“Who would we be without museums?” In “Francofonia: An Elegy for Europe,” Aleksandr Sokurov’s latest prose-poem-cum-philosophical essay on art and history housed in a world-class museum, the Russian filmmaker alights on the Louvre in 1940 at the onset of World War II as museum director Jacques Jaujard (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) and German officer Count Franz Wolff-Metternich (Benjamin Utzerath) collaborate to keep the assembled artworks from Nazi hands. Read the rest of this entry »
Holly de Ruyter’s “Old Fashioned: The Story Of The Wisconsin Supper Club” fits a snug little niche with its look at the unusual persistence of “supper clubs” in the Badger State, even as chain restaurants dot the Midwestern landscape. Read the rest of this entry »
In the Dead Zone outside Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4, three women—Hanna Zavorotyna, Maria Shovkuta and Valentyna Ivanivna—have lived almost three decades on their own. They get the occasional visitor, ranging from ample feral fauna to workers who rotate in and out of the exclusion zone to adventurers who play out their own post-Tarkovsky “Stalker” fantasies on some of the most toxic land on the planet. (A Chernobyl-set video game, “S.T.A.L.K.E.R.,” is the more immediate inspiration for the incursions.) Read the rest of this entry »
Deborah Stratman describes her latest one-hour experimental essay, the meditative “The Illinois Parables,” which debuted at Sundance 2016, as “a suite of Midwestern parables that question the historical role belief has played in ideology and national identity.” Read the rest of this entry »
The cumulative impact of “No Home Movie” is of being slammed against a brick wall. Full stop. The great Chantal Akerman’s final feature, at the age of sixty-five before taking her own life, is a bittersweet testament about the final years and last spaces of her beloved mother’s life. A Holocaust survivor and recurrent figure in Akerman’s work, Natalia is the subject of moments that Akerman calls “rough-hewn,” “raw material.” Her poetic filmmaker’s statement about her essay film continues, “The film wanders without our really knowing where it’s going. And yet, it can only lead us to one thing, death.” Read the rest of this entry »
In just over an hour, Belgian filmmaker Marianne Lambert’s now-bittersweet documentary “I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema Of Chantal Akerman” (2015), spans the four decades of the great filmmaker’s work, providing a coherent map as well as insights even for viewers already familiar with her essential work. And, with Akerman’s passing, its form as an unintentional tribute makes its existence even more virtuous. Read the rest of this entry »
Werner Herzog’s “Lo & Behold”
By Ray Pride
After two years of Docs at the Box, a spring showcase of new nonfiction at the Music Box, programmed by journalist-programmer Anthony Kaufman, a larger event, expanding the work of the nonprofit Chicago Media Project, will take its place. The quartet behind the long weekend, which will augment Chicago debut attractions with post-screening discussions, interactive events and panels, are Kaufman, CMP co-founder and board chair Steve Cohen, CMP co-founder and executive director Paula Froehle and festival coordinator Sarah Nobles.
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“First we eat, then we do everything else,” Laura Gabbert epigraphs her engaging, toothsome, “City of Gold,” quoting culinary great M. F. K. Fisher. But her rich documentary is about one man, one of the four or five best prose stylists and maybe the best eater on the contemporary food scene, Pulitzer Prize-winning dining writer Jonathan Gold. His love of the byways and side streets of the furthermost reaches of Los Angeles brims articulately in each of his conversations and encounters. A genial, bearish, freckled man with thinning shoulder-length tresses, he’s the Gorgeous George of the Golden State, trundling in khakis and navy-blue sport coat into his aged jalapeño-green pickup. It’s hard to think of him in disguise before he gave up that pretense, first at the LA Weekly, and now the Los Angeles Times. Read the rest of this entry »
Athina Rachel Tsangari’s “Chevalier”
By Ray Pride
“Taken all together, the festival represents a panoramic view of filmmaking across Europe, from West to East,” Siskel Film Center director of programming Barbara Scharres tells me about the nineteenth edition of the indispensable, jam-packed, month-of-March-long Chicago European Union Film Festival.
“As with every year, it’s a view [of European cinema] that’s incredibly diverse and ever-changing, and yet represents pronounced themes, trends and affinities from one year to the next.” But the EU Fest is not designed, like some standalone film festivals, as a platform to launch an upcoming art-house release. “Some films are special advance screenings of titles already acquired by U.S. distributors, and many are films that may not ever make it beyond Europe’s borders again. If you can view the festival as a kind of laboratory, it’s an intersection in a neutral space of films that [can be] enjoyed purely on the basis of their artistic merit. There aren’t so many opportunities for the filmgoing public to choose outside the commercial realm, and we believe the festival offers that experience on a significant scale.” Read the rest of this entry »
The easygoing documentary “Rolling Papers” should find a ready and appreciative audience, who’ll learn more than what they expected they were dealt. Director Mitch Dickman charts the first year of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, from the first day of 2014, by holding close to Ricardo Baca, the first marijuana editor of a major daily, the Denver Post, as he negotiates a new gig in the otherwise despairing field of journalism. Read the rest of this entry »