Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, April 28-May 4, 2023
Choreographer Benjamin Millepied’s debut feature, “Carmen,” scored by Nicholas Britell (“Moonlight,” “Succession”) and with songs by Britell, Julieta Venegas, Taura Stinson, Tracy “The D.O.C” Curry, is naturally no match for the lifetime of flamenco dance films made by the late Carlos Saura, but its light-swept mounting of the familiar contours of the opera offers a range of visual appreciations of the Mexican desert. Conflict arises when the orphaned Carmen (Melissa Barrera), a survivor of the crossing from the Mexican desert into the U. S., is accosted by a murderous volunteer border guard and his patrol partner, Aidan (Paul Mescal). Violet complications ensue and Carmen and Aidan make their way to Los Angeles, to La Sombra, a music club run by Rossy de Palma. Britell’s score soars, selling much of the deeply eccentric performance and visual style in this lush, peculiar fever dream. Fine arts photography meets Terrence Malick meets stylized choreography: the world is a dance, we are all observers but we are all also dancers. Opens Friday, April 28 at Landmark Century.
Streaming debuts include Disney Plus auteur David Lowery’s reimagining of the free-to-use-I.P. “Peter Pan & Wendy” and “Citadel” (Amazon) a series from the Russo Brothers, makers of the world’s second-highest-grossing film of all time, “Avengers: Endgame,” as well as a lot of contentious current interviews about the future of cinema. (“Whether we like it or not, the advent of AI, the advent of three-dimensional projectors that don’t require glasses, the advent of deepfakes—everything that’s coming is going to transition the face of media as we know it. And we’re interested in turning the car towards that.”) The cast includes Richard Madden, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Stanley Tucci and Lesley Manville. The six-episode $300 million “Citadel,” described as a global science-fiction spy espionage thriller, survived a tumultuous production history to arrive on Amazon, Friday, April 28.
Saim Sadiq’s impassioned “Joyland” (Pakistani’s international feature submission to the most recent Oscars), compact as a film but as dense as a novel, is a drama of transformation in a traditional Pakistani family, with accruing power all the way to its final frames. Haider (Ali Junejo) is a married man, living with wife Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), father, and his elder brother’s family in Lahore. After taking a job as a backup dancer—unbeknownst to his extended family—he grows ever more fond of the trans woman, Biba (Alina Khan), who runs the Bollywood-style burlesque show. An accomplished visualist even in his first picture, Sadiq conveys a world in a way that doesn’t require a raft of exposition: he places himself, and the audience, directly into the sensations of the scene and the longings of his characters. Life is lived, despite tradition, despite patriarchy’s hold. “Joyland” opens Friday, April 28 at Siskel.
London-set “anarchic action comedy” “Polite Society” follows Ria Khan, “a bolshy schoolgirl and martial artist-in-training who dreams of becoming a world-renowned stunt woman.” Opens in theaters, Friday, April 28.
Prolific French filmmaker François Ozon’s latest, “Everything Went Fine,” is a muted but affecting drama of late-in-life reconciliation and euthanasia, featuring Sophie Marceau, André Dussollier and Charlotte Rampling. As in all of Ozon’s pictures, the telling is tender and the surroundings and furnishings emotional: life as it is lived in. Often funny, too. Opens Friday, April 28 at Landmark Century and Landmark at the Glen.
The Chicago Palestine Film Festival, founded in 2001, runs April 29-May 14 at Siskel. “The world’s longest consecutive running festival of its kind,” CPFF relays. The event “has screened well over 250 independent films in Chicago. Such films address aspects of Palestinian society, art, culture and humanity. The majority of these films [are] foundations for further discussion on sociocultural norms in Palestinian communities here and abroad. Each producer and director is given the space to directly address various political, economic, linguistic and social challenges they face to a large audience.”
