Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, FEB. 3 - Thursday, FEB. 9 ::


In this uncertain and unprecedented political moment, we here at Cine-File would like to begin calling specific attention to those moving image works that provide a clarifying voice, an alternate vision, a model for resistance and engagement, an independence of thought. Starting this week, and for the indefinite future, we will be adding a new section to the weekly list—Oppositional Viewing—that will highlight the screenings of that week that, directly or indirectly, offer an opportunity to engage with moving image-making that partakes in the long history of cinema as a force for change, a window to difference, an empowerment of critical thinking.

Additionally, we would like to call attention to the fact that the majority of the venues and other screening sites, series, and groups we regularly list are not-for-profit organizations (who almost certainly receive NEA or NEH funding, and would be crippled were it to be cut), educational institutions (which face their own new and continuing challenges), and grassroots groups and organizations (that operate with very little or no outside funding, and so rely on donations and admissions). Please consider donating to or becoming members of those that are not-for-profits. Please consider increasing your attendance at local university-based screenings. Please consider paying a little bit more or offering a donation to those that are grassroots. (The lists below are not comprehensive.)

Not-For-Profit & Grassroots:
Black Cinema House
Black World Cinema
Chicago Cinema Society
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Film Society
Chicago Filmmakers (+ Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival)
Chicago Underground Film Festival
Cinema/Chicago (Chicago International Film Festival)
Comfort Film at Comfort Station Logan Square
Facets Cinémathèque
Gene Siskel Film Center
International Latino Cultural Center (Chicago Latino Film Festival)
The Nightingale
South Side Projections
+ Approximately 25 additional film festivals

Occasional Screenings:
Chicago History Museum
DuSable Museum
Heaven Gallery
Iceberg Gallery
Instituto Cervantes
Italian Cultural Institute
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
Museum of Contemporary Art
Roots & Culture
Spertus Institute

Block Cinema (Northwestern University)
Conversations at the Edge (SAIC)
Doc Films (University of Chicago)
Film Studies Center (University of Chicago)
Gallery 400 (UIC)
Logan Center for the Arts (University of Chicago)
Museum of Contemporary Photography (Columbia College)


Raoul Peck's I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (New Essay/Documentary)
AMC River East 21 - Check Venue website for showtimes

If the role of the public intellectual is to speak truth to power, then James Baldwin was one of the greatest America ever produced. A searing and compassionate social critic, he was equally penetrating when he turned his novelist's gaze toward film, as this galvanizing, heartbreaking essay/documentary by Raoul Peck demonstrates. Its voiceover is in Baldwin's own words, the beautiful music of his language measured out by Samuel L. Jackson in an intimate spoken-word performance. In televised interviews and debates from the 1960s, Baldwin is pensive and incendiary, and the film cuts between his embattled times and our own. Baldwin investigated the mystery of the fathomless hatred of white Americans for blacks, and while his analysis was economic, it also involved a kind of psychoanalysis of the American psyche. This film's jumping-off point is Remember This House, his unfinished manuscript about the intertwining lives, and violent deaths, of his friends/foils Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers. Soon it turns to The Devil Finds Work, his earthy, shattering essay about growing up a child of the movies. Baldwin understood cinema as "the American looking glass," and he wrote with such lucidity, and such painful honesty, about what he saw reflected there, about himself, race, and his country. "To encounter oneself is to encounter the other," he wrote, "and this is love. If I know that my soul trembles, I know that yours does, too: and, if I can respect this, both of us can live." Viewer identification is complex: as a youngster whose heroes were white, who rooted for Gary Cooper, it came as a huge shock for him to realize "the Indians were you"—and these heroes aimed to kill you off, too. Peck has called his film an essay on images, a "musical and visual kaleidoscope" of fiery blues, lobotomized mass media, classic Hollywood, TV news, reality TV, and advertisements. He causes a government propaganda film from 1960 about U.S. life, all baseball games and amusement parks, to collide with the Watts uprising; a Doris Day movie meets lynched bodies. The point is not even that one is reality and the other is not. It's that these two realities were never forced to confront each other—and they must, because one comes at the other's expense. When Baldwin speaks of the "death of the heart," of our privileged apathy, of an infantile America, an unthinking and cruel place, he could be speaking of the Trump era. He feared for the future of a country increasingly unable to distinguish between illusion, dream, and reality. "Neither of us, truly, can live without the other," he wrote. "For, I have seen the devil...[I]t is that moment when no other human being is real for you, nor are you real for yourself." Let this movie inspire today's young dissenters, and let James Baldwin be our model of oppositional, critical thinking as we raise our angry voices against Donald Trump and everything he stands for. (2016, 95 min, DCP Digital) SP
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Dušan Makavejev's WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM (Yugoslavian/West German Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) – Friday, 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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Festival of Films from Iran
Soheil Beiraghi’s ME (New Iranian)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 8:15pm and Sunday, 3pm

