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:: Friday, MAR. 13 - Thursday, MAR. 19 ::


Gene Siskel Film Center
Alain Resnais' LIFE OF RILEY (New French)
Friday and Thursday, 6pm

LIFE OF RILEY, the final film of Alain Resnais, one of the greatest and most innovative directors of all time, premiered at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival (where it won two prizes) just three weeks before its creator died at the age of 91. Unsurprisingly, death suffuses nearly every frame of this deceptively simple comedy, based on an Alan Ayckbourn play, about marital discord between three couples in Yorkshire, England. The title refers to George Riley, a character who never appears onscreen but, much like A LETTER TO THREE WIVES' Addie Ross, manages to sow temptation into the hearts of the three female protagonists (Sandrine Kiberlain, Caroline Sihol and the inevitable Sabine Azima) before ultimately strengthening the bonds between them and their current partners (Hippolyte Girardot, Michel Vuillermoz and the inevitable Andre Dussollier). It is revealed at the film's beginning that Riley has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer, the news of which prompts several of his enamored lady friends, including his recent ex-wife, to conspire to accompany him on his final vacation. Complicating matters is that most of these characters, including Riley, are also rehearsing for a stage play that they will appear in together, a conceit that allows Resnais to examine his pet theme of the intersection of reality and fiction. Shot on deliberately artificial-looking sets and featuring the occasional mysterious appearance of a CADDYSHACK-like mole puppet, LIFE OF RILEY proves that Resnais had lost none of his playful Surrealist spirit even in his tenth decade on earth. But in the end, this final testament is as moving as it is charming: the last shot, depicting a young woman placing a postcard (bearing a message the viewer cannot read) on top of a coffin, is a fitting self-epitaph to an extraordinary career. To paraphrase a rueful exchange between Billy Wilder and William Wyler from long ago: "No more Resnais films." (2014, 108 min, DCP Digital) MGS
Eugène Green's LA SAPIENZA (New French) Saturday, 3:30pm and Monday, 6pm

With its luscious panning, zooming close-ups of Italian Baroque architecture, the new joint from NYC expat and self-made French auteur Eugène Green could be the most "EU fest" film of the EU fest (with its slogan "See Europe by Film"); but significant regional cultural funding doesn't detract from Green's goals--here, as alluded to in the title, the derivation of wisdom through knowledge. LA SAPIENZA's protagonist Alexandre is a grumpy, successful architect, guided (as are we all) by the present constraints of his discipline towards an excellency in technical rationality and efficiency; but after receiving accolades in a grimy contemporary Paris, he journeys with his sociologist wife to the Swiss-Italian lake district to begin research on a book on the more mystical 17th century architect Francesco Borromini. What follows blends a poetic history of architecture with Green's didactic philosophy of aesthetics, as Alexandre and a young protégé continue on to visit the works of Guarini in Turin and finally to Borromini's church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and the spellbinding Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza in Rome. As with most Green, here a Bressonian cinematographic formalism meets the laid-back summer vibe of Rohmer; but to this is added just a touch of the contemplative ANTONIO GAUDI, and a healthy dose of the transcendence of just burying your head in a university library for a long time (emerging only to vacation in Europe). (2014, 100 min, DCP Digital) MC
Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov's THE LESSON (New Bulgarian)
Saturday and Thursday, 8:15pm

Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov's first feature combines the aesthetics of Dardennes Brothers style social realism with the studied manipulation of a horror movie. An English teacher in dire financial trouble, Nadezhda's situation goes from bad to bleak over the course of the film. The mechanics of the plot are so visible that it's easy to dismiss as a work of failed realism, but it's the deliberateness of the action that proves so satisfying. The film starts with an act of petty theft. One of Nadezhda's students has stolen a classmate's wallet. Nadezhda is harsh and unforgiving, the unblemished arbiter of justice in her English classroom. Her personality (rigid and self-righteous) seems as much to blame as her circumstances for her plight. It's not hard to imagine the filmmakers gleefully subjecting her to trial after trial, and there's a certain sadistic pleasure in watching as her clear sense of justice is completely upended (think Vittorio de Sica's BICYCLE THIEVES by way of Michael Haneke). The whole endeavor is anchored by Margita Gosheva's incredibly subtle and nuanced performance as Nadezhda. (2014, 105 min, DCP Digital) EJC
Digna Sinke's AFTER THE TONE (New Dutch)
Sunday, 5:15pm and Monday, 6:15pm

