Advertisements

Category Archives: Film Reviews

Abbas Kiarostami’s TAKE ME HOME at the Siskel Center

My latest blog post for Time Out Chicago concerns Abbas Kiaorstami’s short film Take Me Home, which receives its local premiere at the Siskel Center tomorrow. My uncut version of the article is below.

image

Abbas Kiarostami’s final film screens at the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Festival of Films from Iran

The highlight of the Gene Siskel Film Center’s invaluable annual Festival of Films from Iran, the 26th edition of which kicked off on February 6 and runs through the end of the month, is Take Me Home, the final work of master-director Abbas Kiarostami, who passed away too soon last year at the age of 76. Although this playful 15-minute movie is being billed as a kind of opening act for the feature-length documentary 76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami, a formidable film in its own right, Take Me Home is actually the best reason to attend the program; like Manoel de Oliveira’s final movie One Century of Power, which it resembles in its wordlessness and brief running time, Kiaorstami’s short is the loveliest swan song imaginable for one of cinema’s greatest artists and a fitting parting gift to his fans. This wondrous film, as aesthetically beautiful and appropriate-for-children as Albert Lamorisse’s classic The Red Balloon, concerns a boy who leaves a soccer ball on the front steps of his home before going inside; unbeknownst to him, the ball rolls down the steps and out of the frame. Then, in the following shot, it rolls down another flight of steps. Then another. And another…15 minutes later, one may feel that Abbas Kiarostami has taken back the staircase from Sergei Eisenstein.

Take Me Home is essentially an exercise in montage editing in which the same ball can be seen cascading down dozens of flights of stairs in a series of matching cuts that defy geographical logic but that have been edited (by Kiarostami protégé Adel Yaraghi) in a rhythmic way and accompanied by a delightful jazz score. In many ways, the ball is an excuse for for the black-and-white shots of the stairs, which Kiarostami frames so elegantly that each one resembles a fine-art photograph that you might want to frame and hang inside your home. Longtime followers of the director’s work will recognize familiar elements: the black-and-white cinematography, child protagonist, and soccer ball all hark back to Kiarostami’s first feature, 1974’s The Traveler (thus bringing his career full circle), while the interplay of chance and predetermination, conjured by the chaotic trajectory of a moving ball within carefully composed static shots, calls to mind one of the director’s most famous images – the cosmic, comical shot of an aerosol can rolling down a hill, which seems to be a non-sequitur but is actually the mysterious heart of Close-Up, an essential documentary about filmmaking and con-artistry. Kiarostami was preparing to shoot a new feature in China at the time of his death, a film that will sadly never be made. As the cinema will not see the like of his genius again, Chicago movie lovers would do well to attend this screening and pay their final respects.

Take Me Home and 76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami screen on Saturday, February 18 and Sunday, February 19. Jonathan Rosenbaum and Mehrnaz Saeedvafa, co-authors of the critical biography Abbas Kiarostami, will discuss the director’s career after the Saturday show. For more information visit the Siskel Center’s website.

Advertisements

Now Streaming: Dark Horse

dark_horse_still

Now streaming on various On Demand platforms is British director Louise Osmond’s Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance. This engaging doc follows Jan Vokes, a small-town barmaid who, with her husband, decides to breed a racehorse who they name “Dream Alliance.” Enlisting the help of 23 friends, who form a syndicate to pay the expenses, Jan and Dream Alliance go on to stun the racing world.

Horse breeding in the UK is seen as an occupation for the wealthy. A lot of the film’s charm comes from seeing a village in South Wales come together and upset the apple cart of rich breeders who pour thousands of pounds into producing race-winning horses. After winning several races, Dream Alliance was lined up for the United Kingdom’s biggest racing event, the Grand National. Unfortunately, tragedy struck and Dream Alliance sliced a tendon. Most race horses who suffer a serious leg injury are euthanized. However, due to the quick thinking of the jockey and one of the owners, Dream Alliance was saved through expensive stem-cell treatment (paid for by the money saved by the village). Dream Alliance made a comeback and went on to win the 2009 Welsh Grand National with odds of 20-1. I knew nothing about horse racing before watching this film but, according to Tony Calvin writing in Betfair, the race, held every December 27th, is one of the sport’s biggest fixtures; Dream Alliance’s amazing win can thus also seen as a kind of “Christmas miracle.”

