A Week In Chicago Film, January 21-27, 2022
A slow season for new releases; January had traditionally been a dumping ground for mediocre or hapless studio movies, as well as a time to release movies that hope for Academy Award consideration. Plus, more movies have moved from their release dates into the indefinite future. The Music Box opens “The Scary Of Sixty-First” on 35mm; the distributor describes the film as a mix of Kubrick, Polanski and Jeffrey Epstein in a “Christmas-conspiracy-horror” confection.”With strong anti-establishment sensibilities, well executed social and political satire, plentiful sex and nudity, and a satisfyingly bleak and violent final act, writer-director-co-star Dasha Nekrasova’s film is an unfiltered and wholly original, contemporary exploitation-horror film” shot on 16mm. Animated documentary “Flee,” a prize-winner across the globe (including the Animation Is Film festival, where I was on the jury) also opens. Chantal Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” returns to the Film Center, in 35mm; and the Music Box announces “Highs & Lows,” a sequence of goofy double features in the run-up to Oscar night that combine low and high; e.g. “Peggy Sue Got Married” with “The Last Temptation Of Christ.” Plus, Jane Campion’s simmering psychological pic, “Power Of The Dog” gets a revival on the big screen at Siskel, January 21-23 and 25.
Danish filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s “Flee” is a documentary, largely animated, and packs a world into its brief ninety minutes; its form takes the function of obscuring the identity of its pseudonymous gay protagonist across twenty years of his life, even as he relates his story in his own voice, beginning as a child refugee from Afghanistan, as well as finding ways to go places cameras can’t. Rasmussen and “Amin Nawabi” had known each other since the 1990s, and had hoped to make radio documentaries about his experience. Instead, “Flee”: a work of witness and great imagination. “Amin wanted to come to terms with his past—because all the trauma associated with his childhood was creating distance between everyone in his life, not being able to share his full self had become a heavy burden for Amin. But he also wanted to share his story to make people understand what it means to flee for your life,” the director says in the film’s notes, “The animation made Amin feel comfortable with getting his story out, we could use his real voice in the film, but he could still remain anonymous. Which was also important for Amin as he has family who moved back to Afghanistan and he wants to respect their privacy, too.” Opens Thursday, January 20, Landmark Century.
The Film Center shows a 35mm print of Chantal Akerman’s 1975 groundbreaking feminist heavyweight, the killing daily routine of a middle-aged Belgian widow in the 201-minute “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” as part of its ongoing, yearlong “50/50” series. Sturdy, steady. Essential. Film Center, Monday, January 24, 6pm.
In the weeks slogging toward Oscar 2022 on March 27, the Music Box provides a selection of double bills, “Highs & Lows,” in association with Hollywood Entertainment and Oscarbate. The lysergic list of canonical crash-ups includes Adam Sandler’s “Billy Madison” paired with Luis Buñuel’s “Phantom Of Liberty”; “Y tu mamá también” with “Dumb & Dumber”: and “Peggy Sue Got Married” and “The Last Temptation Of Christ.” (The most we ever got away with at my college film society was a double feature of “Way Down East” and “Way Out West.”) Beginning February 12, more here.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.