Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
x x x x x x
> Sign up
> Editorial Statement
> Last Week > Next Week
a weekly guide to alternative cinema- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
:: Friday, NOV. 5 - Thursday, NOV. 11 ::

Reeling 2010: The 29th Chicago Lesbian & Gay Film Festival opened Thursday and runs through November 13 at various locations. Full schedule at Check our blog for reviews of selected films throughout the festival.


Richard Quine's STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET (American Revival) 
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Friday, 7pm 
After two weeks that saw screenings of Richard Fleischer films, here's one from another neglected studio Richard: Gerald Ford lookalike/Columbia lifer Richard Quine. Quine had too much of an eye for composition and color to muster Fleischerian aesthetic anonymity, though like R.F., he was pretty firmly rooted in the mindset of cinema as "pictures of acting" instead of "pictures of actors." Though--especially here--his mise-en-scene has a Minnellian quality, he never gets enraptured the way Minnelli would; he knows a pretty frame when he sees one (quite a few here: Kim Novak and Kirk Douglas shot from above as they get out of a car; Douglas, Novak and Walter Matthau glancing at each other from different parts of a grocery store), but he's a little more cautious about being obviously beautiful--though he almost lets the self-consciousness slip in two scenes: Novak trying to seduce her husband and the finale, set in a Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced house with stained glass windows. STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET is a prime example of the sort of "maturity" (imperfect marriages, compromises, slow-burn structure, post-Method acting, tactful evocations of sexuality) cultivated in the last years of the Studio Era, when large amounts of publicity and money were routinely poured into the kind of projects that, 30 years later, would become the domain of the indies: an architect (Douglas) is hired by an up-and-coming novelist (comic weirdo extraordinaire Ernie Kovacs, having the time of his life in a straight role) to design his new house; as both men struggle creatively, Douglas is drawn to the mother of one of his son's classmates (Novak). These sorts of projects usually yielded dull, self-serious results (see Quine's own THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG, released the same year), but, like Minnelli's THE SANDPIPER or the contemporaneous films of Otto Preminger, this is the "new permissiveness" done right: the emotionally expressive filmmaking of classical Hollywood, bound by fewer social rules. (1960, 117 min, Archival 35mm) IV  
More info at

Stanley Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON (British Revival) 
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Wednesday, 7pm 
Tony Richardson's TOM JONES (British Revival) 
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 7pm 
Borrowing many of the 18th century costumes directly from European museums and selecting his score after listening (allegedly) to every piece of 18th century music ever recorded, Stanley Kubrick brought an unprecedented level of verisimilitude to the historical drama with BARRY LYNDON. But rather than revel in the details for their own sake, Kubrick used them to create the eerie effect of a past existing autonomously from us as something like an alien planet--which may explain why Jonathan Rosenbaum has called the film a follow-up of sorts to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Rosenbaum has singled out "John Alcott['s] slow backward zooms" as key to the movie's impact, since they "distance us, both historically and emotionally, from its rambling picaresque narrative." Kubrick manages another great distancing effect with the film's wry, clinical-sounding narration (read by Michael Hordern), which often explains the action before it occurs. This has the immediate impact of making the spectacular, pageant-like mise-en-scene feel anticlimactic: It would be a fine nose-thumbing gesture in itself, but the movie is more complicated than that. Beneath the pomp and technical perfection (This is also the film for which Kubrick developed a special lens that allowed him to shoot scenes entirely by candlelight) is a fable about one man's rise and fall along the conventions of his time. Since the conventions themselves remain just beyond comprehension, Ryan O'Neal, as the title character, seems less of an antihero upon repeated viewings and more of a tragic figure--every bit the victim of systems beyond his control as Dave Bowman in 2001. (1975, 184 min, 35mm) BS 
It's been said that BARRY LYNDON wasn't more successful on first release because audiences had been expecting a high-comic romp in the vein of Tony Richardson's TOM JONES. As it turns out, Doc will be screening both films within twenty-four hours of each other, so audiences can see first-hand how very different they are. Richardson's film is also a picaresque set in the 18th century, but the similarities pretty much end there. (Even the source material is separated by about a century: While Henry Fielding actually wrote The History of Tom Jones in the 18th century, Thackeray wrote Barry Lyndon in the late 19th century to poke fun at earlier literary conventions.) Where Kubrick would exactingly recreate the period to stress his audience's distance from it, Richardson and screenwriter John Osbourne (who also wrote A Look Back in Anger) employed all sorts of modern storytelling devices--primarily sight gags borrowed from silent comedies--to create common ground between the past and present. The film ends up simplifying a lot of Fielding's rich plotting and characterization, though it's still fun on its own terms. As in his subsequent THE LOVED ONE, Richardson stuffs the movie with great comedic actors and tries out so many modish techniques (sped-up action, addresses to the camera, cinephilic references) that it can be viewed now as a history lesson about the 1960s, too. (1963, 124 min, 35mm) BS
More info at