A SEPARATION established Leila Hatami’s reputation as one of the best actresses on the planet, and the subsequent films of hers to turn up here (THE LAST STEP, MEETING LEILA, WHAT’S THE TIME IN YOUR WORLD?), however different from Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winner, utilized her talents to similar ends as that film did, casting Hatami as soft, sensitive women who are as emotional as they are intelligent. In ME, first-time writer-director Soheil Beiraghi casts Hatami in the most atypical role of a tough-as-nails criminal mastermind navigating the numerous black markets of Tehran. Azar is a restless operator, overseeing the traffic of alcohol (illegal in Iran) and fake visas, helping an aspiring musician promote his recordings, and helping a feeble middle-aged woman work the system to buy back a plot of land that once belonged to her family—indeed, she works on all of these projects daily, in addition to maintaining her cover as an oboe instructor. Feisty and shrewd, Azar takes advice from no one, and she doesn’t take well to disagreement; an early scene finds her hitting a man who dares to critique her. Hatami does a brilliant job at conveying the character’s intuitive smarts and take-charge attitude, but she respects the mystery at the heart of Beiraghi’s script, never giving any hints as to what makes Azar tick or what compels her to keep at her projects even after she learns the police are on her tail. Is Azar motivated by greed or altruism? Outrage at the injustices of Iranian society or a cynical desire to work them to her own advantage? These questions generate as much suspense as the satisfyingly noirish plot. (2016, 80 min, DCP Digital) BS
Also in the Iranian film festival this week is Reza Dormishian’s LANTOURI (see Also Recommended below)
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Frames of Resistance: Vostell and Friends in 16mm (Revival Experimental)
Films Studies Center (University of Chicago) at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.) – Friday, 7pm (Free Admission)

I'll admit that I know very little about Wolf Vostell, but seeing his name as part of this program brought up some lovely memories about life as a young tireless cinephile and thoughts about current cinema. If you were a certain kind of cinephile you'd spend too much time in the late 90s and early aughts plowing through print and nascent online catalogs of films, digging for prints you could afford to rent out of your own pocket or films you could convince the your local college to rent for a screening. So much of this early film education was abstracted and obscured; you'd read about a film for years before you'd be able to see it. Such was the case with Wolf Vostell. My eye was immediately drawn to his work because it was absolutely the cheapest to rent in the Filmmakers' Co-op catalog: at just $30 for 21 minutes on 16mm, it was a steal. I never ended up renting his work but his name, the description of the films, and further research led to my first brushes with Fluxus, and experimental film being used in a performance art setting. Although Vostell had a deep impact in other art forms, maybe he wasn't onto anything groundbreaking in cinema, but his name lingers and remains. As does his style. The one film of his I've had a chance to see, SUN IN YOUR HEAD (1963, 6 min, 16mm), was created to exist within a larger performance work. In it, Vostell pulls abstractions and political commentary out of television glitches. I honestly don't know if he was simply utilizing a form that already existed around him or if was doing something new cinematically, but it really doesn't matter. The forms still exist and are still "fresh" depending on how they are being used. Creating visuals to accompany performance and motion pictures utilizing "abstractions and political commentary out of television glitches" could be used to describe material created by Luther Price in the 80s or by Clothie Cook today. Maybe I'm making Vostell's film work out to seem minor, but I don't intend that. Instead I hope that you encounter his film work in the same way an overexcited 20-year old would: ready for each new frame of an under-seen film to spark a passion. The program, which explores Vostell’s and other Fluxus artists’ “use of film as political interventions into the built environment and the media landscape,” features Wolf Vostell’s SUN IN YOUR HEAD (1963) and 20 JULI 1964 AACHEN (1967), both of which will screen twice, the second time with performative elements included, along with Vostell’s STARFIGHTER (1967), Dick Higgins’ THE END (1962), and Jud Yalkut’s P+A-I(K) (1966). (1962-67, Unconfirmed total running time, 16mm) JBM
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Doc Films (University of Chicago) screens Rosa von Praunheim’s 1986 dark and politically pointed comedy about the AIDS epidemic, A VIRUS KNOWS NO MORALS (84 min, 16mm Archival Print), on Monday at 7pm.

Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University): Rea Tajiri’s documentaries HISTORY AND MEMORY (1991, 32 min, Digital Projection), about history, memory, and Tajiri’s family’s incarceration in a Japanese-American internment camp in the 1940s, and YURI KOCHIYAMA: PASSION FOR JUSTICE (co-directed by Pat Saunders, 1994, 57 min, Digital Projection), about the life and impact of a longtime Harlem-based Japanese-American activist, are on Thursday at 7pm.

The University of Illinois Chicago hosts Prof. Susan Martin-Marquez (Rutgers University) who will present a talk on her current research entitled "Which Way to Political Cinema? Colonialist Routes in Film Theory and History." It’s on Friday at 4pm in University Hall (Rm. 1501). Free admission.

The Spertus Institute (610 S. Michigan Ave.) screens Todd Soliday and Leah Warshawski’s 2016 documentary BIG SONIA (93 min, Digital Projection), about an octogenarian Holocaust survivor and tailor-shop owner, on Sunday at 2pm. Producer/co-director (and Sonia’s granddaughter) Leah Warshawski in person.


Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer’s CANDY MOUNTAIN (International Revival)
Chicago Film Society (at the Music Box Theatre) – Monday, 7:30pm

The cast alone—an eclectic mix of musicians and respected character actors—is worth the price of admission. Joe Strummer, Laurie Metcalf, Dr. John, David Johansen of the New York Dolls, Tom Waits, Harris Yulin, Bulle Ogier, Leon Redbone, Arto Lindsay, and Roberts Blossom all make appearances in CANDY MOUNTAIN, and the succession of cool cats makes this rarely-revived international coproduction feel like one of the best art parties you’ve never attended. (In its hipster all-star line-up and come-as-you-are vibe, the movie anticipates Jim Jarmusch’s COFFEE AND CIGARETTES, and wouldn’t you know, Jarmusch himself makes an uncredited appearance here too.) The directors are plenty hip themselves: Robert Frank is a noted photographer who helmed the Beat Generation short PULL MY DAISY and the long-suppressed Rolling Stones documentary COCKSUCKER BLUES, while Rudy Wurlitzer, who also wrote this, is an esteemed counterculture novelist who wrote the scripts for TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID, and Alex Cox’s WALKER. The slim plot has an aspiring musician and second-rate bullshit artist named Julius Booke hitting the road to find a reclusive guitar maker named Elmore Silk, whose goods are much desired by some music industry players whom Booke wants to impress. Booke leaves New York City for eastern Canada, burning through several cars and a few thousand dollars over a few days that come to feel like a lifetime. Along the way, he meets various relatives and colleagues of Silk’s, all of them eccentric and wrapped up in themselves, but, as in such Wurlitzer novels as Flats and Quake, a spirit of transience comes to overwhelm any sense of character. This is a quietly sad movie about a cipher of a man who gets swallowed up by the open road, the type of person who might have been sung about in a Depression-era folk ballad. But, as this was co-directed by the photographer of The Americans, the open road here as an undeniable beauty about it. Preceded by Robert Frank’s 1981 film ENERGY AND HOW TO GET IT (28 min, 16mm). (1987, 87 min, 35mm) BS
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Jerry Lewis’ THE ERRAND BOY (American Revival)
Chicago Film Society (at Northeastern Illinois University, The Auditorium, Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.) – Wednesday, 7:30pm

Playing the affable but dim-witted Morty S. Tashman (the ’S’ stands for scared), Jerry Lewis mixes his trademark slapstick with screwball comedy in THE ERRAND BOY, a film that satirizes the Hollywood studio system and its inner-workings. Tasked by the executives of Paramutual Pictures with spying on their studio to see what their money is buying them, Morty blunders his way from office to office and set to set, creating chaos wherever he goes. Whether it’s the bright-eyed, enthusiastic extras or the big-shot directors, all facets of filmdom are shown, including even their internal motivations and aspirations. Paramount shows a good sense of humor by parodying themselves throughout. The famous ‘Pantomime Scene’ in which Morty sits in the executive’s chair, chomping on a cigar and gesturing furiously while a brass score swells is the film’s most iconic and tongue-in-cheek moment. For a film this wacky, there is a surprising amount of self-reflection. Morty’s soliloquy with an ostrich puppet about how he’s not the sharpest mind but isn’t dumb serves as an apt metaphor for the disconnect between studios heads’ expectations of their audience’s intelligence and the reality that viewers are quite adept. Perhaps the greatest parody of all here is that of the real-life relationship between Jerry Lewis and Paramount. The two entities are inexplicably intertwined and the imagined humble beginnings of the comedy legend at the studio only add to his humorous ethos. Preceded by a short reel of outtakes from Lewis’ THE LADIES MAN (1961, 4 min, 35mm). (1961, 92 min, 35mm) KC
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William A. Wellman's NIGHT NURSE (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

Of the five movies that William A. Wellman directed for Warner Bros.-First National in 1931 (he would up the pace to six apiece in 1932 and 1933), THE PUBLIC ENEMY is obviously the most influential and OTHER MEN'S WOMEN is indisputably the finest. SAFE IN HELL creaks like the stage adaptation that it is, but that title makes up for a lot. The sociological inflection of THE PUBLIC ENEMY finds its opposite number in the last two features from '31, which both endorse "for the hell o' it" as the snappiest answer to any conceivable question. (The more pompous the set-up, the more irreverent the reply.) THE STAR WITNESS is a full-throated defense of vigilante justice, and NIGHT NURSE casts a sly side-eye in the same direction. Like so many films tossed off in the early '30s, NIGHT NURSE casually ambles between genres before setting itself straight. It plays, at various points, as an unapologetically lewd peepshow, a workplace action comedy, an exercise in gliding, free-form camerawork, a treatise on medical ethics, a low-key romance, and ultimately, a morality play. Though NIGHT NURSE includes its share of memorable wisecracks (when asked by a mother why her son can't have a screen around his bed, the nurse deadpans that they're only for dead people) and fine work by Barbara Stanwyck, the underrated Ben Lyon, and a creepily androgynous Clark Gable, it's perhaps most arresting for its typicality. Before the gloss and rote genre mechanics of the late '30 and early '40s asserted themselves, the best pre-Code movies were modest things: character studies delivered in wispy slang, even when the stakes rose to nothing less than a woman's soul. If the first half of NIGHT NURSE contrives the flimsiest pretexts for nurse trainees Stanwyck and Joan Blondell to strip to their nightgowns, the back end gets serious and assays greater moral weight from its ridiculous gangster plot than a bare synopsis could suggest. Wellman's political agenda is less coherent, less central than what Stephanie Rothman would do with the subgenre four decades later in THE STUDENT NURSES, but everything has to start somewhere. Take two slugs of rye whiskey and call me in the morning. (1931, 72 min, 35mm) KAW
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Charles Chaplin’s CITY LIGHTS (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Wednesday, 7 and 9pm

