Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Preview: Wim Wenders On The Road Again

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“Alice in the Cities.”


Through October and November, “Wim Wenders On The Road Again,” eleven digitally restored features and six shorts, including Wenders’ 295-minute directors’ cut of his 1992 worldwide walkabout, will be shown at Siskel. The peripatetic German filmmaker’s comprehensive retrospective begins with the wistful “Alice in the Cities” (October 2-3), the long-unavailable Peter Handke-scripted “The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick” (October 3, 7) and “Kings of the Road” (October 10, 14), the magisterial, melancholy odyssey of two projector repairmen along the border between East and West Germany. In the course of time, Wim Wenders’ movies have meant as much to me as the work of any other filmmaker. “The American Friend,” “Kings of the Road,” even “The State of Things” were so compelling to this young moviegoer. Laconic but cosmopolitan, dreamy yet tactile. Melancholy. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Cut

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For a widescreen English-language epic, Fatih Akin’s “The Cut” is emotionally reticent, suggesting sweep while also holding close to its central character, an Armenian blacksmith named Nazaret (Tahar Rahim, “A Prophet”). The forty-two-year-old German-Turkish director is a resourceful collector of the sounds and sensations of the contemporary world in movies like “Head-On” (2004) and “Soul Kitchen” (2009), but there are only a few vividly imagined moments in the muted, somber passage a hundred years ago of Nazaret from the Armenian genocide in his Turkish home village to across the world in search of his two daughters, who may also still be alive. Muted by a stab wound, Nazaret crosses the globe, to Cuba, to North Dakota, hopeful, wide-eyed, silent against terrible things in the world. Metaphors compound and resound in what’s ultimately a most honorable failure. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Saving Mr. Wu

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Gleaming, elementally machined, Ding Sheng’s “Saving Mr. Wu” stars Andy Lau (“Infernal Affairs”) in a crackling true-life thriller based on a 2004 case about a celebrity kidnapped by men disguised as policemen who demand a half-million dollar ransom in less than a day. Beijing’s police marshal a task force and move across the hours toward the inevitable showdown, which is cleanly choreographed. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: How Strange To Be Named Federico: Scola Narrates Fellini

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(Che strano chiamarsi Federico!, 2013) Director-on-director documentaries, outside of Martin Scorsese’s estimable efforts, are rare, and Ettore Scola’s genial “How Strange To Be Named Federico!” released twenty years after Fellini’s death is a sweet one. Mike Nichols once observed that “Directing a film is like fucking: you’ll always wonder how the other guy does it.” Apparently the system’s looser in Italy, with the range of stories about how writers and actors and others were always dropping their colleagues’ sets. In the case of Scola and Fellini, the slightly younger director works with clips, narration and re-creations, with color and black-and-white, with humor high and low, to weave a personal portrait of his friends’ most magical moments on screen. (A couple of inspired dream sequences, too.) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The New Girlfriend

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(Une nouvelle amie) François Ozon’s sixteenth (or so) feature works the quirk in love and lingerie in “The New Girlfriend,” a comic psychological thriller about a man (Romain Duris) who embraces transvestite leanings after the death of his wife with the help of her childhood best friend (Anaïs Demoustier). A tenuous friendship ensues, with complications left and right. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Second Mother

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Contemporary São Paulo is the setting for Anna Muylaert’s “The Second Mother” (Que Horas Ela Volta?), a warm, simple, soon complicated, and in the end, often comic and sometimes moving contemplation of what “family” means in a modern world. Is household help part of the household? Let alone the family, as an unacknowledged surrogate mother? (“Upstairs Downstairs” looks like an appealing title in Portuguese: “Escada Acima Escada Abaixo,” but “The Second Mother” will do just fine.) As the housekeeper to an upper-class family with a teenage son, comedienne Regina Casé is vital and present in every moment, especially the minuscule and picayune humiliations that have compounded for years. But she is especially fine when her own nineteen-year-old daughter (Camila Márdila), whom she supports by being a nanny-mother-drudge, comes to visit. Read the rest of this entry »

Reeling in the Years: Chicago’s Long-Running LGBTQ Film Fest At Thirty-Three

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"Beautiful Something"

“Beautiful Something”

By Ray Pride

There’s no official number of how many film festivals there are in Chicago, or even a readily agreed-upon definition of how many films and events constitute a true “festival,” but in its thirty-third year, Reeling, the Chicago “LGBTQ+” International Film Festival, is definitely one of the most resilient (and the nation’s second oldest, after San Francisco’s Frameline).

“Film festivals not only continue to be relevant, despite the onslaught of choices for entertainment,” founder and executive director Brenda Webb tells me. “In some ways, they are more relevant than ever because of their curatorial role and promotional functions.”

An example of that is how small films that debut on Netflix (not heavily advertised and hyped series) never gain social traction, there’s little conversation in the larger culture, only cold, cryptic algorithms guessing what will satisfy every given view. Webb agrees. “There may be many more choices of films to see online and on television than ever before, but given the noise of overwhelming choices, audiences need to tune into which films to spend their time seeing.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: I Touched All Your Stuff

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“It all started with the hippos” is a fine way to start any film, and Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani’s weird little shaggy-doc, “I Touched All Your Stuff” (A Vida Privada dos Hipopótamos, aka “The Private Life of Hippos”) does yeoman’s work in defining, if not divining, the mad life of an American con artist who winds up in epic stretches of trouble, drug running, dangerous anti-romance and, eventually, prison, in Colombia. For instance, the hippos? They belonged to drug magnate Carlos Escobar. Read the rest of this entry »

Slipstreaming: Screening Nearly Lost Masterpieces From The Tavianis and Satyajit Ray

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By Ray Pride

The password is bum.

Not literally “bum,” in fact, it’s supposed to be “hairball.” But consider that the movie you’ve planned to watch all day, the streaming link that worked when it came in the email, has been changed. You look forward to this movie, it’s supposed to be audacious, insolent, top-heavy with all the right bad behavior, brilliantly choreographed. Or so I’ve heard. And there’s no goddamn way for me to watch it until I can request another password I’ll receive in a day or two.

I’m not complaining, understand. This is just the way it works now. I’m just trying to fathom how the job of reviewing movies has changed since my college days, when there were a couple of screening rooms, and later, a primary one that showed 35mm prints at 10am, 12:15pm and 2:30pm and sometimes at night. Nowadays, the reviewer—the critic of a visual art who used to get a couple of hours of contemplation in an ideal setting—is supposed to recommend it to an eager if shrinking audience of theatergoers and an eager if growing audience of video-on-demand patrons by making their judgment from a format akin to lowest-res of Netflix streaming. Or worse. I wonder how many filmmakers of lower-budget work know their work is largely previewed this way. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: We Come As Friends

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Hubert Sauper © Ray Pride copy

Hubert Sauper/Photo: Ray Pride


“We Come As Friends,” Hubert Sauper’s teeming, Brueghel-and-Bosch-pursuing documentary portrait of chaos after colonialism in battle-torn South Sudan is more eye-widening, surreal, sorrowful and anarchic than his earlier “Darwin’s Nightmare.” Read the rest of this entry »