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:: Friday, MAR. 5 - Thursday, MAR. 11 ::


Gene Siskel Film Center - March 5 through April 1 
Last year the Reader's "Best of Chicago" issue named this event the city's best film festival, outranking the older and more lavish Chicago International, and it's easy to see why: Given the Film Center's marked effort to keep track of important directors and national cinemas, the E.U. Festival generates the excitement of catching up with cinema today (as opposed to merely surveying what's out there). This year offers another valuable program, with Chicago premieres by masters Jacques Rivette (AROUND A SMALL MOUNTAIN), Catherine Breillat (BLUEBEARD) and Amos Gitai (DISENGAGEMENT), as well as Cannes prizewinners receiving plenty of international attention (THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN, from Norway's Mia Hansen-Love, and DOGTOOTH, the first Greek film to be taken seriously in years). IFC Films, which is quickly becoming the Janus of our time, is providing several interesting-sounding titles as well, including the Spanish prison drama CELL 211, starring the great Luis Tosar (TAKE MY EYES, MIAMI VICE), the Irish black comedy A FILM WITH ME IN IT, and Bruno Dumont's latest, HADEWIJCH. Along with such enticements, the festival continues to highlight nations rarely represented on U.S. screens. While there are certainly films we at Cine-File recommend, we also encourage readers to show up without a game plan and check out a film from, say, Slovakia or Malta. Even if something less than great lands on the screen, bad foreign films are still instructive (to paraphrase Jonathan Rosenbaum) in what they have to show us of cultures different from our own; and the experience of seeing the (inevitable) clunker alongside a genuine masterwork can be stimulating in the manner of a great gallery installation. BS 
Cine-File will be providing greatly expanded coverage of the festival on our blog ( this year. Check there each Friday for reviews of many of that week's films. There may also be occasional additions throughout the week each week.


Josef von Sternberg's JET PILOT (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Sunday, 7pm
Are Howard Hughes productions the most well-funded outsider art in history?  Hughes was a naïf chasing his demons across a Hollywood playground. Begun sometime in 1949 but released as his last film as producer, JET PILOT is the masterpiece of the Hughes style, a live-action comic book in which a preteen boy's view of the world--complete with jet planes and an unconscious eroticization of external threats, namely women and Communism--is played out by John Wayne and Janet Leigh. Its intense simplicity borders on incoherence. The fact that it has any semblance of human emotion, or that its images make a lick of sense, can probably be credited to Josef von Sternberg, who was fired from the production (his only work in color) after a few months, though one assumes he had more say in the film than Howard Hawks did when Hughes hired him to helm the puritanical/psychotic Western THE OUTLAW (Hughes was in the habit of hiring and firing great directors; Don Siegel did unused re-shoots of JET PILOT in the early 1950s). Wayne, who might as well be one of Henry Darger's hermaphroditic Vivian Girls, falls for Leigh's Soviet defector. They get married, and fly off to a honeymoon in her homeland. Of course she's a double agent, because alluring Commie women are treacherous that way. But before she can steal her new husband's precious bodily fluids (and the secrets of the US Air Force), Wayne gets wise, setting up the kind of romantic comedy that only the inelegant Hughes touch could make possible. (1957, 112 min, 35mm) IV
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Films by Robert Breer (Experimental Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Tuesday, 7pm
Robert Breer's films can seem very unassuming at first. Most of his films are either rapid-fire collage works or simple animations. You could show them to an eight year old and they would likely enjoy them. But when you look more closely, you see that Breer is one of the great editors of the avant-garde. He has a wonderful sense of rhythm that is both fluid and disjunctive; his images coalesce, morph, and merge and then collide, fracture, and tear apart. His is a world of instability and flux and his filmmaking is as dynamic as it comes. Breer began as a painter and made his first film in Paris in 1952. This program is an excellent survey of the first twenty years of his career (his last film was in 2003; he's retired from film due to health issues and to focus on other artistic pursuits). Included are collage films, which use bursts of single-frame images, such as FIST FIGHT and EYEWASH; the charming and elusive minimal line animation A MAN AND HIS DOG OUT FOR AIR; formal geometrical animations like 66, 69, and 70; and one film that exemplifies the more complex style of his later films, the amazing FUJI. It is here and in his geometrical films that Breer moves from simply being a great experimental filmmaker to one of the masters of cinema period. He extends his interest in rhythm, from shot to shot and within the film plane itself, in more profound directions. He is also exploring movement and the illusion of depth within the image--and it is this growing development of spatial articulations that truly sets him apart. And, just so you are not scared off by all this formal talk, Breer's films are among the most visually delightful in the avant-garde; he is playful, teasing, and has a sly, sometimes wicked, sense of humor. (1954-73, 82 min total, 16mm) PF
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Hellmuth Costard's FOOTBALL AS NEVER BEFORE (Documentary Revival)
White Light Cinema at The Nightingale - Friday, 8pm
The most apparent truth conveyed in this film is that, for George Best, being a professional athlete was a serious, patient, isolating, and precise occupation. The more poignant truth is that the core of all rituals infused with mysticism is the interplay of rhythm and duration, syntax and meaning. Best is ostensibly the star of the film as he paces like a caged tiger while someone off screen sets up a free kick, jogs casually upfield as spectators yell insults, waits on the wing with his hands on his hips like a bored schoolboy, and sprints hard for a slide tackle while supporters chant sing-songy rhymes. All the while Costard's six cameras keep him in their sites, and use Best as a puppet in what is truly a remarkable attempt at making cinema that exists outside the language of narrative. Never do we get a cutaway, an insert shot, or a reaction. As the game unfolds in real time we are unaware of score or the flow, left alone with Best to ponder the action, save for the few moments when the ball comes to him and gets passed away. Despite the apparent voyeurism of the approach, this "actor" is not a star we get titillation from gazing upon, nor is the camera's eye that of the unseen "other." From our usual perch above the playing field we are alone with an image of Best and his shadow, surrounded by the field, and the constant sound of the crowd. All attempts to engage with the game are thwarted by the cameras' unrelenting focus on one individual, for a story needs characters, and characters need conflicts to keep us interested. Finally, with a few minutes left in the first half, there is a moment of tension. Best dribbles across the top of the box, and launches a missile across his body towards goal, only to summersault to the pitch. Emotion threatens to make an appearance as the crowd cheers Best's effort, but we are not allowed to share in it: we are not participants in this spectacle. We are participants in the ritual of cinema, but removed from the expected syntax of hero and exposition we cannot recognize the structure and rhythm. In a typical film we are presented with a plausible reality on the screen, and we can predict what will happen, or at least be surprised by it. In our lives we place these waking daydreams of narrative artwork into a category called illusion. But when a graphic appears to show the score still standing at 0-0, Costard reminds us that in cinema, reality is always an illusion. (1971, 105 min, 16mm on DVD) JH
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Note: This program is organized by C-F editor Patrick Friel.