Kevin Jerome Everson's ERIE (New American)
Conversations at the Edge at the Gene Siskel Film Center - Thursday, 6pm
Let's just get this out of the way: ERIE is an awesome film. Kevin Everson's fourth feature is his best since his first film, the remarkable SPICEBUSH (2005). Intentionally or not, Everson has taken up the mantle of Charles Burnett's KILLER OF SHEEP: perhaps no two filmmakers have turned as sensitive and human an eye to the lives of working-class African Americans as they have. Where Burnett had Watts in Los Angeles for SHEEP, Everson frequently returns to his home state of Ohio, and other rustbelt environs, for his features (he currently lives and teaches in Virginia). He focuses on the disenfranchised (particularly those who are casualties of the decline of the industrial base in the US) and blue-collar workers, people whose vision of the American Dream is an honest one, a fair one. Everson's films often shade whether we are seeing documentary or narrative or something in-between. In ERIE, the series of long-take vignettes continues this elusiveness. It's unclear how much of what we're shown is staged or arranged. It plays like documentary, but the moments are too perfect to simply be happened upon. It doesn't really matter, though. What we see are the people. Black people. Living lives or just being. Privileged and dignified by Everson's camera. Real people, whether they are scripted or not. No artificial dramatics; no drugs; no bangers; no "victims." Just people. High school students rehearsing two vastly different musical numbers simultaneously. A man struggling to unlock his car with a coat hanger. A young girl staring at a candle, silently, fidgeting slightly. For sixteen minutes. Who else allows a young African American girl so much uninterrupted screen time? Who else gives us so much time to really see a young African American girl? Amen. Showing with a selection of Everson's short films. Kevin Everson in person. (2009, 81 min, HDCam) PF
More info at


François Truffaut's THE BRIDE WORE BLACK (French Revival) 
Music Box - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am  
In her video for "The Wedding List," Kate Bush reenacts the plot of THE BRIDE WORE BLACK, in which a vengeful woman systematically murders the men who killed her husband on their wedding day, and it's a very particular sort of homage, replete with blood, tears and corpse-clutching. It also arguably serves as a receptacle for the displaced hysteria of Truffaut's film, which maintains a sense of composure throughout; it has no real climax, with the killer and her motives revealed early on in the film, and no purported sense of stakes, as it lacks any real threat of police investigation until the very end. Julie Kohler, the eponymous BRIDE played by Jeanne Moreau, is similarly even-tempered and kills her victims using a series of rudimentary techniques that allow her to maintain a cool distance from their deaths--for example, shooting one with a bow and arrow, trapping another in a crawlspace under the stairs. All of this adds up to a film that veers considerably from the standards of the suspense genre, even though it's ostensibly a tribute to Hitchcock. Truffaut does manage to make some strong stylistic references, such as Bernard Hermann's score and Moreau's series of doppelganger disguises, but more often than not he seems less interested in exploring Julie's wounded psyche than in demonstrating how she plays with the rules of identity politics to her own advantage, particularly in terms of how and when she chooses to reveal her name to her victims. In spite of these deviations, Hitchcock gave his stamp of approval to the film, saying that he "especially liked the scene of Moreau watching the man who had taken poison Arak dying slowly," but noted that he "might have taken them a little further so that Moreau could have picked up a cushion and put it under his head so that he could die with more comfort." (1968, 107 min, 35mm) AO 
More info at

Sam Peckinpah's PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID (American Revival)  
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Monday, 7pm  
Seemingly made to undermine itself, Peckinpah's best post-classical film is free form, depressing, unbalanced, and arrhythmic, but it's by no means sloppy. Late Westerns are too often letdowns, treating their cynicism like it's something profound (it ain't), but PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID is inventive and nearly intoxicating in its sadness; it sometimes seems like, instead of merely "dirtying it up," Peckinpah is trying to do with the genre what free jazz did with bop: produce something more unpredictable and fragile, yet grounded in the same smarts and energy. It's been pointed out many times that the various supporting characters are portrayed with much more care and detail than the titular leads (a deathly James Coburn and a relaxed Kris Kristofferson), but that's more or less the point: instead of using his iconic main characters, whose fates are already familiar from a hundred other movies, to portray the end of the old West, Peckinpah shows the world ending and starting around them. It's a film of little apocalypses, with Bob Dylan (essentially playing himself in both the images and the soundtrack) as the shrugging poet-observer. Doc Films will be screening the posthumously-released "director's cut," which is 15 minutes longer than the original release version and about twice as good. (1973, 122 min, 35mm) IV 
More info at

