Advertisements

Author Archives: michaelgloversmith

About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor.

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Breathless (Godard)
2. The Enemy (Grant)
3. The Witch’s Mirror (Urueta)
4. Corpse Eaters (Passmore/Vetter)
5. The Witch (af Hällstrom)
6. Breathless (Godard)
7. The Body Snatcher (Wise)
8. Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda)
9. Thicker Than Blood (Williams)
10. A Man Escaped (Bresson)

Advertisements

ALEXANDRIA… WHY? at Doc Films

I wrote the below review of Youseff Chahine’s ALEXANDRIA… WHY? for Cine-File Chicago. It screens at Doc Films this Monday night.

alexandria

Youssef Chahine’s ALEXANDRIA… WHY? (Egyptian Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Monday, 7pm (Free Admission)

In 1979, Youssef Chahine, the most famous of all Egyptian filmmakers, created a scandal with this taboo-busting autobiographical epic, the first of a trilogy that would include 1982’s AN EGYPTIAN STORY and 1989’s ALEXANDRIA, AGAIN AND FOREVER. ALEXANDRIA… WHY? recreates, with impressive period detail, the director’s hometown of Alexandria during the outbreak of World War II. The story interweaves the lives of many characters, chief among them Yehia Mustafa, a teen-aged student and movie lover (and stand-in for Chahine) who nurses his first stirrings of creativity as an actor and director in local theatrical productions. Two other narrative strands involve characters experiencing forbidden love: a Jewish woman who embarks on an affair with a Muslim man and, in the film’s most controversial angle at the time of its release, a gay English soldier who becomes involved with a rich Arab. But these personal stories are always juxtaposed against a wider political and historical context, as Chahine deftly uses stock footage of the war, clips from Hollywood musicals (which Yehia uses as a means to escape from the nightmare around him) and the depiction of air raids, black market activity, and interactions between Egyptian civilians and soldiers of the occupational British army. A supreme masterpiece of world cinema. (1979, 133 min, DCP Digital) MGS

More info at www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Almodovar)
2. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
3. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
4. Hangover Square (Brahm)
5. A Short Film About Love (Kieslowski)
6. The Irishman (Scorsese)
7. Through the Olive Trees (Kiarostami)
8. Devil in a Blue Dress (Franklin)
9. Pain and Glory (Almodovar)
10. Vitalina Varela (Costa)


RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO Interview

I was recently interviewed by Annalise Kiser of the Strasburg Film Festival about RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO, which won the Best Comedy award at Strasburg one year ago this month (a condensed version of the interview appears on the SFF site). Check out this spoiler-free Q&A ahead of the film’s streaming premiere next week:

strasburg1

AK: What made you first begin pursuing film? Do you have a favorite movie?

MGS: I grew up in the ’80s and my childhood coincided with the VHS boom. I fell in love with movies at an early age and educated myself on film history at the video store – the films of Alfred Hitchcock and Sergio Leone were formative for me. My favorite movie now is Edward Yang’s A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY. It’s a four-hour epic about juvenile delinquents living in Taipei in the 1950s – think a Taiwanese REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.

AK: RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO follows the beginning, middle, and ending of romantic relationships. Was there a reason for the choice of which character set was for each segment? Especially the first segment, with the rather unscrupulous couple being the start of a relationship?

MGS: Lots of relationships have dubious beginnings! I thought of the film as depicting the arc of a single relationship – but using three different couples to explore each relationship “phase.” I thought that would be kind of a novel way to structure a movie.

AK: Was there a reason for the first couple’s conversation to be explicitly about men approaching women in bars and “negging” them?

MGS: Yes! I wanted to explore gender dynamics in the Me-Too era in a comedic way in this opening segment. I thought it would be funny to have a guy who thinks he’s slick offer to buy a woman a drink but insist he doesn’t want to sleep with her. All the while he’s trying to pretend he knows more about literature (her area of expertise) than he actually does. She calls him on his bullshit by challenging him to a game of “Strip Literary Trivia.”

AK: The second couple talk in a lot of non sequiturs about Chicago and how it is a place they love very much. The other two skits hardly mention being in Chicago; why in the center?

MGS: The second story was the last one that I wrote and I wanted it to serve as a bridge between the other two stories. I knew that the first and last stories would deal with heterosexual couples and take place primarily indoors – so I thought it would be a refreshing change of pace if the second story focused on a gay couple and took place entirely outdoors. We shot that scene in my neighborhood, Rogers Park, so I know those streets and that beach very well. It seemed logical to me that those characters would talk about their love of the neighborhood and the city.

