Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Drama, Recommended No Comments »

kumiko

RECOMMENDED

With the gorgeously shot, sweetly paced “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter,” David and Nathan Zellner make a strange, funny, sometimes alarmingly deadpan leap forward from their likable earlier features like “Goliath” (2008) and “Kid-Thing” (2012). An inspired fable, a riff on “Fargo,” a Herzog-like look at landscape, it’s like Rinko Kikuchi in “The Great Ecstasy Of The Treasure Hunter Kumiko,” with a motel quilt with a pattern worthy of Sergei Parajanov. The ineffable Kikuchi (“Pacific Rim,” “The Brothers Bloom”) plays an office worker in Japan who is convinced that her VHS tape of “Fargo” is a documentary, and she’s dead-set on going to America to find that suitcase of hot, frozen cash in the pure white winter wastes of North Dakota. Knowing little of the language, nearly broke, making mistake after mistake, she trudges on, with little more than crazy hope and visions of a bunny—Bunzo!—to keep her going. Read the rest of this entry »

I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy: On The Hunting Ground of Fiction and Fact

Documentary, Drama, Events, Recommended No Comments »

The Hunting Ground

By Ray Pride

The news, oh the news from Hollywood. What providence does the future hold for the eager moviegoer? What fate lies ahead?

A few of the facts: Worldwide box-office is up one measly percent, but only because China’s audiences spent a whopping thirty-four percent more on tickets. “Star Wars VIII” gets a release date in 2017 and Rian Johnson (“Looper”) is confirmed as writer-director. A “Star Wars” standalone movie will be called “Star Wars: Rogue One.” The female-cast “Ghostbusters” will be joined by another sequel to the thirty-one-year-old movie, likely starring Chris Pratt and Channing Tatum, following the original misogynist cries on the internet with questions of why anyone’s childhood needs to be spoiled twice. Disney says they’ll rerelease the original “Star Wars” trilogy without the additions, deletions and graffiti George Lucas added across the years when he still owned Lucasfilm. And look! “Frozen 2”! Announced the day before the short “Frozen Fever” debuts before “Cinderella”! Let it go!

Damning, distressing, infuriating. Not the sequels to the news of sequels, not limited to the Marvel “Universe,” but in the universe around us. And not the economic fact that newspapers and legacy media continue to shrink as the interest in nonfiction filmmaking grows and grows. Damning, distressing and infuriating is another fine documentary opening this week, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s blunt, forceful advocacy doc, “The Hunting Ground,” a sort of sequel in itself, which takes aim at another dreadful contemporary social ill after the investigation of the plague of rape in the military and its willful, systemic whitewash in the military in “The Invisible War”: the rash of sexual violence and the cover-ups that follow on college campuses today. Read the rest of this entry »

Into The Woods: Chasing Butterflies With “The Duke of Burgundy”

Drama, Recommended, Romance, World Cinema 1 Comment »

DukeOfBurgundy Sidse Babett Knudsen_PLB_001

By Ray Pride

A movie about movies and about butterflies and two lovers deep in the woods, dense with influence, about decadence and desire, the third feature by Peter Strickland (“Berberian Sound Studio,” “Katalin Varga”), “The Duke Of Burgundy” dabbles as well in entomology, taxonomies, field recordings, roleplaying and domination. In a European never-neverland (shot in Hungary, largely in a fancy, secluded turn-of-the-century house), the apparently dominant Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen, “Borgen”) and the seemingly submissive Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) occasionally venture into a larger world confined to the presentations of butterfly scholars, but mostly remain at home, engaging in ritualistic sadomasochistic roleplaying.

“Burgundy” is a keen pastiche of 1970s Euro-sleaze and high art, and looks amazing on the big screen, calmly florid, precise yet bonkers, bristling with detail. It’s preposterous, delirious and delicious. “It’s great to get it into the cinema, such a short life in the cinema these days, isn’t it?” Strickland says in his firm, fast British accent at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in November 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: European Union Film Festival/Siskel Film Center

Comedy, Drama, Festivals, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

eden

RECOMMENDED

The city’s most teemingly eclectic film festival attains its majority with its eighteenth edition: sixty-one new features from twenty-seven countries. Highlights include the Oscar-submitted films from six nations, including Hungary’s expressive canine fable, “White God” and entries from Austria, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Spain. New work by established directors like Ettore Scola, Jessica Hausner, Bruno Dumont and Christian Petzold are scheduled. Other highlights: “The Life Of Riley,” which may not be shown otherwise in Chicago, the final film by the great Alain Resnais, released when he was ninety-one, is another one of his meta-theatrical, semi-surrealist japes. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Maps To The Stars