D.W. Griffith's HEARTS OF THE WORLD (Silent American Revival) 
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Sunday, 7pm 
Though D.W. Griffith isn't renowned as a realist, it's worth noting that he shot battle footage for this--a commission from the British government to rally Americans to the cause of the Great War--at the French front with the aid of an army cameraman. In doing so, he narrowly escaped death on several occasions--an experience reflected, perhaps, in the film's high level of brutality. When HEARTS OF THE WORLD was finished, numerous censorship boards requested that Griffith make cuts to the violent scenes, which they deemed excessive; the director refused, however, in the name of artistic integrity. Ironically, the film is remembered today less for its artistry (Even Griffith admirers don't rank it among his greatest achievements) than for its real-world results: Its massive popularity has been credited with inspiring Americans to join the British military; and Erich von Stroheim (who plays the most odious of the German officers) was able to parlay his successful contribution to HEARTS into a contract to write and direct films at Universal Pictures. It's been said that von Stroheim's performance in the film would shape the rest of his career, as his most notable work as both an actor and as a filmmaker was based on a knowing manipulation of public outrage. HEARTS OF THE WORLD also features Lillian and Dorothy Gish, playing noble souls in the French town decimated by German barbarians. (1918, 117 min, 16mm) BS
More info at

Fritz Lang's THE BIG HEAT (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday and Tuesday, 6pm
One of the most iconic of Fritz Lang's films and one of the most brutal American films of its time, with Lee Marvin playing his most memorable villain before Liberty Valance. In its sadism, THE BIG HEAT sets the stage for Don Siegel's late-50s work (THE LINE-UP, BABY FACE NELSON); its equally chilly dolly shots anticipate Preminger's films of the 1960s. The story itself is below par for Lang: The upstanding cop (Glenn Ford) breaking up a crime ring must have been old hat by 1953. But Lang's investigative, levelheaded approach makes it resonate with the force of allegory. For Lang, criminality was often the expression of mankind at its worst and organized crime was the institutionalization of bad faith. Marvin's gangster may be irredeemable, but Lang finds counterpoint in the character of his mistress, Debby Marsh. Debby is the prospect of villainy (Lang's filmmaking was too atheistic to suggest the word evil), a spoiled moll who comes to help the police. Lang may be underrated as a director of women: His three films with Joan Bennett remain exceptional in their three-dimensional in their exploration of the actress's intelligence, confidence and vulnerability, and he achieves similar feats with Gloria Grahame here. Notwithstanding her performance in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this may be Grahame's most iconic performance. Regardless, it's the beating heart of an often-despairing film. Professor James Naremore lectures at the Tuesday screening. (1953, 89 min, 35mm) BS      
More info at

Alexander Kluge's YESTERDAY GIRL (German Revival) 
McGowan Hall, Rm. 104, DePaul U. (Lincoln Park Campus) - Thursday, 6pm 
Alexander Kluge is a major figure in German culture--an influential author, filmmaker, and TV documentarian--but he remains severally under-appreciated in the United States. This feature, made a few years after he coauthored the "Oberhausen Manifesto" that effectively launched the New German Cinema, comes from one of the most fruitful periods of his career. The protagonist is a young Jewish woman from East Germany (played, with heartbreaking passivity, by Kluge's sister Alexandra) trying to make a life for herself in the West; her plight, however, is essentially a structure around which Kluge can interrogate the state of the nation circa 1966. In its freewheeling shifts between documentary and fiction (as well as the newsreel look of its black-and-white photography), this has much in common with certain films Jean-Luc Godard was making around the same time, particularly MASCULINE-FEMININE. As the title suggests, Kluge is as interested in Germany's cultural baggage as he is with its present affairs; tellingly, his "Yesterday Girl" is frequently dispossessed. This is a dense, provocative work set in motion by Kluge's philosophical notions of montage creating "films in the mind of the spectator." By design, it's bound to affect every viewer a bit differently. (1966, 83 min, DVD projection) BS 
Click here for a map of the Lincoln Park Campus.  
Click here for a useful overview of Kluge's work.

