Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: Bitter Honey

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

Bitter Honey

RECOMMENDED

“When you’re in love, catshit tastes like chocolate” is but one explanation offered for the continuation of the ancient tradition of polygamy among about ten percent of marriages among Balinese. For the starkly candid, tear-streaked “Bitter Honey,” anthropologist and director Robert Lemelson spent seven years observing the lives of three polygamous families in Bali. Interviews with the families’ “co-wives” both fascinate and appall; oppression, economic exploitation and violence are presented as commonplace. (The men believe they grow stronger with each wife.) Read the rest of this entry »

Run Edward Run: “Citizenfour,” “E-Team” and the Politics of the Personal

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

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By Ray Pride

A stream of light, or a strip of luminescence courses above our heads. It’s inexorable, driven, fated. It’s also mute, dumb, like a laser pointer, or a torrent of data racketing across the internet to destinations that we do not know.

That image recurs through the first third of Laura Poitras’ serene, masterful, understated “Citizenfour,” until it is revealed as the illumination in a tunnel beneath the sea, until we see that we have been beneath Hong Kong, where the filmmaker will spend more than a week in a hotel room with only-just-former NSA operative/contractor Edward Snowden, and two journalists who were with the Guardian then, including fellow journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Advanced Style

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

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RECOMMENDED

Street style-blogger Ari Seth Cohen joined with documentarian Lina Plioplyte to create “Advanced Style,” an elaboration on his fixation on the style sense of women of a certain age in Manhattan, plying their couture without hauteur. These elders redefine style in each and every image of domesticated but still-dangerous divas of personal expression. The seven women range in age from sixty-two to ninety-five, and they’re unstoppable. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 20,000 Days on Earth

Biopic, Documentary, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

Nick_Typewriter_lowres

RECOMMENDED

Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s “20,000 Days On Earth,” is stellar, a rich, luxuriant, calibrated auto-portrait of Nick Cave, not quite fact, not quite fiction, told as if it were taking place in a single day, in words, music, a first-time psychotherapy session, and personal hallucinations with former musical partners Kylie Minogue and Blixa Bargeld in his car as he drives alongside the sea near his Brighton, England home. It sounds like so much attenuated tosh, but this bold, unique gem is bright, funny, brooding, hopeful, momentarily visionary, a wounded beauty exploring the creative process in a fresh and oft-brilliant fashion. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Art And Craft

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

ARTANDCRAFT_4RECOMMENDED

Talk about a film out of left field: I had no idea what I was in for stepping into Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman and co-director Mark Becker’s “Art and Craft,” but it turns out to be a mesmerizing account of Mark Landis, a talented, highly medicated, mentally troubled art forger who found a way to commit the perfect crime against dozens of American regional museums. One of history’s most prolific forgers for more than three decades, Landis would quickly, capably recreate work of lesser-known artists then offer it as a bequest to smaller institutions around the country, taking not a penny for his efforts. (Thus his claim that he never broke any laws.) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Meet The Mormons

Documentary 6 Comments »

“Meet the Mormons” resembles a standard shot-on-digital documentary, composed as it is of images and sounds, and of talking heads that are also smiling heads. But it’s actually an often-cryptic document about the lives of six members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and even could be taken for a television documentary except at the moments that it resembles a random mass of impulses. Nearly nothing in Blair Treu’s kindly public-relations film illuminates the practices or beliefs of the church, except for a will to goodness and success, and small, seemingly telling details go unremarked: for instance, the “scripture case” carried by several characters, containing the holy books of the faith; or the odd image of a Bishop of the Church at home who consults a near-disposable paperback edition of the Book of Mormon you’d find in the side table of a Marriott motel room rather than a finer copy of great personal worth. Read the rest of this entry »

Notable Appearances and Master Classes: A Preview of the Chicago International Film Festival

Chicago Artists, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Events, Festivals, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »
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“Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

By Ray Pride

Along with a hundred-plus features and shorts from around the world, the fiftieth edition of the Chicago International Film Festival includes notable appearances and master classes, including Michael Moore presenting his restored version of “Roger & Me,” a film that was nearly lost; producer-turned-online distributor Ted Hope talking about his memoir-manifesto, “Hope For Film,” and Oliver Stone, with a director’s cut of “Natural Born Killers” and “Alexander: Ultimate Edition,” a fourth version of his 2004 epic, reportedly with a warm handful of homoerotic content restored to its 207-minute duration. An Isabelle Huppert tribute will trail four features, including Michael Haneke’s “The Piano Teacher” and Claire Denis’ “White Material,” both shown in 35mm. Kathleen Turner will tell her truth, and eighty-one-year-old Hollywood Renaissance bright light Bob Rafelson will show his 1990 exploration epic “Mountains of the Moon” before presenting a master class to Columbia students, a rapscallion of a raconteur when I heard him speak a few years ago.

Notable locals include the world premiere of Chicago filmmaker Michael Caplan’s long-in-the-works “Algren” bio, as well as up-and-coming local auteur Stephen Cone’s “This Afternoon,” mingling his favored themes of sex and religion. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Last Days In Vietnam

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

Last days in VietnamRECOMMENDED

Rory Kennedy’s essential film is history as it ought to be revisited, reinvestigated, renewed as documentary. There’s so much no one bothered to know in the past forty years since the fall of Saigon. The stark, powerful “Last Days In Vietnam,” about the months and days preceding the evacuation of Americans as well South Vietnamese allies and their families in 1975, is superb filmmaking. Archival footage that’s astonishing for its immediacy is neatly woven with accounts of the disaster waiting to happen. It all moves with the emphatic leisure of a rolling nightmare. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Dog

Documentary, Recommended, Romance No Comments »

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RECOMMENDED

John Wojtowicz was the full-on character who inspired “Dog Day Afternoon” with his attempt to rob a Brooklyn bank in late summer 1972 to finance one of his lovers’ sex-reassignment surgery. Al Pacino went to town on that role, but it hardly captures the complications in the rich, even implausible life of Wojtowicz (“The Dog”) himself. Directors Frank Keraudren and Allison Berg had access to his life for a decade, and while the visuals are sometimes limited to Wojtowicz talking, talking and talking, the words are choice, the stories almost too true to be good. Al Pacino’s got nothing on this rampantly bisexual, hopelessly romantic, eager-to-please larger-than-life character, who proudly calls himself a “pervert.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Through A Lens Darkly

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

throughlensbRECOMMENDED

Thomas Allen Harris’ lush, lovely, loving “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People” chronicles the role of photography in a 170-year history of the lives of black Americans. While amateur photography is key to the film, professional photographers to whom the film pays tribute include Roy DeCarava, Gordon Parks and Carrie Mae Weems. It’s also a family memoir, an intimate epic weighted with eloquent words. Read the rest of this entry »