Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, SEPT. 4 - Thursday, SEPT. 10 ::


Dziga Vertov's THE MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (Silent Soviet Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Tuesday, 6pm

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. Film writer and artist Fred Camper lectures. Live piano accompaniment by Dave Drazin. (1929, 68 min, 35mm) KAW
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Alex Ross Perry's QUEEN OF EARTH (New American)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes

If the movies have taught us anything, it's that there is no landscape more wondrous than that of the human face. In a much-remarked upon shot in LISTEN UP PHILIP, Alex Ross Perry's formidable previous film, the camera held on Elisabeth Moss's visage in close-up as she silently ran through a gamut of emotions, a single long take that constituted a welcome interlude of radical empathy in a film otherwise deliberately brimming with unpleasantness. In a way, QUEEN OF EARTH, Perry's fourth and best feature to date, picks up where that shot in PHILIP left off: with an extraordinarily gripping close-up of Moss's tear-stained, mascara-smeared face, as her character, Catherine, confronts her boyfriend, James (Kentucker Audley), about his infidelity in the immediate wake of her father's suicide. This double whammy of misfortune soon sends the New York City-bred Catherine packing for a lakeside retreat with her childhood friend Ginny (Katherine Waterston) in order to take stock of her life and perhaps engage in a little female bonding. Things don't go according to plan, however, as Catherine slowly becomes mentally unglued over the course of a week's ostensible "R & R." While large swaths of this film's dialogue would not have felt out of place in either of Perry's previous two films, acerbic comedies marked by extremely literary screenplays (2014's LISTEN UP PHILIP and 2011's THE COLOR WHEEL), the particular context of who is speaking to whom, and where, pushes the content here into a very different and welcome direction--the realm of psychological horror. While Perry freely assimilates influences from both the "high" (e.g., PERSONA, REPULSION, etc.) and "low" (e.g., CARNIVAL OF SOULS, LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, etc.) ends of the cinematic spectrum, QUEEN OF EARTH resonates not because it's any kind of post-modern pastiche but because of what it has to say about real-world human psychology. In particular, Perry taps into universal fears and anxieties about class privilege and nepotism (with the epithet of "spoiled brat" being pointedly hurled back and forth between the female leads). Ultimate interpretations will vary wildly from viewer to viewer (Are the main characters two halves of a single personality? Are the "present-day" scenes a twisted revenge fantasy being projected by Ginny at the conclusion of the "flashbacks?"); I suggest catching a matinee with a friend and afterwards doing coffee, over which you may want to extensively theorize about What It All Means. Director Alex Ross Perry and Producer Joe Swanberg in person at the 7 and 9:30pm Saturday screenings. (2015, 90 min, DCP Digital) MGS
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Federico Fellini's LA DOLCE VITA (Italian Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Sunday, 3pm and Wednesday, 6:30pm

If 8 1/2 is Federico Fellini's Sistine Chapel, then surely LA DOLCE VITA is his Statue of David. Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) is a paparazzo living in Rome whose life plays out over the course of seven episodes--each featuring a daytime and nighttime portion. Marcello is in a constant tug of war between the humility of literature (his own writings included) and the egocentric pull of the limelight and cults of personality. His fidelity waivers, as he expresses his love to his fiancé Emma (Yvonne Furneaux) in one scene only to cheat on her with an heiress or a painter in the next. Fellini's post-Fascism take on Italy is marked by the juxtaposition of high society versus traditional family values. The economy is in full upswing and money abounds as lavish parties are shown and the sightly architecture of the city is displayed. Each episode presents Marcello with a challenge to his personal beliefs and ends with him regressing towards his selfish tendencies or elevating towards the pragmatic. Does anyone truly change or do they ultimately end up how some predetermined fate tells them to be? Marcello ultimately succumbs to life in the spotlight and resolves to be a publicist, discarding his old dream of being a writer. The allure of vanity leaves him a bachelor in old age. His character rises and falls repeatedly as if he were in so many Shakespearean or Greek tragedies. Domestic violence and misogyny are in his life's blood with only the faintest glimmer of romanticism and empathy to be seen. Fellini's film is a masterpiece that beckons to be seen and immersed in. It breathes with vitality and effervescence. Some people never learn from their mistakes, and Marcello is no exception. (1960, 175 min, DCP Digital) KC
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Satyajit Ray's PATHER PANCHALI (Indian Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday, 6pm and Sunday, 3pm