Videos by Tom Rubnitz (Experimental Revival)
Eye & Ear Clinic at SAIC (112 S Michigan, Rm 1307) - Wednesday, 6pm 
Among the many queer avant-garde film and videomakers credited as influences on contemporary YouTube superstar Ryan Trecartin, Tom Rubnitz is one of the most overlooked. Rubnitz was born in Chicago but spent the 1980s making experimental videos both about and starring some of the key figures in the New York underground drag scene. Pop and camp hideously collide in a brightly colored smudged frenzy of grotesque fairies and drag terrorists, food products and plastic dolls. Teetering between critique and celebration, Rubnitz's videos are reminiscent of Andy Warhol's simultaneous embrace and critique of advertising, as demonstrated in Warhol's hilarious advertisements for Schrafft's Restaurants Underground Ice Cream Dessert (in which the image of a sundae literally melts into an unnatural mélange of phantasmagoric color). Among some of Rubnitz's more well-known videos, such as PICKLE SURPISE! and the incendiary MADE FOR TV, this screening will feature a number of recently discovered rarities of both complete and incomplete works. The highlights of these include two snippets from Rubnitz's PSYKO III THE MUSICAL, in which he turns scenes from Hitchcock's PSYCHO into glittery pop videos, and LISTEN TO THIS, a vehement condemnation of the straight world that Rubnitz made from his hospitable bed before he died of AIDS-related illness in 1992. (1983-92, approx. 70 min total, video) BC


