Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

To Be Or Not To Be Wes: History Under the Influence at “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

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Digital Fusion Image Library TIFF FileBy Ray Pride

If on a winter’s night, a screenwriter…

Wes Anderson’s dense, compacted, throwback-look forward, comic mock-operetta of a mythic Mitteleuropa seemingly patterned after the no-place/not-home movies of filmmakers like Lubitsch, Lang, Ophuls, Mamoulian and Renoir, who had escaped the onrushing events between the wars in Europe, bursts with influence, overflows with decor, makes whimsy in the reflected light of offscreen historical horrors. Bold balderdash and elevated deadpan, its most ready surface influence would appear to be heady expatriate confections like “To Be Or Not To Be,” and other films of that time that do not stint on looming shadows in faux-European studio settings.

Anderson’s everyman-in-no-man’s-land is Gustave H., the concierge of an ocean liner of a wedding-cake deluxe hotel in the fictional duchy of Zubrowka, The Grand Budapest Hotel. He is a man with a job, if not a surname or a notable nationality. Ralph Fiennes invests H. with the brusque panache of both the boulevardier and the comic lights of the stage. Lubitsch’s blithe cosmopolitanism is supplanted by brute snippiness in the person of Fiennes. Speaking faster than he fast-walks, his H. is given to “oh fuck it”s that are the verbal equal of Indiana Jones choosing to take out a pistol and dispatch a scimitar-wielding opponent. (Fiennes is nourished by H.’s bursts of comic filth.) His impatience, his hurry, accelerates the sense that a narrative, an era, is hurtling to a close, as well as setting the tempo for the heist-and-chase design of the movie.

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Children of Paradise: Unboxing Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom”

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moonkingBy Ray Pride

A list of readily identifiable possible influences streaming into Wes Anderson’s symphonic romance “Moonrise Kingdom” would quickly become a trainwreck at the cinémathèque. (Think “outlaw couple” and rummage further from there.) And yet, it’s great, it’s thrilling, it’s moody, it’s marvelous, it’s A Big Golden Book of Wes; an encyclopedia of All Things Anderson.

Childhood, the past: memory, an island. It’s 1965, the year Jean-Luc Godard’s apocalyptic Nouvelle Vague runaway-lovers tale, “Pierrot le fou” was released. We’re transported emphatically onto a seemingly remote New England island in summer, where two twelve-year-olds fall in love, run away into the impossibly complex wilderness and leave a community of adults behind, a weave and weft of authority of childlike demeanor that includes parents and “Khaki Scout” scoutmasters and a sheriff and a narrator and a child-safety bureaucrat named only “Social Services.” Information comes at us in a fashion formal yet berserk: the cast includes a welter of stylish performers from all manner of styles, and they mesh beautifully. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin

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RECOMMENDED

Scottish director Lynne Ramsay’s last released feature was 2002′s “Morvern Callar”; among the heartbreaks along the way was “The Lovely Bones” being wrested away from her for a directorial project for Peter Jackson, whose strange, cruel, bloated adaptation pleased no one. The Criterion edition of Ramsay’s 1999 “Ratcatcher” also holds her shorts “Gasman,” “Kill the Day” and “Small Deaths,” two of which were rewarded with Cannes honors. Simply, she’s a great, bravura, visual, sensual director. Even if you’ve never seen one of her films, you’ve missed her: she’s the kind of intelligent, unsparing filmmaker we could use a dozen of. Read the rest of this entry »

I Wake Up Screening: Another Week of Chicago International Film Fest at Forty-Seven

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Crazy Horse

By Ray Pride

No matter even if you truly wanted to, there’s no way a single viewer could give you an overview of an international film festival with more than a hundred events: you can surmise all you want, based on what festival films have played or have been reviewed at already, or the filmmakers’ reputation. Even festival programmers miss out on sections they’re not part of. I’ll be curious to see statistics after this year’s CIFF to see how many programs the average, but dedicated moviegoer, is able to attend. It’s tough even if you’ve been to a few prior festivals, seen a fistful of advance screeners, availed yourself of advance screenings. But, as luck, fortune or programming may have it, Chicago International has more programs of note in its second week, and a growing number of them have further distribution in the near future. (Disclosure: I was a program consultant for this year’s Docufest section.) Read the rest of this entry »

Season’s Screenings: Chicago International Film Festival at forty-seven

Chicago Artists, Documentary, Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

Goodbye, First Love

By Ray Pride

After summer’s somersaults, autumn through Christmas is when the grownup movies come out to play, and the forty-seventh edition of the Chicago International Film Festival has a lot to celebrate. In this rundown, I’ll keep “great” as a random adjective to a minimum. (Disclosure: I was a program consultant for this year’s Docufest section.)