Over the course of 364 days, a cross-section of Onno's friends, associates, and family leave voicemail on his cell phone. He never answers. Puzzlement and annoyance over his total lack of response gradually transition into disbelief, anger, grief, and mourning. This soundtrack of one-way messages, a radio play of sorts, is layered onto the sounds and images of various environments that may be the places where the callers are located. Appropriately, the imagery is crisp, functional, digital; and aside from a few moments taken from the vantage point of a moving car, the camera is motionless, a kind of stasis that reflects the missing man's absence. Despite a few nagging plot holes (wouldn't his mailbox eventually reach capacity? and who keeps paying his phone bill month after month?) Sinke's movie is an often-moving exploration of loss in the digital age. Just as people have been known to turn the Facebook walls of the deceased into memorial pages, Onno's voicemail becomes a repository of emotions for those he's left behind. The performances of the cast are uneven (especially the handful of actors who leave voicemails in English) but Olga Zuiderhoek as Onno's mother is wonderful. A woman used to getting the short shift of her son's attention when he was alive, it's heartbreaking to witness how her sunny optimism eventually dwindles into defeated acceptance over his disappearance. (2014, 85 min, DCP Digital) RC
Peter Kruger's N: THE MADNESS OF REASON (New Belgian)
Sunday, 7pm and Tuesday, 6pm

N: THE MADNESS OF REASON, a provocative non-fiction/narrative hybrid film by the Belgian documentarian Peter Kruger, centers on Raymond Borremans, a real French explorer and musician who died in 1988 while writing an encyclopedia of the African continent (he only got as far as the titular letter). Kruger has Borremans (voiced by the great actor Michael Lonsdale) narrating the movie and attempting to complete his encyclopedia from beyond the grave, a quasi-fictional conceit reminiscent of Chris Marker that gives shape to a raft of eye-opening documentary images that Kruger captured in the Ivory Coast. Borremans' voice-over also occasionally engages in a dialogue with an unnamed African woman; he represents intellectual European "reason" (i.e., the desire to label and classify) where she represents African "spirituality," challenging his foreigner's eye-view to see beyond the surface of things. Co-written by Nigerian author Ben Okri and featuring a score by Belgian musician Walter Hus, in collaboration with Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara, N: THE MADNESS OF REASON joins the list of important recent films examining Europe's relationship to colonial and post-colonial Africa, whose impressive ranks include Miguel Gomes' TABU, Ulrich Kohler's SLEEPING SICKNESS and various films by Claire Denis and Pedro Costa. (2014, 102 min, DCP Digital) MGS
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Robert Zemeckis' WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Friday and Saturday, Midnight

It's been a long, long time since we've seen a blockbuster as singular as WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. The second-highest grossing film of 1988, the subject of endless critical hosannas, the recipient of a special Academy Award for its wondrous animation--all for a coarse, allusion-heavy valentine to bygone studio cartoons. (If you haven't seen it since you were a kid, marvel at the unapologetic alcoholism, the prostate jokes, the tragic flaccidity of Baby Herman--and how it all flew over your head once upon a time.) It's a big-budget movie created for people who'd otherwise congregate in basements and watch 16mm MERRIE MELODIES prints and bemoan the a.a.p. replacement titles. For animation buffs, ROGER RABBIT is a very specific act of revisionary nostalgia--recalling a moment from the late '40s, before budget cuts and the influential mid-century modern contours of United Productions of America pushed the cartoon studios toward simpler backdrops, sparser character work, jankier movement, and stricter formulas. The imagined legacy of cartoon superstar Roger Rabbit ransacks the violent antics of Warner Bros, the z-axis freedom of the Fleischer Studios, the wanton, buxom carnality of Tex Avery's RED HOT RIDING HOOD--and animation buffs salivated at the prospect of Donald sharing a frame with Daffy Duck, Droopy and Betty Boop inhabiting the same material universe. (For kids, of course, this forbidden co-mingling represented not an epic act of intellectual property horsetrading, but a run-of-the-mill Saturday morning lineup.) But this would all be trivia if ROGER RABBIT wasn't suffused with a yearning for an alternative history of postwar Los Angeles. For '80s Angelenos, the throw-away line about the city having the best public transit system in the world surely inspired chuckles, albeit the dread-of-recognition kind, with visions of the 405 looming after the show's end. With more remove, we can appreciate the longing for a different kind of urbanism, distinct from the discredited, freeway-lovin' theory of urban renewal. (The beleaguered toons in ROGER RABBIT effectively stand in for the soon-to-be-displaced working class denizens of neighborhoods like Bunker Hill.) And it's all wrapped up within a noir framework that suggests the conspiratorial designs of a non-racist James Ellroy, or perhaps a less self-serious Robert Towne. Watch CHINATOWN again fresh after ROGER RABBIT and tell me which movie really leans toward the cartoonish in its costume design, set decoration, and overall atmospherics. (1988, 104 min, 35mm) KAW
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Sergei Loznitza's MAIDAN (New Documentary)
Music Box Theatre -- Tuesday, 7:30pm

