Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, January 27-February 2, 2023
No wide releases this weekend. Brandon Cronenberg’s Sundance-debuted death-and-sex-and-death “Infinity Pool” opens at the Music Box, in which the impossibly rich make a meal of life and death and occasionally have sex with both.
It’s reported NEON is releasing only an R-rated version, not the unrated Park City edition that thrilled some and made others offer compulsive social media blurts. Performers along for the viscid ride are Mia Goth, Alexander Skarsgård, Cleopatra Coleman and Thomas Kretschmann.
Chase Joynt”s “Framing Agnes,” extending the view of trans creativity and representation, opens Friday at Siskel.
Siskel’s crazy-long movie of the week is 1994’s rainswept “Sátántangó.” The Music Box brings back “Memoria” on 35mm, as well as the Billy Wilder matinee of the week, also on celluloid, “Sunset Boulevard.”
Siskel offers a “Toast To Jean,” along with a showing of Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” (35mm), to honor departing executive director Jean de St. Aubin.
One of the few features made by Scottish great Bill Forsyth in an exquisite nine-movie filmography, the off-kilter comedy and deeply affirmative meditation on love and comets, landscape and oil, “Local Hero,” has a free showing at Block.
Jordan Peele’s “US” is the first installation of the Siskel’s “Gore Capitalism” lecture series, led by Professor Daniel R. Quiles, SAIC, Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism. “‘Gore Capitalism’ is not about ‘horror movies,’ although some of its titles draw on conventions of that genre. Rather, this screening series starts from the premise that ‘horror’ is what we live through right now, whether in our everyday lives or via the information bombarding us from screens. This horror has something to do with the economic order in which we live: sometimes called ‘neoliberalism,’ it is a situation of acceleration in which it is increasingly harder to make ends meet; the gap between haves and have-nots keeps growing; and tactics of repression are ever more violent.” (Coming up: “Safe,” “The Host,” “Titane,” “Idiocracy,” “Annihilation” and more.)
Facets books local filmmaker Michael Glover Smith’s family gathering acting roundelay “Relative” on Friday, January 27 and Todd Field’s sextuple-Oscar-nominated “Tár” (Best Picture, Best Director, Cate Blanchett, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematographer, Best Editor), Saturday-Sunday, January 28-29.
A highly detailed hybrid documentary, Chase Joynt’s “Framing Agnes” finds creative ways to depict an unusual life of creative tumult: “The pseudonymous Agnes was a pioneering transgender woman who participated in an infamous gender health study conducted at UCLA in the 1960s,” the distributor synopsizes. “Her clever use of the study to gain access to gender-affirming healthcare led to her status as a fascinating and celebrated figure in trans history.” The cast of trans performers, artists and writers includes Zackary Drucker, Angelica Ross, Jen Richards, Silas Howard, Max Wolf Valerio, Stephen Ira and Jules Gill-Peterson. The February 2 showing will feature a Q&A with producer Samantha Curley and researcher Kristen Schilt (an associate professor at the University of Chicago), a longtime collaborator of the director. Opens Friday, January 27 at Siskel.
REPERTORY & REVIVALS
“Sátántangó“: How can the tempo of experience be expressed in the tempo of film? Hungarian masters Béla Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky’s seven-and-a-half hours long black-and-white wet, wintry roads film makes a query. Part of the “Settle In” series. It’s a 4K digital restoration, and it’s 439 minutes long. Siskel, Saturday, January 28, 11am.
Writer-director Bill Forsyth elevates the potentially whimsical to the sublime, with a touch of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in “Local Hero” (1983). His unpublished screenplay contains scene settings just as effortlessly wry as anything in a loving, rueful picture that examines the romance of boy, girl, man, woman, sea, sky, oil, oilman, the stars, the stars: “A documentary is a film without any girls in it.” (A documentary is also a comedy with Burt Lancaster in it.) Free with reservation. Block Cinema, Evanston, Thursday, February 2, 7pm.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Memoria” returns for a momentary séance in 35mm. His first feature in English and the first set outside his native Thailand, manages to be both dream and a sort of installation, drawing on the sounds of science and the sounds of silence. It’s a movie that makes the most sense on a big screen in a space with proper sound, so here’s another chance. The bones of the story are a trek by an expatriate Scot (Tilda Swinton) in Colombia, who hears an unusual and distressing sound at daybreak in Bogota. She searches for the origin of the sound, finding ghosts in the landscape and the sensations of the soundscape. Her hallucinations are those of civilizations, strange, concrete, disorienting, universal. She’s fatally curious. (Distributor NEON has so far kept to its vow to never release the movie on video in the United States and to only show it in a single location on any given day.) Music Box, Sunday, January 29, 4:45pm.
So the Academy took “NOPE” a little too personally? In “US” (2019), Jordan Peele builds and builds but doesn’t wholly define his spate of symbols: a red-clad underground of dozens of repressed folks who hope to build a human wall to divide the United States? Could that be read as these “tethered” slaves-of-sorts are red staters? That “the other” goes against expectations, and is another “other”? And that the privileged up above, black and white alike, are repressing these people of the earth, a literally underground “red state”? At the end, before Peele’s boldest twist, which turns most of the movie on its head, are we unwittingly rooting for the suppression of a slave rebellion? Within Peele’s fabric of film and cultural and historical homages and references, there is still a full-on Jordan Peele movie. (As critic-programmer Miriam Bale pointed out, his love for the potential intricacies of high concepts matches that of the late genre-busting wild man Larry Cohen more than Hitchcock or other names that are being bandied about.) And part of a Jordan Peele movie is a quiet roar of allusion after allusion. Siskel, Tuesday, January 31, 6pm.
Raucous laughter at a preview of “Sunset Boulevard” in Evanston led to the excision of a comic yet morbid opening scene where the dead commiserated with Joe Gillis in the mortuary. Here’s the no-longer extant scene, from the screenplay by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and D. M. Marshman, Jr.:
Music Box, Saturday-Sunday, January 28-29 11:30am.
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center will present “A Toast to Jean,” celebrating the nearly twenty-year tenure of the Film Center’s outgoing executive director Jean de St. Aubin. The Film Center will honor her leadership, toast to her next chapter, and celebrate her love of the movies with a 35mm showing of one of her favorite films, Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” which “is in no way a reflection on Jean’s own leadership style!”
“My commitment to and love of our film community is why I wanted a public event to celebrate my time at the Film Center,” de St. Aubin says in a release. The film will be followed by a video tribute and a post-screening reception with champagne, pretzels and more. All ticket proceeds will benefit the Film Center. Sunday, January 29, 6pm. More here.
Best Of The Midwest Awards Shorts Showcase At Siskel
Tickets are still available for The Midwest Film Festival’s Best of The Midwest Awards Shorts Showcase at Siskel on Monday, January 30. Details about the shorts on the hour-long program and tickets 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.