Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: We Come As Friends

Documentary, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »
Hubert Sauper © Ray Pride copy

Hubert Sauper/Photo: Ray Pride


“We Come As Friends,” Hubert Sauper’s teeming, Breughel-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 »

Review: The Iron Ministry

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



J. P. Sniadecki’s clamorously atmospheric doc, “The Iron Ministry,” was shot across three years of the infernal, eternal expansion of the vast Chinese rail system. As the railways expand, Sniadecki rides the rails from 2011-2013 and traffics in sensory reportage as he meets passengers in the cramped confines, who bear blunt, wry attitude about class and cash under his direct cinema-styled eye—“What if you do have a ballot, and the choice is one more sonofabitch?” Then he assembles the travels as if we were all on a single, swift journey. Where are they headed? Where are we headed? Coolly formal yet ceaselessly tactile, his film works from lovely visual abstraction to the most material of physical concerns. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Look Of Silence

Documentary, Drama, Political, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



Cool-headed, formally rigorous, shapely and even extremely beautiful, the two documentaries by Joshua Oppenheimer and his sometimes-anonymous collaborators about genocide and its eddying effects on humans and history are unlikely masterpieces. And yet here they are: two bulging versions of performatively provocative “The Act of Killing” (2012) and now the slim, bone-chilling “The Look Of Silence.” While the first documentary on the lasting effects of the 1965 Indonesian genocide was criticized by some for its baroque invention, a parallel film, which could be considered an “answer film” to a movie not yet questioned, was in production, the masterful “The Look of Silence,” a deep, dark, calmer, in ways more disturbing take on the tenuous bonds of civilization and contours of recorded history. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Prince

Comedy, Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



(Prins) Dutch director Sam de Jong’s “Prince” draws largely on non-actors to populate a sometimes-touching, sometimes-goofy tale of Moroccan-Dutch youth one hot summer in the local projects. Seventeen-year-old Ayoub (Ayoub Elasri) is caught up in dilemma after dilemma, from a sister who’s starting to turn eyes to keeping an eye on his homeless Moroccan father. Plus, being a teenage boy among other, prone-to-crime teens. De Jong, whose earlier work, including videos, is filled with stylish goings-on, partakes of minimalism and surrealism at different junctures. There’s prole-positive deadpan humor suggesting an acquaintance with Aki Kaurismäki, and other bursts of mood are Harmony Korine-esque without directly resembling the corrupted-pop bad-boy bard of Nashville’s work. (“Prince” is co-presented by VICE, if that suggests anything.) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Phoenix

Drama, Recommended, Romance, World Cinema No Comments »



Christian Petzold’s precision—architectural, spatial, emotional—works again with surgical economy as Nina Hoss once more stars for him, this time as Nelly, a German-Jewish nightclub singer disfigured by a bullet while in a concentration camp who searches doggedly for clues to how she got to where she is in 1945 postwar Berlin. Reconstructive surgery gives Nelly a new face, and a new name, Esther, allowing her to return to the nightlife without being recognized, where she takes risks to find out who might have betrayed her, perhaps even her ex-husband who does not see her face in her face. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Tom At The Farm

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



Prolific Québécois still-a-wunderkind Xavier Dolan hasn’t caught many breaks in the States: his first three features, “I Killed My Mother” (2009),  “Heartbeats” (2010) and “Laurence Anyways” (2012), made no inroads. For his 2014 “Mommy,” his Instagram-shaped trailer-park melodrama, the twenty-six-year-old writer-director-actor-costumer shared a jury prize at Cannes with eighty-four-year-old Jean-Luc Godard, for “Adieu au Langage,” then grossed a reported $3.5 million in the States. Still, his Patricia Highsmith-ish “Tom At The Farm,” a disturbing psychosexual thriller, a queer noir brimful with characters with dubious motives and electric moments, arrives in the U.S. only now. For fans of Dolan’s delirium, it’s tremendous. Some viewers might be confounded. Few will be bored. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Kindergarten Teacher

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



(Haganenet) In Nadav Lapid’s slow-simmering second feature, a Tel Aviv kindergarten teacher fixates on a five-year-old pupil who blurts poetry. Lapid’s coolly stylized visuals immerse us in her worrying obsession, including Shai Goldman’s camera taking on the vantage of the word-besotted boy. Other feats of directorial legerdemain include the dance of the camera, such as within the room full of kids and in a consummately constructed climatic scene: it’s a high order of near-theatrical blocking that seduces immediately. Is little Yoav a full-blown messiah in the making? Or just another clever little beaker of glossolalia? Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence

Comedy, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



(En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron) Swedish slowpoke Roy Andersson’s latest apocalyptic comedy, “A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence,” four years in the making, is lovingly tragic and relentlessly cruel. How to describe his diligent, painterly, madly mannered, utterly singular comic method to the initiate? As I once described “Songs From the Second Floor,” his 2000 black-comic parable of a world in unending gridlock that’s my favorite of his limited filmography, its dry wit suggests Terry Gilliam, Ingmar Bergman and Luis Buñuel having giggle fits over several pitchers of Buñuel’s Virgin Martinis. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alleluia

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



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

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

In The Name Of My Daughter


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 »