A Week In Chicago Film, January 14-20, 2022
Several openings set for this week have been postponed out of caution, Sundance cancelled its live-in-Park City component and has gone full virtual, but Paramount is going full-scream ahead with horror retread “Scream” on 3,500 screens. (Insert cartoon with Edvard Munch painting here.) Joel Coen’s pared-away dreamscape variation on German expressionist film, “The Tragedy Of Macbeth,” arrives on Apple TV Plus. French director Bruno Dumont continues a run of wildly different films with the newscaster-has-doubts “France.” Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke” plays Friday and Saturday night at 11:30pm at the Music Box. Siskel’s showing Cassavetes’ heartbreaking love story “A Woman Under The Influence” starring the ineffable Gena Rowlands on 35mm on Monday, January 17.
Bruno Dumont’s a quirky one, right? The French filmmaker began his career with ultra-dour tragedies captured with painterly intent, such as “Humanity” (1999), capably cast with nonprofessional actors; then the full-frontal freakout of the California desert-set “Twentynine Palms” (2003) and then the soul-of-terrorism “Hadewijch” (2009). He moved on to a pair of films about Joan of Arc, including a musical, and then goofy, giddy knockabout comedies such as 2014’s “Lil’ Quinquin,” films much esteemed by the Canadian film quarterly, Cinema Scope. For his latest sea change, “France,” Dumont provides a star vehicle for Léa Seydoux (“Blue is the Warmest Color,” “The French Dispatch”) as a superstar television journalist, France de Meurs. What begins as a satire of modern media turns into something tragic: her beaming visage is bedded in darkness. Gorgeously shot, wholeheartedly despairing and often extremely funny, in Seydoux’s performance, it’s a slippery portrait of a modern professional losing control of both surfaces and depths. Siskel Film Center, opens Friday, January 14.
Chicago Tribune film critic of fifteen years Michael Wilmington was 75. He was “a singular, ardent lover of cinema,” writes The Trib’s Michael Phillips as he recalls his predecessor: “Wilmington was often seen at screenings and festival events accompanied by his mother.” [She was known to all as “Mrs. Wilmington.”] “She was enough of a fixture to be made an honorary member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. She died in 2009. Wilmington wrote extensively on film for Madison’s alternative weekly, Isthmus, among other publications. Moving to LA, he wrote steadily for the Los Angeles Times from 1984 to 1993. He moved to Chicago in 1993 to take the full-time staff film critic job at the Tribune, writing after his Tribune tenure for the Movie City News website. His final review for that Los Angeles-based website, on Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Paterson,’ appeared in late 2016.” I edited Michael’s pieces for Movie City News and may have gotten an idea of his latter-day passions and preconceptions more than just about anyone else; that “Paterson” piece is a very good envoi, much as Roger Ebert’s final filed piece on Terrence Malick’s “To The Wonder” had suited his thoughts at that moment. Wilmington: “A poet takes words, thoughts and objects, talks colors and feelings, and makes them palpably physical and dancingly metaphoric. Occasionally he (she) rhymes; more often she (he) collides those words and thoughts into something (hopefully) pared down and memorable,” wrote Wilmington. Paterson, the bus driver character played by Adam Driver, “has a route and a schedule–a fixed routine that he always follows—get up, breakfast (Cheerios), drive the bus, spot a lot of twins and couples, go to Doc’s bar, write a poem, go home, gab with his wife, go to sleep, wake up, start all over again. (Seven times, which makes a week.) This single-minded schedule (like God, all he needs is a week) has enabled Paterson to accumulate a whole notebook full of poems, all written somewhat in emulation of William Carlos Williams—and actually penned by poet Ron Padgett. But also, because of Paterson’s imprudent refusal to copy the poems (as Laura keeps suggesting that he do), leaves him vulnerable to the dog who does eat his homework…Who are we to judge? I’m just another voice in the dark, thank you very much, and I’ve always enjoyed the stories that Jarmusch wants to tell me (us). Poet. Know it. Don’t blow it.” (Wilmington favored his 2009 memorial to his mother: “My mother was not a total saint. She could be cranky and stubborn and she could scream out her frustrations, and she messed up or tried to mess up my love life a few times. I loved her anyway. To me, she seemed invulnerable. But nobody is. She was amazingly healthy for almost all her life, despite never going to doctors. Then, last year, she took a fall in our Chicago apartment… My mother was not a total saint. She could be cranky and stubborn and she could scream out her frustrations, and she messed up or tried to mess up my love life a few times. I loved her anyway.”
Another local film scene loss, still in the making: “Last month, G/O management told its seven Chicago-based A.V. Club employees that they either had to move to Los Angeles to work in the company’s new office there or lose their jobs. The employees were not offered cost-of-living increases,” posts the Onion union. “The first workers expected to move were told they had until January 15 to decide. None of the seven A.V. Club employees have yet told G/O management their decision. But for some reason, G/O listed three of those positions on its job site last night. To be clear, these positions are NOT vacant. But G/O isn’t being particularly subtle about whether or not it wants many of its longest-tenured employees to remain in their jobs. The Chicago-based A.V. Club employees comprise seven of the nine A.V. Club staff members with the longest tenures, ranging from just short of six years to more than thirteen years. By refusing to give cost-of-living increases, it’s clear G/O wants these veteran employees to leave so the company can replace them with workers paid at the salary minimums as stipulated in the union contract—minimums that were bargained based on Chicago rates… We demand that G/O pay all its employees—past, present, and future—what they deserve.”
With a $1 million grant from the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation and Jessy Pucker, the Northwestern University School of Communication has launched a student film incubator dedicated to changing mental health portrayals in movies, television and media. The mission of the Pritzker Pucker Studio Lab for the Promotion of Mental Health via Cinematic Arts will be to create and support narrative screenwriting, television writing and media-making about mental health. “We strive to provide our students with the best facilities, faculty and experiential opportunities, as well as help them address their mental health and wellbeing,” E. Patrick Johnson, dean of the School of Communication says in a release. “Pritzker Pucker Studio Lab director David Tolchinsky [Newcity Film 50] says, ‘It is well-documented that mass media has long perpetuated a profoundly negative stigma related to mental health. Through one-dimensional viewpoints, inaccurate portrayals and depictions centered on fear and shame, the media has reinforced discriminatory behavior toward people experiencing mental health issues and propagated impediments to treatment and recovery. We believe there is an enormous opportunity to use media—in particular, narrative filmmaking across drama, comedy and horror—as a means to shine a light on a wide range of mental health issues.” More here.
The late Peter Bogdanovich’s final work could be a twenty-one-second cat video he posted on his YouTube website on August 7, 2019. Vive les frères Lumière!
That YouTube account offers a total of seventy five-minute video appreciations from a series that ran in the 1990s that range the gamut of his interests and favored subjects, including, yes, Orson Welles, which are here. The Siskel Film Center will stream Bogdanovich’s sophomore smash, “The Last Picture Show,” starting Friday, January 14.
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.