Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: Alleluia

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

Alleluia

RECOMMENDED

You want obsession? Obsessive, obsessive obsession? Sanguinary intimacy? Fabrice du Welz, Belgian director of 2004’s “Calvaire” goes blissfully bloodily bonkers with “Alléluia,” a lusciously lurid based-on-fact tale of a shy single mom, Gloria (Lola Dueñas) who falls in love with womanizer-cum-hustler Michel (Laurent Lucas). (It’s based on the 1949 history of “lonely hearts killers” Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, whose crimes have inspired other films, including Leonard Kastle’s blanch-and-white 1970 singularity, “The Honeymoon Killers” and Arturo Ripstein’s stodgier 1996 “Deep Crimson.”) The more Gloria learns about Michel’s perversity, which has its own substance, the more thrilled, the more fixated she becomes. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: In The Name Of My Daughter

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In The Name Of My Daughter

RECOMMENDED

While his recent films have all gotten U. S. releases, the great, seventy-two-year-old French post-Nouvelle Vague writer-director André Téchiné’s work doesn’t get the attention it did two decades ago with dramas like “Les voleurs” (Thieves, 1996). There’s not as much appreciation for the quiet satisfactions of his closely observed dramas of adult relationships striking stress points and abruptly fracturing to dramatic but too-believable result. With “In the Name of My Daughter” (L’homme qu’on aimait trop), Téchiné draws on “l’affaire Le Roux,” a 1970s French murder case, again in the news this month, about the disappearance of a young woman in the midst of a family intrigue over control of a Riviera casino. Catherine Deneuve is the mother who won’t stop her search for the daughter who disappeared after a suicide attempt, leaving no trace and no body. There’s patience, chilliness and even sustained quietude in Téchiné’s telling, but the brightest burst of emotions make for memorable fireworks. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Strangerland

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strangerland

RECOMMENDED

Sturm, drang, mini-“Fury Road” dust storms, missing children, sexual frustration and maybe a little more drang, are the backdrop to Kim Farrant’s “Strangerland,” a mood-heavy thriller set in the super-heated Australian outback, and starring Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes. It’s nowhere the knife-edge thriller of Phillip Noyce’s “Dead Calm” (1989), with a young Kidman, but its similar willingness to wound almost makes it seem like we’re witnessing a film from an alternative universe, where Australian cinema and an iconic antipodean actress have progressed in that vein and there’s a market for the mad and bruised and downright grownup. The dual masterpieces of Nicolas Roeg’s “Walkabout” and Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” are obvious gongs the filmmakers cannot reach to strike, and there are echoes of more recent movies as well, like Denis Villeneuve’s “Prisoners.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Tribe

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tribe-1

RECOMMENDED

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s Cannes-prized “The Tribe” (Plemya) is a gorgeously wrought provocation about nightmarish violent daily life at a Ukrainian boarding school for deaf youth. Even a third viewing of this unvarnished and passionately unrelenting movie across eight months reveals a filmmaker who cuts little slack, including the unsubtitled local sign language in which the characters communicate. (If this device comprises a gimmick, all on-screen gimmicks ought to be used as audaciously.) Sex, jealousy, revenge and violence are the essential elements of Slaboshpytskiy’s elemental story, cast with nonactors. Slaboshpytskiy and Valentyn Vasyanovych, credited as both cinematographer and editor, alternate between the ragged and the well-wrought, between objet d’art and the incidentally observed, between extended long takes and icy tableaux. And even when the motives are unclear, the intensely gestural performances fascinate. With Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy. 132m. (Ray Pride)

“The Tribe” opens Friday, July 10 at the Music Box for an extended run.