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Maps to the Stars

RECOMMENDED

In “Maps to the Stars,” the fluent severity of David Cronenberg’s frames (shot, as customary, by Peter Suschitzky) matches elegantly to the linguistically bedizened, behaviorally fetid prose of his good friend, novelist Bruce Wagner. (“Clea’s face was like a Tornado Alley weathervane—the tremble before the wild-ass spin,” reads a typical description in 2005’s “The Chrysanthemum Palace.”) This is not the Hollywood satire some have taken it for, but instead, a four-hankie dry weep for the soul of a society where sensation high and low cannot match urge and habit. (Incest; pistols; endangered pets; fire that burns but does not yet physically consume; Klonopin, Romeo + Juliet; fame! O fame; “deathless American icons,” self-delusion; the lurid as quotidian.) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Actress

Documentary, Drama, Recommended No Comments »

Actress-Brandy

RECOMMENDED

Life as performance, personality as melodrama, persona as hope. This is the superlative movie I’d hoped a filmmaker (director, editor, producer, shooter, critic, academic) as intelligent and driven as Robert Greene would make someday, but so soon? “Actress” is an intimate collaboration with his neighbor, Brandy Burre, an actress who had been in “The Wire” and who now juggles relationships, children, wayward emotions and unstemmed ambition. Brandy Burre plays “herself,” but it would take pages, a few thousand words, or maybe another film in reply, to indicate the richness of what’s on screen. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wild Tales

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WIld Tales 10

RECOMMENDED

Flamboyant yet controlled, paced yet shocking, and all about the feeling of letting go in pure, unbridled revenge, Damián Szifron’s six-story omnibus has the fancy and fury of a fine Almodóvar picture. “Wild Tales” (Relatos salvajes) is a pitch-black comedy, with a pre-credits sequence that raucously sets the tone for the gloriously preposterous complications to come. (It’s a contender for the best foreign language Oscar, and if the Academy doesn’t love “Ida”…) It would be foul to give away the rocket blast of those opening five minutes, but let’s say its premise mingles Buñuel, Almodóvar, contemporary Argentine comedy and the contours of a dream where figures of your past assemble but, undreamlike, the dreamer takes control, arriving at the source of all of his problems with wondrously shocking finality. The stories aren’t linked except by Argentine locales high and low, captured crisply and colorfully. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bluebird

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Bluebird Factory25

RECOMMENDED

Lance Edmands’ “Bluebird” is a story of loss and anger and denial set in a wintery, worn Maine paper mill town. Entropy slows to paralysis when a child dies on the watch of local school bus driver (Amy Morton) and a strained relationship with her logger husband (John Slattery) frays farther. The palpable sense of eddying fracture in the frosty reaches is heightened by brilliant location shooting by crack cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes (“Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “Tiny Furniture,” “Ballet 422”). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Timbuktu

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TIMBUKTU de Abderrahmane_Sissako film still 3_d10bd5fc-ca9d-e411-b62a-d4ae527c3b65_lg
RECOMMENDED

Abderrahmane Sissako’s Oscar-nominated “Timbuktu,” shot in Mauritania but set in northern Mali near the title city, is a lovely, cogent, melancholy, quietly damning portrait of radical religious fundamentalists arrogantly, clumsily taking over a small town. Inspired by a 2012 murder by jihadists of a couple in their thirties by stoning, Sissako keenly observes cruelty, folly and tenderness during the year-long occupation and its wave of irrational destruction. “The film, through the couple Kidane and Satima, insists on one essential point,” he writes, “that violence will never be able to kill love. You can kill a man, but you cannot kill the love he has for his daughter, his wife. This is fundamental, and is the key to victory over barbarity. It is how we defy extremism. They will not have the last word. Beauty and dignity will triumph.” Read the rest of this entry »

Cipher Punk: The Cryptic Lilt of “Blackhat”

Action, Chicago Artists, Drama, Recommended, Romance, World Cinema No Comments »

Untitled Michael Mann Project

By Ray Pride

Michael Mann’s “Blackhat” is not Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor,” but it’s in the same mulish, rarified league.

While the 2015 Oscar announcements led to much journalistic handwringing, online and off, with a dearth of nominations for women and people of color—overlooking the systemic issue of the dearth of mainstream movies being financed and produced for women and people of color—there’s not as much clamor about the handful of white male filmmakers who are presently productive into their eighth decade.

Michael Mann turns seventy-two in February, Sir Ridley Scott is seventy-seven, and while we’re at it, Jean-Luc Godard is eighty-four. “Blackhat,” “The Counselor” and “Farewell to Language” are all discernibly, definitively, obstinately, obdurately, the work of old men. Artists of a certain age, to be sure, but also personal, auteurist, in the most classic fashion. Late films by Alfred Hitchcock have been a subject for such discussion for decades, and Entertainment Weekly’s Mark Harris tweeted that “Blackhat” may well be Mann’s “Marnie,” that is, a movie that at first glance seems hermetic, compacted, a concatenation of images, fixations and stylistic devices.  Read the rest of this entry »