Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, May 5-11, 2023:
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is a joyous sweetheart of a movie; even better is that it plays like a movie, not a Marvel product. There’s no reason not to love it. Filmmaker James Gunn’s sheer competence soars alongside his customary monumental goofiness. Warning: the dreamers in Rocket’s origin story face intense animal cruelty. Our review is here. In theaters.
Cristian Mungiu’s “R.M.N.” is another marvelous picture from the nation of minor miracles, Romania. He places his superb new film better than I could in a short review: “I recall watching a Mel Brooks film in the eighties called ‘Young Frankenstein.’ It was already a comedy, but even more for us, in Romania–since the main character was getting on board a train in New York and getting off that train in Bucharest, which in the film was Transylvania’s capital,” writes Mungiu, whose earlier films include “4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days,” “Beyond The Hills.” “Transylvania stood for that place which is at the end of the world and is also the country of vampires and monsters. The story of ‘R.M.N. takes place a little before the pandemic, during Christmas 2019 and the beginning of 2020, in a small multiethnic village in Transylvania, the most western Romanian province. It’s the story of Matthias who gets back from Germany and of Csilla who works at the village bakery. I won’t get too deep into Transylvania’s history but for us, it represents the typical kind of territory that was disputed between two countries and passed from one to another. A bit like Alsace and Lorraine. In our case it’s between Romania and Hungary, or rather the Austro-Hungarian empire.
“Therefore, there are Romanians and Hungarians living in Transylvania. But they’re not the only inhabitants… With so many ethnicities, Transylvania became a favorite playground for populist or nationalist movements of all kinds. There were street fights with victims in the nineties. Later things calmed down: many people went to work abroad as poverty affected them regardless of ethnicity. Nationalism is refreshed again every now and then, especially before elections. But don’t get confused: the film is not about a situation in Transylvania and not even about Romanians, Hungarians and Germans sharing the same territory. It is set there but it’s also about Russians and Ukrainians, whites and Blacks, Sunni and Shia, rich and poor, even tall and short. Whenever there’s a second person in the room, they will be perceived as being from another tribe and therefore a potential enemy. Languages, religions, flags (and other minor differences for which people kill one another).” “R.M.N.” opens Friday, May 5 at Siskel.
Shekhar Kapur’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” is an affable, oft-appealing Emma Thompson co-starring-British romcom from Working Title Films, producers of “Notting Hill” and “Bridget Jones” as well as Kapur’s 1998 “Elizabeth.” While the seventy-seven-year-old Kapur may be best known for his period work and epic landscapes, there are charming touches in his confident, by-the-charts 1990s-style, ever-so-anachronistic wedding telling from a script by Jemima Khan. With Lily James, Shazad Latif. In theaters.
Davy Chou’s “Return to Seoul” is back on the big screen: “A bright world, an intoxicating world, a whirl of neon and soju and pregnant pauses, envelops Freddie in her quest, and the elliptical telling only fixes us onto the charismatic Ji-min Park’s features, a magnetic face, first a dagger of stare, succeeded by a warm small bloom of smile. Chou’s style is more scansion than montage.” Review here. FACETS, Friday-Saturday, May 5-6, 7pm.
Two festivals with fantastic programming start this weekend. The eighth edition of the Doc10 Film Festival plays at Siskel and the Davis: One year in the nonfiction realm. Ten picks. Chicago’s only all-doc film fest (May 4-7). The tenth Chicago Critics Film Festival, Chicago’s only film festival programmed by critics features new, curated attractions and a 35mm print honoring the fortieth anniversary of “The Right Stuff.” (May 5-11). Our extended conversations with Doc10 senior programmer Anthony Kaufman and Chicago Critics Film Festival producers Brian Tallerico and Eric Childress are here.
The Chicago Latino Film Festival’s moviegoers have picked their favorites: The Audience Choice Award for Best Fiction Feature went to “Dear Grandma,” Jabi Elortegi’s “charming and ultimately moving comedy about a stranger in a strange land, ancestral pride and a grandmother who, after recovering from a comatose state, will now only speak in Basque.” The Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary went to the Puerto Rican documentary “Stewards of the Land,” JuanMa Pagán Teitelbaum’s vérité-style portrait of three young farmers in Puerto Rico who struggle to restore the island’s agricultural economy. Venezuelan director Mikel Garrido Linares won the Audience Choice Award for Best Short for “We Have Homeland,” a portrait of survival under President Nicolás Maduro. More here.
Chicago Filmmakers is seeking a highly motivated and experienced Program Manager to join their team. “The ideal candidate will have a well-rounded understanding of filmmaking, a passion for the organization’s mission and programs, and a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusivity in the film industry. The Program Manager will be responsible for developing, planning, and implementing Chicago Filmmakers’ core year-round programs, including education, film screenings, and filmmaker services, as well as seasonal tasks in relation to Chicago Filmmakers’ two film festivals.” More here.
REPERTORY & REVIVALS
John Badham’s 1983 “WarGames“: Shall we play a game? Drafthouse, Tuesday, May 9, 7:30pm.
Chantal Akerman’s “Letters Home” (1986) is her third and final collaboration with actress Delphine, an adaptation of Rose Leiman Goldemberg’s play, based on Sylvia Plath’s written exchanges with her mother. Seyrig and her niece (Coralie Seyrig) recite text directly to camera. Doc Films, Wednesday, May 10, 7pm.
“A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn’t think he’d remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all, but I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I haven’t thought of that girl.” “Citizen Kane” (35mm), Doc Films, Friday, May 12, 7pm; May 14, 4pm.
David Cronenberg’s indelible “Spider” (2002, 35mm) is a rarely revived item, for reason: it’s as intense as any of his better-known body horror pictures. “Spider” is the life of a schizophrenic (Ralph Fiennes) who is trying to unwind his lifelong trauma. Inside is a terrifying place to be; graphomania is like scribbling inside the skull. Doc Films, Thursday, May 11, 9:30pm.
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.