Review: Jimmy’s Hall

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RECOMMENDED

Wistful yet muscular late Ken Loach, “Jimmy’s Hall” tenderly massages the biography of Jimmy Gralton, an innate, indefatigable Irish rebel who was driven from his County Leitrim home during the Civil War, and again ten years later, when he returns in the spring of 1932. Jimmy’s sin in both instances, met with hate, hysteria and obstruction by the Church and police, was to erect a meeting place outside the tight societal strictures of the time, a place where poetry and dance and a dash of politics could be communicated. For this, he’s labeled a “communist,” and later, with his compatriots, “antichrists.” But the sense of community is rich, deftly sketched, defiantly progressive. The sense of landscape is gentle, and Loach’s eye is still avid for supple imagery. And even in a scene where Jimmy (Barry Ward) rallies his friends after they’ve taken back the home of a dispossessed family from a wretched landlord, and he speaks in spirited cadence about timeless idealism toward economic justice, the battle of labor versus big and bigger money, Loach and the great cinematographer Robbie Ryan (“Wuthering Heights,” “Red Road,” “Fish Tank,” “Ginger and Rosa”) position him in a calm frame, imploring in middle distance against a backdrop of a wood, of greenery waving gently, everlastingly, history rustling a timeless landscape. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Full Moon In Paris

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FULLMOONINPARIS
RECOMMENDED

Eric Rohmer: where to begin? How about with an offhanded masterpiece, 1984’s “Full Moon in Paris,” the most elegant of the splendid miniatures that constitute his cycle of “Comedies and Proverbs” romantic comedies? Louise (Pascale Ogier) is the bright center of his tale, an artistic young woman working in a design firm who abandons an older lover for a sequence of flings and affairs that have consequence by virtue of their very inconsequence. The slender but electric Ogier is a natural screen presence, and she beguiles her men (and the audience) with her angular, even aquiline features, her quick smile, her 1980s hair piled high, large-lidded wide eyes taking it all in with gentle bemusement and modest befuddlement. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Little Death

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LittleDeath6
RECOMMENDED

Writer-director-actor Josh Lawson’s “The Little Death” is a rude rapscallion of an Australian comedy, drawing its title from a French term for orgasm, “le petite mort.” Lawson’s script hits much more than it misses, with bracing bursts of unlikely honesty in overlapping vignettes about five couples, their sexual hopes, fetishes and downfalls, with a sequence of endings that come together in a ravishingly sustained comic climax. (Scenes include masochism, foot fetishism, watching a partner sleep, enjoying a partner crying, roleplaying, obscene phone calls, and a cheery sex offender whose gift of cookies distracts the neighbors when he comes by to notify them he lives nearby.) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Eden

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

EDEN-Photo-Felix-DJ-1440x600

RECOMMENDED

With her fourth feature, the dreamy, low-key “Eden,” Mia Hansen-Løve continues to work in a different style that suits the subject at hand. Based on a screenplay she wrote with her brother, Sven Hansen-Løve, who is also a deejay, her film follows two decades in an unaging young deejay’s life in the Parisian electronic dance scene of the 1990s. Based partly on Sven’s experience, as well as those of Daft Punk, “Eden,” simmers in music and mood but the floppy-haired cipher of a male lead (Felix De Givry) is her least interesting protagonist yet, especially in light of the sharply drawn, nuanced figures of the middle-aged male protagonist of “Father of My Children” (2009) and the young girl center-screen in “Goodbye First Love” (2011). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Little England

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Little-England

RECOMMENDED

(Mikra Anglia) Pantelis Voulgaris’ 2013 dream project, “Little England,” is a nice slice of Greek pageantry, a richly melodramatic “women’s picture” centering on three young women on the Greek island of Andros in the 1930s and, as the slogan for the local release put it, “one house, one secret, one man, two sisters.” Ships come and go, the waves crash, passions thrive. Men leave for the sea, women await, triangles turn. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Farewell Party

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THEFAREWELLPARTY5

RECOMMENDED

(Mita Tova) Life, death and laughter erupt at a Jerusalem retirement home when the facts of assisted suicide come into play among five friends in Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit’s bold, measured, but near-impudent “The Farewell Party.” The screenplay’s mix of gallows humor, moral pondering and uplift is deft even in the face of the creation and application of a euthanasia machine, and the acting by Ze’ev Revach, Levana Finkelshtein, Aliza Rozen, Ilan Dar and Rafael Tabor is universally fine. Read the rest of this entry »