AK: The second couple discuss how indoor cats watch the world go by from their perches, but don’t interact directly. Would that be a metaphor for film?

MGS: That’s exactly right. As film viewers, we are all “indoor cats” looking out the window. Hitchcock uses the same metaphor in REAR WINDOW.

AK: When Julie begins to address the audience, I wonder if you had something specific in mind you were saying with it?

MGS: I think voyeurism is an interesting subject in film because sight is the primary sense we use to experience movies. Any time you make a film about someone “spying” it automatically becomes a multi-layered experience because the character is a surrogate for the viewer. Voyeurism is a theme in all three of the RENDEZVOUS vignettes but I decided to make it explicit in the third one. I thought it would be funny if a character in the story started to fall in love with the viewer.

AK: What was set life like, working with the actors and crew?

MGS: We had a great cast and great crew. We shot the whole thing in 8 days, which is very fast for a feature film, so pre-production and rehearsal were very important. The film was produced by a female filmmaking collective, Women of the Now, and the crew was mostly female. There was a very lovely, cooperative energy on set.

AK: What makes you want to make a certain movie?

MGS: I just accumulate ideas over time and, once enough of those ideas start to connect up with each other in my brain, I start writing.

AK: Do you know where you want to head with your career? Indie movies, hollywood ones, television, something else, etc?

MGS: I love Chicago and I imagine that I will stay where I am and continue to make films independently.

AK: What sort of reactions do you hope for from your audience?

MGS: I want RENDEZVOUS to provoke laughter but also cause people to think about their own lives and relationships. In the past year, the film has screened publicly 28 times in 9 states and I have been very happy with the audience response.

AK: What is a question you haven’t been asked but wish someone would ask you?

MGS: Why does the Pentagon have five sides?


Keep Odd Obsession Movies Alive

My latest article for Time Out is about the campaign to save Odd Obsession, one of Chicago’s last remaining video rental stores.

oddobsession

You can help save one of Chicago’s last surviving video rental stores

Since owner Brian Chankin founded Odd Obsession in 2004 (originally in Lincoln Park, now located in Bucktown), the beloved video rental store has amassed an impressive library of more than 25,000 titles on DVD, Blu-ray and even VHS. The store’s collection is organized by genre, country and director, and features a wide array of movies for all tastes, including classic Hollywood films, foreign movies and independently-released cult classics. From the beginning, Odd Obsession has distinguished itself by specializing in rare and off-the-beaten-path titles, including many that are not available on streaming services, making it an invaluable resource for local cinephiles. “This is a place where you can really embrace an all-inclusive sense of film history,” says Chicago Reader film critic Ben Sachs.

Chankin is now moving on to pursue other endeavors and is handing over the business to the store’s volunteer staff who hope to keep it afloat. The goal is to keep Odd Obsession’s collection available to Chicagoans with a new model of membership that will make the business sustainable well into the future. Long-time volunteer Josh Brown is leading this transition effort, which includes the Indiegogo fundraising campaign “Keep Odd Obsession Movies Alive!” For contributions of $120 to $400, customers can receive between three months and one year of free rentals (four at a time for a week’s duration with an “extreme late fee forgiveness” policy); but there are plenty of other more affordable perks too—including stickers for just $5 or a coffee mug emblazoned with the visage of Charles Bronson for $25. “This collaborative spirit driven forward can take shape in the form of community events and new extensions to the store’s mission,“ says Brown.

If you refuse to limit your movie-watching options to the titles provided by streaming services, you should take a look at Odd Obsession’s Indiegogo campaign and consider kicking in a few bucks to keep the local institution alive. With just five days left, the shop is only about a quarter of the way to its $25,000 goal—every dollar gets the volunteer staff one step closer to preserving an impressive collection of obscure flicks.


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Devoured (Olliver)
2. Parasite (Bong)
3. The Lady from Shanghai (Welles)
4. The Whistlers (Porumboiu)
5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Sciamma)
6. Varda by Agnes (Varda)
7. Detour (Ulmer)
8. The Cotton Club (Coppola)
9. Out of the Past (Tourneur)
10. Viy (Ershov/Kropachyov)


Filmmaker Interview: Pedro Costa

 


%d bloggers like this: