Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, February 10-16. 2023
James Cameron’s “Titanic” is released for its twenty-fifth anniversary in a new version, restored, remastered and in 3D 4K high-frame HDR. The shipbuilders boast that they’ve built the “largest moving object ever made by the hands of man.” When I talked to Cameron weeks before its 1997 release, I noted that “Titanic” was one of Hollywood’s largest moving pictures ever, and no one knew yet if it would float. “Yeah, there are interesting parallels!” Cameron said, laughing. “Arguably, this is one of the biggest films in history, certainly in unadjusted dollars, and we knew this going in. But it was never a question of arrogant confidence. It was never like, throw enough money up on that screen, then fuck ’em all. We’ll grind ’em under our wheels! I don’t think we would have spent all the time on the chemistry between Kate and Leo’s characters if that was the case. We would have relied on pure spectacle.” Friday, February 10 in theaters.
“Magic Mike’s Last Dance” is a sharp programmer, placing Channing Tatum’s Mike Lane into a London fantasy setting, taken under the wing of a disaffected wealthy woman played by Salma Hayek Pinault: A B-picture that delivers precisely what’s required and not a jot more. Opens Thursday, February 9 in theaters.
Apple Plus opens “Sharper” before its streaming debut next week. It’s a Manhattan-set duplicitous noir about a conman taking on dastardly millionaires, with the dash of movies from another era of a few decades back. With Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Justice Smith, John Lithgow. At theaters including Landmark Century and Alamo Drafthouse.
In Mitra Farahani’s “See You Friday, Robinson,” we get a last glimpse, intimate yet goofy, of the late Jean-Luc Godard, the Swiss filmmaker not exactly infirm but visibly weary in light of his choice a few months later to end his life on his own terms. He’s sharing exchanges with Iranian pre-Revolution filmmaker Ebrahim Golestan; they’ve never met in person, and exchange messages each Friday for twenty-nine weeks. There is ample melancholy for twenty-nine movies: Golestan, nearing a hundred years old, is in his home in Sussex; Godard, past ninety, in his Rolle, Switzerland apartment. “It’s fine if he’s saying something brilliant that I don’t get,” Golestan says, taking in Godard’s relentless repartee, gnomic to the finish. Siskel, Friday, February 10, Sunday, February 12.
“Robinson” is part of the ten-program Annual Festival of Films From Iran, which also includes the restoration of Amir Naderi’s “The Runner” (1984), a little-seen masterpiece, getting its first American theatrical release, about an illiterate eleven-year-old boy (Madjid Niroumand) who must do what he can to survive, including living inside an abandoned tanker in an Iranian port city, but who also runs. He runs and runs. He runs and runs and runs. Why? He runs. He dreams of the ships and planes that pass, and he runs. Exhilarating, magnificent, essential. Siskel, Saturday, February 11 and Monday, February 13.
In “Let It Be Morning,” from Eran Kolirin, director of “The Band’s Visit,” a Palestinian-born Israeli citizen is captured inside a blockaded village with no warning after his brother’s wedding. As with the best satires, Kolirin’s comedy-drama holds layers within layers. The bleak and the surreal, the lively and the punishing, all mingle in a portrait of contemporary Israeli-Palestinian relations. Kolirin is a master of tone and elegant melancholy: “Let It Be Morning” can hold a light mood but be always suspenseful in its suggestion of possible eruptions. Now playing at Landmark Century.
REPERTORY & REVIVALS
It’s “Galentine’s”at FACETS February 10-12 with a clutch of colorful female pairings: “Dick,” (1999); “Bound” (1996); John Fawcett and writer Karen Walton’s “Ginger Snaps” (2000); Claudia Weill’s “Girlfriends (1978); and Whit Stillman’s “The Last Days of Disco” (1998). Full listings here.
