Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, May 6-12, 2022
The Chicago Critics Film Festival plays this week. “Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness” expands on its opening week box-office of almost half-a-billion dollars while new openings include a remake of “Firestarter” in theaters and on Peacock, and Audrey Diwan’s painfully resonant and harrowingly relevant French period drama, “Happening” (L’evenement), about a French graduate student’s efforts to get an abortion in 1963. Music Box announces the lineup of its seventh 70mm Film Festival. A modest cornucopia of revivals land this week, listed below, including Steve James appearing at Facets as part of their forty-seventh anniversary events, with his biography of Roger Ebert “Life Itself.”
“Happening” (L’evenement), adapted from the novel by Annie Ernaux by Audrey Diwan is, regrettably, a drama for the ages: graduate student Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is pregnant in 1963 France when abortion was illegal. Social pressures, final exams, the pregnancy press upon her young life and the future that lies ahead of her. Heartfelt, heartbreaking, heart wrenching. Opens Friday, May 13 at Siskel.
Mulligatawny or strange brew? Marvel and Sam Raimi’s “Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness” is a multitude of movies, hardly cogent, often unintelligible but to lifelong initiates of the MCU universe, yet romping with fierce filmmaking and fantastic eyeball kicks. It’s great action filmmaking in a bizarre range of tones and concerns, and boasts a terrific ending, if you can overlook the stuff mid-end-credits. It’s bold fun no matter how much it works against itself, and it’s so good to see Raimi with an enormous canvas, plying his trade in formalist glories, not limited to action scenes with capital coherence and camera moves that are the essence of swoon. About that story, though… In theaters.
The Chicago Critics Film Festival returns to the Music Box for its ninth year from Friday, May 13-Thursday May 19. The Chicago Film Critics Associations’ assembly of a stirring lineup of films speak swell of the future of movies and moviegoing, not limited to new work by Claire Denis (“Both Sides Of The Blade”), Liverpool’s own Terence Davies (“Benediction”), textural fabulist Peter Strickland (“Flux Gourmet”) and work by new directors, including Andrew Semans’ Sundance-premiered “Resurrection,” a horror movie that goes unusual places while remaining on the ever-expressive face of Rebecca Hall in a sustained freak-out. In addition to twenty-one new features, there are retrospectives, too, including a thirtieth-anniversary screening of Francis Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” restored to 4K, and a twenty-fifth anniversary showing of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” on 35mm. We asked Brian Tallerico, festival producer and managing editor of RogerEbert.com how the week looks coming down to the wire.
How good or comforting is it to be back in this hammock of time, this spring slot at the Music Box? So many films used to have to wait months, “best-of-fests” events didn’t happen during April-September and art-house movies would sit on the shelf awaiting “earned media” in the form of publicity to augment their minimal P&A spends… It’s been three years since we were in the window between SXSW and the fall festivals, and it feels good to be home again. The truth is that the window between Sundance/SXSW and theatrical/VOD release date has gotten smaller every year, meaning that most of the best films from the early-year fests won’t get a Chicago showcase like the Chicago International Film Festival because they’ve already come out. We came along in the middle of this development, allowing us to showcase great movies from Berlin, Park City and Austin that would have waited for fall festivals before but are now often on a streaming service by summer. It’s nice to be here again, and we’re grateful to our consistent partners like A24 (a part of our fest in all nine years), IFC (five movies this year), Magnolia, NEON, GKIDS and many more. We couldn’t do it without them.
THE LINE-UP FOR THE RETURN OF THE MUSIC BOX 70mm FILM FESTIVAL (sponsored by MUBI) is out, playing June 17-30. Picking up from its 2020 pandemic cancellation mid-festival, there are new prints, return attractions and first-time picks, including 1970’s disaster epic “Airport.” Here’s what the Music Box has to say about their seventh 70mm Film Festival: “We’re very proud to present two glistening new prints from Universal Studios (made shortly before the pandemic shutdown): ‘Spartacus,’ in a new 70mm print created from a 4K digital restoration, which has only screened once before; and ‘Airport,’ in a new print created directly from the original film elements. The Music Box will host the first public screening of the new print of “Airport,” which has been unavailable in a good quality print for decades.”
Also screening is a world premiere of a brand new 70mm restoration of the short “Here’s Chicago: The City Of Dreams,” a thirteen-minute 1983 Chicago travelogue, restored by the Chicago Film Society from the only surviving 70mm print paired with “Brainstorm,” also released in 1983 and directed by Douglas Trumbull. Returning to the festival is the Music Box’s print of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” made for the Music Box, plus 70mm heavyweights “West Side Story” (the run of which was cut short in 2020) and “Lawrence Of Arabia.” Another interrupted title, “Hello, Dolly!” returns for one last screening (in a lovely archival print) after its 2020 screening schedule was cut short. Also on the schedule are Walter Hill’s Western “Geronimo: An American Legend“; John Carpenter’s “Starman,” and Jim Henson’s “The Dark Crystal,” screening in gorgeous, vintage blow-up prints from the year of their original release. “Despite renewed interest in 70mm, the format still requires great care in handling and presentation. Many of the prints screened in this festival are one-of-a-kind and cannot be replaced, and a great many films we’d like to show are simply unavailable. There is only one lab left in the world that can process and print 70mm film, and the success and continuation of the format depends on the interest of the public and the talents of the filmmakers, technicians, lab workers, and projectionists who bring these films to the screen.” Tickets and more details here.
REVIVALS & REPERTORY
Steve James appears with “Life Itself,” his biography of Roger Ebert, Thursday, May 19 at Facets. (Here’s my 2014 cover story reflecting on the movie and decades of acquaintance with Roger.) The visionary pageantry of Sergei Parajanov’s once-banned “The Color Of Pomegranates” also shows at Facets as one of “Milos’ Picks” during their anniversary celebration on Friday, May 13; John Cassavetes’ “Faces” shows at Siskel in a vintage 35mm print as part of the Haskell Wexler centennial on Wednesday, May 18; and Mira Nair’s restored, long-unavailable “Mississippi Masala” is the week’s “50/50” attraction, Siskel, Monday, May 16. Two great films about male friendship at DOC Films this week: Elaine May’s low-rent, claustrophobic masterpiece “Mikey and Nicky,” with Peter Falk and John Cassavetes, Wednesday, May 18; and Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott’s “Big Night” on 35mm on Sunday, May 15. Anthony Bourdain famously called it “the best restaurant movie ever,” and even that is a modest compliment for its taste and accomplishment.