Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, JULY 10 - Thursday, JULY 16 ::


D.W. Griffith's WAY DOWN EAST (Silent American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday, Noon

"It was old-fashioned, I'd like to point out, even at the time when it was shown," Orson Welles assured the restive public television audience upon introducing it to D.W. Griffith's INTOLERANCE in the mid-1970s. "You're going to see a lot that was old and dusty, even at the moment it was made. You're also going to see an awful lot that would be new tomorrow." The same can't quite be said for WAY DOWN EAST; its innovations are slight but its musty air is hard-won, its stolidity triumphant. Drawn from a popular 1897 stage melodrama that commanded a staggering licensing fee in excess of the total budget of THE BIRTH OF A NATION, Griffith's edition of WAY DOWN EAST is akin to a rickety dining room table, further antiqued and distressed by a climax grafted from an even earlier theatrical property--an ice floe rescue straight out of UNCLE TOM'S CABIN. The beauty of WAY DOWN EAST lies less in its construction than in its patina--the spiritual conviction, the sincerity and simplicity of the melodrama, the unflagging correctness of each shot and gesture, and above all the ethereal evocation of rural Maine, albeit by way of Griffith's mammoth studio in Mamaroneck, New York. (Nevertheless, WAY DOWN EAST stands as no less an emblem of Maine than a bottle of Moxie.) At first glance, the down-home morality of WAY DOWN EAST seems a reactionary rebuke to the progressive heart of Griffith's TRUE HEART SUSIE, which only a year earlier had wondered, with husky, wounded sympathy, why a woman shouldn't love more than one man. WAY DOWN EAST is a different beast, opening with a thundering sermon: "Since the beginning of time, man has been polygamous--even the saints of Biblical history--but today a better ideal is growing--an ideal of ONE MAN FOR ONE WOMAN. Today woman brought up from childhood to expect ONE CONSTANT MATE possibly suffers more than at any period in the history of mankind, because not yet has the man reached this high standard--except perhaps in theory." (Emphasis in original, of course.) This is the nub of Griffith's peculiar, patrician politics, sexual and otherwise--the tragedy of man and woman alike, master and slave alike, white and black alike failing to live up to their proper roles, knuckling under to the routine inequities of civilization, stirring up unnecessary acrimony, disrupting the natural unity of family. Can we live up to the ideals that structure our society, and will we be prepared to defend those ideals, even at risk of great injury to ourselves? Not yet, sighs Griffith, not yet. (For a liberal answer to WAY DOWN EAST, Thomas Ince's 1921 film HAIL THE WOMAN comes highly recommended.) In decades past, Griffith was the seminal Founding Father of narrative cinema; in our more enlightened age, Griffith's apologia for white supremacy disqualifies him from that title. Yet to reduce Griffith to THE BIRTH OF A NATION is to understate the filmmaker's fundamental conservatism: we can look away if we so choose, but we'll find no better guide for the bleak, cataclysmic procession of American life that conservatives have always glimpsed just across the horizon. It behooves us to understand his terrors. Live accompaniment by Dennis Scott. (1920, 149 min, 35mm) KAW
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Miroslav Slaboshpitsky's THE TRIBE (New Ukrainian)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes

Don't look now but Miroslav Slaboshpitsky's THE TRIBE might be the most ambitious and original film to be released this century. What makes Slaboshpitsky's film so unique is that it is entirely silent except for ambient noise and performed entirely in sign language. No music, no dialogue--just background sounds and unsubtitled signing. It is truly remarkable the effect silence has here. Emphatic signing, facial gestures, and body language say more than any words ever could in this tour de force. The story centers on Serhiy (Grygoriy Fesenko) as he joins a boarding school for the deaf and assimilates into the gang that seemingly runs everything. Serhiy is initiated slowly into the nefarious group with simple cons and robberies, but things take a much darker turn when violence and prostitution are introduced. TRIBE's dark and nihilistic tones are further heightened by Slaboshpitsky's use of the long take. Lingering on a man being beaten or teenage girls being pimped out to truckers at a rest stop, these lengthy takes unflinching depict the sinister side of humanity. The film's bleak, muted color scheme instills the viewer with unsavory memories of an endless Chicago winter. These dreary images serve as a reminder of how cruel life can be. Slaboshpitsky's scenes are constantly open to multiple interpretations due to the nature of their content. Short of knowing Ukrainian sign language, each viewer will surely have a slightly differing opinion on what is being communicated between characters, rewarding multiple viewings. THE TRIBE is filmmaking in its purest and emotionally resonant form. (2014, 132 min, DCP Digital) KC
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Robert Wiene's THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (Silent German Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 3pm and Tuesday, 6pm

