Talking Screens, A Week In Chicago Film, October 20-26, 2023
Martin Scorsese’s first Western, the widescreen tapestry of the ravages of racism, “Killers Of The Flower Moon,” opens Friday. Our review and Scorsese on landscape and music is here.
“I look at you as an exquisite poet of self-hatred!” isn’t the first fine sally Errol Morris lobs from behind the camera at the spy-turned-author David Cornwell, better known as John le Carré, who decided at the end of his long life, in his late eighties, to provide a version of his life as a spy and his lie as a writer, or his lies as a spy and lives as a writer, to the philosophically-minded cinematic interlocutor.
With the captivating widescreen “interrogation” “The Pigeon Tunnel,” adapted, in his own way, from le Carré’s 2016 memoir of the same name, it’s good to see Morris engaging for ninety minutes with a cultural elder of less deleterious deceit than a Rumsfeld (“The Unknown Known”) or delirious damage like Bannon (“American Dharma”). “The reason that I made ‘The Pigeon Tunnel,’” he said of le Carré in a contentious New York Times exchange, “is that he is interested in philosophical questions. His work is riddled with philosophical questions. So there you go!” (Many of the questions are about the sins of the father.)
Who knows what else the seventy-five-year-old perusing polymath Morris has got aging in his storehouse? The mad mash-up of “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control” (1997) exists because his late, estimable editor Karen Schmeer rumbled his shed of bobs and bits: if anything the prolific positer is withholding on the level of the playful yet dead-serious “Pigeon Tunnel,” Errol has a hell of a legacy to leave while he’s still with us. Plus: another rich, mordant score, co-composed by longtime Morris’ musical partner, Philip Glass. Opens Friday, October 20 at Siskel and on Apple TV Plus.
A well-known Margaret Atwood quote sets the stakes over a nearly full moon in the night sky: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Directed by Susanna Fogel (screenwriter of “Booksmart”) and co-produced by the New Yorker, in the pages of which Kristen Roupenian’s briefly viral 2017 short story of the same name first appeared, “Cat Person” is a cleverly detailed swatch of a story about miscommunication between a twenty-year-old college student and concessions counter worker, Margot (Emilia Jones, “CODA”), and Robert, a thirty-three-year-old man of indeterminate experience (Nicholas Braun, “Succession”‘s Cousin Greg) that leads to a fumbling, then fucked-up bunch of encounters. Jones is portrayed as a younger edition of Zooey Deschanel’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and Braun is all gangly gawk and petty pout, lit with dead dark eyes. (While Robert is borderline mortifying from the start, Braun’s performance is dreadful.) Jones’ eyes are not only alert, but wary: the most unsurprising actions are always sour confirmation of suspicion.
Something was missing as I watched “Cat Person” on a large-but-not-not large-enough screen: it needed the frame of the screen of Park City’s Eccles Theater at Sundance around it and the cries of surprise from that audience. Part of the distinctively squirmy affect of the movie is its tone, through camerawork and performance, even in the drifts into fantasy bits, all placid as if predestined, stuff’s gonna happen. Starting with an epistolary romance via text messaging—hello, widescreen negative space!—that suggests intimacy to both characters, Fogel captures small laughs of observation alongside huge fissures of discomfort. (Before passing aside a plate of plump waffles, Margot folds over two slices of bacon, sandwiching them with a moosh of whipped cream.)
Thoughts of earlier films like “Ghost World”—cross-generational cultural misunderstanding—and “Annie Hall”—using a myriad of clever effects to portray Margot’s inner monologue and wary fantasias, pop to mind, sort of, but, no, not. Too much mortification, not enough murder. Opens Friday, October 20 at the Music Box.
I keep seeing the title of “Dicks: The Musical” as “Dicks! The Musical!” Why not! A24’s first musical, a riff on “The Parent Trap,” is based on Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson’s stage musical “Fucking Identical Twins,” which debuted at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade in 2014. The synopsis: “Two self-obsessed businessmen (Jackson and Sharp) discover they’re long-lost identical twins and come together to plot the reunion of their eccentric divorced parents, in this riotously funny and depraved musical from comedy icon Larry Charles (‘Seinfeld,’ ‘Borat’) also starring Megan Thee Stallion, Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally and Bowen Yang as God.” Opens Friday, October 20 at River East, Drafthouse and other theaters.
Godfrey Reggio’s co-directed “Once Within A Time” debuts at Siskel, an hourlong apocalyptic vision-cum-comedy, ten years in the making with “hope for the future.” Scored by Philip Glass. Siskel, opens Friday, October 20.
The fifty-ninth Chicago International Film Festival continues at Siskel, New City 14 and other venues. Recommended: “Perfect Days“; “The Taste Of Things“; “Evil Does Not Exist“; “Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World“; and “Green Border” (currently without distribution). Schedule here.
“The Bride Of Music Box Horrors” series continues through Halloween; estimable entries this week include “You’re Next” (35mm); “The Vampire Lovers” (35mm); “Ravenous” (35mm); “Anaconda” (35mm) and “The Tingler.”
Chicago Film Society makes its contribution to the fright with a pre-Code double feature of “Technicolor terror!” with “Doctor X” and “Mystery of the Wax Museum.” Music Box, Tuesday, October 24, 7:30pm.