Robert Zemeckis' BACK TO THE FUTURE (Contemporary American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Friday, 6, 8:30, and 11pm; Sunday, 3:15pm

Back in the mid-1980s, the white, suburban, heterosexual American male was in crisis, threatened on all sides: globally, by the Middle East's control of oil production; culturally, by the emergence of chart-topping R&B and rap that imperiled the perceived hegemony of heavy metal and unspirited blues-rock; and locally, in the unrelenting crime waves of urban gangs, emerging from a dissolved patriarchy and reportedly expanding ever-outwards from the city centers. The successful reconstitution of this masculinity was produced primarily by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale's BACK TO THE FUTURE, an admittedly glorious genre-crossing inversion of the Oedipus mythology (protagonist Marty must overcome not a present, unconscious desire for his mother and rivalry with his father, but instead must overcome his mother's desire for him and actively facilitate the transformation of his milquetoast father into a confident figure of authority). The conflict is enacted in the oneiric space of small-town 1955 California, primarily through the repeated ritual humiliation of the seemingly-invincible Teutonic drive-creature Biff, but also through Marty's requisition--on behalf of wimpy caucasians everywhere--of the heritage of both civil rights (encouraging the local malt-shop busboy to become mayor) and rock n' roll (producing, for Chuck Berry and an audience of bewildered squares, "the sound you've been looking for"). All of this (including the role of the Benjamin-Franklin-esque Doc Brown) is then not simply in the service of some trite, individualist Protestant ethic ("if you put your mind to it, you could accomplish anything": murmured mantra-like from start to finish); for those voters still baffled by the persistency of conservative politics, why look any further? (1985, 116 min, 35mm) MC
More info at

Bansky's EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (New Documentary)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes
What you should have done already was not read this or any other reviews for this new movie "about Bansky." If it's not too late, just go see it--because it's better not knowing anything on the way in. It's not that EXIT is the next M. Night Shyamalan movie, but it's not the next WILD STYLE either. It's worth coming to "fresh," knowing as little about the cult surrounding Bansky as possible. The notions of identity, authorship, and the nature of art resonate more authentically if you see it without preconceptions. It's working similar terrain as Orson Welles' F FOR FAKE, with its questions and suspicions and interrogations. Wearing a cloak of mystery, digital blackface, and a special effects voice, Bansky makes his on-camera debut in EXIT like a rock-star. He also directs competently. Or you could say directs your attention elsewhere, competently. Hey, what is competency when it comes to art anyway?  (2010, 87 min, 35mm) KH      
More info at

Yorgos Lanthimos' DOGTOOTH (New Greek)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Saturday, 7 and 9pm; Sunday, 1pm
Mention of the words "Greek" and "cinema" in the same sentence often provokes shudders from veteran filmgoers. The fact is, one is used to seeing the same touristic views of the southeastern European country in film after film; the same easygoing, slightly quirky story of an extended family (usually staring Irene Pappas) set against a Mediterranean paradise. Either that, or the latest chef d'oeuvre by Theo Angelopoulos, who is to Greece what Manoel de Oliveira has become to Portugal. The novelty of Greek cinema seems to have worn off years ago (in the not too distant past the Film Center even offered a yearly spotlight on the country), and now one can finally look beyond it to individual works. On the surface and at its core, DOGTOOTH has very little in common with some of the dominant characteristics associated with Greek cinema: it's set mostly in interiors (a single house, in fact); the characters at the center of the film are completely atypical, in fact, totally balls-out nuts by any national standards; and its style is closer to Ulrich Seidl or Harmony Korine in the way it flattens out space, often capturing its protagonists in awkward, slightly off-center compositions. DOGTOOTH is a real oddity, and as such it merits close attention. Expertly straddling dark, Buñuelian humor with psychological horror, the film centers on three kids who are held captive by their parents at a remote estate. Even when the film's central contrivance becomes perfectly coherent, the film never loses its fascination or mystery. Director Yorgos Lanthimos' approach is to shoot and edit as if each scene were a loose fragment, so that small details or clues are teased out in the elaborate narrative. A discussion piece, if there was ever one, and a film that grows with multiple viewings. (2009, 96 min, 35mm) GK
More info at


Filmmakers and artists Alexander Stewart and Lilli Carré have organized the impressive Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation, which takes place Saturday at the DePaul CDM Theater (247 S. State St., basement level).  At 1pm, it's the Classic Shorts program, which includes work by Larry Cuba, Robert Breer, Sally Cruikshank, Adam Beckett, Chris Sullivan, and more. The New Shorts program is at 3pm, and includes work by Lisa Barcy, Jim Trainor, Thorsten Fleisch, Amy Lockhart, and Matt Marsden. At 7pm, there is a program of special festival guest David O'Reilly. A looping program of silent work will also be on view on monitors in the lobby. Complete details at

The Nightingale (at Cinema Borealis, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., 4th Fl.) presents a 35mm screening of Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes' first feature, THE FACE YOU DESERVE (2004), on Sunday at 7pm. Presented in association with Block Cinema (Northwestern University).  

