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Journal Archive
Friday
Apr132018

THE DESERT BRIDE at 34th Chicago Latino Film Festival (on CINE-FILE Chicago)

The week I recommend Cecilia Atán and Valeria Pivato's THE DESERT BRIDE, a wonderful film playing this week at the 34th Chicago Latino Film Festival. For showtimes and to read my review, please go to CINE-FILE Chicago.

Friday
Apr062018

THE KING at DOC10 2018 (on CINE-FILE Chicago)

For CINE-FILE Chicago, I wrote about Eugene Jarecki's stunning new Elvis Presley film, THE KING. (Scroll down to the "DOC10 Film Festival" section to see my writeup.) Consider not missing THE KING this weekend at DOC10 2018. It plays closing night, Sunday, April 8th at 7:45pm. For more information and the full schedule, please go to www.doc10.org.

Friday
Mar162018

21st Chicago European Union Film Festival (March 9-April 5, 2018), Report No. 2 (RAINBOW: A PRIVATE AFFAIR, ISMAEL'S GHOSTS, MISS KIET'S CHILDREN, KINCSEM—BET ON REVENGE)

The Gene Siskel Film Center's European Union Film Festival brings more cinematic fresh air to Chicago this week, as we continue celebrating the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. In terms of the upcoming week's slate, I can reccomend the pictures below. For the entire schedule, please visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org

Paolo Taviani's RAINBOW: A PRIVATE AFFAIR (Italy) is on Friday, 6:30pm and Wednesday, 6pm.

It's said that RAINBOW: A PRIVATE AFFAIR will perhaps be the final film from Paolo and Vittorio Taviana, the venerable brothers whose credits include Padre Padrone (1977), The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982), and Caeser Must Die (2012). (Co-written by the brothers, their putative swan song finds Paolo receiving solo credit for direction.) If so, it's a haunting, memorable sendoff. The picture is based on the work of novelist Beppe Fenoglio ("Johnny The Partisan," "A Private Affair"), an Italian resistance fighter known for setting his stories in Italy's Piedmont region, in the foothills of the Alps. It's winter and there's fog, so much of it it's surreal, dreamlike. Moving through it, the men are like ghosts. In fact, perhaps the moviegoing experience Rainbow most put me in mind of is Kurosawa's Dreams, though its atmospheric and psychological resemblance to the beach scene in Apocalypse Now may be even more à propos. Fenoglio's protagonist, Milton (Luca Marinelli), a partisan, was a student before the war. He emerges from the fog to stumble upon the villa where he used to visit with Fulvia (Valentina Bellè), who was his unrequited love from Turin, and their mutual friend Giorgio (Lorenzo Richelmy). In what now seems like another life, they'd spin Fulvia's favorite song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Judy Garland's version, on the turntable. The score by the Taviani brothers' usual composers, Giuliano Taviani and Carmelo Travia, consistently teases the theme of "Rainbow," as if it is somewhere out there in the mists of Milton's consciousness, ever receding, a signpost to a lost time to which the shellshocked young man is always trying to find his way back. In a memory, we see Giorgio and Fulvia climbing a tree from Milton's point of view, taken further and further away from him up into its heights. Wafting about them, we hear those famous lyrics: "...way up high." When word reaches Milton that Giorgio, who'd also joined the partisans, has been captured by the fascists, he hunts obsessively, desperately, for a fascist to swap for his boyhood friend. He's haunted by a rumor that the two people he loved most, Fulvia and Giorgio, may have been together behind his back. Fulvia and Giorgio must always remain enigmas, to us and, finally, to Milton. Rainbow contains one wordless scene, involving a little girl, that speaks volumes about the unspeakable nature of war.  Taviani's late style is serene. He composes in widescreen frames that are quiet, but for the howling wind, and quietly beautiful. The critic Adam Cook has called the Taviani brothers' style "magical (neo)realist," and that seems spot on. 
 
Arnaud Desplechin's ISMAEL'S GHOSTS (France) is on Saturday, 5:30pm and Thursday, 6pm.
 

"Arnaud Desplechin's sprawling, lovably shaggy ISMAEL'S GHOSTS fairly bursts with life and ideas."

To read the rest of my writeup, please head to CINE-FILE Chicago and scroll down to the section titled "EUROPEAN UNION FILM FESTIVAL at the Gene Siskel Film Center – Week Two."

Peter Lataster and Petra Lataster-Czisch's MISS KIET'S CHILDREN (Netherlands) is on Friday, 2pm and Sunday, 2pm.

"I needed a film like Peter Lataster and Petra Lataster-Czisch's MISS KIET'S CHILDREN about right now: a pro-human, pro-child film that is never "political," yet, in its quiet way, says more than any tract."

To read the rest of my writeup, please head to CINE-FILE Chicago and scroll down to the section titled "EUROPEAN UNION FILM FESTIVAL at the Gene Siskel Film Center – Week Two."

Gábor Herendi's KINCSEM—BET ON REVENGE (Hungary) is on Wednesday, 7:45pm and Saturday (March 24), 3pm 

"Jaunty, smashing entertainment, Gábor Herendi's KINCSEM—BET ON REVENGE is as irresistible as it is formulaic. Occasionally, it's just as interesting to see mainstream fare from the EU, such as this crowd-pleasing romance, as it is to see an art film."

To read the rest of my writeup, please head to CINE-FILE Chicago and scroll down to the section titled "EUROPEAN UNION FILM FESTIVAL at the Gene Siskel Film Center – Week Two."

