Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, March 17-23, 2023
In a hammock between potential rereleases of Oscar winners—has anyone booked the extended version of “Everything Everywhere All At Once”?—and the nearly three-hour furies of “John Wick 4,” wide releases are but two: “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” a sequel to a movie based on a meme about a joke about a Sinbad vehicle that didn’t exist (and, per the joke, shouldn’t exist), greenlit by Warner Bros. Discovery DC Studios bosses that are no longer in the room. Or something like that.
The other opener: “Inside.” To warp the title of a movie starring a solo Robert Redford: All is cost. Put Willem Dafoe in a box and look what happens. In this Greek-German-Belgian fairytale, he plays Nemo, an art thief, who finds himself trapped in a Manhattan penthouse with nothing to save his life but priceless works of art. Opens Friday, March 17 at the Music Box, Webster Place, River East and New City.
Sunday: an advance screening of the superb “Showing Up,” with director Kelly Reichardt in person. Such simple, shivering surfaces: Reichardt’s beautiful and slyly wicked comedy has a recent parallel, a picture exploring with minimalist observation, a single figure’s tribulations and ministrations across a confined period of time: Mia Hansen-Løve, as the French director does with Léa Seydoux’s face and shoulders in “One Fine Morning.” Opens in April. Siskel, Sunday, March 19, 8pm.
The Chicago European Union Film Festival continues at Siskel.
REPERTORY & REVIVALS
Scored by John Williams, a four-film nosegay of 35mm prints, is at Siskel, too. “In collaboration with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which hosts ‘An Evening with John Williams’ on March 24, the Film Center presents four films that illustrate the depth of his talent—scores that range from the jaunty to the ethereal, and from the noble to the ominous. Williams is a living legend, nominated for over fifty-three Academy Awards (with five wins, so far) and arguably one of the most influential composers in cinematic history.” First up: Alfred Hitchcock’s oft-maligned final film, 1976’s cheeky “Family Plot” (35mm) Monday, March 20, 6pm.
Next up: Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters Of the Third Kind” (35mm). In the immortal words of Cary Guffey before hurtling out a cat door, “Toys!” Siskel, Wednesday, March 22, 6pm.
And an otherworldly bouquet of cinematic glories is also at the Film Center, the Chicago Film Society “Technicolor Weekend!” While “The Wizard Of Oz” is a classic of the format, shown in a rare British Technicolor print, consider attractions like one of the final American films made in the process, Warren Beatty’s extravagant political outburst, “Bulworth” (1998, 35mm). At the ass-end of the triangulating, compromising Clinton era, longtime political consigliere and late-night phone caller Beatty made a political statement of grandiloquent rhetoric like no other. It was shot by Vittorio Storaro (“The Conformist,” “Apocalypse Now”) as one of the last American releases using the Technicolor process: “Approximately a hundred of the 2,000 release prints were made using the revamped IB Technicolor process, which makes full use of Storaro’s expressive color palette.” Writes CFS on Instagram: “Looks amazing (and really nuts, just like the movie). We’ve been wanting to show our print for years!”
Along with a Technicolor shorts program, the films include Phil Karlson’s 1958 widescreen Western “Gunman’s Walk,” Douglas Sirk’s philosophical CinemaScope romance, “Interlude” (1957)—the New Yorker’s Richard Brody calls it a “hidden masterwork” that, if seen widely enough, would be “catapulted into canonical orbit”—and Bond #6, the George Lazenby-starring “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” of which cinematographer Steven Soderbergh has said, “Shot to shot, this movie is beautiful in a way none of the other Bond films are.”
A personal favorite bursts onto the screen, too: When I was in college, loitering with intent alongside the film department and programming movie showings, there were any number of discoveries made several times each immersive week, none soothing, most alarming, revelation after revelation to my yet-unschooled sensibility, and among the most cinematically chaotic and fruitfully loony was Frank Tashlin’s “Artists And Models” (1955) (35mm), a gaudy, grabby, bold, beautiful explosion of possibilities: both in the range of colors, the possibilities of composition and blocking, post-Looney Tunes-style human behavior and the physical expression of neurosis from head to toe in the magic mix of manic and too-fucking-cool that was Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Plus Shirley MacLaine. Plus? Shirley MacLaine. Youth be bespoiled in every way. Full weekend details here.
As Chicago horror filmmaker Jennifer Reeder described “Titane,” Julia Ducournau’s extravagant Palme d’Or winner, for Newcity: “An absolute juggernaut of a film which grips from the get-go and does not let up. Watch on an empty stomach.” Woman meets machine; woman, part machine, meets machines. There’s a nice word in French, bruyante, as in noisy or clamorous, and Ducournau’s second feature after her cannibal family romance “Raw” (“Grave,” 2016) is genially bruyante, and promises fire and flesh and bodily tempering and intemperance. “I often used the word ‘malfunction’ to evoke the film’s transformations,” Ducournau said in the press kit. “‘Derailment’ too, because the story is peppered with machines and metal.” Presented as part of the “Gore Capitalism” lecture series led by Professor Daniel R. Quiles, concentrating “on the everyday ‘horror’ we are living through and how the individual gets caught in uneven wars between classes, races, genders, sexual orientations, healthy and sick, states and citizens.” Siskel, Tuesday, March 21, 6pm.
The week’s Music Box Sofia Coppola matinee is “Somewhere” (35mm). A capsule follows. Music Box, Saturday-Sunday March 18-19.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” returns in 35mm. Music Box, Saturday, March 18.
“I hate Illinois Nazis!” You said it, Brother Jake! “The Blues Brothers“! (35mm). Music Box, Tuesday, March 21, 7pm.
“To Leslie“‘s portrait of the profile and ever-mutable face of Andrea Riseborough continues at Facets, Friday-Sunday, March 17-19.
“A Scanner Darkly,” Richard Linklater’s rarely revived animated Philip K. Dick adaptation, a dour and despairing artifact from 2006, gets airings in anticipation of next week’s Keanunami. With squiggles of Robert Downey, Jr., Winona Ryder, Rory Cochrane and wriggles of Dickian cogitation. Alamo Drafthouse, Saturday, March 18 and Monday, March 20.
Sofia Coppola’s languid, obstinately personal look at a life adrift in L.A. left detractors scratching their head. What is “Somewhere” about? They’d kill for a story. “Somewhere” doesn’t really have one. A man who assumes that each day will be succeeded by another, identical day is brought up short by time spent with his daughter. “Bad boy” actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff, dazed, indolent, perma-stubbled) is between acting gigs, living in the Chateau Marmont hotel. Room service seems to include twins with portable poles and boombox. In his room, an Ed Ruscha painting sits propped in a corner. “Somewhere,” as a title, has the forlorn, muzzy character of one of his word-studded California skies. Mostly this ninety-minute movie is about time, the preciousness of time. A fall on a stairway busts the forearm of the languishing star. Meds slow him down, but he doesn’t realize it right away. How weary is Johnny? Worn enough to meet at a party one of many willing young women and then fall asleep face down between her open legs. When his wife leaves his skinny daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning, in a marvelous, vital performance) with him for a few weeks, his repetitions are interrupted. Coppola has the confidence of her own finance. She shoots how she wants to shoot.
The screenplay is a mere forty-three pages; the opening shot, which runs four minutes or so, is described this way: “It’s overcast, as a black Ferrari speeds around an empty track in the foggy haze. It does lap after lap, getting nowhere. It slows down and stops. JOHNNY gets out and stands there.” It’s a Monte Hellman moment; it’s a Vincent Gallo moment (as in “The Brown Bunny”). The movie announces itself as minimalist with that shot. Then it’s almost half an hour before a word is spoken. Coppola’s framings are deliberate but often seem peculiar and found, even aleatory: this is not a handheld movie. There are signposts that can be deciphered, and others that are surely meaningful to Coppola in ways we can’t know, but there’s a sense of accruing weight. Johnny watching his daughter ice skate goes on for minutes and minutes and it’s beautiful. The kid-swan is clumsy with potential, gawky in blue spangles. The aural tousle of Coppola’s pop choices is downplayed in favor of extremely measured sound design, slightly reedy at times, but always calibrated in terms of the rhythm of the many extended takes. So is “Somewhere” about unexamined privilege? What is the “story”? Or its “subject”? It offers satisfactions and contentment: It’s a succession of sensations, of being adrift in a city where the weather seldom changes, where the stars are always young, where children must make their own way. The sky is blue and clear.
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.