Orson Welles, Robert Bresson, and Andrei Tarkovsky all named CITY LIGHTS as their favorite film of all time—what further recommendation do you need? Here is one of the perfect movies, as well as the apotheosis of Chaplin’s mix of humor and sentiment. That mix, incidentally, sometimes exists within individual scenes, such those depicting the Tramp’s sort-of friendship with the rich man who only knows how to be friendly when he’s drunk. We all have the potential for kindness, these scenes poignantly imply; some of us just require a certain stimulation before we realize it. (In vino veritas indeed!) As for the Tramp’s relationship with the blind flower girl, it is one of the most moving in cinema, as direct, funny, and heartwarming a depiction of love as one could imagine. Chaplin devoted years to CITY LIGHTS, spending roughly six months on the shoot alone. Bit players have described how Chaplin acted out their every move before he filmed them, then going through dozens of takes before they performed to his specifications. More than just an example of a director’s perfectionism, these stories speak to Chaplin’s universal humanism, his rare ability to put himself in anyone else’s shoes. And considering that Chaplin’s favorite characters were poor, infirm, or morally flawed, he still has much to teach us with his empathy. (1931, 87 min, 35mm) BS
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Alma Har'el’s BOMBAY BEACH (Documentary Revival) and Reza Dormishian’s LANTOURI (New Iranian)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes

Toeing the line between fact and fiction is hardly a novel concept, but these two offerings are nonetheless compelling for the ways each uses this fact-fiction dichotomy. Alma Har'el’s BOMBAY BEACH (2011, 80 min, DCP Digital) is Kartemquin meets MTV meets Malick—a “real” documentary that uses fictitious elements and a discerningly-curated soundtrack to elucidate an otherwise discomfiting reality. Set in the eponymous location, a census-designated place in a sparse desert area in Southern California known as the Salton Sea, the film chronicles several of the area’s inhabitants as they overcome their respective struggles. Red, the oldest subject, looks back on his life—sometimes fondly, sometimes with regret—after decades of hard living; CeeJay, now 23 and a pro football player for the Minnesota Vikings, left L.A. to escape gang violence and finds love in spite of pernicious racism; and little Benny, the youngest son of parents once imprisoned for effectively starting a militia, who’s diagnosed with bipolar disorder. All told, these three males encapsulate the American dream and its abject failures at various stages. Artfully composed shots, uncannily choreographed dances, and a soundtrack that even Pitchfork couldn’t snub its nose at are combined to dizzying effect in this genre-defining work; Har’el’s background as a video artist and music video director inform her distinctive vision. Reza Dormishian’s LANTOURI (2016, 115 min, DCP Digital) is a fiction film masquerading as a documentary (one of the characters even references Dormishian’s controversial 2014 film I’M NOT ANGRY!) that has at its center lex talionis, otherwise known as the “eye for an eye” principle, which is still a part of Islamic sharia law. Told from multiple perspectives, it’s more or less about a young man, a Robin Hood-esque criminal of sorts, after he becomes obsessed with a beautiful activist whose life’s work is getting families to rescind their right to retribution. Dormishian, a young, promising Iranian filmmaker, uses a multitude of effects with bewildering influence. Though not always successful in his ambition (the snapshot editing and camera shutter sound effects are overused and even grating at times), he builds momentum in such a way that you’ll want to see it through regardless of your feelings about the first half. Much like I’M NOT ANGRY!, LANTOURI provides invaluable insight into the social and political issues plaguing the country’s younger generation. Understanding these frustrations is especially important in light of recent events; Iran is not a monolith, but a country whose inhabitants have thoughts and feelings about their governance as varied as our own. KS
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Fatin Abdel El Wahab’s THE AGONY OF LOVE (Egyptian Revival)
Oriental Institute (University of Chicago) – Wednesday, 6pm (Refreshments at 5:15pm; Introduction at 5:45pm) (Free Admission)

