While spreading its wings across the city to multiple locations, including at a new festival hub at AMC New City 14, near the Red Line’s North and Clybourn stop, the fifty-ninth Chicago International Film Festival is a more concise event than in years of yore.
With fewer screenings than in past decades of many features, the event is a competitive festival in more ways than one: some movies may already be sold out. Fortunately, these are also the ones most likely to be seen on local screens again.
Pictures from world-class directors include Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s follow up to “Drive My Car,” “Evil Does Not Exist“; Aki Kaurismäki’s autumnal “Fallen Leaves“; Errol Morris’ query of the late John le Carré, “The Pigeon Tunnel“; Jonathan Glazer’s portrait of bureaucratic home life adjacent to Auschwitz, “Zone Of Interest“; Todd Haynes’ “May December“; Agnieszka Holland’s tale of refugee life on the border of Poland with Belarus, “Green Border“; and just added, Yorgos Lanthimos’ Emma Stone-driven liberation phantasmagoria, “Poor Things.”
I’ve noted a handful of features to seek out now (and later); of course, it’s always worth seeking out movies from other countries that aren’t preceded by a blaze of publicity and prior festival exposure; some won’t even make it onto the more expansive and exploratory streaming services such as MUBI.
The rarest and most Fair Use of them all would be “The People’s Joker,” which may or may not be wholly illegal to screen. Vera Drew’s appropriation of Warner Bros. Discovery’s intellectual property through mix-and-match mashup techniques to use the character of the Joker for a trans narrative is a bold and modern move.
Another form of essay film is Radu Jude’s 163-minute “Do Not Expect Too Much From The End Of The World,” an expansion on the manner of black comedy rumination, philosophical zigging and zagging and outright cultural confrontation as the veteran Romanian filmmaker’s “Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn” (2021). Angry, shrugging, footnoting, haranguing and laughing, Jude’s current streak of work is a sardonic bulletin from a world failing its structures.
The 1990s features “The Scent of Green Papaya” and “Cyclo,” by now-sixty-year-old French Vietnamese filmmaker Tran Anh Hung, were visually sumptuous highlights of that decade. He was chosen Best Director at Cannes 2023 for his new gustatory cornucopia, “The Taste Of Things” (aka “The Pot-au-feu”). Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel transact a romance between a gourmet and the cook he hires in France 1885. (This is one of the film’s French trailers, under one of its French release titles.)
Veteran filmmaker Wim Wenders—over thirty features and documentaries at the age of seventy-eight—has two entries in the festival, “Anselm,” his 3-D documentary on the life and work of his fellow German visionary Anselm Kiefer and the day-in-the-life Japanese-language “Perfect Days.” Starring the wondrous Japanese actor Koji Yakusho (“Shall We Dance,” “Cure,” “Eureka”) as a taciturn cleaner of Tokyo public toilets who appreciates each and every moment of his day. Time passes, beauty transfixes: a preoccupation of Wenders across the decades.
Among the Chicago-focused entries are Haroula Rose’s comedy “All Happy Families” in “a dysfunctional family’s crumbling two-flat” and writer-director Minhal Baig’s opening-night attraction, “We Grown Now,” etching the challenges faced by two ten-year-old boys in Cabrini-Green in 1992. Also on tap: Michael Shannon’s directorial debut, “Eric Larue” (from a screenplay by Brett Neveu, based on his play), with Judy Greer in the prime role of a mother who, after a school shooting, must face up to the fact her son is a mass killer.
There are also public panels and discussions, with more added even at deadline, as well as the first-weekend by-registration Industry Days, which includes industry figures examining—with great hope—the forces that will fashion the future of film.
A just-added event: “International Awards Contenders: Making Movies that Transcend Borders,” featuring filmmakers behind Festival selections that are their countries’ official submissions to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences hoping for a place on the International Feature Oscar shortlist. The panel includes Rodrigo Moreno (“The Delinquents,” Argentina), Tran Anh Hung (“The Taste Of Things,” France), Ilker Çatak (“The Teachers’ Lounge,” Germany), Lina Soualem (“Bye Bye Tiberias,” Palestine) and Amr Gamal (“The Burdened,” Yemen). The panel will be moderated by Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com. Saturday, October 14, 10:30am. at New City 14. Tickets for this event are here.