Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, June 23-29, 2023
Another obstinate singularity from Wes Anderson: the performer-filled “Asteroid City” is a sly concordance of the veteran writer-director’s fixations over the course of a couple of years of composition and filmmaking: how do we frame our lives, what stories do we tell, what stories do we tell about the stories, how do we accommodate the aliens from within and above and nuclear detonations on the storyboard of the horizon? A period piece is always the view from the now that was months ago when a movie was considered, then made. Tenderly bittersweet stuff. [Our full review is here.] Opens Friday, June 23 at the Music Box and other locales.
Jennifer Lawrence goes for hard-R mid-teen-post-teen comedy in “No Hard Feelings“: “Maddie thinks she’s found the answer to her financial troubles when she discovers an intriguing job listing: wealthy helicopter parents looking for someone to ‘date’ their introverted nineteen-year-old son, Percy, and bring him out of his shell before he leaves for college. She has one summer to make him a man or lose it all.” A taste is above. In theaters.
“Squaring The Circle (the story of hipgnosis)” is a documentary by photographer turned terrific filmmaker Anton Corbijn (“Control,” “A Most Wanted Man”) on the work of Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey “Po” Powell, the creative team behind album-art-design studio Hipgnosis, who fashioned powerful imagery for acts like Peter Gabriel (pictured), Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Paul McCartney. New interviews from Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, McCartney, Gabriel, Graham Gouldman of 10cc and Noel Gallagher are in store. Music Box, opens Friday, June 23.
One of the year’s very best releases comes to a theater nearer you: Celine Song’s debut as a feature writer-director, “Past Lives,” demonstrates the lasting strength and durability of the confined timespan of the theatrical film: time is not a gulf, but galaxies in her time-hopping, continent-jumping, heart-stopping romance after a reunion after decades between two people who had known each other as children in South Korea. Pace, frame, performance: Song works with bracing confidence. “Past Lives”‘ narrative calm is matched by its emotional urgency: it’s all the art of the undercurrent. Its bittersweet aftertaste lingers, as does its uncommon joy. In theaters in wide release.
Portuguese gay auteur João Pedro Rodrigues’ poetic, homoerotic sci-fi semi-musical “Will-‘O-The-Wisp” (“Fogo-Fatuo”) continues his wanton way as esthetic vandal: his matter-of-factness in the strangest of fetishistic instants or inflected memories in a brightly sketched dystopia is hypnotic. The sixty-seven-minute runtime includes the donning of princely privilege, a dance to the allure of firemen, the horny shoot for a horny firefighter calendar, Greta Thunberg’s United Nations Climate Action Summit address and sexually explicit passages that challenge. Environmental catastrophe twines with expressive joy. (One of the co-production companies is named House on Fire.) Siskel, opens Friday, June 23.
REVIVAL & REPERTORY
The Music Box’s always-jam-packed week includes garden presentations of Christopher Guest’s “Waiting for Guffman” and “Best in Show”; Neil LaBute’s “The Wicker Man” with a bear, some bees and Nicolas Cage on 35mm at Friday-Saturday midnight shows and the 1968 “Planet of the Apes” on 35mm as the Saturday-Sunday matinee.
“By Hook Or By Crook” (2001) is Harry Dodge and Silas Howard’s groundbreaking street-level “trans/butch comedy,” newly restored. Said Dodge in the press notes almost twenty-five years ago, “One of our experiments was to make a movie where the characters in the story could be played interchangeably by a man or woman, gay or straight. We wanted to make a piece that would be dealt with on its own artistic and emotional terms.” The filmmakers synopsize the comedy as “a buddy film that chronicles three weeks in the life of a handsome, gender-bending, small-town dreamer with a nagging messiah complex. Emotionally defeated after the death of his father, Shy (Tribe 8 guitarist and filmmaker Silas Howard) heads to the big city to sink himself into a ‘life of crime. He is quickly distracted by Valentine (performance artist Harry Dodge), a deliriously expressive, wise-acre adoptee on a misguided search for his birth mother. The two freaky grifters join forces and learn the true meaning of ‘poise under pressure’ in this visually stunning, wonderfully acted, anti-authoritarian tale of friendship, trust and redemption.” With Joan Jett. Streaming on the Criterion Channel. Drafthouse, Wednesday, June 28.
This week’s installment of the Reeling Pride Showcase is C.B. Yi’s “Money Boys” (2021)” “Fei makes a living in the big city working as a hustler. His world collapses when he realizes that his family accepts his money but not his homosexuality. Broken-hearted, Fei struggles to create a new beginning in his life.” Director C.B. Yi writes, “‘MoneyBoys’ may deal with a very specific situation, the migration of a young man from rural China, but for me it is a universal story about interpersonal relationships that could happen in many places around the world.” Reeling Pride Film Showcase presented by MUBI, Chicago Filmmakers, Friday, June 23, 7pm.
“Pacifiction” is pleasingly berserk, a multi-level hallucination of colonialism in the Pacific Islands. At 162 widescreen minutes, it’s a gorgeous, baffling monster of moment-to-moment tactile glories, odd gestures and unexpected satisfactions. A longer review is here. Doc Films, Thursday, June 29, 7pm.
“The Long Goodbye“: a musical? Yes. “I’ve been making one long movie,” is one of the nice lines Robert Altman had in his quiver to keep from telling journalistic outsiders about just what it was that he did as a filmmaker. Altman worked variations on the form of the musical, sometimes hiding it, sometimes celebrating it. He claimed to hate genre, which is why he employed it and also why he would worm his way through its clichés in movies like the loping masterpiece “The Long Goodbye” (the always-moral figure of the P.I. turns amoral; its 1940s-style theme is repeated down to supermarket Muzak and doorbells), or the slowed-down “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (the Western entrepreneur is shown to be a mumbling mess-up, scored to dour, fateful Leonard Cohen songs like “Susannah”). “There’s a long goodbye /And it happens everyday / When some passerby /Invites your eye /To come her way.” Doc Films, Friday, June 23, 8:30pm; Sunday, June 25, 6pm.
Howard Hawks’ 1948 “Red River” gets a 35mm outing: “‘Red River’ has what we’ve come to expect from a great classic American Western, all gorgeous vistas, hard-working men around the fire, your land is actually my land etcetera, but it sets itself apart as a nuanced film about the intricacies of male love and friendship. It’s so deeply focused on the men in the film, it often fails its female characters,” writes Chicago Film Society’s Rebecca Lyon. “Yet there’s enough rage and love and unspoken words simmering under the surface to keep you on your toes for the long drive to Missouri. Peter Bogdanovich called it ‘the best epic Western ever made,’ and it’s the final movie playing at the soon-to-be shuttered theater in his film ‘The Last Picture Show,’ implying that if you’re going to show one last movie, it might as well be something tremendous.” 35mm. Chicago Film Society at NEIU, Wednesday, June 28, 7:30pm.