Loosely based on THE WHOLE TOWN’S TALKING, this film features one of Omar Sharif’s earliest major roles, playing the romantically-impaired Hussein, a hapless mid-level executive in his uncle’s company. While he pines pathetically away for his cousin, Samiha, his brother, Mahroos desperately engages in absurd ploys to keep their uncle’s sexual liaisons secret from their aunt, Bahiga. But the arrival of Luci, Bahiga’s nephew, threatens to destroy this unstable equilibrium when Samiha falls for him, entranced by his cosmopolitan, sophisticated education and fashion. Their uncle, very experience in matters of love, hatches an absurd plot to convince Samiha that Hussein is a sexually-desirable heartbreaker instead of the biggest nerd in the Port of Saïd that involves pretending Hussein has been sleeping with pop superstar Hind Rostom, then at the height of her popularity. Astonishingly, it works, but when Rostom herself arrives in the film, all bets are off. This delightful sex comedy is anchored by a great performance by Sharif, who manages to be both irritatingly geeky and overwhelmingly charismatic all at once, but its true star is Abdel Moneim Ibrahim and his genius for subtle physical humor. His gender-bending performance as Mahroos, expert vocal imitator and hopeless schemer, steals the show every time he’s on screen. Wahab was a terrifically prolific director, directing nearly three films a year his entire career, but most have been very difficult to see in this country until now. THE AGONY OF LOVE, which was a huge hit in Egypt when it was released and remains very popular there, shows him to be at least very interesting if not genuinely great as a director. He stages in off-putting visual configurations, putting his audience off balance and dryly hinting in his camerawork that the farcical actions being performed have a darker and more sinister meaning. His compositions occasionally veer into the outright expressionistic, placing his characters in dramatic, geometric compositions that tend to dominate and overwhelm them, as though the heart-felt love triangle being negotiated here is being mocked by the very architecture it’s taking place within. One set of images in particular are especially striking as Hussein watches Samiha drive off with Luci early in the film, surrounded by a play of vertical and diagonal lines that suggest a Mabuse-like caged in power not to be trifled with. True to its stage origins, the film ends on an audacious moment of fourth-wall-breaking that underlines its own artificial, structured nature. Wahab’s movie is self-reflexive, thoughtful, unexpectedly frank about sexual concerns, and hilarious. (1961, 98 min, Unconfirmed Format) KB
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Alain Resnais' LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD (French Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Sunday, Noon

Fewer and further between than they once were, any screening of MARIENBAD is an always-welcome opportunity to revisit the site of the master provocateur Alain Robbe-Grillet's great denting of international popular culture. There is, of course, another Alain involved, director/collaborator Resnais; and if MARIENBAD is in many ways an inappropriate public face for posterity to have welded onto both these giants' oeuvres, it remains an object lesson in Robbe-Grillet's particular notions about the uses of cinema (seen mainly as a field of play for semi-ironic explorations of the seduction and/or exploitation of distant, unattainable objects of desire), in Resnais' then-ongoing exploration of chilly mise-en-scène and disjunctive chronology, and, strangely enough, in the mechanics of chic, which saw this inscrutable and forthrightly odd formal experiment take on a faddish cool that lingered and drew resentment for years (c.f. Pauline Kael). Leaving aside the frightening wealth of talent contributed by the Alains, however, Sacha Vierny's photography alone (which even on video tends to elicit gasps of astonishment from the uninitiated) means that every screening of MARIENBAD must be cherished. (1961, 94 min, 35mm) JD
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Alan J. Pakula's KLUTE (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Thursday, 7pm

BARBARELLA treated Jane Fonda as an object of fascination. But KLUTE was the first to treat her as an object of dissertation. When we first "see" her, it's a tape recorder unspooling a recording of her voice, an image that reoccurs frequently. This motif of documentation signals the film's intent to make "Jane Fonda" a topic for study and dissection. Her character, Bree Daniels, is not only a call girl but also a struggling actress; and as the audience, we see both Bree playing Bree and Jane playing Bree. Where does the celebrity end and the character begin? The whole setup is so meta, it's no surprise she won for Best Actress at the Oscars. Godard would push this theme even further in TOUT VA BIEN and especially LETTER TO JANE. KLUTE is the first film in Pakula's so-called Paranoia Trilogy (alongside ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and THE PARALLAX VIEW); its focus on private fears is best summed up when, nearing the climax, a character says, "Everyone knows everything. So it doesn't matter what I do. (1971, 114 min, 35mm) RC
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François Truffaut's SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER (French Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Sunday, 7pm

When asked about his Nouvelle contemporaries (namely J-LG), Truffaut once remarked that, "the twentieth century is a century of philosophers. I just happen to be a novelist." That claim is easy enough to pattern; the Antoine Doinel series could be a classic Bildungsroman; and if THE LAST METRO is like a Balzacian Comédie Humaine, his 1960 effort SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER is pure pulp. PIANO PLAYER stars pop singer Charles Aznavour as Charlie, a nightclub piano player drawn by his witless brothers into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with two gangsters. Defying its gritty premise, however, and in stark contrast to his only previous feature THE 400 BLOWS, PIANO PLAYER is comedic, eccentric, edited in flashback, and indulges in absurdist silent comedy and film noir genre conventions (which is likely more absurd). Though badly received at the time of its release—and at a time when Truffaut could least afford ill success, having just signed the officially treasonous Manifesto of the 121—SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER stands as one of Truffaut's most inventive and convivial features. (1960, 92 min, 35mm) LN
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Maren Ade’s TONI ERDMANN (New German)
Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes

On paper, TONI ERDMANN is the stuff of early-aughts awards fodder, the sort of vehicle that might've starred Dustin Hoffman opposite Julia Roberts in an Alexander Payne production. And were Hollywood to remake it today, as they have already threatened, one easily imagines an Adams-De Niro pairing helmed by David O. Russell. As it is, it goes something like this: after the death of his beloved dog, Winfried Conradi, an eccentric music teacher of the hippie generation, alone, divorced, and on the wrong side of the retirement age, sets out on a desperate attempt to woo back his estranged daughter Ines, an eighties child turned management consultant in Romania, and a good soldier in the neoliberal conquest of Eastern Europe. With the aid of a set of false teeth and an ill-fitting wig, Winfried, an outrageous prankster, crashes Ines in Bucharest, assumes the role of Toni Erdmann, “consultant and coach," and proceeds to upend her scrupulously cultivated professional life through a slew of haphazard, grotesquely humiliating sneak attacks. Sound familiar? In Maren Ade’s hands, this story of generational conflict is anything but. There is an extraordinary level of attentiveness and restraint to Ade’s regard here. On the one hand, this is a matter of camerawork and editing that always respect the evolving moment. On the other, it’s a matter of a screenplay that refuses to take even standard shortcuts to hit its beats. At no point, does any hand-of-god logic assert itself to steer things more quickly or more surely to their end. Instead, Ade preserves a deep, abiding trust in her leads Peter Simonischek and Sandra Huller, coupled with a refusal to allow them even momentary transcendence of the discomfort of their situation, and deepened by a wry, alert sense for the banal absurdities of self-presentation that dominate far too much of our contemporary lives. The result achieves a momentousness of both scale and intimacy the cinema simply hasn’t seen since the likes of Maurice Pialat and John Cassavetes. It’s also hilarious. (2016, 162 min, DCP Digital) EC
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Ragnar Bragason’s METALHEAD (Contemporary Documentary)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Tuesday, 7pm

On the Facebook page for Ragnar Bragason’s METALHEAD (MALMHAUS), someone posted this comment: “The young woman in this film would have had dreams of becoming a pop star if her brother had not tragically died in the film. Instead of following the Scandinavian black/death metal scene, she would have had been watching Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and practicing her dance moves rather than pick up a guitar.” This person’s summation of the film is partly accurate, as it is about a young Icelandic woman who pursues the heavy metal lifestyle after her older brother, a metal enthusiast, is killed in a tragic farming accident. However, dispute is to be had with this person’s assessment of the woman’s intentions for pursuing her dreams. It’s possible that she’s merely filling the void left by her brother’s death and is complacently accepted by her parents as a stand-in for their deceased son, but since the film is also about the family coming to terms with their grief, it seems to suggest that this young woman’s identity was born of anguish rather than idolatry. In the film, Hera meets a young priest who shares her affinity for metal music; through their conversations, it’s revealed that Hera doesn’t look at metal as an outlet for her anger, but instead as a way to better understand the complicated world around her. To conclusively go against the commenter’s assertion that gender issues come into play, it’s worth noting that such issues are never outrightly touched upon in the film. Hera’s parents accept her peculiarities, at first because she reminds them of their deceased son and later because they want her to let go of grief as part of her identity. Hera also has the chance to ascribe to a more traditionally feminine lifestyle as the partner of a successful and well-to-do neighborhood boy, but she rejects that to instead pursue life as a metal musician in the big city. And while there is a contrast between Hera and another girl who better exemplifies traditional feminine values, a similar contrast exists between Hera and the boy she almost marries; they’re both content and secure with themselves, while Hera is not. This film is a rare one about a woman who pursues a nontraditional lifestyle without it being about that fact. Instead, it relies on strong characterization to portray Hera as a character ultimately at odds with herself rather than society. Beautifully shot on location in Iceland, there is another lovely contrast in the darkness of Hera’s aesthetic and musical tastes with the stark white beauty of her homeland. The film draws upon standard narratives and visual motifs while presenting a unique viewpoint on the themes at hand, and in the end it’s less about comparison and more about character. (2013, 97 min, DCP Digital) KS
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Mia Hansen-Løve’s THINGS TO COME (New French)
Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes

Mia Hansen-Løve, the best French director of her generation, teams up with Isabelle Huppert—one of the best French actors, period—for a subdued drama about a philosophy professor whose life undergoes great changes over the course of a year. The results may not be instantly flooring like Hansen-Løve’s previous movies were, but that seems to be deliberate. The power of THINGS TO COME exists below its placid surface, much like the heroine’s rock-like resolve is belied by an oh-so-French politesse. (That’s not to say the movie feels dry or boring. Hansen-Løve’s mother was a professor, and you can sense the filmmaker's very personal connection to the material at every turn.) The sense of time slipping inexorably away from you, which has been central to Hansen-Løve’s art, is woven into the staging of individual moments and the overall rhythm of the film. The professor’s interactions with her husband (who divorces her relatively early in the story), her mother (a former fashion model who’s as histrionic as her daughter is becalmed), and a dashing former student (who seems like a potential love interest until it becomes clear that Hansen-Løve isn’t interested in any simple dramatic payoffs) all point to years of compromise, regret, and hard-won life lessons; the unexpected shifts forward in time make it feel as though the film is withholding important information. What exists between those gaps, behind Huppert’s carefully modulated performance? The mystery of human nature, perhaps. (2016, 102 min, DCP Digital) BS
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Martin Scorsese’s SILENCE (New American/International)
Music Box Theatre – Check Venue website for showtimes