Composed entirely of long/static shots leading up to and during the Ukrainian Maidan Square protests from December 2013 through February 2014, this feature from the director of the narratives MY JOY and IN THE FOG is far more "documentation" than "documentary"; and seen from the United States, it makes a convincing mockery of domestic coverage of the events leading to the overthrow of the Yanukovych regime. (For example, if one remembers the mainstream handwringing about fascist elements of the Maidan protests, the viewer will be seriously hard-pressed to find overwhelming evidence for it here--and there's more than enough room on the big screen to seek it out.) But the film also unintentionally conveys the weakness and/or over-intellectualization of American political activism more generally, in which millennial slaves to Uber rage against the financial services industry on Facebook, and technocrats bloviate about the relevance of "civic technology"; meanwhile, in MAIDAN's Kiev, we see the genuinely important tools and techniques of civic technology, such as "burning rubber tires to obscure sniper fire" and "cauldrons of soup to feed the gathered citizenry". For any resident of this voting-averse city more well-known for its traditional mockery of democracy than anything else (even on the eve of a potential unseating of its unlikeable neoliberal mayor), there may be no more compelling film than this 2-hour tale of a revolution and its tripod. Introduced by film critic/writer Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. (2014, 134 min, DCP Digital) MC
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Encounters: Experimental Film and Video from Croatia (Experimental Revival)
Conversations at the Edge Series at the Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 12:30pm

The eleven short films in this program range from 1961 to 2011, from the good to the revolutionary. ENCOUNTERS (Vladimir Petek, 1963, 35mm) is ambitious, brilliant, and unnerving, a film that explores the ways a photographed face can be made to interact with the medium of photography, how different kinds of movement can collide within a single frame, how color and monochrome collide. ENCOUNTERS allows a single woman's face to dominate its imagery only to disrupt, resist, and grind away at that face in a multitude of ways. DON KIHOT (Vlado Kristl, 1961, 35mm on video) is one of the undisputed masterpieces of the Zagreb Animation School. In this highly allegorical condensation of Cervantes's novel, set in a world of electricity, airplanes, and traffic jams, Kihot and his squire don't even appear until 20% of the film has passed. The film is a war story, with mechanized death and machinery on one side and Kihot's carnal disruptiveness on the other: the perfection of the machine versus the fleshy imperfection of the body. Kristl's drawings border on the rude, and are flagrantly erotic, and his soundscape a treasure-trove of noise and percussion. IN/DIVIDU (Nicole Hewitt, 1999, 16mm) takes on similar themes within stop-motion animation, destroying and rebuilding ordinary objects, reconstructing them from wires, arranging their parts in new configurations. When human bodies finally appear at the end, the implication is clear: we are mere machines, mere things that are exactly as animate as the chair, the box, the light bulb the film has already dissected. IN/DIVIDU presents a world of objects in thrall to their own form, but breaking free from their bonds through the power of cinema. PERSONAL CUTS (Sanja Ivekovi?, 1982, video), originally presented on Yugoslavian national television, alternates close-ups of Ivekovi?'s face with documentary footage produced for a program on the history of Yugoslavia under Socialism. Her face is shrouded in a black stocking, like a disguise, but every time the film returns to her she snips another circle off the mesh with a pair of alarmingly large scissors. The effect is electrifying: each slice of the blades, so close to her skin and eyes, corresponds to a cut to propaganda, equating the physical danger she endures to clear her head to the ideological danger her country faces. TV PING PONG (Ivan Ladislav Galeta, 1976/8, video) is a bold experiment in the reformation of a purely videographic, and not cinematic, space, using multiple cameras to record a ping pong match and then manipulating and combining the signals from each device while preserving the inherent synchronization amongst all of them. Galeta's piece is as much a work of video philosophy as it is a work of video art, a statement of rhythm, transformed from the bouncing of a ball to the movement of the scan lines. Expertly crafted and controlled, TV PING PONG is a thing of austere, crystalline beauty. NO TITLE (Goran Trbuljak, 1976, video) seems at first a mere joke: the camera is trained on its own recording mechanism; a pair of scissors is introduced into the frame; the scissors cut the tape the video we're watching is being recorded on; static. Its over-determined self-reflexivity, however, grows hypnotic upon reflection, challenging as strongly as anything else in the program the tedious slippage involved in conflating video and film. Few works have exploited so succinctly and perfectly why video art demands its own aesthetics. WATER PULU 1869 1896 (Ivan Ladislav Galeta, 1987/8, 35mm) is perhaps the greatest film of the program, a stunning tour-de-force of editing, composition, and visual loveliness. On the least interesting level, it is a film of a water polo match between France and North Korea, but Galeta transmutes the ball, the water, the players into fields of color washing over the screen. Keeping the ball preternaturally still, directly in the center of every frame, Galeta performs a Ptolemaic revolution in miniature, showing all motion as actually revolving around a single point in increasingly dazzling epicycles of clockwork intricacy. Is it a model of vision, of human self-presentation, of foundational theories of knowledge? Also screening are MARKET (Ana Hu?man, 2006, video), TWIST-TWIST (Ante Verzotti, 1962, 16mm on video), WALLS, COATS, SHADOWS (Mladen Stilinovi?, 1975, 8mm on video), and MANUAL (Dalibor Martinis, 1978, video). Curator (and local filmmaker) Alexander Stewart in person. (1961-2011, approx. 65 min total, Various Formats) KB
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Frank Borzage's 7TH HEAVEN (Silent American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday, Noon

