Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, March 3-9, 2023
Michael B. Jordan makes his directorial debut center-screen with “Creed III,” the latest parcel in the nearly half-century -old “Rocky” saga, opening in theaters Friday.
Long-entangled Guy Ritchie spy comedy-thriller “Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre” opens in theaters.
Davy Chou’s “Return To Seoul,” finds twenty-five-year-old Frenchwoman Freddie returning to South Korea for the first time, the country where she was born before being adopted and raised in France. Her impulsive decision to travel sends her on an unexpected journey. Our review is here. Opens Friday, March 3 at the Music Box.
The twenty-sixth Chicago European Union Film Festival takes its good time the rest of March to unspool at the Siskel. One of the year’s most distilled Chicago film festivals: the CEUFF will showcase twenty-four new films from twenty-three EU nations. All Chicago festival premieres, the roster includes debut features; award-winners from international film festivals including Berlin, Locarno, Sundance and Toronto; and fresh films from CEUFF alumni. (The cinematheque has also introduced an all-new ticketing system; details here.)
“EO,” brays the Lord, returns pre-Oscars for a Facets journey. Facets, Friday, March 3-Sunday, March 5.
Gaspar Noé’s “Irreversible” (35mm) plays Saturday, March 4 and Thursday March 9 on the big screen at the Music Box. (An interview with Noé about his recent tinkering with the film is here.)
Smart, unsentimental, brutal, unrelenting “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” arrives on 4K Ultra HD. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in one of his last roles, in Anton Corbijn’s 2014 John le Carré adaptation “A Most Wanted Man” at DOC.
“Virgin Suicides” is the first of the Music Box’s March Sofia Coppola weekend matinees.
The Chicago Film Society presents Seijun Suzuki’s superbly stylized yakuza classic “Tokyo Drifter” (35mm), featuring an introduction by William Carroll, author of the new book “Suzuki Seijun and Postwar Japanese Cinema.”Music Box, Monday, March 6, 7pm.
DOC showcases no-wave African action with the Chicago debut of “Who Killed Captain Alex?” “A Wakaliwood production made on a shoestring budget of around $200, ‘Who Killed Captain Alex?’ gives any Hollywood blockbuster an inferiority complex. We promise you, this is the most entertaining film on the calendar,” writes DOC Films. DOC Films, Saturday March 4, 7pm.
Guy Ritchie’s thirteenth released feature, the shot-in-2021 espionage comedy “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” is a resolutely shambling misfire, a “Mission: Implausible” (or “Mercenaries: Impossible”) with too many characters working to stymie a billionaire arms dealer, blah-blah. There’s too much of the deadly art of computer screens being accessed and characters responding to voices coming through earpieces (as if being fed lines they had not memorized). They’re advanced spies, though, we’re told, working with “first-of-its-kind programmable AI.”
It’s an overstuffed yet puny triple-cross intrigue set in pretty locations, and boasting nice trousers and he style of “Ruse” is busy with zooms and pans and push-ins like a movie from the early 1970s by termite directors like Hubert Cornfield, but the lighting, particularly on faces, is a lovely, anachronistic take from several eras of big-budget, multiple-producer hit-and-fun filmmaking. As key spy “Orson Fortune,” Jason Statham steps readily into his customary stride; Hugh Grant enjoys a bespoke range of louche language-mangling while puffing on stogies, doing Michael Caine moments from behind oversized gold-framed wire spectacles: Grant’s laugh lines are now Sam Beckett-like crenelations. Aubrey Plaza, as the new kid on the globe-hopping block, shifts from foot-to-foot to indicate personality outside the mercenary box. Ritchie’s camera loves her deadpan; her eyes, too. With Josh Hartnett, Cary Elwes and Bugzy Malone. In theaters, Friday, March 3.
Chicago Film Society presents “Short Threads,” (16mm prints from filmmaker) eighty minutes of shorts presented by experimental filmmaker Larry Gottheim. “For more than fifty years, Gottheim has humbly tilled the edges of the experimental film world. Emerging in the 1970s with a series of acclaimed single-shot experiments, Gottheim’s filmmaking career has consistently evinced a curiosity regarding all manner of artistic forms and a restless creative energy,” writes CFS’ Cameron Worden. “This program brings together a selection of shorts from across Gottheim’s career, beginning with two rigorously minimalist early works: ‘Barn Rushes’ (1971), an avant-garde landmark comprised of eight 16mm spools documenting a single barn under different light conditions.” Constellation, Friday March 3, 8pm.
The Irish Film Festival returns for its twenty-fourth edition with features, shorts and documentary films from “The Land of Storytelling” as a hybrid fest, with in-person events at Theater on the Lake, AMC New City, Chicago History Museum and Society for Arts Gallery Theatre through March 5, and an online format with digital tickets for at-home screenings March 6-12. Films and more here.
Joe Swanberg’s “Secret Saturday” returns to the Davis for the third year. “You won’t know what the film is until it starts, but we guarantee you can’t see it anywhere else! Paired with a new beer from a local brewery!” Writes Swanberg, the screening “will most likely be the last one. I’ve booked a short and a feature that are both really funny and twisted. Can’t say what they are, but they’re a hoot.” $20. Davis, Saturday March 4, 8pm.