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI is the definitive German Expressionist film, one in which all the elements of the mise-en-scene (lighting, set design, costume design, makeup, props, the movement of figures within the frame, etc.) have been deliberately distorted and exaggerated for expressive purposes. The end result, a view of the world as seen through the eyes of a madman, single-handedly inaugurated Expressionism in the movies in 1920, a movement that would then go on to dominate German cinema screens for most of the rest of the decade. No mere museum piece, the influence of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI is happily still very much with us today (Martin Scorsese's SHUTTER ISLAND, John Carpenter's THE WARD, and Tim Burton's entire career would be unthinkable without it), and if you care at all about film history then you need to see this. The Siskel will be showing Robert Wiene's masterpiece of psychological horror in the F.W. Murnau Foundation's definitive 2014 restoration; long seen only in faded, scratched and often incomplete prints, this new digital restoration--based on the original camera negative--runs 75 minutes and renders a ridiculous amount of never-before-seen detail in the film's striking visual design, including even paintbrush strokes on the intentionally artificial-looking sets that surround the actors. (The first reel of the camera negative is missing so note how the image quality makes a leap around the 10-minute mark from looking merely excellent to looking as if it were shot yesterday.) The Siskel will be screening CALIGARI with a newly recorded score by the Studio for Film Music at the University of Music, Freiburg, a discordant but far more traditional-sounding score than the techno-ish one by DJ Spooky that accompanied the Music Box's screening of this same restoration last fall. (1920, 75 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) MGS
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Vojtěch Jasný's THE CASSANDRA CAT (Czech Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 7 and 9pm

I haven't seen the film, but there's no doubt in my mind that it's among the best ever made. One needs only to look at stills from it to realize that fact. It's about a cat who wears glasses. The cat wears glasses and possesses some sort of power to reveal people's true nature when the glasses are removed. The cat's named Mokol and is part of a travelling circus and also wears glasses. (If you haven't noticed, the cat wearing glasses part is a real selling point.) In all seriousness, it's by the Czech director Vojtěch Jasný, who was quite well-regarded in the 60s. THE CASSANDRA CAT won two prizes at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival--the C.S.T. Prize and the Special Jury Prize--and Milos Forman, whose Columbia teaching position Jasný took over after coming to the U.S., called him "the spiritual father of the Czech New Wave." In his review of the film for the New York Times, Bosley Crowther remarked that THE CASSANDRA CAT "has the distinction of being a slap at Stalinism in veiled terms," an observation that aptly sums it up as a parable of Jasný's political ideology. Having participated in a Communist anti-Nazi league during World War II, he was no stranger to either fascism or communism, and it was the latter from which he escaped after the Soviet invasion in 1968. THE CASSANDRA CAT is therefore an interesting insight into a specific period of time both in Czech history and Jasný's career, filtered through the prescience of a cat...who wears glasses. (1963, 91 min, 35mm Archival Print) KS
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Dave Fleischer's GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (American Animation Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society at Northeastern Illinois University (The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) - Wednesday, 7pm