Friday
Mar092018

21st Chicago European Union Film Festival (March 9-April 5, 2018), Report No. 1 (JEANETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC, GUTLAND, CATCH THE WIND, INDIVISIBLE, BAREFOOT)  

The month of March brings Spring, as well as that annual season of renewal and refreshment for Chicago cinephiles: the Gene Siskel Film Center's signature European Union Film Festival. Now in its 21st season, the fest runs this year from March 9 to April 5, and boasts 61 films from all 28 EU nations. I had a look at some of the first week's prospects. (For the full schedule, please go to www.siskelfilmcenter.org). 

For more on the EU Fest, I'd invite you to tune into the inaugural episode of Cine-File's new podcast, Cine-Cast on Transistor Radio, where you'll hear my friends and peers Michael Smith, Kyle Cubr, and me compare notes on fest prospects that have us excited. I confine my comments mainly to Arnaud Desplechin's ISMAEL'S GHOSTS, which plays the second week, as well as... 

Bruno Dumont's JEANETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC (New French) is on Sunday, 3pm and Thursday, 6pm. 

As I watched Bruno Dumont's JEANETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC, I thought of a film teacher I had back in college. He said something that's always stuck with me: what I'm looking for in film, he said, is something I've never seen before. Well, have you ever seen a metal musical about, specifically, the childhood of Joan of Arc, before? Transcribing Charles Peguy's epic poem "The Mystery of the Charity of Jeanne d'Arc" into music, Dumont uses experimental composer Igorrr's thrash metal as a kind of modern opera. As the film opens, it's 1425 and little Joan (Lise Leplat Prudhomme) tends sheep in the dunes on the Meuse river in northeast France, which has endured over 50 years of war. She beseeches the heavens, imploring Christ. If only we could see the dawn of your reign—after 14 centuries of Christianity, we've had nothing. In response, the sky blazes just as implacably blue and silent as ever. We hear the wind in the trees, the bleat of a sheep. When gripped by an ecstatic trance, she headbangs. Cut to several years later, and she is a teenager, played by Jeanne Voison. We know she won't make it past 19. Dumont has managed to make a film that's at once too goofy and irreverent for some French nationalist to embrace, while at the same time, I believe it's a deeply serious treatment of its subject and themes. The film retains a bit of the slapstick of Dumont's previous outing, SLACK BAY. I got a kick out of Joan's clumsy uncle, a rapper who looks like a teenager himself. He falls down a dune; attempting to mount a horse, he goes right over the other side. He also breakdances, after a fashion—at least, he does a bit of the ol' pop & lock. Not to mention an odd limbo dance. The choreography, by Phillipe Decoufle, is charming, full of cartwheels and leaps. The movements are strange yet precise. Sometimes, they're like semaphores. Sometime they're beautiful and funny at once, like the bread dance Joan does with the two hungry little boys. The number I liked best, as choreography and music, is the one with Madame Gervaise, who's played by twins, for some reason. Their twined voices and movements are mesmerizing, and funny, especially when they start thrashing. JEANETTE is punk in lots of ways: in its energy, its passion and life force, its amateur enthusiasm. 

Govinda Van Maele's GUTLAND (New Luxembourgish) is on Sunday, 5:15pm and Tuesday, 7:45pm.

"Mysterious, metaphysical, and shrouded in shadows, Govinda Van Maele's feature debut GUTLAND lives up to the unlikely tag of 'surrealist rural noir.'"

To read the rest of my writeup, please head to CINE-FILE Chicago and scroll down to the section titled "EUROPEAN UNION FILM FESTIVAL at the Gene Siskel Film Center – Week One."

 

Gaël Morel's CATCH THE WIND (New French) is on Friday, 2pm and Wednesday, 8:15pm

"Gaël Morel's CATCH THE WIND is a lovely, goodhearted (some may say syrupy), character-focused drama, but I'd recommend it if for no other reason than it gives a starring role to Sandrine Bonnaire."

To read the rest of my writeup, please head to CINE-FILE Chicago and scroll down to the section titled "EUROPEAN UNION FILM FESTIVAL at the Gene Siskel Film Center – Week One."

Edoardo De Angelis's INDIVISIBLE (New Italian) is on Sunday, 5:15pm and Thursday, 8:15pm

"Coming of age never hurt quite so much as it does in Edoardo De Angelis's unique, intensely moving drama INDIVISIBLE." 

To read the rest of my writeup, please head to CINE-FILE Chicago and scroll down to the section titled "EUROPEAN UNION FILM FESTIVAL at the Gene Siskel Film Center – Week One."

Finally, I had a look at Jan Svěrák's BAREFOOT (New Czech), which is on Sunday, 3pm and Monday, 7:45pm. The story of a little Prague boy's life in the countryside during WWII, when Hitler annexed the Sudetenland and occupied Boehmia and Moravia, it's superficial but sweet, and handsomely mounted—memories viewed through an amber lens. It was of some interest to me since Karolyn and I are traveling to the Czech Republic this month. We've been trying to learn a few words, so I enjoyed hearing the characters pronounce "dobry den."

Saturday
Mar032018

STORM CHILDREN, BOOK ONE and IN THE INTENSE NOW (on CINE-FILE Chicago)

This week I wrote about two beautiful, rich, challenging films about important human questions and experiences, Lav Diaz's STORM CHILDREN, BOOK ONE and João Moreidra Salles' IN THE INTENSE NOW. If you'd like, go to CINE-FILE Chicago and read my writeups, under the "Crucial Viewing" section.