The Andrew Rafacz Gallery (835 W. Washington) opens a new solo exhibition,
"Tears Cannot Restore Her: Therefore I Weep," by videomaker and artist Jennifer Reeder on Saturday from 4-7pm. The show includes new video work, sculpture, and print. 

Curated by Jesse McLean and Eric Fleischauer, the screening Eruption takes place on Saturday at 7:30pm at the Green Lantern Gallery (2543 W. Chicago Ave.). The program includes work by Tom Dale, Tony Balko, Ivan Lozano, Brad Tinmouth, Thad Kellstadt, Sascha Pohle, Todd Mattei, and Jerzy Rose. 

On Thursday at 12 and 6pm, the DuSable Museum presents the documentary INSIDE BUFFALO, with director Fred Kudjo Kuwornu in person. 

The 22nd Polish Film Festival in America runs November 5-21 at multiple venues. In addition to a healthy selection of recent Polish film, there are several retrospective screenings as well, focused on Chopin and Paderewski. Complete schedule at

Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: On Saturday at 2pm are two architecture-related documentaries, REGULAR OR SUPER: VIEWS ON MIES VAN DER ROHE and A GIRL IS A FELLOW HERE: 100 WOMEN ARCHITECTS IN THE STUDIO OF FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: The Festival of New Spanish Cinema begins Friday with Alvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro's 2009 film ME TOO!, with Pastor in person (repeats Saturday); also in the Spanish fest this week is Dunia Ayaso and Félix Sabroso's film THE ISLAND INSIDE (Saturday and Monday); Hossein Keshavarz's 2010 Iranian film DOG SWEAT screens Saturday and Thursday; Tony Coleman and Margaret Meagher's new documentary MIGHTY UKE screens Sunday and Monday, with the filmmakers in person; and Kurt Brazda's 2008 documentary THE MAN ON THE BALCONY plays on Sunday, with Brazda in person. 

Also at the Music Box this week: German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta's new work VISION: FROM THE LIFE OF HILDEGARD VON BINGEN opens; INSIDE JOB continues; and the Friday and Saturday midnight films are DEAD SNOW and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: on Friday night and Sunday afternoon it's Robert Zemeckis' 1985 now-classic BACK TO THE FUTURE; on Tuesday is the excellent program Stan Brakhage: Films from 1995-2000; and the late Thursday show is Bill Rebane's 1986 horror film BLOOD HARVEST

On Saturday at 8pm Bank of America Cinema presents David Butler's 1937 film ALI BABA GOES TO TOWN.  

Facets Cinémathèque hosts part of the Polish Film Festival this week. See above  

CIMMFest presents the 2009 drama WAH DO DEM, Monday at 7pm, and the 1972 Jimmy Cliff feature THE HARDER THEY COME (Monday at 9pm) at Lincoln Hall (2424 N. Lincoln Ave.).

The Portage Theater hosts the Fractured Lens Video Festival on Thursday at 8pm. Details at

The Chicago Cultural Center hosts Fulcrum Point New Music Project's presentation of "Holding Fast with Jacob TV: New Art Music with Video" on Friday at 6pm. 

DIVIDED HEAVEN (Der geteilte Himmel), Konrad Wolf's 1964 German film, will screen Tuesday at 6pm at McGowan South 108, DePaul University Lincoln Park campus. From DVD.

The Art Institute of Chicago's exhibition Chicago-Scope: The Films of Tom Palazzolo, 1967-1976 runs through January 9. Curated by SAIC grad student Kelly Shindler, the show features four of Palazzolo's films screening from digital video: O (1967), LOVE IT/LEAVE IT (1971), RICKY AND ROCKY (1972, co-made with Jeff Kreines), and JERRY'S (1976). 

The exhibition Steve Reinke: The Tiny Ventriloquist is on view at UIC's Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria) and runs through December 18. The show features a new suite of videos by Reinke, as well as work in other media, and additional solo and collaborative work by Dani Leventhal, John Marriott, Jessie Mott, and James Richards. 

Lampo presents Dutch artists Gert-Jan Prins and Bas Van Koolwijk in person with their live audiovisual project "Synchronator" on Saturday at 8pm at the Graham Foundation (Madlener House, 4 West Burton Pl.). Note: this event is at full capacity. Visit to be added to the wait list.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

CINE-LIST: November 5 - November 11, 2010


CONTRIBUTORS / Michael Castelle, Kalvin Henely, Gabe Klinger, Christy LeMaster, Anne Orchier, Ben Sachs, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Darnell Witt

> Editorial Statement -> Contact