From the highlights of the program, it seems like it’s going to be a strong season for good, solid movies in coming months. The range of films being shown that have been submitted for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award seem to be uncommonly strong as well. While there may well be other discoveries to be made, most of the films recommended here will show up in commercial or art-house release. Screenings can sell out in advance, which may partly be due to the capacity of the smaller screens at River East. The festival is keeping a running tally of shutouts on their Facebook page. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: !Women Art Revolution

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RECOMMENDED

Writer-director-shooter-editor Lynn Hershman Leeson draws from almost forty years of her own observation (and filming) of makers of feminist art to compile her personal secret history since the 1960s, the genial overview that is “!Women Art Revolution.” Less interested in critique than in celebration via talking heads, Leeson, whose films include at least three collaborations with Tilda Swinton—”Strange Culture,” “Conceiving Ada,” and “Teknolust”—covers a lot of ground. The roster of figures, which calls out more for the luxury of a Ken Burns-style extended treatment than a dense, sometimes baggy feature like this, includes Miranda July, Judy Chicago, B. Ruby Rich, Rachel Rosenthal, Dr. Amelia Jones, Martha Wilson, Faith Ringgold, Judith Baca, Miriam Schapiro, Hannah Wilke, Eleanor Antin, Nancy Spero and the Guerrilla Girls. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: European Union Film Festival Week 3

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RECOMMENDED
The three most striking films previewed from this week’s offerings at the Siskel Film Center’s European Union Film Festival each have powerful women at their center. Andrea Dunbar was a gifted, troubled playwright from Bradford, England at the time of her death at 29 from a brain hemorrhage that may have been brought on by a lifetime’s drinking and hard living. She was best known for her play, “The Arbor,” as well as the play and film of the ribald, hardheaded “Rita, Sue and Bob Too,” directed by Alan Clarke, who also died early. In the “The Arbor,” director Clio Barnard uses disparate bits to reconstruct the life and talent of Dunbar, including having actors lip-sync recorded interviews with those who knew her and the writer herself in documentary footage. It’s all of a heartbreaking piece. Cynthia Beatt’s “The Invisible Frame” makes poetry from the simplest conceit, repeating an experiment Tilda Swinton had engaged in 1988, with Swinton cycling along the closed Berlin Wall in “Cycling the Frame.” In “The Invisible Frame,” Swinton cycles the landscape of Berlin, on both sides of the vanished 160 kilometers of Wall; literary recitations are complemented by splendid, inventive sound design from the musician Simon Fisher Turner. Tilda is presented as goddess of everydayness, cyclist in the city, seen, unseen, tracing its traces. Read the rest of this entry »

The Top 5 of Everything 2010: Film

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The Social Network

Top 5 Domestic Films
“The Social Network,” David Fincher
“Winter’s Bone,” Debra Granik
“Ghost Writer,” Roman Polanski
“Exit Through the Gift Shop,” Banksy
“Inception,” Christopher Nolan
— Ray Pride

Top 5 Foreign Films
“Carlos,” Olivier Assayas
“Everyone Else,” Maren Ade
“Dogtooth,” Yorgos Lanthimos
“Father of My Children,” Mia Hansen-Løve
“I Am Love,” Luca Guadagnino
— Ray Pride

Top 5 Films
“Animal Kingdom,” David Michôd
“Enter the Void,” Gaspar Noé
“Inception,” Christopher Nolan
“Lourdes,” Jessica Hausner
“Monsters,” Gareth Edwards
—Bill Stamets

Top 5 Documentary Films
“Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno,” Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea
“Sweetgrass,” (no director credited) [Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor]
“The Oath,” Laura Poitras
“Videocracy,” Erik Gandini
“Rembrandt’s J’Accuse,” Peter Greenaway
—Bill Stamets Read the rest of this entry »

Review: I Am Love

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

As Milan is dusted with late winter snow, the first pulsations of music under the credits of Sicilian director Luca Guadagnino’s sumptuous, scrumptious “I Am Love” (Io Sono L’Amore)—a passage from “Nixon in China,” like the rest of the score from John Adams’ back catalogue of operas (ransacked profitably as Michael Nyman’s was for “Man on Wire”)—you cannot but sigh at a melodramatic confidence that would be nothing more than arrogance and swagger if it were not so generous in its visual and aural delights. The atmospheric European art film lives. Shot in Italian, it’s a decade-long project for the director and Tilda Swinton.  A generational story of a wealthy Russian family with textiles woven into their history, transplanted to Italy, has evoked comparisons to Visconti’s late, magisterial examinations of his own class, but I swoon to a velocity and lush texture that suggests the style of Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Conformist” or late Douglas Sirk, with a tincture of Antoni-ennui. (He’s a greedy and knowing student.) Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2009: Film

News and Dish, The State of Cinema No Comments »

Top 5 U.S. Filmsthe-hurt-locker-pic1
“The Hurt Locker,” Kathryn Bigelow
“The Limits of Control,” Jim Jarmusch
“A Serious Man,” Joel and Ethan Coen
“Two Lovers,” James Gray
“The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Wes Anderson
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Foreign Films
“Summer Hours,” Olivier Assayas
“The Headless Woman,” Lucrecia Martel
“35 Shots of Rum,” Claire Denis
“You, the Living,” Roy Andersson
“Night and Day,” Hong Sang-soo
—Ray Pride Read the rest of this entry »