John Ford's DONOVAN'S REEF (American Revival)
Duddy Kane's WET RAINBOW (Adult Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 7pm (Reef) and 9pm (Rainbow) 
If there were any American counterparts to Poland's "Cinema of Moral Anxiety" of the 1970s--films that forwent overt stylization to encompass the complexity of adult behavior--they were being made, arguably, by hardcore filmmakers. Perhaps trading in so much wish-fulfillment made them more perceptive of disappointment and repressed desire; certainly, the best actors of this period were more than capable of depicting such things. WET RAINBOW is essentially a star vehicle for Georgina Spelvin, the Bette Davis of American hardcore (Her default stance was one of implacable sophistication), who first achieved stardom in her late 30s. Here, she plays an art professor's wife on the verge of mid-life crisis who experiences a reawakening upon meeting free-spirited student Rainbow. (No, the film's title is not a metaphor.) What would be a ten-minute sequence in any hardcore film made since 1984 is expanded to feature-length, as Spelvin's burgeoning attraction sets off a wave of self-inquiry--about her marriage, artistic career, and general station in life--before the sex actually occurs. Director Duddy Kane shoots most of the dramatic scenes in mobile long-takes that emphasize the casualness of married life, not to mention the charisma between Spelvin and her old friend Harry Reams, atypically understated here as her husband. In form and content, the film often resembles the great Krzysztof Zanussi's THE BALANCE, which was made around the same time. (1974, 76 min, archival 35mm)
WET RAINBOW screens after DONOVAN'S REEF, the final film in Doc's John Ford/John Wayne series. (Appropriately, it was Wayne's last on-screen performance for Ford.) The films have little in common besides their surface casualness and underlying theme of lives in stasis. The setting is a fictional Polynesian island, where Donovan (Wayne) and Gilhooley (Lee Marvin) have lived as barkeeps since taking part in a humanitarian mission during World War II; for nearly 20 years their lives have been a Hawksian paradise of hanging out and drinking. Ford had concerned himself with military downtime before this (the Cavalry Trilogy, THE LONG GRAY LINE), but in this--his third-to-last feature--the month-of-Sundays structure becomes the stuff of personal testament. Though Doc's programmers note a subtextual "criticism of American ethnocentricity and corporate hypocrisy," Ford's vision of Polynesian ritual mixing gracefully with Western institutions (beer, engineering, Christianity) feels generally utopian. This isn't to say the film is bereft of Fordian wistfulness: DONOVAN'S REEF is every bit Ford's The Tempest, in setting, hard-won optimism, and ever-present regret. (1963, 109 min, archival 35mm) BS
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Chicago International Movies and Music Festival
Various Locations - Through Sunday - View Complete Schedule
The CIMM festival opened Thursday and runs through Sunday with screenings, live events, panels, and concerts. A few highlights are below, but there are a number of other things unavailable for preview that caught our eye. Closing Night is DJ Spooky - That Subliminal Kid performing his video mashup "Video Soul: Wattstax to the Avant-Garde" (Sunday, 7pm). Festival judge Ivan Kral will introduce his seminal 1976 punk documentary BLANK GENERATION (co-directed with Amos Poe) and his 1995 documentary PATTI SMITH GROUP: DANCING BAREFOOT (Saturday, 3:30pm). Another festival judge, Marie Losier, will present a program of her playful experimental music videos, documentaries, and satires (Friday, 8pm). The documentary ROBYN HITCHCOCK: I OFTEN DREAM OF TRAINS will be followed by a Q&A with Hitchcock and director John Edginton (Friday, 7pm). Films with local connections include POLKAHOLICS, RIOT ACTS, SISSYBOY, WHERE YOU FROM, THE SCENESTERS, PAUL STANLEY: ONE LIVE KISS, and the short AT LAST, OKEMAH!
Damien Chazelle's GUY AND MADELINE ON A PARK BENCH (New American)  
Heaven Gallery - Saturday, 8pm 

In the 1970s, Jacques Rivette took the chance meetings and unlikely coincidences of a Hollywood plot to their natural conclusions: paranoia. If you lived in a world where everyone was star-crossed and every encounter with a stranger served some purpose in a grand narrative, you'd be paranoid too. Whether he intends to or not (and since he's a graduate of Harvard's film department, it's safe to assume he's seen some Rivette), Damien Chazelle has started there and worked his way back, finding the giddy and the romantic in the most archetypal "Rivettian" images: endless rehearsals (here it's musicians instead of actors); actors and non-actors intermingling awkwardly; people groping their way around rooms, inspecting the mise-en-scene as if they can only see three feet in front of them; individuals communicating in stares and gestures as though language has failed them. But these sorts of inversions are par for the course, because there's an element of gleeful perversity to Chazelle's debut, a reversal of values: it's a musical shot in black-and-white 16mm in Academy ratio (reportedly made with a camcorder strapped to the top of the Aaton to record sound), but with a crisp, digitally recorded score. The film has no dolly shots and no cranes, but it has a 90-piece orchestra. Dialogue is not Chazelle's strong suit; he mixes conversations as if they were crowd noise, as if the words his cast comes up with don't really matter. But when they start to sing, their voices are clear, and the strings soaring behind them are even clearer, as in the film's first true musical number: a single take with two tap dance routines that proves Chazelle knows how to use the lowly zoom better than any of its current crop of obsessive practitioners; that is, he doesn't need dollies. And when his characters don't speak, when their communication expresses itself solely through hands lightly touching others on a subway handrail, or through a cut between two faces, they're even clearer. (2009, 82 min, video) IV
Vincent Moon and Nathanaël Le Scouarnec's MOGWAI: BURNING
(New Documentary / Concert Film)