Along with Murnau's SUNRISE, Frank Borzage's 7TH HEAVEN was the most accoladed American film of 1927, and in fact received more nominations at the first-ever Academy Awards. Its stature has since been eclipsed by that of SUNRISE, but it remains a major film by one of American cinema's major artists. Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell play working-poor types in pre-World War I Paris. They are brought together by circumstance and are forced to marry; as this is a Borzage film, however, the arbitrariness of their union only intensifies the love that develops between them. In his later masterpiece THE MORTAL STORM (1940), Borzage would demonize Nazism by showing a good family ripped apart by its dictates; in 7TH HEAVEN, he depicts the Great War as a force that cruelly separated the lovers of Europe. Such ideas may seem facile on the page, but Borzage's greatness is in the utter conviction with which he argues them: No, there is nothing more important in life than to love and anything that prevents us from doing so should be treated with skepticism, if not repulsion. Even though Borzage spent the second half of his directorial career in the Sound Age, he remained one of the great silent filmmakers until his retirement in 1959: Few directors were as good at charting a direct passage from the image (especially the sensitive close-up of a loving face) to pure emotion. Live accompaniment by Dennis Scott. (1927, 110 min, 35mm) BS
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The Animated Archive: Recent Work by Kelly Sears (New Animation/Experimental)
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Sunday, 5pm

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are considered as much for the feelings they incite as they are for their communicative potential. Multiple studies have shown what most already know, that these platforms-- especially those that are image-based--can inspire anxiety and dissatisfaction in their users. It's interesting to think about the possible implications of this phenomenon, in particular why images that are seemingly normal in content often provoke such uncanny reactions. Houston-based experimental filmmaker Kelly Sears doesn't have the answers to such questions, but her work does provide a unique insight into the eerie possibilities inherent within some pre-technological equivalents, namely vintage and archival imagery discovered in flea markets, thrift stores, and film archives. (When viewing Sears' work, one wonders how she might utilize filtered Instagram photos and six-second Vine videos twenty to thirty years from now.) Of the short films that were previewable, her 2011 film ONCE IT STARTED IT COULD NOT END OTHERWISE most obviously conveys this uneasiness. With influences such as Charles Burns' Black Hole comic series and Jeffrey Eugenides' book The Virgin Suicides, Sears combines portraits and candid photos from vintage yearbooks with newly photographed interior and exterior shots of a typical high school to tell a horror story of sorts, one that's never explained in detail but literally includes mysterious goo seeping from hallowed halls and gaping orifices alike. She elaborates in text: "The students carried the trace of what happened into the outside world, where it quietly continued to spread." In various interviews, Sears explains how she uses footage from the past to contextualize the present. Specifically in regards to this film, she says that the "[metaphorical] bodies are inscribed with this dark matter and then go out into the world and grow up and spread it around, perhaps through the Reagan era of the '80s, through the for-profit military economy, irresponsible corporations, environmental destruction, erosion of civil liberties and other horrors we have today." In her 2007 film THE DRIFT, she charts the progression of innocence to complacence by using vintage imagery from the beginnings of space travel to create a narrative in which several astronauts disappear on a mission after being entranced by a song that "sounded like emptiness." On the film's Vimeo page, she says that it "weave[s] an absurd fable about our country's unflinching frontierism and the desire to push too far, too fast"; in a recent interview, she connects the film to the present by saying that she "made that film during the occupation of Iraq and it was very much after mission accomplished was declared." The drift, which is what the astronauts call the sensation that occurs after hearing the empty song, is soon embraced by the counterculture and then subsequently banned by the government. By connecting it to the recent occupation of the Middle East, Sears highlights the complacency that has overcome a generation of people who have become used to our country's imperialist practices. The "drifters" are representative of the shift from the idealism of the early space age to the antipathy of modern society. In this way, her work expertly combines experimental processes with genuinely engrossing narratives that also serve as overarching metaphors. "I shape my animations with film genres, such as science fiction, documentaries and conspiracy thrillers," she said in an interview with CultureMap Houston. "I use these genres, and fiction in general, as way to write back into historical narratives to reframe moments from our past and events from today." Kelly Sears in person. (2007-15, approx. 55 min total, HD Video) KS
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Goethe-Institut Chicago (150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 200) - Thursday, 6pm (Free Admission)