In 1993 Satyajit Ray requested that several of the original negatives of his films be shipped to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles for storage in their vaults. En route they stopped at Henderson Laboratories in London where a tragic nitrate fire burnt and warped, if not destroyed, nearly all the negatives, including the acclaimed Apu Trilogy (not to mention treasured Ealing Studio Comedies). Fortunately the Academy decided to proceed with shipment and the negatives continued on to LA where they would remain untouched for nearly 20 years. After a protracted negotiation for the rights to the Apu Trilogy and multiple unsuccessful efforts to locate usable material for digitization the Criterion Collection unearthed these negatives and in conjunction with the L'Immagine Ritrovata and the Academy Archive began an extensive restoration effort in 2013. It is ironic that such a complicated undertaking including a successful rehydration, a combination of fine-grain masters and dupe negatives, the successful removal of glue and wax (used for storage in India and burned in the fire) and almost a thousand hours of meticulous hand labor, would be performed for films of such clear-eyed simplicity. Among these three the most direct and lucid (and the one whose negative was most badly damaged) is PATHER PANCHALI the inaugural chapter in a rural Bengali bildungsroman centered on the inquisitive and sprightly Apu Roy. Influenced by a conversation with Jean Renoir (in India shooting THE RIVER) and a viewing of Vittorio De Sica's BICYCLE THIEVES in London, Ray's film transplants a neorealist style onto Bibhuti Bhushan's novel. While not inaccurate, the complete placement of Ray's film within the neorealist canon threatens to undermine his truly revolutionary banishment of traditional dramatic structure. While both Ray and De Sica find interest in small, innocuous events, choosing to reveal their characters through gestures and attitudes and thereby dispensing with preconceived notions of plot and character, Ray takes it a step further. The impetus in BICYCLE THIEVES is to find the bicycle; the impetus in PATHER PANCHALI is simply to live. Time, as it is felt in Ray's film, expands and contracts not with breaks but rather a gummy elasticity that reveals both the sufferings caused by the ceaseless march of time and the perpetual chance for rebirth and renewal. Ray's characters, trapped by their economic conditions, brutally compound this effect. In the beginning of her review of L'AVVENTURA Pauline Kael wrote, "It had begun to look as though only those with a fresh eye--working in poverty and inexperience...discovering the medium for themselves--could do anything new and important (like the Apu Trilogy)" It still kind of does. (1955, 125 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) CGB

Also showing are the other two films in the Apu Trilogy: APARAJITO (1956, 109 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Sunday at 5:30pm and Monday at 3pm; and THE WORLD OF APU (1959, 105 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Sunday at 8:30pm and Monday at 5:15pm.
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Miroslav Slaboshpitsky's THE TRIBE (New Ukrainian)
Gene Siskel Film Center - 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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Christian Petzold's PHOENIX (New German)
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes

Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO is masterful but decidedly farfetched, whereas Christian Petzold's PHOENIX is farfetched but still realistic, a contradiction that aptly defines this brilliant allegory of postwar guilt and reclamation. (Petzold openly acknowledges the film's relationship to the Hitchcock classic in many interviews.) It's about a Jewish woman--Nelly, played by Petzold's longtime muse, Nina Hoss--who undergoes facial reconstruction surgery after she's liberated from a concentration camp, presumably having been shot in the face by a Nazi. She learns that all of her family and most of her friends are dead, and that her husband may have been the one who betrayed her to the Schutzstaffel. She looks for him anyway, only to find that he's working in a club called the Phoenix, a blood-red-lit American joint that gives the film its name. (The mythical bird that rises from its ashes is also owed some credit.) Though the surgery significantly altered her appearance, he notices her "resemblance" to his thought-to-be-deceased wife and recruits her to help him acquire her inheritance. Co-written with the late Harun Farocki, "it's a metaphorical movie and it's also not a metaphorical movie," to put it in his words, with the man's guilt (or lack thereof) representing that of a nation and Nelly's regeneration representing that of its oppressed people. On paper it seems absurd, similarly to many of the American genre films that inspired both Petzold and Farocki, but on screen, it's executed with surprising verisimilitude. (2014, 98 min, DCP Digital) KS
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The Northwest Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E., 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) screens William A Wellman's 1951 western WESTWARD THE WOMEN (116 min, 35mm Archival Print) on Wednesday at 7pm.

