Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
2. Bisbee ’17 (Greene)
3. The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock)
4. Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (Decker)
5. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
6. The Lady from Shanghai (Welles)
7. Butter on the Latch (Decker)
8. Vladimir et Rosa (Godard/Gorin)
9. The Ice Harvest (Ramis)
10. Lotte in Italia (Godard/Gorin)


Hong Sang-soo’s CLAIRE’S CAMERA

The following review of Hong Sang-soo’s Claire’s Camera appeared at Time Out Chicago today. What appears below is the original unedited version.


Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema, the city’s only local Pan-Asian film organization, recently announced its sixth season. The lineup includes an impressively diverse program of 16 feature-length films from across Asia that will be making their U.S., Midwestern or Chicago premieres. The series kicks off this Tuesday, March 13 with the Japanese film Colors of Wind and runs through May 16. Screenings will be held at various venues across the city, many of which will also play host to filmmakers, actors and critics giving talkbacks following the movies. One of this season’s highlights is the Midwestern Premiere of Claire’s Camera, a delightful French/Korean co-production by the great Korean writer/director (and School of the Art Institute graduate) Hong Sang-soo. At a fleet 69-minute running time, it’s a clever cinematic confection that definitely doesn’t wear out its welcome. The screening, which will be held at Alliance Francaise de Chicago on Thursday, March 22, is free and will be introduced by Columbia College film studies professor Ron Falzone.

Following closely on the heels of On the Beach at Night Alone, arguably Hong’s saddest and most haunting film, Claire’s Camera represents an appealing “about face” – it may be the prolific director’s lightest and funniest work to date. The premise is that Claire (Isabelle Huppert), a French schoolteacher and amateur photography enthusiast, visits the Cannes Film Festival where she befriends a film sales agent’s assistant (Kim Min-hee), a whimsical young woman who has recently been fired from her job for having an affair with her boss’s lover, a famous director. Each of the members of this love triangle is Korean and the bulk of the film’s dialogue is in English, as each of them takes turns conversing with Claire. The comedic chemistry between the legendary Huppert and Kim (star of Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden and several recent Hong films) is amazing: they’re a match made in acting heaven. This being a Hong Sang-soo joint, however, means that extreme naturalism soon gives way to gentle surrealism – the events of the film are shown out of order, which forces the viewer to put them together as if constructing a puzzle, and it’s intriguingly implied that Claire’s camera has the magical ability to alter the destiny of anyone she photographs.

The Alliance Francaise screening of Claire’s Camera is free and open to the public though guests are asked to register in advance on the Asian Pop-Up Cinema website.


I have a review of Bruno Dumont’s Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc in this week’s Cine-File list. It screens twice over the next week as part of the Gene Siskel Film Center’s vital Chicago European Union Film Festival and I could not recommend it more highly. I’m reproducing the capsule in its entirety below. I also want to alert readers to the fact that you can hear me talk about the Chicago EU Film Fest with fellow critics Scott Pfeiffer and Kyle Cubr as part of a round-table discussion on the inaugural episode of “Cine-Cast,” the new Cine-File podcast. Check it out and listen to not only us but smart critics and programmers like Patrick Friel, Ben and Kathleen Sachs, Emily Eddy and Josh Mabe! We are “Track 10” on the the webcast of the Transistor Chicago site.


Bruno Dumont’s JEANNETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC (New French)Chicago European Union Film Festival – Sunday at 3pm, Thursday at 6pm

