUSIONS (34 min, DVD Projection) and Allie Sharon Larkin's 1979 film YOUR CHILDREN COME BACK TO YOU (27 min, 16mm archival print from the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University) on Friday at 7pm. Unconfirmed Formats. Free admission, but limited seating: RSVP at

The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) screens Esther Podemski's 2010 documentary/essay film THE PEASANT AND THE PRIEST (47 min, DVD Projection) on Saturday at 7pm, with Podemski in person. Screening is at The Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.). Free Admission.

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

The Palace Film Festival takes place at the Fine Arts Building (410 S. Michigan Ave.) on Saturday from 4-10pm. Produced by Johalla Projects, Cinema Libertad, and Floodgates Audio, the one day festival includes a block of short films from 4-5:45pm, two features (Mark Pellington's LONE and Robert Stockwell's BURNT IN MEMORY) from 6- 8:30pm, and video with live musical accompaniment from 9-10:30pm.

CIMMfest presents Nickolas Dylan Rosi's 2014 documentary on musician Elliot Smith HEAVEN ADORES YOU (104 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday 7pm at Lincoln Hall (2424 N. Lincoln Ave.).

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Andre de Toth's 1953 film HOUSE OF WAX (88 min, 3-D DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 4:45pm and Tuesday at 6pm; and Vanessa Lapa's 2014 documentary THE DECENT ONE (94 min, DCP Digital) is on Sunday at 3pm and Wednesday at 8:15pm.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Alfred Hitchcock's 1943 film SHADOW OF A DOUBT (108 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday at 1:30pm; David Fincher's 2014 film GONE GIRL (149 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 10pm and Sunday at 3:45pm; John Landis' 1988 film COMING TO AMERICA (116 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Federico Fellini's 1955 film IL BIDONE (109 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7pm; Robert Bresson's 1956 masterpiece A MAN ESCAPED (99 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 7pm; and Jesús Franco's 1973 film LES DEMONS (110 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:15pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's 2014 film TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (95 min) opens; Andrey Zvyagintsev's 2014 Russian film LEVIATHAN (140 min) continues; Daniel Barnz's 2014 film CAKE (102 min) is on Tuesday at 7:30pm as part of the New York Film Critics Series; The Spierig Brothers' 2014 film PREDESTINATION (97 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; Tommy Wiseau's 2003 film THE ROOM (99 min, 35mm) is on Friday at Midnight; and Jim Sharman's 1975 cult film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Sophie Fillières' 2014 French film IF YOU DON'T, I WILL (102 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run.

Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens Jesse Moss' 2014 documentary THE OVERNIGHTERS (102 min, DCP Digital) on Friday at 7pm; and Margaret Brown's 2014 documentary THE GREAT INVISIBLE (92 min, DCP Digital) on Thursday at 7pm, with director Brown in person.

The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 200) screens Helmut Käutner's 1947 film THOSE DAYS (98 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 6pm. Free Admission.

The Chicago Cultural Center screens Maro Chermayeff's 2015 documentary A PATH APPEARS (Unconfirmed Running Time, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm. Free admission.



Melika Bass' solo exhibition The Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast, an immersive multi-channel video and sound installation, opens at the Hyde Park Art Center on Sunday (opening reception 3-5pm). The show runs through April 19.

Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria, UIC) opens the exhibition Visibility Machines: Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen on Friday (opening reception 5-8pm). The show runs 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.

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 16 - January 22, 2015

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Jason Halprin, Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Michael G. Smith, Darnell Witt

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