The experimental media festival Vision Quest opens on Thursday at 7pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago with the program "Anti-Vapor Waves." Included is work by Trisha Baga and Jesse Stead, Stephanie Barber, Michael Bell-Smith, Peter Burr, Petra Cortright, Kevin Jerome Everson, Victoria Fu, Zahid Jiwa, Sara Ludy, Johann Lurf, Jodie Mack, Sara Magenheimer, and Tomonari Nishikawa. The festival continues on Friday and Saturday at Co-Prosperity Sphere. Full schedule at

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) hosts The First 5 Years and The Last 5 Years (as part of Platforms: 10 Years of Chances Dances) on Tuesday at 8pm. Screening is work by Mark Aguhar, Cavenaw and Cavenis, Sky Cubacub, Ky Dickens, EMR (Math Bass and Dylan Mira), Hope Esser and Daviel Shy, Rami George, Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero, Meg Leary, Marianna Milhorat, Madsen Minax, Dylan Mira, Fawzia Mirza, Aay Preston-Myint, Macon Reed, Oli Rodriguez, Amina Ross and NIC Kay, Jules Rosskam, Xina Xurner, and Latham Owen Zearfoss. Free Admission.

DfbrL8r (1463 W. Chicago Ave.) presents the first of two events titled What Would Barbara Do? on Saturday at 7pm. Organized in memory of the late artists and SAIC professor Barbara DeGenevieve, the first event includes video work by Barbara DeDenevieve, Amber Hawk Swanson, Kean O'Brien, Isaac Leung, Whitney Johnson, and Charles Lum, and performances by Miao Jiaxin, Zachary Harvey, Caitlin Baucom, Madsen Minax, and Nicole Ciesla. The second event is on September 26.

Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Counter-montages, Tinkering subjectivity, a shorts film program by Mexico City's VICO Project, on Saturday at 7pm; and Amy Lukas and Mary Catterlin's 2015 documentary LAKE MICHIGAN IN A DUGOUT: THE DOCUMENTARY (74 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 8pm, with Lukas and Catterlin in person. Followed by a live musical performance by Naomi Marie. Free admission for both.

The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) presents Jazz Forum on Tuesday at 1 and 7:30pm. The screening features filmed performances from various 1940's acts; and screens Arthur Berthelet's rediscovered 1916 silent film SHERLOCK HOLMES (116 min, DCP Digital) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm, with live piano accompaniment by David Drazin. Free Admission.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Sean Baker's 2015 film TANGERINE (88 min, DCP Digital) plays for a week; Debra Granik's 2014 documentary STRAY DOG (98 min, DCP Digital) screens on Friday at 8:15pm, Saturday at 7:45pm, and Thursday at 6pm; and Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's 1977 film PADRE PADRONE (114 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Friday at 6pm and Saturday at 5:15pm and their 1982 film THE NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STARS (105 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration) is on Saturday at 3pm and Thursday at 6pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi's 2015 documentary MERU (87 min) opens, with co-directors Chin and Vasarhelyi in person at the 7:20pm Friday and 5pm Saturday screenings; Silvio Narizzano 's 1966 British film GEORGY GIRL (99 min, 35mm) is on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am; John Waters' 1974 film FEMALE TROUBLE (89 min, 35mm) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight (the Saturday screening is hosted by drag performer Lucy Stoole); and Sean Baker's 2015 film TANGERINE (88 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Unconfirmed Formats except where noted.

At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Maira Buhler and Matias Mariani's 2014 Brazilian documentary I TOUCHED ALL YOUR STUFF (92 min) and Bob Byington's 2015 film 7 CHINESE BROTHERS (76 min) both play for a week; and Brian James O'Connell's 2015 film BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS (86 min) is on Friday and Saturday at 10:30pm, with director O'Connell, producer/actor Justin Ware (Andrew) and actor Parvesh Cheena in person at the Friday screening.

The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Cinema/Chicago screening of Iberê Carvalho's 2014 Brazilian film THE LAST DRIVE-IN THEATER (98 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Free admission.



The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Im Reich der Sonnenfinsternis (In the empire of the solar eclipse), an installation by Belgian artists TJos de Gruyter and THarald Thys, which is comprised of paintings, sculpture, photography, drawings and a 25 minute video entitled DAS LOCH (THE HOLE). On view through January 17.

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



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 TPatio Theater and the TPortage 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: September 4 - September 10, 2015

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Camden G. Bauchner, Kyle Cubr, Kathleen Sachs, Michael G. Smith, Kyle A. Westphal, Darnell Witt

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