Bong Joon-ho’s “The Host” is the Valentine’s Day attraction in Siskel’s “Gore Capitalism” series: it wasn’t the first, or last, time that the writer-director of “Parasite” would combine genre trappings with personal giddiness and capitalist critique, but it was a bold introduction to a larger U. S. audience. Siskel, Tuesday, February 14, 6pm.
DOC Films boasts Jim Jarmusch’s masterpiece “Dead Man” (1995); Tamara Jenkins’ tender yet blunt family drama, the too-little-seen “The Savages” (2007, 35mm); “Sorry, Wrong Number” (1948, 35mm); Jean Renoir’s boldly colorful and gently observed “The River” (1951); Sidney Lumet’s “Fail Safe” (1964); and the big, bad bite of Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s “28 Days Later” (2002, 35mm). Listings here.
Music Box attractions include the Billy Wilder matinee, “Some Like It Hot” (1959, 35mm)—”Nobody’s perfect,” but “Some Like It Hot” almost is; Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point” (1970, 35mm) and Jennie Livingston’s documentary of the 1980s New York City vogueing scene in “Paris Is Burning” (1990).
Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point” has been dubbed as one of the greatest follies made by a great filmmaker, but have any of those writers watched it lately? While its 1960s youth-culture-on-the-run story, with echoes of Kent State (credited to Antonioni, Sam Shepard, Tonino Guerra and Clare Peploe) is often blunt and the acting wooden, it’s one of the most striking uses of light and space in a filmography built upon such concerns. Take the last scene alone, an explosive ten-minute fantasia of the end of consumerism. Sometimes I think it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, just for how it looks and sounds, and not even for any of its many meanings. You know Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry have seen it; there’s a shared understanding with Antonioni of objects and space, the concreteness of objects within not-fully occupied spaces. A character imagines a modernist house on a hill, and all its furnishings, exploding in extreme slow motion, detonating again and again. It may be be one of the greatest fuck-you endings ever, but who’s the “fuck you” to? The audience in 1970? James Aubrey’s craven administration of MGM? The youth movement? Acquisitiveness itself? Narrative? Me when I saw it at twenty-two? You? Me watching it today? You seeing it this Monday? Someone who recalls their own flipbook of recollection of first exposure to images of fluttering destruction on 9/11? You can watch the closing scene here as well as the original trailer, “where a boy… and a girl… meet… and touch… and blow their minds… Zabriskie Point… How you get there depends on where you’re at,” the amusingly dated promo goes. A folly, to be sure, but its photography, boldly colored and concrete, also borders on abstraction, a dislocated gaze upon practical and temporary things. Explosive. Cue the Floyd. Shown with Les Blank’s 1968 “God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance” (1968, 16mm). Chicago Film Society at Music Box, Monday, February 13.
Small distributor Gravitas Ventures has taken on “The Year Between,” a film from the current slate of Chicago’s Full Spectrum Features, writes the Hollywood Reporter. The theatrical and VOD release begins March 3. Writer-director Alex Heller is a lead in the film alongside J. Smith-Cameron, Wyatt Oleff, Emily Robinson, Kyanna Simone and Steve Buscemi. A Tribeca 2022 premiere, “The Year Between” follows a college sophomore who returns home to suburban Illinois after a mental breakdown. “The filmmakers are partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago to create resources and dialogue about the use of storytelling as a tool for healing, with NAMI Chicago steering the film’s education and impact distribution… Eugene Sun Park of Full Spectrum Features produced the film, along with Heller, Amanda Phillips, Sonya Lunsford, and Rachel Gould and Caterin Camargo-Alvarez for Level Forward. Executive producers are Adrienne Becker, Roger Clark, and HaJ for Level Forward; and Smith-Cameron, Susanna Fogel, and Kelly Aisthorpe Waller, Ted Reilly and Markie Glassgow for Chicago Media Angels. Talia Koylass served as associate producer for Full Spectrum Features.” (“The Year Between” was the audience favorite at the 2022 Chicago International Film Festival.)
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.