Throughout his long and accomplished career, Martin Scorsese has incorporated religion into many of his films—be it thematically, iconographically, or overtly, as in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST and KUNDUN. After twenty years in the making, his latest film, SILENCE, is a combination of all three. In the 16th century, a pair of Portuguese missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) embarks on a trip to feudal Japan to discover the whereabouts of Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), a priest who is believed to have apostatized due to the intense persecution Christians have been subjected to in that country. SILENCE is the sort of film where one’s personal beliefs or lack thereof will surely shape the one’s reconciliation of the events transpiring on-screen. It is emotionally-tolling and psychologically-straining. Interestingly enough, it is as pro-religion as it is anti-religion. Akira Kurosawa’s influence looms large here, with RASHOMON and SEVEN SAMURAI coming quickly to mind, and Scorsese flirts with other works of Eastern cinema by paying homage to several Japanese greats. The film’s bleak tone and heavy subject matter is aided by a muted color palette before, roughly halfway through, a shift occurs and there is an explosion of color and vibrancy while still maintaining the same somber undertones. In a land where to be Christian is essentially a death sentence to many, it’s captivating and at times, a bit perplexing that Father Rodrigues (Garfield) and the other Japanese converts remain so resolute in their faith. The biggest question raised is the notion of religious truth and whether that truth can be universal to all or not. Although lacking in the subtlety found in some of his other works, Scorsese’s SILENCE is a well-crafted test in the face of hardship and one that is sure to evoke a strong reaction by all. (2016, 161 min, DCP Digital) KC
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Harold Ramis' GROUNDHOG DAY (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Friday, 7 and 9:30pm and Sunday, 1:30pm

I know somebody who once rented ROLLOVER, Alan J. Pakula's almost universally derided "financial thriller," and just after the end credits rolled, re-watched the entire movie. The labyrinthine plot so perplexed and intrigued him that he just had to see the whole thing again. There are many movies, both great and terrible, that cry out for multiple viewings, but relatively few that actually incorporate this act into their fabric. Chris Marker's LA JETEE comes to mind; so does GROUNDHOG DAY. The brilliant insight that GROUNDHOG DAY shares with its audience is that watching the same movie again is inevitably to watch a different movie. "Okay campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cold out there today." The banal banter of a radio DJ unexpectedly becomes a sobering existential pronouncement. "Okay campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cold out there today." Could this possibly be the quintessential Bill Murray movie? Another reason to re-watch GROUNDHOG DAY: Michael Shannon's blink-or-you'll-miss-it role as a Wrestlemania fan, the kind of part he's unlikely to play ever again. (1993, 101 min, 35mm) RC
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Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO (American Revival)
Park Ridge Classic Film Series at the Pickwick Theatre (5 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge) – Thursday, 2 and 7:30pm

Despite its massive popularity and canonization as the classic film, VERTIGO remains one of the most insidious, disturbing movies of all time, particularly as it relates to the tortuous labyrinth of the psyche. Out of all the films in the Hitchcock oeuvre, VERTIGO resonates with the most Freudian overtones. Indeed, there exists a strong thematic thread between the two men: both are essentially concerned with peeling back the facade of normalcy to reveal something perverse lurking underneath. As with psychoanalysis, nothing is as it seems in VERTIGO. The story—about Scottie (James Stewart), a former detective being lured out of retirement to investigate the suspicious activities of Madeleine (Kim Novak), his friend's wife—is a pretense for an exploration into the (male) creation of fantasies, a subject that's integral to how we experience movies on the whole. From the very beginning of the film it's almost as if Scottie is subconsciously aware that Madeleine is an unattainable illusion. When he gazes at her in the flower shop, it feels as if the two are situated in different realms of reality. Even when Scottie and Madeleine are at their most intimate, he's kept at a distance by the enigma of her femininity. It's precisely because of this Delphic quality that Madeleine is elevated to the status of fantasy object after her death. In fact, her death only enhances her desirability, the notion that sex/Eros and death/Thanatos are intimately intertwined being one of Freud's most groundbreaking theories (though partial credit should be given to Sabina Spielrein, as A DANGEROUS METHOD suggests). Scottie's transformation of Judy into Madeleine in the second half of the film suggests that male desire hinges on the alignment of fantasy and reality; however, Judy is complicit in her metamorphosis from her true self into a fantasy object, evoking John Berger's supposition that "Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at." The famous silhouette shot of Judy in the hotel room emphasizes the bipartite nature of the female psyche—a woman might love you, but she'll simultaneously take part in a nefarious murder plot at your expense. In the end, Judy/Madeleine is anything but a certified copy—she's tainted, corrupt, and cheapened. VERTIGO suggests that one cannot (re)create something that never truly existed in the first place. As Slavoj Zizek puts it: "We have a perfect name for fantasy realized. It's called nightmare." (1958, 128 min, Digital Projection) HS
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Hannes Holm’s A MAN CALLED OVE (New Swedish)
Music Box Theatre – Saturday and Sunday, 11am

