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Journal Archive


This week at CINE-FILE Chicago, I wrote about Ruben Östlund's THE SQUARE. It's a riot. Do consider going to see it this week at the Music Box.



Over at CINE-FILE Chicago I recommend Agnes Varda and JR's FACES PLACES, showing at Music Box Theatre this week. Do go see it; it does the heart (and the soul, and the mind) good.


53rd Chicago International Film Festival: Week 2 (Western/On the Beach at Night Alone/Golden Years/El Mar La Mar/Control/Shorts 8 – These Walls Talk: Architecture/Can’t Turn Back: Edith + Eddie and ‘63 Boycott/Shorts 3 – Living After Midnight: After Dark) 

Over at Chicagoist, I co-authored a report with Jacob Oller on the state of the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival as it goes into its second week, "6 Must-Sees At The Chicago International Film Festival's Week 2."

I recommended WesternOn the Beach at Night AloneGolden Years, and El Mar La Mar, while bidding people skip Control. In the introduction, I drew readers' attention to Shorts 8 – These Walls Talk: Architecture, featuring Standing Nymph and Man, and encouraged audiences not to miss the Kartemquin Films show, Can’t Turn Back: Edith + Eddie and ‘63 Boycott.

While I've got you, I'll also put in a word for Shorts 3 – Living After Midnight: After Dark, while includes a bracing, funny little shocker, Great Choice, about a woman trapped in a Red Lobster commercial, which ends up packing a potent metaphoric punch.


Preview of the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival, October 12-26: (Spoor/They/A Moon of Nickel and Ice/The Other Side of Hope/Let The Sunshine In/12 Days/In the Intense Now/The Line/Rogers Park/Thelma)

I thought I'd roundup my coverage of the 53rd Chicago Internation Film Festival, to date.

With Jacob Oller, I co-authored an article for Chicagoist on "10 Films You Must See At The Chicago International Film Festival," in which I recommend SpoorTheyA Moon of Nickel and IceThe Other Side of Hope, and Let the Sunshine In.

Over at Cine-File Chicago I recommend 12 Days and In the Intense Now

While I've got you, I thought I'd put in a word for The Line: What separates a good genre picture from a tired one is, the good ones make the tropes feel at once classic and fresh, evocative engines instead of generic cliches. Peter​ ​Bebjak's mob movie THE LINE is a cracking piece of quality entertainment set along the Slovakia/Ukraine border, where smugglers hustle to get their contraband across before the line shuts down for good. It's a deft, droll story, rich in character and suspense. Géza Benkõ plays the long-suffering boss with a code of ethics, who restricts his smuggling to cigarettes, while others traffic in heroin or even human beings. He hits that Tony Soprano sweet spot where vulnerability and violence somehow compellingly mix; he has his hands full as much with his rebellious, pregnant teenage daughter as he does with his brothers-in-crime and his own, much more malign, boss. 

Then there's Rogers Park. Kyle Henry, a professor of film production at Northwestern University, directed this affecting drama from a script by his partner, Carlos Treviño. It may smack a bit of the workshop, but it's a portrait of the North Side and its residents that locals will recognize as the place and people we know. The titular neighborhood is an outpost of cultural and ethnic diversity in a still painfully segregated city, but that diversity's not an issue, just a fact, in this penetrating story of two middle-aged interracial couples coming to moments of crisis, catharsis and healing: a realtor with secrets; his wife, a preschool teacher; her brother, a depressed, abrasive novelist; and his girlfriend, a community organizer. It probes the idea of closeness—whether between brother and sister, father and daughter, or friends—and the performance of happiness versus the real thing. It's well-acted, if a bit theatrically. 

Lastly, I'll mention Joachim​ ​Trier's engrossing nightmare, Thelma. I went in almost cold, and maybe that's the best way to do it. I knew only that the film was playing in the Out-Look Competition, and that it had supernatural overtones. It starts off like gangbusters and works like a page-turner for its length, containing some awesome images (in the true sense of that oft-abused adjective). Some others are a bit on-the-nose, but still powerful, as Biblical symbols go. Comparisons to De Palma's Carrie are right on point. Emerging, I wasn't quite sure what it all added up to, but I knew I'd seen quite a movie. 



For CINE-FILE Chicago, I wrote about Arturo Ripstein's 1965 Mexican Western TIME TO DIE. The fuse is lit from the beginning: all we're doing, really, is watching it play out. It would make a good double feature with another resonant genre piece, Henry King's 1950 Western THE GUNFIGHTER with Gregory Peck, which I like to imagine a young García Márquez (he co-wrote TIME TO DIE with no less than Carlos Fuentes) enjoying as the young film critic he once was. Check out my writeup here, and consider going to see it at the Siskel Film Center on Saturday at 5:45 or on Wednesday at 6:00pm.

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