Bruno Dumont’s astonishing recent period continues with a heavy-metal musical about the childhood of Joan of Arc. Based on a play by Charles Peguy, featuring a score by someone named Igorrr and shot by a crew of non-professionals, JEANNETTE obviously grew out of Dumont’s previous two films (LI’L QUINQUIN and SLACK BAY, both of which also featured child protagonists as well as a healthy and – for Dumont – surprising dose of humor) while simultaneously confounding expectations and striking out in a bold new direction. In his ability to reinvent himself while also remaining supremely himself, this recent run of films is comparable to Bob Dylan’s ingenious genre hopping in the late 1960s: if SLACK BAY was Dumont’s John Wesley Harding then JEANNETTE is his Nashville Skyline. Of course, the thing that’s remained the same since Dumont made his debut as writer/director with THE LIFE OF JESUS in 1997 at the ripe old age of 39 is his interest in philosophical and spiritual themes. So the oft-filmed “life of Joan of Arc,” tackled by heavyweight filmmakers from Dreyer to Rossellini to Bresson to Rivette, would seem to be a natural fit as subject matter for the former philosophy professor. And yet this bizarre freak-musical takes an extremely unorthodox approach to its heroine even for the director of TWENTYNINE PALMS. Apparently made on a low budget, the bulk of the narrative consists of a series of one-on-one conversations between the young Jeanne (played as a 14-year-old by Lise Leplat Prudhomme and as a 17-year-old by Jeanne Voisin) and her best friend, her uncle and a nun – all on what looks like the same stretch of deserted beach. Aside from a stray crane shot or two, and the use of CGI in a scene involving a vision of the Saints, JEANNETTE has a remarkably simple and stripped down approach to its imagery that recalls both the asceticism of late Rossellini and, in its transposition of a stage musical to actual locations, Straub/Huillet’s MOSES AND AARON. By focusing on a Jeanne younger than we’re used to seeing her onscreen, Dumont also shows us the kind of formative, internal moral dilemmas that the character only alludes to in the other films, which tend to focus on more dramatic and heroic external events. In so doing, Dumont, aided by his wonderful actresses (especially the endearingly awkward Prudhomme) arguably brings us closer to the historical Jeanne than any previous filmmaker. It’s the story of a simple, country girl whose decision not to enter the local convent but instead to take up arms against the English in order to drive them from France is spurred by a religious conviction so strong that it requires a good deal of literal head-banging to convey. (2017, 105 min, DCP Digital) MGS

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. British Sounds (See You at Mao) (Godard)
2. Le Vent d’est (Godard/Gorin)
3. Un Film comme les autres (Godard)
4. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
5. Le Joli Mai (Marker/Lhomme)
6. Night Moves (Penn)
7. Citizen Kane (Welles)
8. Patti Cake$ (Jasper)
9. Office Space (Judge)
10. Claire’s Camera (Hong)

The 28th Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival


Onion City is one of the world’s longest-running and most prestigious festivals dedicated exclusively to screening experimental film and video works. The Experimental Film Coalition founded the event in the 1980s and it was taken over by Chicago Filmmakers in 2001. This year’s edition, which runs from March 8–11, was programmed by Emily Eddy, a digital media artist from Portland who has been curating at the Nightingale Cinema since 2013. Taking into account the brief running times of many of the films and videos being exhibited at the fest—most of which are bundled together in loose, thematically related programs—there’s a surplus of exciting works for local cinephiles to check out. Chicagoans, however, should be especially interested in two wonderful shorts with local connections: Marianna Milhorat’s Sky Room and Kristin Reeves’ CPS Closings & Delays.

Sky Room is a collaboration between filmmaker Marianna Milhorat and sound artist Brian Kirkbride that was commissioned by the Chicago Film Archives. Consisting entirely of pre-existing footage that has been extensively reworked — Milhorat credits herself only with “Picture Edit” in the brief closing credits — and married to a soundtrack of retro-sci-fi sound effects and pounding electronic music, Milhorat and Kirkbride weave a beguiling tapestry that contrasts archival images of organic life (plants rapidly growing via time-lapse cinematography) with images of “futuristic” technology (a woman strapped to a hospital bed being fed juice through a straw by a robot arm). The results are at once humorous, disturbing, dreamlike and poetic.

CPS Closings & Delays takes as its subject the controversial decision by the Chicago Board of Education, under the auspices of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to close 50 public schools in 2013. Kristin Reeves shot all 50 schools with a 16mm camera a year later then distressed the footage of the buildings in post-production using laser animation and bleach. These degraded images, appearing onscreen for only a few seconds a piece, visually articulate the socio-economic tragedy, and are juxtaposed with audio interviews with members of the communities, one of whom wryly notes: “If anything, (Emanuel) should be opening up more schools because that’s what these kids need.” The film’s final minutes contain digitally shot footage of children playing in the same neighborhoods, including an exceedingly poignant moment where some of them help Reeves load filmmaking equipment into her car.

Sky Room screens as part of “Shorts Program 1: Growing” on Friday, March 9. CPS Closings & Delays screens as part of “Shorts Program 6: Listening” on Sunday, March 11. For more information, including the complete Onion City schedule, visit


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Inquiring Nuns (Quinn)
2. Out of the Past (Tourneur)
3. Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda)
4. The Lady from Shanghai (Welles)
5. The Awful Truth (McCarey)
6. Ouroboros (Alsharif)
7. A New Leaf (May)
8. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Demy)
9. Citizen Kane (Welles)
10. Have You Seen My Movie? (Smith)

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