The grumpy, old curmudgeon is a tried and true character anti-hero archetype that has seen it’s fair share of memorable performances over the years. From the despicable Mr. Potter in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE to the somewhat racist yet secretly caring Walt Kowalski in GRAN TORINO, this character type is malleable enough to fit many narrative needs from film to film. In Hannes Holm’s A MAN CALLED OVE, Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is a grumpy, old retiree living alone after his wife had passed some time ago. He fills his time with simple activities—trying to enforce his neighborhood’s rules and visiting his deceased’s gravesite—but is also contemplating suicide until a young interracial couple and their kids move in and Ove and the family form an unlikely friendship. Much of OVE deals with generational gaps and how first impressions can sometimes be wrong once further inspected. It is tender and poignant in the way that it handles interpersonal relationships and the past, specifically Ove’s. Led by a strong performance from Lassgård, A MAN CALLED OVE is funny, heartwarming, and a little tragic with the right amount of accessibility to be appreciated by audiences of all ages. (2015, 116 min, DCP Digital) KC
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SAIC’s Conversations at the Edge series presents Rikuro Miyai's Expanded Cinema on Thursday at 6pm. (Note that this event takes place at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room; use the Modern Wing entrance at 158 E. Monroe St.) Miyai will present two of his expanded cinema works: PHENOMENOLOGY OF ZEITGEIST (1967) and SHADOW (1968). Local musician and media artist Tatsu Aoki will accompany with his group Reduction Ensemble. Free admission, but registration is required:

Also at the Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) this week: Charlotte Lagarde and Carrie Lozano’s 2016 documentary THE BALLAD OF FRED HERSCH (74 min, DCP Digital) is on Thursday at 7pm. This event takes place at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.) and is free admission.

The Film Rescue series at UIC presents The Evolution of Personal Ethics, a program of documentary shorts, on Monday at 7pm at 400 S. Peoria St. (Screening Room: AEH 3226). Screening are: EVOLUTION OF GOOD AND EVIL (Loren Eiseley, 1968, 24 min, 16mm), FROM TEN TO TWELVE (Edmund Reid, 1956, 26 min, 16mm), and SATAN’S CHOICE (Donald Shebib, 1966, 28 min, 16mm). Programmed by Katie Morrison. Free admission.

Black Cinema House (at the Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave.) presents interdisciplinary musician Mikel Patrick Avery’s new short film PARADE (Unconfirmed Details) on Friday at 7pm, with Avery in person. Free Admission.

The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Mark Rydell’s 1981 film ON GOLDEN POND (109 min, Digital Projection) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. Free admission.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s acclaimed 5-hour-plus 2015 Japanese film HAPPY HOUR (317 min, DCP Digital) is on Friday and Saturday at 2pm; Julien Duvivier’s 1946 French film PANIQUE (99 min, DCP Digital; New Restoration), Colin M. Day’s 2015 documentary SAVING BANSKY (80 min, DCP Digital), and Tom Ford’s 2016 film NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (116 min, DCP Digital) all play for a week.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Hayao Miyazaki’s 2004 Japanese animated film HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (119 min, DCP Digital) is on Saturday at 4, 7, and 9:30pm (all subtitled) and Sunday at 4pm (English-dubbed); and Richard Curtis’ 2013 film ABOUT TIME (123 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:45pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: André Øvredal’s 2016 film THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (86 min, DCP Digital) opens; Alfonso Cuarón’s 2004 film HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (142 min, 35mm) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight; Howard Hawks’ 1940 film HIS GIRL FRIDAY (92 min, DCP Digital) is on Tuesday at 7:30pm, as part of critic Mark Caro’s “Is It Still Funny?” series; and Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 Japanese animated film GHOST IN THE SHELL (98 min, Blu-Ray Projection) is on Tuesday at 9:45pm and Wednesday at 7pm.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Joshua Locy’s 2015 film HUNTER GATHERER (85 min, Digital Projection) for a week-long run.



Olympia Centre (737 N. Michigan Ave. - entrance at 151 E. Chicago Ave.) presents Virginio Ferrari & Marco G. Ferrari: Spirit Level through April 6. The show features sculpture, 16mm film, video and installations by artists Virginio Ferrari and Marco G. Ferrari, including Marco Ferrari’s SPIRIT LEVEL (2015-16, 30 min) and CONTRAILS WITH BODY (2011-16, 3 min).

The Art Institute of Chicago (Modern Wing Galleries) has Dara Birnbaum’s 1979 two-channel video KISS THE GIRLS: MAKE THEM CRY (6 min) currently on view.

The Art Institute of Chicago (Gallery 186) has Rodney McMillian: A Great Society on view through March 26. The exhibition features three video works by McMillian: UNTITLED (THE GREAT SOCIETY) I (2006, 16 min loop), A MIGRATION TALE (2014-15, 10 min loop), and PREACHER MAN (2015, 6 min loop).

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CINE-LIST: February 3 - February 9, 2017

 Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Kian Bergstrom, Edo Choi, Rob Christopher, Kyle Cubr, Jeremy Davies, JB Mabe, Liam Neff, Scott Pfeiffer, Ben Sachs, Kathleen Sachs, Harrison Sherrod, Kyle A. Westphal, Darnell Witt

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