A couple of generations of filmgoers have come to maturity in the years since “The Virgin Suicides“—twenty-four years?! It’s often more interesting to consider the kaleidoscope of reactions to the movie than to think of sitting down with it again: its dreaminess is disturbed and disturbing. Coppola arrived as a distinct filmmaker with her first feature, and has extended her distinctive style in the six movies since, yet the themes drawn from Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel and the mood drawn by cinematographer Ed Lachman still beguile and for some, alarm. Coppola, from a 2013 festival panel: “I just wanted to make this book into a movie and I had an idea what it should look like when I read it as you do when you read books… I think just having been a girl I connected to that and I’ve always felt connected to the kind of feminine side… I connected to the girls in the story and I felt that a lot of teen movies didn’t really speak to me, that they always cast much older people and I just didn’t feel like they were respectful of teenagers, so wanted to make something beautiful and sensitive, I hoped, for teenagers.” Shown on 35mm, as are all the Music Box’s March Sofia Coppola matinees. Music Box, Saturday- Sunday, March 4-5.
Fritz Lang’s 1921 “Destiny” is another of the superb silents showing up across the city on the ample repertory scene. Essential stuff. DOC Films, Sunday, March 5, 7pm.
What a seedy man is Günther Bachmann. Embodied, body and sallow soul by Philip Seymour Hoffman in his last completed role in photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn’s “A Most Wanted Man,” the German secret agent at the center of John Le Carre’s 2008 thriller had a spot of trouble back in Beirut and wound up in Hamburg for his sins, part of a deeply undercover cell of spies that observes and infiltrates the lives of suspected terrorists who might lead them further up the food chain of international bad actors. His superiors, plus a concerned American spy (Robin Wright), want to keep Bachmann on a tight leash, but he wants his counterterrorist team to stay as rogue as can be. There are many melancholic Le Carre-style exchanges, including Hoffman to Willem Dafoe’s banker character. “Which one? The one you want to fuck. She’s too young for you, Tommy. She’s too young for both of us.” (As well as the compact weariness of “Men who trusted you died.”) But it’s Hoffman’s show, and the sorrow of his abrupt passing soon dissipates in the face of the committed physicality of his performance, which is matched by unusually bright sound design on Bachmann’s every action. Wheezing, slurping coffee, lighting and inhaling cigarette after cigarette, a voice of gravel atop gravel in a pulverizer, as well as a head conking a light standard with cartoonish specificity; a laptop that opens with a sound like a tin cash box; mismatched drain screens that attempt to mesh as Gunther steps across. The cruelest beauty is a meeting between Gunther and the American. Wright is lovely in the blanching light in a café many floors up, overlooking the rivers below, but Hoffman’s unshaven, white-bristled jowls and pale blue eyes turn him spectral, whiter than milk, ruined from within, framed against the arch halation of brilliant fog outside the window not yet burned from the morning’s skyline. The exploitation of the city and its port, of streetlights and other sources glistening behind solid close-ups of characters in conflict, hark back to movies like Wim Wenders’ Hamburg-set “The American Friend,” (1976), as does the eclectic, broody score by Herbert Grönemeyer. The stellar song selections in bars and other locations include Gang of Four’s “To Hell With Poverty,” on a jukebox in a lumpen bar straight out of early Fassbinder. 35mm. DOC Films, Friday, March 3, 7pm.
Block presents “One Image, Two Acts” (2020) with filmmaker Sanaz Sohrabi. Sohrabi draws on the photographic archives of British Petroleum to examine the visual and social history of oil production in Abadan, Iran in the 1950s and 1960s. “Before it became BP, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company sought to construct a thoroughly modern oil metropolis in Abadan, exhaustively documenting their operations in photographs and films. This formally inventive essay film provocatively repurposes this corporate material, once used as propaganda and as a technology of control, juxtaposing scenes from the anti-colonial cinema of the Iranian New Wave to explore the possibilities of resistance and critique.” Following the film, director Sanaz Sohrabi will appear in person for a conversation with Mona Damluji, assistant professor of film and media studies at UC Santa Barbara. Free. Block Museum, Friday, March 3, 7pm.
What a cruel state: Texas; madness. Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974) gets its most ample edition yet, unless you also have the memory of seeing it onscreen in the years after its release, scrappy prints revived on the bottom of double bills with movies like “I Dismember Mama” at long-lost ragbag neighborhood houses like the Luna at Belmont and Cicero. Northwestern film professor and filmmaker Spencer Parsons observes that with “Night of the Living Dead” and “Targets,” the film “decisively moved American horror cinema away from traditional Gothic trappings and firmly into the present. On a formal level, it’s a masterpiece combining you-are-there documentary technique with exquisite control, rhythm and revolutionary sound design. For Ridley Scott and others working on much higher budgets in Hollywood, it became the lodestar of horror. It still might be the most profitable independent production of all time, if a trustworthy accounting could be done.” (Its shady distributor, Bryanston Distributing Company, made its nut with “Deep Throat,” and continued to acquire raw and subversive material, rake in the cash and pocket much of it.)
The double-disk, 4K UHD edition is the latest in a long line of home video releases for “‘Saw,” as it was affectionately known by its family. Aside from the the bright transfer of the singular horror landmark—the bold, rugged closing scenes get the attention they deserve—the new edition includes almost seven hours of older and new features, including four feature commentaries, including writer-producer-director Tobe Hooper, actors Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger and Paul A. Partain, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, production designer Robert Burns, editor J. Larry Carroll and sound recordist Ted Nicolaou. A new feature-length documentary, “The Legacy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” is accompanied by dozens of attractions, including “FRIEDKIN/HOOPER,” a conversation between William Friedkin and Hooper, trailers, radio and TV spots and even a blooper reel fashioned from Hooper’s legendary habit of many, many takes.
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.