Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, October 7-13, 2022
Genial gore entry “Hellraiser,” from Spyglass-Twentieth Century-Disney streams on Hulu from Friday. David O. Russell’s ninth completed feature, “Amsterdam,” produced under the slightly more mysterious title, “Canterbury Glass,” holds no shine. “At first irritating, then mostly baffling, ‘Amsterdam’ is an epic without foundations, the stuff of a half-dozen unfinished literary novellas stuffed into a single script.” Our complete review is here.
The Music Box presents “Loving Highsmith,” a new documentary about the cruel and brilliant curator of Tom Ripley and other suave sociopaths, including herself. Music Box, Friday-Sunday, October 7-9. For a different take on imaginative women, the great “Celine and Julie Go Boating” docks at Doc. “Salò” returns to Siskel and five features by Guillermo del Toro are feared, four in 35mm, including the black-and-white version of “Nightmare Alley.”
The opening night of the fifty-eighth Chicago International Film Festival at the Music Box presents the Chicago debut of a new documentary from Steve James, “A Compassionate Spy.” The festival and Chicago Industry Days start in earnest the weekend of October 14.
An ambitious assembly of over forty groups, the Chicago Alliance of Film Festivals, announces its launch.
A fresh, lightly glamorous adaptation of Clive Barker’s 1987 “Hellraiser” from “Night House” director David Bruckner is rife with genial gore and 1980s-style horror decors and goings-on: it’s elevated from programmer class by its clean outlines in storytelling and settings. It’s quietly earnest, eagerly punitive and the “Lament Configuration”? Not our friend. Innocents? Never heard of them! All hail the new flay! Streaming from Friday on Hulu.
REPERTORY & REVIVALS
Siskel’s Cine Latine section is hosting a raft of titles by Guillermo del Toro this week, including “The Shape Of Water,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” (35mm); “Crimson Peak” (35mm); “The Devil’s Backbone” (35mm) and the 35mm black-and-white version of “Nightmare Alley.” Each film is preceded by a short film by a local Latine filmmaker. Drink specials will be presented October 9 to observe del Toro’s fifty-eighth birthday. Siskel, October 7-11, 13.
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 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.” Doc Films, Sunday, October 9.
Nine films are showing through October at FACETS as “A Symphony of Horrors”; this week’s attractions are Jacques Tourneur’s “Cat People” and Georges Franju’s “Eyes Without A Face.” Tickets and more here.
Capping off its month of 35mm prints of films by Pier Paolo Pasolini for his centenary, Siskel presents his most notorious, final picture. “Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom” is stately horror, brute and luxe. There’s a legend of the movie’s Chicago debut, at the 3 Penny Cinema (now Lincoln Hall), when the theater’s owner whipped out the shears under dark of night and scissored out every scene he found distasteful, losing a good twenty minutes. The radical director’s film was a radically different thing, a jumpy, sputtery hash. (At the end of the run, the owner pasted the print back together before shipping it back.) Although the film has been on Criterion for years, with serious supplements, surely some of “Salò”’s unsavory reputation comes from reviewers who seethe at surfaces and not the hardly subterranean political text. (It’s more picture-mirror than mere picture in these cases.) “Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide” called Pasolini’s final film a “BOMB… Fascists brutalize and degrade adolescents. Sadism, scatology and debauchery galore: Pasolini… wallows in his own sensationalism.” That makes for a particularly nasty critique by the unsigned reviewer, as Pasolini was murdered shortly after, as the story goes, by a young man whom he hoped to pick up, who bashed in his head, stole his convertible and then ran it over Pasolini’s broken body. Novelist Gary Indiana, who wrote an indispensable analysis for the BFI’s Film Classics series (essentially superb, extended liner notes), dismisses the connection. “The problem is that Pasolini’s murder and this particular film were so readily linked, and eclipsed the rest of Pasolini’s work, in a certain journalistic kind of discussion. ‘Salò’ is a satire of consumer society and perfectly consistent with Pasolini’s other films and his polemical writings. What he saw as an extreme spiritual crisis in modern society demanded this particular form, and these extremely unnerving images.” 35mm. Siskel, Wednesday, October 12.
Over forty film organizations and festivals have pledged to become charter members of the Chicago Alliance Of Film Festivals, an initiative which FACETS is administering. CAFF is supported by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events to unify the filmmaking community and bring awareness and economic vitality to the city as affiliated groups look to share resources to expand audiences and expertise. The mission is to build the landscape of Chicago-based film festivals, venues, film schools, and industry creatives, enrich local communities, and enhance the cultural and economic vitality of the area. “With Chicago being a world-class city of culture as both a hub of arts production and tourism, this initiative shines a light on the importance and interdependence of its film and television community that also includes film venues and festivals, and academic institutions that teach the craft and its history,” says DCASE commissioner Erin Harkey in a release. “All of these sectors combined will be all the more effective to stimulate economic growth and enhance the education and entertainment that this city has to offer to residents and visitors alike.” Chicago area organizations behind the effort include Access Contemporary Music, Americas Media Initiative NFP, Arts + Public Life, Black Alphabet NFP, Chicago Film Critics Association, Chicago Film Office, Chicago Filmmakers, Chicago Irish Film Festival, Chicago Made Shorts, Chicago Palestine Film Festival, Chicago Park District, Chicago ReelAbilities Film Festival, Chicago South Asian Film Festival, Chicago Southland International Film Festival, Chicago Underground NFP, Cinema/Chicago & Chicago International Film Festival, the Davis Theater, Elevated Films Chicago, FACETS and the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, Full Spectrum Features, Gene Siskel Film Center, GoLucky Studios, Gorton Community Center, Governors State University, Illinois Film Office, (In)Justice For All Film Festival International, Instituto Cervantes of Chicago, International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, Kartemquin Films, The Lake County Film Festival, the Logan Theatre, Midwest Film Festival, Mosaic World Film Festival, the Music Box Theatre, Nebula Creatives L3C, One Earth Collective, One Earth Film Festival, Onion City Experimental Film + Video Festival, Open SpaceArts / Pride Film Fest, Open Television (OTV), Percolator Films, Pivot Arts, Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ + International Film Festival and Sophia’s Choice / Asian Pop-Up Cinema. More here.
Passes for the Gene Siskel Film Center’s twenty-eighth Black Harvest Film Festival are on sale. “The Black Harvest Film Festival is Chicago’s annual showcase for films that celebrate, explore and share the Black, African American and African Diaspora experience,” the Siskel relays of this year’s November 4-20 event, with online November 21-27 components. “The festival curates both short and feature-length films, proudly presenting influential auteurs and emerging filmmakers of color side by side.” Passes are on sale for $60 each, providing six tickets to regular film presentations, redeemable for either in-person and virtual films. For Siskel members, festival passes are fifty-percent off, at $30 each. Individual tickets will be available October 17. Details 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.