Made for German television, and his next film following DER RIESE (THE GIANT), his stunning 1983 experimental/documentary/essay film on surveillance, Michael Klier's 1989 narrative THE GRASS IS GREENER EVERYWHERE ELSE continues his earlier film's theme of an alienating landscape, here, rather than one where one is constantly being watched, one in which no one takes notice of you. It is a melancholic and somber look at late-Cold War Poland and Germany (and shot during a pivotal year for both countries), focusing on a young man and woman Jerzy and Ewa, who have a fleeting meeting in a Warsaw bar (he's a customer; she's a waitress) and independently travel to Berlin, where they by chance meet up again. The West proves no more hospitable than their home country, and as they wait to find out if they'll be allowed to emigrate to the U.S., Jerzy is forced into a string of low-paid jobs and Ewa into prostitution. Their attempts to kindle an acquaintance into a friendship, a friendship into a romance is constantly dampered by their continuing harsh present and uncertain future. Klier manifests his themes and his characters' plights through his location shooting: the film is an unending progression of seedy bars, dumpy restaurants, barely-livable hotels and boarding houses, depressed neighborhoods, and barren industrial spaces. As harrowing as this might sound, it's not. The film is buoyed by the engaging performances of Miroslaw Baka as Jerzy and Marta Klubowicz as Ewa, who seem to imbue their characters with a never completely dead glimmer of hope, something that colors the uncertainty of the ending, leaving open the possibility of happiness, even if it's slight. (1989, 79 min, DVD Projection) PF
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Growing Up Baumbach: A Tribute to Noah Baumbach's 20 Years in Film*
Noah Baumbach's FRANCES HA (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Monday, 5pm

The most financially and critically successful of the mumblecore films, FRANCES HA is also Noah Baumbach at his finest and firmly pushed the genre into the wider public eye. Heavily influenced by Woody Allen films (ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN) as well as the French New Wave, Baumbach's magnum opus showcases the straightforward side to filmmaking and demonstrates how a strong director can make one hell of a film from a simple screenplay. The script is full of sharp, candid dialogue that feels honest and natural. This character study relies heavily on the emotional and disenfranchised power that conversation has in daily life. Greta Gerwig plays the titular Frances, a 27-year old dancer whose life is crumbling around her with no end in sight. Like a drummer behind the punchline of a joke, Frances is often a beat late in her conversations, her finances, and most importantly, her livelihood. Gerwig's performance serves an apt metaphor for the millennial generation and the obstacles that they face. It's refreshing to see a film provide an authentic look at how a character's life isn't always going to work out in that special, feel-good way. Despite all this, FRANCES HA is inspiring for its views on the influence of personal growth and the highly personal definition of success that exists when people finally find their own little slice of heaven. Frances just wants to find happiness, and it's fascinating to watch her take that intimate journey towards it. (2013, 86 min, 35mm) KC

