Megaplexes and more modest moviehouses are back in many cities, including Chicago, with rules and limited seating. The Ringer’s writer finds the consultant with the worst possible Manhattan-centric take: “It’s going to play a major role and start some momentum. When the cultural capital and marketing engine that is New York is awakened, people outside that area will see the news and there will be a buzz that going to the movies is a thing again.” Tell it to the Music Box; tell it to the festivals like Chicago Latino that will again be sharing pictures at the drive-in (including the new Rita Moreno documentary).
The Chicago Film Society tweets its take:
Note dingy white tote bag filled with plastic bags, in turn likely filled with individually wrapped candies. It’s crinkling time baby! pic.twitter.com/Fk148gKPQz
— Chicago Film Society (@thefilmsociety) March 9, 2021
Coming up: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League“; “Wojnarowicz“; Jennifer Reeder’s forthcoming lecture series on difficult women in film; “Flannery“; “Céline and Julie Go Boating“; films by Wong Kar-wai; and a startlingly peevish, even sadistic passage from Woody Allen’s memoir in reflection to “Allen v. Farrow.”
“Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” aka the once-apocryphal “Snyder Cut,” unfurls on HBO Max in its four-hour-two-minute darkling glory. I witnessed the abomination of the Joss Whedon “Justice League”—was it at IMAX?—and was sufficiently shell-shocked not to shed a drop of blood putting its dulled sensations into language. What virtues will Snyder bring to the production that tragedy tore him from? To the most gargantuan feat of retcon-cum-fan service ever performed by a conglomerate like WarnerMedia, with estimates as high as seventy million dollars? Among the snips and snaps dropped along the trail of the internet—“We live in a society!”—Snyder has altered the screen ratio of his black-and-white-adjacent movie, along the lines of the nearly square IMAX screen, or close to the standard 1:33:1 “Academy” frame used on most movies until the 1960s. (Squaresville, daddy!) Meanwhile, dozens of characters make friction in a swim through profuse, liquid miasma for their fraction of screen time. HBO Max, from March 18.
“Wojnarowicz,” also known as “Fuck You —— Fucker” is an archives-rich portrait of the late downtown New York City activist-artist-writer-photographer David Wojnarowicz. (“Resist, Motherfucker, Resist,” would be apt, too.)
Director Chris McKim, whose past work includes showrunner of the first four seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” augments the queer, vociferously political artist’s films, painting and journals from the height of his career during the 1980s AIDS epidemic with recollections from his peers present and past, including Peter Hujar, Nan Goldin, Fran Lebowitz, gallerist Gracie Mansion and curator Barry Blinderman, as well as taped journals and answering machine recordings. “Whatever work I’ve done,” we hear him tell Terry Gross for “Fresh Air” from 1990, “it’s always been informed by my experience as an American in this country, as a homosexual in this country, as a person who is legislated into silence in this country.” Even when the documentary tends to timeline, out rage and outrage from the work still bleed onto the screen. Siskel, streaming from March 19 to April 15. There will be a free, virtual discussion Thursday, April at 6pm with director Chris McKim, Barry Blinderman and Dr. Dan Berger, moderated by Robyn Farrell, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. Register here.
The Siskel Film Center continues its Talking Pictures lectures on Tuesdays, April 13, 20, and 27, with Jennifer Reeder expanding on “Persistent Resistance: Unknowable Women in Film,” through three of her favorite features that try yet cannot contain their female figures: Todd Haynes’ “Safe” (1995); Chantal Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” (1975) and Agnès Varda’s “Vagabond (Sans toit ni loi),” (1985). Siskel, April.
American Masters has the broadcast premiere of “Flannery,” co-directed, written and produced by Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco, S.J., who met and began their project on the author Flannery O’Connor as colleagues at Loyola University. Showing two days before O’Connor’s ninety-sixth birthday (March 25), “Flannery,” narrated by Mary Steenburgen, includes interviews about the haunted, haunting literary great, ranging from Conan O’Brien to Tommy Lee Jones, from Hilton Als to Alice Walker. WTTW and DVD, March 23; streaming PBS.org.
Once upon several times… “Céline and Julie Go Boating” was as much of a cinephile’s grail in the United States as Jacques Rivette’s thirteen-hour “Out 1” (1971) circulating in a murky, ancient VHS edition as well as unofficial DVD copies. (Whoever put hands on my 2006 British Region 2 DVD right before the pandemic, pls return, thx.) Rivette’s 1974 outing has a 35mm print buried in some shuttered storehouse, but the Criterion Blu-ray (described by the label as “one of the all-time-great hangout comedies”) illuminates a special dreamland, a playful, indelible haunted house of theater, cinema, Lewis Carroll and larky lady magicians in a single inexhaustible encyclopedia cornucopia. A couple of notes from Rivette, from the long-out-of-print “Rivette: Texts and Interviews,” edited by film scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum, notes that the film, like much of his 1970s work, was shot in 16mm. “Contrary to what some critics… thought, our ambitions weren’t along the lines of parody, but rather a pastiche of an old-fashioned sort of cinema, for instance, the use of wide angles and deep focus. You might almost say that I am trying to bring back MGM Technicolor! There is almost no improvisation, the scenes were carefully constructed beforehand, and the racy, zigzag character of the film is completely premeditated.” Juliet Berto, Dominique Labourier and Bulle Ogier captivate across the 193-minute running time. Read Beatrice Loayza’s Criterion essay here: “Rivette’s fifth feature film, a masterpiece of modern cinema, wields laughter—women’s laughter—like a weapon for shattering conventions.” Criterion, $40. Also streaming on the Criterion Channel.
The epic Blu-ray edition of seven restored films of “World of Wong Kar-Wai“ shimmers into view, too: I wrote about the recent theatrical release in “Years Gone By,” here. Wong writes: “We were caught in a dilemma between restoring them to the form in which the audience had remembered them and to how I had originally envisioned them. There was so much that we could change, and I decided to take the second path, as it would represent my most vivid vision of these films.” Criterion, $200.
For those who have heard Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s “Allen v. Farrow” (HBO Max) calling out in the wilderness, a bell around its neck, “Unclean, unclean,” and run the opposite direction, here’s a passage as brisk emetic, from Woody Allen’s 2020 “Apropos of Nothing,” part memoir, part banal, even rote confession of sexual fixations, and in the end, a brackish settling of scores that stinks up the intermittently interesting passages of comedy history. “Another rumor that I heard early on was that Mia’s brothers had been sexually aggressive with the beautiful Farrow sisters growing up,” Allen writes, or dictates. “The Farrow brother who is now serving years in prison for child molestation has said that their father had molested him and quite possibly his siblings. Moses says that Mia had told him she had been the victim of attempted molestation within her own family. Mia’s father had a reputation as an unfaithful husband. Mia herself told me she caught him in the act with a famous movie actress. Mia had three beautiful sisters and three brothers. One brother died behind the controls of a plane. Another brother committed suicide with a gun. The third brother was convicted of molesting boys and sentenced to prison.
“Now I know what you’re thinking: What kind of boob am I?” Allen continues. “Given the profile I just rattled off, why didn’t I bail, fake my own death, and start over in a situation with less potential for emotional combustion? I have no answer. I just know that a charming personality and big blue eyes have always been able to launch a thousand ships. So here was I, blinded by a bright actress with a drop-dead punim, putting my little four-chambered organ in her hands and telling myself that it was amazing how Mia escaped all the family bedlam. Whatever effort it took to control herself to hide things, to function, charm, she managed with great acting skills.” Yea, verily: unclean, unclean.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.