Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, April 21-27, 2023:
“Beau Is Afraid” is three hours of impacted neurosis, fear and guilt from Ari Aster, the filmmaker who brought you “Hereditary” and “Midsommar.” Themes emerge; heads splatter; woe to the hero and his journey. “Motherrrrr!” Could Beau be the real man Joker? Our review is here. Opens Thursday, April 20 at the Music Box, River East, City North 14, ICON Showplace, Drafthouse, City North.
“Beau Travail,” unafraid, Claire Denis’ 1999 beauty was voted the 2022 number seven on the Sight & Sound incantation of best films of all time. Existential tone poem, male-on-male dance musical, free-floating imagistic ballet, withering look at mores of masculinity: Denis’ survey on French Legionnaires in the desert is a thrilling masterpiece. More here. Doc Films, Friday, April 21, 7pm.
Other openers this week: The fifth movie in the “Evil Dead” franchise, “Evil Dead Rise,” is directed by Lee Cronin (“Hole In The Ground”) and pits sisters against the otherworldly forces. “Ga-roovy!” Opens Friday in theaters.
“Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant” is the story of an injured American solider carried across many kilometers of rough terrain by his Afghan interpreter. As indicated by the title, it is directed, co-written and co-produced by Guy Ritchie, whose Toff Guy is a production entity. With Jake Gyllenhaal. Opens Friday in theaters.
Stephen Williams’ “Chevalier” is based on the true story of composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. “The illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner, Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) rises to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, complete with an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton),” relays Searchlight Pictures. Opens Friday in theaters.
“Sick of Myself” is a bitter black Scandinavian body horror-satire, highly reviewed since its Cannes 2022 debut, about two increasingly competitive friends, one of whom becomes a modern artist and the other a self-destructive narcissist. Opens Friday at Siskel.
School of the Art Institute graduate Apichatpong Weerasethakul returns to Chicago, showing his most recent feature, “Memoria,” at Siskel with a conversation afterwards. Siskel, Thursday, April 27.
“Joe,” as he is also known, will take part in three shows at Block Cinema at Northwestern, including “Tropical Malady” (2004, 35mm, April 24) and “Syndromes and A Century” (2006, 35mm, April 28) as well as “Blessings of Cinema” (April 25), a program of only a few of his short works. Block’s overview is good: “Apichatpong Weerasethakul creates films that feel both earthy and oneiric, transfixing and lulling. Refracting Thai history and culture through prisms of myth, fantasy, and memory, Weerasethakul crafts beguiling narratives that carry the viewer along currents of dreams and desires.” Block Cinema, April 24-28, series details here.
The eighteenth annual CineYouth Festival, presented by the Chicago International Film Festival and FACETS, plays this weekend. Sixty-five short films will be shown in ten programming blocks “featuring everything from uproarious comedies to genre-bending thrills to family-friendly fun.” CineYouth also features workshops focused on social impact through storytelling and creative collaboration through editing. Tickets and all events are free and open to the public. FACETS, Friday, April 21-Sunday, April 23. Full program and tickets here.
Access Contemporary Music’s Sound of Silent Film Festival plays this week. “Now in its eighteenth year, it’s a unique event featuring new short silent films in every conceivable genre screened with newly-composed musical scores performed live.” Films and scores in the ninety-minute program are described here. $30. Music Box, Wednesday, April 26, 7:30pm.
REPERTORY & REVIVALS
In 1981’s “Sois belle et tais-toi!” (Be Pretty and Shut Up!), Delphine Seyrig interviews twenty-four French and North American actresses, including Juliet Berto, Jane Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Anne Wiazemsky, Maria Schneider, Jenny Agutter and Jill Clayburgh, asking questions they usually aren’t offered. Introd
Andrei Konchalovsky’s “Runaway Train“(35mm, 1985), from a screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, has two vivid actors bringing extravagant American screen acting to a boil in the ice. Distantly reminiscent of the later “Snowpiercer” graphic novels, movie and cable show, it’s giddy as both action film and as exemplar of termite behavioral extreme, courtesy of Jon Voight and Eric Roberts as the runaway convicts on a runaway train in the wilds of Alaska. CFS relays: “This is not a film to watch at home, it’s a film to be seen big and loud and bright, to be enveloped and pummeled by. It’s a film that left even Roger Ebert speechless (at least for a moment): ‘The ending of the movie is astonishing in its emotional impact. I will not describe it.'” Chicago Film Society at the Music Box, Monday, April 24, 7pm.
“A Self-Induced Hallucination” (2018), the first project of Jane Schoenbrun, is “a searingly original and profoundly empathetic portrait of Internet life… both a moodboard for and a prelude to their beloved narrative feature debut ‘We’re All Going To The World’s Fair’ (2021). At one level a Youtube collage about myth/meme Slenderman, at another a critique of the role of collective fiction in society, it tracks the figure’s many lives through creepypasta explainers, Lifetime movies, and reaction videos,” write student-run presenters Northwestern Cinematheque. Free admission here. Block Cinema, Friday, April 21, 7pm.
Vivid pulp rumpus, Guillermo Del Toro’s monsters-vs.-robots (or “Kaiju” versus “Jaeger”) epic “Pacific Rim” is brimming, bursting, surging and punching with energy, prodigious imagination on a dreamlike plane. Dialogue is pro forma without becoming rigid, largely because of the cast, including the one man who thinks he can save the planet from the monsters bursting from within, from beneath the sea, from an otherworldly vaginal canal, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba): “Today, at the edge of our hope, at the end of our time, we’ve chosen to believe in each other… Today, the apocalypse has been cancelled!” (Shakespearean verve is indicated.) Character names thicken with unseemly delight. They’re masterful moniker mastication, on par with David Cronenberg’s strange-named strangers: brother Raleigh Becket and Yancy Becket. Father and son Hercules Hansen and Chuck Hansen. The Wei Tang triplets and the Kaidonovsky siblings. Mako Mori. Stacker. Pentecost. No, we’re in sweet Don DeLillo territory here, with a touch of vaudeville in the form of Ron Perlman’s sharkskin shark of a pirate, Hannibal Chau (“Named after my favorite warrior and my favorite Chinese restaurant in Queens”). When talking about the fine, weathered, tangible textures of “Never Let Me Go,” filmmaker Mark Romanek employed the Japanese term “wabi-sabi” to describe its look, which “Pacific Rim” shares on an industrial scale. “Wabi-sabi is just sort of when things have a patina of wear and the passage of time is evident,” Romanek said. “It’s a cracked cup instead of an uncracked cup.” Del Toro does this with his comics-panel bold compositions and lived-in, lived-on settings: Paint peels. Rust always seeps. Rot beckons. Walls of water crash the walls of men. And the set of determined faces is matched by marvelous costume design that brings it all to human, textural level. Fabrics feel weathered, worn, timeless, classic, wonders of sensation. The slightest tweaking of a seam along the shoulder of a young man’s sweater; the wool-to-linen burst along the hard, pressed crease of Stacker Pentecost’s blue gabardine-ish suit jackets; shoes. Shoes that suit the scenes. Shoes that suit the characters. Little red shoes that make the past explode into the shared memories of two Jaeger pilots. There’s so much onscreen, so much suggested but not explored or explained, almost like jam-packed Harvey Kurtzman panels from classic MAD magazines. It’s joyous even as cities are leveled by the pure malevolence of the Kaiju. Doc Films and Film Studies Center, Thursday, April 27, 7:30pm.
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.