*Also screening as part of the series are Baumbach's THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (2005, 81 min, 35mm) on Saturday at Noon; KICKING AND SCREAMING (1995, 96 min, 35mm) on Sunday at Noon; and WHILE WE'RE YOUNG (2014, 97 min, DCP Digital; Free Admission, RSVP at the MB website) on Wednesday at 6:30pm, with Baumbach in person. NOTE: WHILE WE'RE YOUNG APPEARS TO BE SOLD OUT.
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Dziga Vertov's THE MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (Silent Soviet Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Sunday, 7:15pm

Wanna watch a conference of film scholars descend into fisticuffs? Raise your hand, and politely ask whether early film audiences really found the illusion of cinema so convincing that they ran away in terror at the image of an oncoming train on the screen. The siren song of the stupefied bumpkin--the useful and profound myth that cannot be disproved or killed--is on my mind again, having just seen Dziga Vertov's MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA for the seventh or eighth time. I finally recognized that this monumental documentary is almost designed for that bewildered spectator--it's a completely idiomatic explication of cinema theory, as readily understood by an illiterate kolkhoz dweller as a Westernized urban sophisticate. (Or, for that matter, a moderately socialized chimpanzee or an alien race from points beyond.) This is not just another way of saying that MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA disavows intertitles--an esthete conceit shared with other silent films like F.W. Murnau's THE LAST LAUGH and Arthur Robison's WARNING SHADOWS. No, THE MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA patiently, painstakingly demonstrates cinema from bottom to top--analogizing the camera lens with the eye, comparing an editing bench to a sewing machine, rhyming a vial of film cement with a bottle of nail polish, motion slowed down, motion stopped. We see the cameraman shooting a scene, then his footage in the raw, then the footage cut together to form a sequence--albeit not necessarily in that order and not without a few digressions. And yes, more than a few locomotives hurtle towards us--and with mounting, seizure-inducing rhythm as the movie concludes in an orgy of rapid cuts, flash frames, and call-backs. But by then, we're no longer the audience running away, but the train racing toward it. We've been absorbed into the machine, its logic naturalized, its violence merged with our own. THE MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA teaches us to think like a camera, to understand our own lives with greater exactitude and objectivity as we watch them projected back at us. This screening will be accompanied by a live performance from MT Coast and Blake Edwards. (1929, 68 min, 35mm) KAW
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Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 6:30, 8:45, and 11pm and Sunday, 1:30pm

Slavoj ?i?ek wrote, "In order to unravel Hitchcock's THE BIRDS, one should first imagine the film without the birds, simply depicting the proverbial middle-class family in the midst of an Oedipal crisis--the attacks of the birds can only be accounted for as an outlet of the tension underlying this Oedipal constellation, i.e., they clearly materialize the destructive outburst of the maternal superego, one mother's jealousy toward the young woman who tries to snatch her son from her." That Hitchcock conceived of (and plotted) THE BIRDS as a comedy shows his gleeful perversity. It also goes a long way towards explaining the film's enduring fascination. Most disaster movies simply revolve around the spectacle of things blowing up; if they make any room at all for humor or interpersonal relationships it's usually of the throwaway or half-hearted variety. It's just window dressing for explosions. But in his own crafty way, Hitchcock shows us that comedy, not tragedy, can be the best way to reveal the layers of a character while, crucially, misdirecting the audience's attention. Using a meticulously scored soundtrack of bird effects in lieu of traditional music cues, paired with George Tomasini's brilliant picture editing, heightens the feeling of disquiet. It all culminates in the stunning final shot: the superego has saturated the entire landscape. (1963, 119 min, 35mm) RC
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In Case of No Emergency: The Films of Ruben Östlund*
Ruben Ostlund's FORCE MAJEURE (New Swedish)
Facets Cinémathèque - Sunday, 5 and 7:30pm

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, Unconfirmed Format) MGS

*Also showing in this touring retrospective are Östlund's 2011 film PLAY (118 min, 35mm) on Saturday at 5:30 and 7:45pm; and additional films next weekend (check next week's list).
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David Cronenberg's MAPS TO THE STARS (New Canadian)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes

The latest effort from David Cronenberg is a bit of a departure for the septuagenarian Canadian auteur, a perverse Hollywood roast in the tradition of SUNSET BOULEVARD, THE PLAYER, and MULLHOLLAND DRIVE. MAPS TO THE STARS is a consistently surprising, meticulously observed film, poignant at times, often hilarious. The subject of MAPS is the American empire, its century old symbiotic relationship with the movies, and the strange and damaged people (celebrities) through which this bond is maintained. In the film the collective denial that we perpetuate through our entertainment industry parallels the lies that we tell ourselves as individuals. Both mask grim reality in a mirage of constant progress and imminent redemption.  Julianne Moore is terrifying as the Gloria Swanson aging starlet. Evan Bird is brilliantly cast as a Bieberesque pre-adolescent power player. It's not a perfect film. Missteps include an abundance of extraneous ghost sightings and a Greek tragic structure that is either not fleshed out enough or completely unnecessary. But overall, another important work from one of the greats. (2014, 111 min, DCP Digital) ML
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Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cyn, and Anonymous' THE ACT OF KILLING (Documentary/Experimental)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Tuesday, 6pm

Grotesque, absurd, and stunningly strange, THE ACT OF KILLING is a full-bodied treatise on violence, as it's imagined, organized, and performed. One of its directors, Joshua Oppenheimer, spent years working with survivors of political violence in Indonesia and in the process developed a robust frame on the region's terrifying history of paramilitary control. The movie follows a few aging members of one of the country's death squads, the Pancasila Youth--chiefly one man, Anwar Congo--as they live now, enjoying the privilege afforded to victors. Adding a layer to the story, the filmmakers collaborate with the killers to create filmed re-enactments of the murders they committed. Oppenheimer, his collaborator Christine Cyn, along with a rotating cast and crew of Indonesian people, participate in a bizarre creative process. The work required simultaneously engages the history of the murders and evokes rich portraits of the murderers themselves as they conceptualize and perform their own artistic interpretations of their actions. THE ACT OF KILLING is an elusive piece on non-fiction that slips in and out of several realms at once: a conventional doc view of a country whose chaotic government openly colludes with thugs, at times a darkly comic look at the close familial bond of Anwar and his men, and finally a chilling look at how the brutal logic of violence reverberates out into personal, national, and global consequences. SAIC professor Daniel Eisenberg lectures. (2012, 116 min, DCP Digital Projection) CL
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Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi's WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (New New Zealand/American)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes

Once upon a full moon, vampires were considered to be pure horror. With Bram Stoker's original Dracula, Bela Lugosi's 1930s and 40s Universal films, the iconic German expressionist film NOSFERATU, and Carl Theodor Dreyer's VAMPYR, their gothic mythology was firmly rooted in the collective conscious. These immortal creatures of the night relied on charm, sexuality, and dark magic to enchant and lure their victims. Over time, filmic (and other popular culture) representations of vampires strayed from the original formula, delving into comedy, romance, science fiction, and more. All of these varieties inevitably led to the ill-conceived TWILIGHT and its unavoidable sequels. The vampire film had reached a point of stagnation. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS breaks free of this vampire-moribundity, and is also one of the most original and refreshing comedies in recent memory. This mockumentary combination of The Office meets LET THE RIGHT ONE IN meets The Real World satirizes what life would be like for a vampire living today, dealing with the mundane aspects of contemporary urban life. SHADOWS dares to asks such questions as who's going to clean the dishes, what clothes should vampires wear to the club, and is a human an appropriate plus one to bring to an undead masquerade ball. The answers play out in droll, hilarious fashion, aided by FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS' Jermaine Clement and Rhys Darby, who dazzle as two of the bloodsucking flatmates. Bram Stoker may be rolling over in his grave seeing what has transpired since his vaunted masterpiece, but for the viewers, SHADOWS rewardingly proves that there is still blood left in the veins of the vampire movie. (2015, 86 min, DCP Digital) KC
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The Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell Ave.) hosts an exhibition viewing, artist's talk, and screening in conjunction with their current show of work by Melika Bass on Sunday at 2pm. Screening is Bass' 2008 film SONGS FROM THE SHED (23 min, Unconfirmed format); and Daniel Tucker's 2015 film FUTURE PERFECT: TIME CAPSULES IN REAGAN COUNTRY (40 min, Unconfirmed Format) screens on Wednesday at 6pm, followed by a discussion with Tucker. Both free admission.

Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) presents films by Jesse McLean and Mike Gibisser on Friday at 8pm at Chicago Filmmakers, with McLean and Gibisser in person. The program repeats (without the artists) on Wednesday at 6:30pm at Columbia College (Hokin Hall, 623 S. Wabash Ave.). Screening are: JUST LIKE US, THE ETERNAL QUARTER INCH, LOSE YOURSELF, and I'M IN PITTSBURGH AND IT'S RAINING by Jesse McLean; and ZEROETH LAW: THE CHELSEA AT BROOKFIELD, THIRD LAW: N KEDZIE BLVD, FIRST LAW: QUAIL CT., TWO FIVE FIVE, and BLUE LOOP, JULY by Mike Gibisser. (approx. 83 min total McLean: all Digital Projection; Gibisser: all 16mm); and on Saturday at 8pm (7pm social hour) in the monthly Dyke Delicious series, it's Lisa Cholodenko's 1998 film HIGH ART (101 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format). This film repeats March 21 at Doc Films (see next week's list).

Roots & Culture (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Unsteady States: Video Data Bank 7th Annual Showcase on Tuesday at 7pm. Screening are Frédéric Moffet's ADDRESSE PERMANENTE (2014, 7 min), Jesse McLean's I'M IN PITTSBURGH AND IT'S RAINING (2015, 14 min), Kent Lambert's RECKONING 3 (2014, 11 min), Basma Alsharif's DEEP SLEEP (2014, 13 min), and Louis Henderson's ALL THAT IS SOLID (2014, 16 min). All Digital Projection. Free admission.

Top Studios Hyde Park (1448 E. 57th St.) presents local filmmaker Robert Beshara's 2014 film ALCHEMY IN HYDE PARK (83 min, Digital File Projection) on Saturday at 7pm, with Beshara in person. RSVP required:

The Peace on Earth Film Festival opens on Thursday at 6pm at the Chicago Cultural Center. The festival continues March 20-22. Free admission.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Christopher Nolan's 2014 film INTERSTELLAR (169 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 7 and 10:15pm and Sunday at 4pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Mary Dore's 2014 documentary SHE'S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE'S ANGRY (92 min, DCP Digital; check the MB website for info on Mary Dore in person, panel discussions, and Q&As at various Friday-Sunday shows) and Peter Strickland's 2014 film THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY (104 min, DCP Digital) both open; and Joel Potrykus' 2014 film BUZZARD (97 min, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight (the Saturday screening is preceded at 10pm with an on-stage conversation between Potrykus and Chicago Reader film reviewer Drew Hunt.

Also at Facets Cinémathèque this week: plays Dietrich Brüggmann's 2014 German film STATIONS OF THE CROSS (107 min, Unconfirmed Format), with screenings on Friday and Monday-Thursday (no Saturday-Sunday shows).

The Park Ridge Classic Film Series (at the Pickwick Theatre, 5 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge) presents Richard Lester's 1964 film A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (87 min, DCP Digital) on Thursday at 7:30pm.

The Chicago Cultural Center screens Anne De Mare and Kirsten Kelly's 2014 documentary THE HOMESTRETCH (90 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A. Free admission.

The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave.) screens Federico Fellini's 1965 film JULIET OF THE SPIRITS (137 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm. Free admission.

The Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Martin Laroche's 2013 Canadian film FAIR SEX [Les Manèges Humains] (90 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 6:30pm, with director Laroche in person. Free admission.



Chicago Artists Coalition (217 N. Carpenter St.) continues the exhibition Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure through March 26. Included are Lori Felker's 2015 installation (with video) A Trip to Always Falls and her 2015 collaborative video Pylons (with the duo Sebura&Gartlemann), along with work by Liz Gadelha, Wolfie E. Rawk, Nora Renick Rinehart, Jesse Seay, Sebura&Gartelman, and Erin Toale (curator). 

Aspect/Ratio Gallery (119 N. Peoria St., #3D) opens a solo exhibition of video, installation, and other work by Marco G. Ferrari on Friday (opening reception Friday, 5-8pm). The show continues through April 18.

Blanc Gallery (4445 Martin L. King Dr.) continues the exhibition Nacelle, a show of video work by Marco G. Ferrari, through May 1.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents German artist Clemens von Wedemeyer's HD video installation Muster (Rushes) (2012). On view February 21 to July 26.

David Weinberg Photography (300 W. Superior St., Suite 203) continues the exhibition Try Youth As Youth, which includes an installation version of Tirtza Even's NATURAL LIFE, plus work by Steve Davis, Steve Liss, and Richard Ross. Runs through May 8.

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 (5020 S. Cornell Ave.).

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



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: March 13 - March 19, 2015

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Kian Bergstrom, Michael Castelle, Elspeth J. Carroll, Rob Christopher, Kyle Cubr, Christy LeMaster, Mojo Lorwin, Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Michael G. Smith, Kyle A, Westphal, Darnell Witt

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