Lincoln Hall - Sunday, 2pm

Vincent Moon has established himself with his online musical performance videos, the Take-Away Shows. There are more than 100 now, most by Moon, and they feature a range of performers from the mostly unknown to indie bands like Grizzly Bear and Arcade Fire to R.E.M. and Tom Jones (see them here, but we warn you, they are addictive). They have been described as "field recordings" and their casual, low-key quality is compelling. There's an impromptu feel about them that is at odds with the over-determined nature of the music industry in general. Moon, and co-director and editor Le Scouarnec, transpose some of these elements to their concert film of the amazing Scottish band Mogwai. Filmed over three nights at shows in Brooklyn, BURNING combines interstitial scenes of the band wandering around the city with appropriately claustrophobic footage of them performing. Everything is high-contrast black and white (again fitting) and most of the performance footage is extreme close-ups of faces and instruments and, especially, hands. The camera seems to crawl among the musicians, taking snatches of whatever it can. Space is confused and bodies are fragmented. We are given a privileged position, not looking at Mogwai or with Mogwai but inhabiting the space of origination--watching the music be born. Screens with Rian Johnson's MOUNTAIN GOATS: LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME. (2009, 47 min, video) PF
Guido Brignone's MACISTE IN HELL (Silent Italian Revival)
St. Paul's Cultural Center - Friday, 11pm

Despite international success with a number of costume epics in the 1910s, the Italian film industry was never the same after WWI (at least until after WWII, with Rossellini and others revitalizing film there). By the mid-1920s, Italy was only producing roughly ten features a year. MACISTE, from 1925, reaches back to the teens with its combination of the two dominant genres of that period: melodrama and the epic. Not a great work of cinema, MACISTE is still an entertaining and robust film about a virtuous "strong man," Maciste, who is lured to the underworld and is in danger of spending eternity there. The visuals are engaging, though everything feels like a 1903 Georges Méliès film on a bigger budget. It doesn't matter, though. The film has vim and is charming in its shortcomings. It should make an excellent companion for the live music of King Pluto's Whispering Choir, featuring the Lonesome Organist. Sadly, it will be shown from a less than stellar DVD copy--seemingly the only way it's available. (1925, 66 min, video) PF
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David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE (Contemporary Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7pm
So few digitally-shot features dare to place the medium's technical limitations at the front and center of their aesthetic. Mostly filmmakers just hope that the audience ignores how crappy everything looks. Not David Lynch. INLAND EMPIRE obsessively fixates on the look of mid-grade digital video: blocky smears of light, washed-out colors, hazy and peculiar. It's literally a dreamworld. As in a dream, you can't always tell what you're seeing--or what it means. There is only the eternal now; in the film's world, memory can just as easily refer to tomorrow as to yesterday. Memory is as blurry as the degraded visuals. We're forced to squint between the pixels, trying to remember. Lynch marries this to a soundtrack that's arrestingly intricate, populated with all manner of industrial noises and hair-raising sound effects. It's an image/sound mashup as scary and bewildering as any nightmare. Seen in a darkened theater we're caught in its brilliant grip. (2006, 180 min, 35mm) RC
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Nobuhiko Obayashi's HOUSE (Japanese Revival/Cult)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Friday, 7pm 
It's a film like HOUSE, a film so manic, so bewildering and so singular, that makes one become obsessed with its genesis. The film's abrupt stylistic shifts and bizarre visual effects fill one's mind with but one question: "who the hell made this movie?" It would surprise no one then to learn that Nobuhiko Obayashi was an experimental filmmaker--nor would it surprise anyone that he made TV ads--previous to HOUSE. What is surprising is that his forays into experimental films were that of the lyrical psychodrama, more akin to Gregory Markopoulos than, say, Pat O'Neill (see WATER AND POWER below). CONFESSION (1968) is Obayashi's most visually complex experimental work, and even that only uses creative editing between shots and the occasional unorthodox camera angle. HOUSE's genius lies in its veritable catalogue of optical effects, displaying a virtuosity previously unseen from its maker. And yet, the film is more than just a sum of its traveling matte parts. True, its paper-thin plot does serve only to move from one novel death to the next, but this is the essence of all horror films. Like some giddy, crazed, superior version of THE ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES (1971), HOUSE provides a fat-trimmed index of inventive ways to die, all with tongue placed firmly in cheek. (1977, 88 min, 35mm) DM
See Obayashi's short films here.
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On Thursday, the Conversations at the Edgeseries at the Gene Siskel Film Center presents Tran, T. Kim-Trang's eight-part video work THE BLINDNESS SERIES, with Tran in person.