History is defined as much by its losers as its victors. But film history--at least as most people know it--is a veritable winners' circle, with even second-bests often relegated to obscurity. That is, until they're mined from the depths and brought up into popular (or academic) consciousness, at which time people are likely either to celebrate their rediscovery or merely appreciate their historical value while acknowledging that perhaps there was a reason for some other film, director, or star besting the one in question. The Fleischer Brothers' GULLIVER'S TRAVELS will likely fall somewhere in between for most; it's certainly owed as much admiration now as it was in 1939 for being the second cel-animated feature film (and the Fleischer Brothers' first), but it's no wonder that it paled in comparison to Disney's SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, the first ever cel-animated feature film and a gigantic box office success upon its initial release. GULLIVER'S TRAVELS is conspicuously different from the Fleischers' best and most iconic work; there's no room for their wonderfully surreal, often sexually charged characters and themes in this adaptation, despite Jonathan Swift's text having itself been a rather raucous satire. This was obviously due to Paramount's hope that they could ride Disney's gravy train by satiating the audience's demand for earnest feature-length animations. It was also a rushed endeavor owing to the race between the two studios to see which could release the next feature first. (Paramount became the clear winner after Disney announced that PINOCCHIO would not be ready until February 1940.) Though the production was a troubled one due to this and various other reasons (including an expensive relocation to Miami and the training of hundreds of new workers), the film was a financial success. Reviews at the time were mixed, however, and it soon fell off the radar and into public domain, while SNOW WHITE and PINOCCHIO are now considered classics. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why it failed to achieve a similar status, though the watered-down style may have had something to do with it. That's not to say it's bad, per se, just that it's markedly different from the animated shorts for which the Fleischers were best known. Regardless, it's worthy of examination as an artifact of neglected film history, and the 35mm IB Technicolor print will be a real treat. To the exhibitors' knowledge, it was likely struck in 1957 from the original 35mm Technicolor printing negatives. So perhaps it's not a winner, but it's an awfully shiny consolation prize. (1939, 76 min, Vintage 35mm IB Technicolor Print) KS
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Delmer Daves' THE RED HOUSE (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7pm

Delmer Daves is an under-appreciated director from the classic era of Hollywood. Like many studio directors of the period, Daves' career went through periods dominated by certain genres, most notably his bleak 1950s Westerns and the vastly underrated teen romances he made in the late '50s and early 1960s. The 1940s, his first decade as a director, following a career as a screenwriter that began with Erich von Stroheim's QUEEN KELLY and included work for Frank Borzage and Leo McCarey (on LOVE AFFAIR, no less!), were more unpredictable. THE RED HOUSE is located somewhere at the intersection of Lovers' Lane and Horror Alley, an area that resembles certain stretches of Film Noir Drive. Edward G. Robinson is the father with the wooden leg, whose stumbling gait forces him to bound forward unexpectedly instead of restricting his movement; he's a walking shock. There is, of course, the house in the woods and the two teenagers who are foolish enough to go there when it's dark and the peopled stillness of the American countryside. There's also a menace, but it's not the house--it's the camera, which, when it's still, seems to be lurking, and when it moves, leaps out like a panther. (1947, 100 min, 35mm Archival Print) IV
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Asghar Farhadi's ABOUT ELLY (Contemporary Iranian)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes

Western media typically presents Iran in reductive images of fundamentalist Islam, arid deserts, and threatening militarism. ABOUT ELLY quickly dispels these notions. A group of middle-class friends decide to spend a weekend with their families at a dilapidated seaside villa, and we see that their lives are not much different from our own. When the kindergarten teacher who is also invited along disappears suddenly, the film transitions from drama to psychological mystery. ABOUT ELLY raises many interesting questions both moral and sociological. How far will a person go with lies in order to protect the honor of another? What obligations do both men and women have to one another when the unthinkable occurs? The ramifications to these questions are devastating and life changing in the film. The interpersonal relationships presented are paramount to the film's emotional appeal and narrative. As the relationships degrade and the web of lies grows, the house lends itself as an apt metaphor for the characters themselves--dirty, broken, and hollow. Farhadi's use of muted, earthen colors only furthers the importance of everyone's baser urges and reactions. His mise en scene showcases short focal lengths to portray a sense of dishonesty when a character is out of focus or a sense of claustrophobia when true intentions are revealed. Water plays an important role in this film as well: the ever-crashing waves on the shores contribute to the relentless, foreboding feeling of dread that is omnipresent. Combined with the innocence of the children present, the bleak duality of man is fully realized. Dishonesty's ominous shadow casts largely as ulterior motives are actualized. ABOUT ELLY is one of the crown jewels of contemporary Iranian cinema. Its messages resonate powerfully long after the end credits roll. (2009, 119 min, DCP Digital) KC
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The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents are they pleasure paths ... or desire lines?, a screening of work and live performance by the audio/video group arcanebolt, on Wednesday at 7pm.

Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) screens Robert Altman's 1970 film BREWSTER MCCLOUD (105 min, DVD) on Saturday at 8pm. Introduced by local musician and author Tim Kinsella. Repeats on Wednesday at 6:30pm at Columbia College (check for specific location).

Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria St., UIC) presents the shorts program Chicagoland Shorts on Tuesday at 7pm. Details not available, but select filmmakers scheduled in person. Free admission.

The Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) and Chicago Film Archives present George T. Nierenberg's 1979 documentary NO MAPS ON MY TAPS (58 min, Digital Projection) on Friday at 7pm. Preceded by WHY MOSQUITOES BUZZ IN PEOPLE'S EARS (1984, 10 min, Digital Projection) and KUUMBA (1978, 8 min, Digital Projection). With Chicago tap masters Reggio the Hoofer and Bril Barrett of M.A.D.D. Rhythms and Jenai Cutcher West, Project Director of Chicago Dance History Project, in person for a post-screening discussion. Free admission, but limited seating; RSVP at

Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) screens the local youth-made documentary BLACK OWNED (2014, DVD Projection) on Sunday at 4pm. Additional youth-produced worth will also be screened. Free admission, but limited seating; RSVP at

Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents an outdoor screening of Gabriel García Moreno's 1927 silent film EL PUŃO DE HIERRO (approx. 40 min, Digital Projection) is on Wednesday at sundown (approx. 8:30pm), with live music by Suchil. Free admission.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Shawn Rech and Brandon Kimber's 2015 documentary A MURDER IN THE PARK (93 min, DCP Digital) begins a two-week run; Kim Farrant's 2015 film STRANGERLAND (112 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; José Giovanni's 1973 French film TWO MEN IN TOWN (100 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) screens on Friday and Monday at 6pm; Peter R. Hunt's 1969 James (George Lazenby) Bond film ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (143 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Sunday at 3pm and Tuesday at 7:30pm; and Rüdiger Suchsland's 2014 documentary FROM CALIGARI TO HITLER (114 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 4:30pm and Thursday at 6pm.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Damián Szifrón's 2014 film WILD TALES (122 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:30pm; and Craig McCall's 2010 documentary CAMERAMAN: THE LIFE AND WORK OF JACK CARDIFF (86 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 7pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Matthew Heineman's 2015 documentary CARTEL LAND (98 min, DCP Digital) opens; Crystal Moselle's 2015 documentary THE WOLFPACK (80 min) continues; Carol Reed's 1949 film THE THIRD MAN (104 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) continues with screenings at 3pm Friday-Sunday and 11:45pm on Saturday and Sunday only; Frank Marshall's 1990 film ARACHNOPHOBIA (103 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 12:30pm, with an introduction by Crystal Maier, Collection Manager of Insects at The Field Museum; and Steven Spielberg's 1993 film JURASSIC PARK (127 min, 35mm) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.

At Facets Cinémathčque this week: Daniel Peddle's 2014 film SUNSET EDGE (87 min, Unconfirmed Format) plays for a week, with director Peddle in person at the Friday and Saturday 7 and 9pm screenings; Alex Holdridge and Linnea Saasen's 2014 film MEET ME IN MONTENEGRO (90 min, Unconfirmed Format) plays for a week; and David O. Russell's (under the pseudonym Stephen Greene) ACCIDENTAL LOVE (100 min, Unconfirmed Format) screens on Friday at 11:30pm only.

The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens John Madden's 2015 film THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (122 min, DCP) on Saturday at 2 and 7:30pm; and Joe Johnston's 1991 film THE ROCKETEER (108 min, 35mm) on Wednesday, 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission for both.

The Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 200) screens Dietrich Brüggemann's 2010 film RUN IF YOU CAN (112 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.

The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of Lucas Belvaux's 2012 French film ONE NIGHT (104 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.



Roman Susan (1224 W. Loyola Ave.) presents the exhibition Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney: havoc and tumbled from July 11-25. The show features video, 16mm film, sound, and painting by the collaborative local artists. Opening reception Saturday at 8pm.

Deadly Prey Gallery (1433 W. Chicago Ave.) presents the exhibition Action-Packed & Horrible, featuring contemporary (1990s-present) hand-painted movie posters from Ghana. The show runs through July 24.

The exhibition Frances Stark: Intimism is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through August 30. The show is a comprehensive survey of Stark's video and digital production.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents an exhibition of nine video works by artist Keren Cytter. On view through October 4.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents German artist Clemens von Wedemeyer's HD video installation Muster (Rushes) (2012). On view through July 26.



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.

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CINE-LIST: July 10 - July 16, 2015

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Kyle Cubr, Michael G. Smith, Kathleen Sachs, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Kyle A. Westphal

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