The Cinema Femme Short Film Fest has its fifth offering at the Music Box. “This one-of-a-kind festival emphasizes the importance of supporting emerging female and non-binary filmmakers by connecting them to seasoned industry members through the Breaking Down Walls mentorship program,” CFSFF advises. “Twenty short films will be selected to screen across four programs. Four of those filmmakers will then be awarded a six-month mentorship with a seasoned filmmaker.” This year’s mentors are filmmaker Isabel Sandoval, actress Melora Walters, television and film editor Stephanie Filo, and producer Julie Keck.” There are four in-person screenings with the option to view films online. The in-person portion includes filmmaker Q&As, workshops, and panels. Music Box, April 30, May 3, listings and details here.
REPERTORY & REVIVAL
Todd Haynes’ brutal, brutalizing “Safe”(35mm), a visionary look at inexplicable health calamities of the twentieth century, effectively presages plagues to come, a masterpiece boasting one of the great film performances of all time. Julianne Moore, a small flickering flame called Carol, is sorrow and strength, fear and hope-against-hope. Part of the “Gore Capitalism” series at Siskel, Tuesday, May 2, 6pm.
The Music Box’s “Highs and Lows,” presented with Mubi and programmed by Oscarbate, has a bold and bright 1980s double feature that may never have been consummated before, Amy Heckerling’s indelible “Clueless” (1995) and Chantal Akerman’s magnificent “Golden Eighties” (1986). Of that era in her life, Akerman said, “No, I didn’t take notes and I forgot everything after my first breakdown. Since then, my memory’s been worse. It was a real disaster, just before ‘Golden Eighties,’ which hadn’t been made as I wanted. I remember just how out of place and explosive it seemed in the landscape of the time; nobody was expecting such a joyous, colorful musical. That kind of exhilaration ran completely against the dominant taste in auteur films of the eighties. They kept wanting me to remake ‘Jeanne Dielman,’ but I wanted to spurn everything—spurn my father’s name, not repeat myself. I did a number of trial runs for it, and [the experimental documentary ‘Les Années 80’ (The ‘80s) and the others are possibly more joyous than the final film, which suffered from a lack of resources, among other reasons. In any case, I was very happy to write the songs.” Theater One at the Music Box, Tuesday, May 2. 7pm.
“Star Wars: Return Of the Jedi” has a free screening at the Music Box, tickets at box office the night of. Music Box, Thursday, May 4, 10:15pm.
“2001: A Space Odyssey” floats into Hyde Park. Doc Films, Friday, April 28, 7pm, April 30, 4pm.
Carole Lombard charms in Ernst Lubitsch’s offhanded-yet-magisterial comedy “To Be Or Not To Be” (1942); Jack Benny’s not half-bad himself as the jealous ham-“Hamlet”-mangler. “What he did to Shakespeare, we are now doing to Poland!” Essential viewing. Music Box, Saturday-Sunday, 11:30am.
FACETS presents 1977’s “Suspiria” with a personal appearance by actress Barbara Magnolfi and other events. Details here: FACETS, Saturday, April 29.
“You Hurt My Feelings” is the title of the latest comedy from the great Nicole Holofcener, whose movies move gracefully from minor-key moments and momentary mortification, as with earlier Holofcener titles, like “Enough Said” and “Please Give” and “Friends With Money,” that moniker seems hardly to qualify as a title, more like a designation, or a Post-It with a provisional squiggle on it. But once the credits roll, her titles punch and hug and hold. Siskel has three of her pictures this week: a free preview of “You Hurt My Feelings,” with her capable muse, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Thursday, May 4, 6pm. Also: “Enough Said” (35mm), Wednesday, May 3, 8:30pm and “Friends With Money” (35mm), Siskel, Monday, May 1, 6pm.
David Cronenberg’s “Naked Lunch” makes a rare 35mm hallucination: the unadaptable comes creepy-crawling at you in fine, dense form. The slim, confounding novel is cut up with history of old Bill, novelist William S. Burroughs, to rich effect. May your Mugwump be ever in your favor! Doc Films, Thursday, May 4, 930pm.
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.