Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: The Film Critic

Comedy, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

The_Film_Critic_-_5

RECOMMENDED

Why would anyone make a film about a film critic, even in that most analysand-populated city of Buenos Aires? Writer-director Hernán Guerschuny’s “The Film Critic” (El critico) is a dour dark comedy, delicious if jejune, about a disillusioned, middle-aged practitioner of sour cinematic criticism, and a pretty good one. It starts with Víctor (Rafael Spregelburd), a Porteño beardo akin to a figure in a Nanni Moretti film, having a recurrent interior monologue with himself in French. Guerschuny is onto minor-key cinephilic self-deception lived as daily life. “I don’t think cinema is pushing the envelope, I think it’s dead,” he says as if anyone’s listening. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Filmmaker “Bar Talks” At Chicago Underground Film Festival

Chicago Artists, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Events, Festivals, Recommended, Romance, World Cinema No Comments »
L for Leisure

“L For Leisure”

As moderator of the festival’s fourth edition of “Bar Talks,” I can’t formally review what’s in store in the five days of the Chicago Underground Film Festival, but I’d like to indicate the goals of the annual “Bar Talks,” four extended filmmaker/audience conversations, especially in light of the notably consistent focus on atmosphere, mood and elusive narratives in the feature and shorts programming at the twenty-second edition of CUFF, the world’s longest-running underground film festival. The “bar talks,” taking place in the Logan Lounge at the Logan Theatre, are informal gatherings of local and guest filmmakers, with conversation the intention without the ping-pong of panel-like proclaiming. The talks may run an hour, or even an hour-and-a-half, depending on how much everyone has on their mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: About Elly

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

about-elly

RECOMMENDED

A woman goes missing by the sea: the stuff of “L’Avventura,” Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 masterpiece, but also of contemporary Iranian master Asghar Farhadi’s 2009 “About Elly,” only now getting a U. S. release after clearing rights issues. As with his Oscar-winning 2011 “A Separation” and 2013’s “The Past,” Farhadi examines pressures on the modern middle class of Iran, but with visual fluidity and geometric acuity, and “Elly” is the best of these three. Farhadi’s statement of intention, that “a film must open a space in which the public can involve themselves in a personal reflection” is less lucid than any succession of frames in his film. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Tangerines

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

Tangerines

RECOMMENDED

The 2014 Foreign Language Oscar nominee with the lowest profile, the modest, graceful, glowingly shot Estonian-Georgian “Tangerines” (Mandariinid) is a splendid example of a narrative drawing the larger picture from a small one, capturing the effects of Eastern European civil wars on an average man after the fall of the Soviet Union. Writer-director Zaza Urushadze’s story is set in the separatist region of Abkhazia as war between Georgia and the region’s ethnic Estonians approaches, but the politics fade into smaller schemes, as a rural tangerine grower (graceful, poignantly expressive Lembit Ulfsak) takes two wounded fighters, one from each side of the conflict, into his home after a deadly battle. If they recover, they’ll likely try to kill each other. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Clouds Of Sils Maria

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

Clouds-of-Sils-Maria-still-3RECOMMENDED

Specific yet elusive, as in Olivier Assayas’ best work, “Clouds of Sils Maria” rises to the challenge that longtime colleague Juliette Binoche’s offered him: create a role for a woman of fifty that’s not all about a romantic relationship. What he came up with resembles a number of other movies, including a hint of “All About Eve,” as a professional triangle oscillates between her mid-career actress, her devoted and indispensable assistant, juggling multiple iPhones, Blackberrys and agendas (Kristen Stewart), and an ambitious young actress (Chloe Grace Moretz) repeating a role she played years earlier. (There’s also something of Joseph Mankiewicz in Assayas’ taut, gnomic gab, with professional status and personal moment indicated in snappish, contemporary dialogue.) Binoche’s performance matches Assayas’ visual style, alternately brittle and supple, while Stewart is laconic yet electric in conveying her character’s quiet, emphatic passion for her boss. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Six by Hou Hsiao-hsien

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MM

RECOMMENDED

Taiwanese cinema grandmaster Hou Hsiao-hsien turned sixty-eight the day I wrote this, a melancholy day if only for the fact that he’s been working on his wuxia martial arts period piece, “The Assassin” for five years, neglecting the masterpieces of observation of the modern world he could have been making. The Siskel’s essential six-film 35mm retrospective of his work continues with the still-modern fragrance of “Millennium Mambo” (2001) and the sorrowful play of history, memory and performance in “Good Men, Good Women” (1995). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: White God

Action, Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

WhiteGod4

RECOMMENDED

In multiple countries in greater Europe, right-wing parties have risen to power, perhaps to most dramatic effect in contemporary Hungary. In Kornél Mundruczó’s fantastic and often fantastically beautiful, Budapest-set revenge parable, there may or may not be useful allegory in the casting out of thirteen-year-old Lili’s dog, Hagen, for being “unfit” as a mixed-breed dog. Both Hagen and Lili search for a return to “home,” and for each other, but in the meantime the once-domesticated dog rounds up a canine cohort to face the cruelty that is the human race. It’s a child’s tale, in a way, but with hundreds and hundreds of extra sets of teeth. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Salt of the Earth

Documentary, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

SaltOfTheEarth8

RECOMMENDED

In “The Salt of the Earth,” Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado capture a bittersweet, elegant slice of life of four decades in the career of the great Brazilian photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado and his epic studies of nature and man’s cruelty. Wenders has said that the collaboration between himself and Salgado’s son almost resulted in two disparate films, but the final mingling of approaches works neatly, especially with the imagery seen on the big screen. Wenders hasn’t had the good fortune to make fiction features in years as richly rewarding as “Kings of the Road,” “The American Friend,” “Paris, Texas,” “Wings Of Desire” and “The State of Things,” but both his personal fine arts photography and his recent documentary work, such as “Pina,” are masterful. The Oscar-nominated “The Salt of the Earth” is no exception. “A photographer is someone literally drawing with light,” Wenders muses before we meet Salgado, in fact, before we see the first of the generous selection of his work, “writing and rewriting the world with light and shadows.” 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

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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 »