Jacques Audiard's eagerly anticipated French film A PROPHET opens Friday at the Landmark's Century Centre Cinema.

Anatole Litvak's 1955 film THE DEEP BLUE SEA, starring Vivien Leigh, screens at the Bank of America Cinema on Saturday. 
Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: the 1995 documentary THE WAR WITHIN: A PORTRAIT OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, by John Fuegi and Jo Francis, screens Saturday at 2pm; Don Argott's new documentary about the fate of a famed art collection, THE ART OF THE STEAL, is on Wednesday; and NU assistant professor Spencer Parsons' 2008 drama (shot at Northwestern) I'LL COME RUNNING is showing on Thursday. 
Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Sidney Gilliat's 1962 British comedy ONLY TWO CAN PLAY, starring Peter Sellers, screens on Monday. 
Meg McLagen and Daria Sommers' 2008 documentary about the first female ground combat soldiers, LIONESS, screens Sunday at 1:30 at the Chicago History Museum. 
On Thursday, the University of Chicago student filmmaking group shows off what their members have been up to with the program Fire Escape Films Winter Screening. It's at the Film Studies Center (U of C).  
The Chicago Irish Film Festival runs Friday through Wednesday at the Beverly Arts Center. The festival features a selection of recent narrative features, documentaries, shorts, and children's films and a retrospective program of the 1968 short documentary GOODBYE TO GIOCAMORRA and Alfred Werker's 1938 U.S.-made drama THE GATEWAY. 
Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week is Alfred E. Green's 1933 film BABY FACE, starring Barbara Stanwyck and showing in an un-cut archival 35mm print. It's part of the Tuesday lecture series by Virginia Wright Wexman (6pm) and, unlike most of the films in the class, it does not have an additional Friday night showing. 
At the Music Box this week: Henrik Ruben Genz's 2008 Danish drama TERRIBLY HAPPY opens; Philipp Stölzl's NORTH FACE and Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani's AJAMI both continue; Emmett Malloy's documentary THE WHITE STRIPES UNDER GREAT WHITE NORTHERN LIGHTS screens Monday at 7:30pm; the Saturday and Sunday matinees are Fritz Lang's 1954 drama HUMAN DESIRE and NORTH FACE; and the Friday and Saturday midnight films are Jay Levey's 1989 comedy UHF and Terry Gilliam's THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS
At the Portage Theater this week: the Silent Film Society of Chicago presents "Kings of Comedy" on Sunday, with the films SATURDAY AFTERNOON (Harry Langdon), THE BLACKSMITH (Buster Keaton), and FLIRTING WITH FATE (Douglas Fairbanks). This 35mm program will feature live accompaniment by the West End Jazz Band and Dennis Scott on the organ; the Wednesday matinee series presents Edward G. Robinson and Orson Welles in the 1946 film THE STRANGER (1:30pm, from video).

Chicago Filmmakers screens Milos Forman's 1979 film version of the long-running musical HAIR on Friday as part of the monthly Reeling screening series (from video). 
At Facets Cinémathèque this week: Gabriel Medina's 2008 Argentinean feature THE PARANOIDS plays for a week; Engi Wassef's 2008 American-made, Egyptian-set film MARINA OF THE ZABBALEEN screens Saturday and Sunday at 1pm (repeats March 20 and 21); and the Saturday midnight "Facets Night School" program this week is Trey Parker's animation TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, with a talk by Chris Damen. 

If you missed it on Wednesday at DePaul, you can still see Chinese filmmaker Huang Weikai's 2009 documentary DISORDER on Friday at 3pm at the University of Chicago (CWAC 157 Cochrane-Woods Art Center, 5540 S. Greenwood Ave.). The director will be in person and will also be showing Ou Ning and Cao Fei's 2003 documentary SAN YUAN LI, on which he was the cameraman. Both films deal with issues surrounding modernization and development in China.

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CINE-LIST: March 5 - March 11, 2010


CONTRIBUTORS / Beth Capper, Rob Christopher, Josephine Ferorelli, Jason Halprin, Christy LeMaster, Doug McLaren, Ben Sachs, Ignatius Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

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