Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

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 »

Review: Goodbye To Language

3-D, Action, Documentary, Recommended, Romance, World Cinema No Comments »

Goodbye Roxie Mieville

(Adieu au langage 3D) Roxy Miéville: superstar. With querulous, dark, liquid eyes, and a torso that extends from the back of the screen and a long, aquiline nose that juts out over the audience and nearly to your fingertips to be petted, the sleek, sniffulous mutt owned by Jean-Luc Godard is the most lustrous of special effects in his hectic, cryptic 3D provocation, “Farewell to Language.” Working with cinematographer Fabrice D’Aragno over the course of four years, the now-eighty-four-year-old Godard wreaks multidimensional effects other filmmakers wouldn’t dare, often created with only a couple of small consumer cameras strapped together and wielded by the filmmaker himself. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Two Days, One Night

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »


For their first collaboration with a well-known actor, Belgium’s Dardenne brothers have exceptional fortune with the harried but haunting features of international star Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night.” Tremulous, troubled, visibly still recovering from a breakdown, Sandra finds her employers at a solar panel factory have told the other workers they can make do with one less employee, and if she’s let go, they each get a bonus that they can all use. Capital aligns worker against worker and a depressed woman must seek the sufferance of her colleagues if she is to keep her job. It’s quiet violence, pitting worker against worker. Over the course of the weekend, before a Monday meeting she manages to prompt, Sandra has to approach each of her equals to make the case she needs the job more than they need the extra euros. Community or the individual? The dramatization of the conflict is pungent, but Cotillard’s Oscar-nominated performance (of a different register than her equally accomplished work in 2014’s “The Immigrant”) is the shining center of “Two Days.” Jean-Pierre Dardenne has said, “What was important for us was to show someone excluded because she is considered weak, because she doesn’t perform well enough. The film praises this ‘non-performing’ character who finds strength and courage through the fight she conducts with her husband.” Quietly, surely bruising, “Two Days, One Night” is a story from behind the headlines and beneath the figures on the financials of businesses worldwide. 95m. (Ray Pride)

“Two Days, One Night” is now playing at the Music Box.

Review: Leviathan

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



Bearing a mantel of authenticity as heavy as rain itself, the allegorical weight of “Leviathan” is both lyrical and blunt, compacted experience suggestive of many things, some mystical and some merely sodden, and not entirely drawn from the book of Job. The grimness of Putin’s post-Soviet project is draped upon the shoulders of one honorable auto mechanic whose family home on a prime stretch along the Bering Sea is about to be taken by a drunken, corrupt politician. Andrey Zvyagintsev hardly bothers to disguise his momentous, taut allegory of world-weariness in contemporary Russia, nor his interest in ever larger, ever-unanswerable questions. Tempers simmer, imbibe, combust, with righteously apocalyptic fury. Did I mention that it might also be the year’s most accomplished black comedy? Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Winter Sleep

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“Winter Sleep,” the great Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s mesmerizing fifteen-years-in-conception Cannes Palme d’Or-winning chamber epic doesn’t waste a breath in its 196 minutes. Ceylan (“Once Upon A Time In Anatolia,” “Climates”) is as loving in painting panoramas of the Turkish landscape as in detailing the contours of the intense psychology of its characters. Aydin, an hotelier in the ruggedly beautiful central Anatolian region of Cappadocia, has a dissatisfied younger wife, and his sister is staying with them after a divorce. Winter arrives. Shelter is tenuous, the landscape demanding, conversations ensue, persist, roll on with the beautiful power of an ancient stream. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Way He Looks

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The true Belle & Sebastian movie of 2014 isn’t frontman Stuart Murdoch’s own “God Help The Girl,” but the modest, understated “The Way He Looks” (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho), Brazil’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Daniel Ribeiro’s slightly corny, proficiently visualized coming-of-age tale floats on the strains of B&S’ music as he imagines a triangle between a blind boy, his best female friend and the new boy in school. The characters are gay, but it’s no big deal, much like most of what passes before the camera. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mr. Turner

Biopic, Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »


At the age of seventy-one, the great British writer-director Mike Leigh brings a longtime dream to supple fruition: a robust yet understated, unalloyed two-and-half-hour celebration of the boldly imagined, bracingly colored, late work of the great painter J.M.W. Turner, as well as his curmudgeonly disposition, captured by Timothy Spall in classic dudgeon. “Mr. Turner” etches the last years in Turner’s life as a peripatetic succession of confrontations with nature and society, with the suggestion of compositions wedged in between. Spall’s Turner has little patience for the world that surrounds him, but Leigh has all the patience in the world for Turner’s spiteful and sometimes malefic behavior toward those around him, from lovers and mistresses to illegitimate daughters and pesky art critics. (Turner’s prickliness, as embraced by Spall, is amusingly akin to Leigh’s own impatience with critical sorts and interviewers, which I will attest to personally.) The art or the bad man? Leigh chooses both with melancholy and highly calibrated discernment. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Strange Little Cat

Comedy, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »


Three siblings attend a peculiar family dinner in “The Strange Little Cat” (Das merkwürdige Kätzchen), Swiss writer-director-sound designer-editor Ramon Zürcher’s precise, economical seventy-one-minute debut. Its story is a playful, minimalist variation on Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” and while reminiscent of the work of Chantal Akerman and similar rigorous filmmakers, in its own confined way, it’s even a little like Jacques Tati’s “Playtime.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Zero Motivation

Comedy, World Cinema No Comments »


“M*A*S*H” meets “Mean Girls” on the way to “Office Space”? A pair of apolitical young female soldiers at an artillery base in the south of Israel long to escape their remote posting as well as the inanities of military bureaucracy in Talya Lavie’s smart, cheeky comedy, “Zero Motivation.” The comic results are mixed, but Lavie knows her way around the topic of boredom, and co-stars Dana Ivgy and Nelly Tagar’s expressive reactions to a world of tedium, without promise, offer wide-eyed relief as “Zero Motivation” grows increasingly dark. Read the rest of this entry »

Deadly Darlings: Burning Influence In “The Babadook”

Horror, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »


By Ray Pride

Writers are told to kill their darlings, but, truly, they have to kill their masters. Murder them in their sleep.

Sometimes, often enough, I fret I’m too fixated on how authors and filmmakers are in thrall to their forebears, but the concern is always in the service of figuring out how they’ve burned through them. At the beginning and into the middle of the career of super-Swede Ingmar Bergman, critics would often pin the influence of Scandinavian dramatists like August Strindberg onto his work, but no one got it right until the writer, probably some Brit whose name I can’t recall, who said, you can see the influences, but no one else influenced by those playwrights had come anywhere near close to making an Ingmar Bergman movie. (Or being Ingmar fucking Bergman.)

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