One of the most uplifting aspects of the film is the effect it had on people of the village in south Wales. The horse came to represent hope in an old mining village that has felt left behind. In an interview with Indie Wire, director Osmond talked about what drew her to the film: “I knew the first time I heard this story that I would do pretty much anything to make it. It was so funny and moving and life affirming; a classic rags to riches take. As the producer Judith Dawson and I started to spend time in the valley, it also became clear it was something that ran very deep for the people involved.” Osmond is considered one of Britain’s leading non-fiction filmmakers and has made films on topics ranging from British designer Alexander McQueen to filmmaker Ken Loach. Dark Horse deservedly won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary at Sundance Film Festival.

A film about overcoming the odds, Dark Horse is a good example of the old saying about truth being stranger than fiction. Although made in 2015, this remarkable story should give many viewers some much-needed hope in the post-Brexit/post-Trump era.


Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann
dir: Maren Ade, Germany, 2016
Rating: 9.8

tonierdmann_02.jpg

“And if, by chance, that special place / That you’ve been dreaming of / Leads you to a lonely place / Find your strength in love”
— The Greatest Love of All

There is an unforgettable scene towards the end of Leo McCarey’s screwball-comedy masterpiece The Awful Truth where the female lead, Lucy (Irene Dunn), is attempting to sabotage the relationship between Jerry (Cary Grant), her recent ex-husband, and Barbara (Molly Lamont), his new fiance. Lucy embarrasses Jerry deeply by showing up at Barbara’s house and pretending to be “Lola,” his drunken floozy of a sister (who does not exist in reality). In front of Barbara and her stuffy parents, Jerry has no choice but to go along with this ruse. Only the longer Lucy sticks around “in character,” the more obvious it becomes that Jerry actually appreciates the cleverness of her act. His exasperation slowly, almost imperceptibly, turns into admiration. As Lucy/Lola sings “My Dreams are Gone with the Wind,” to demonstrate her risque-circa-1937 nightclub routine, Jerry starts to smile in spite of himself, an indication that maybe these two nutcases really do belong together after all. Toni Erdmann, the third feature from the young German filmmaker Maren Ade (Everyone Else), is like this one great scene stretched to an epic running time of two hours and forty two minutes — and I mean that as a huge compliment. The film may be leisurely paced, especially for a comedy, but when the climactic, instant-classic “nude party scene” arrives, you know that Ade needed every one of those minutes in order to reach her sublime destination.

Toni Erdmann was by far the best movie I saw last year (I did not include it in my Top 50 Films of 2016 list because it only screened for the press in Chicago in December and does not open at local theaters proper until this Friday). The genius of Ade’s shaggy-dog story, which is written, directed and acted to perfection, is that it takes the dynamics of the screwball-comedy romance and perversely applies them to a father-daughter relationship (perhaps for the first time in the history of cinema): Ines (Sandra Huller) is a straight-laced and uptight German businesswoman (think Cary Grant in another screwball classic, Bringing Up Baby) whose world is turned upside down after repeated and unwelcome intrusions into her life by her opposite number — her goofball, music-teacher father, Winfried (Peter Simonischek, in the Katharine Hepburn role), from whom she has long been estranged. “Toni Erdmann” is Winfried’s even goofier alter-ego, a character with a bad wig and outrageous false teeth, a prankster persona through whom he tries to forge a new bond with Ines and help her break out of her self-constructed shell of alienation in the process. In many ways, the film is about Winfried/Toni teaching Ines to “learn to love herself,” to quote a certain classic Whitney Houston jam that is prominently featured on the soundtrack, and it is possible to enjoy the film purely on this level — as an emotionally rich character study: I would argue that the poignant father/daughter relationship at its core is as universal and timeless as that of Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring (although it is also given a refreshingly female-centric spin by its female writer/director).

But I think Toni Erdmann can also be seen as working on another level — one that makes it much more specific to our own era. The action plays out mainly in Bucharest where Ines has been sent on business by her international consulting-firm employer (her assignment is to recommend to the President of a Romanian corporation how many of his employees he should fire). It is implied that Ines’ high-pressure job is the reason why she has lost the simple ability to enjoy life and, in this respect, the film functions as a subversive and even angry critique of global capitalism. The most bizarre scene, and one that may initially puzzle some viewers, involves a sexual encounter between Ines and one of her clients in a hotel room, a tryst that she engineers because she senses it will be advantageous for her career. Disgusted with herself, Ines instructs the client, a shallow douchebag, to ejaculate on a petit four, which she then promptly and shockingly eats. Ines’ attempt to “control the narrative” of this empty sexual experience is her futile way of trying to make herself feel better about the fact that she is essentially prostituting herself. This is her lowest point, after which she will genuinely start to feel better once she reconciles with her father. But while the film ends with Ines in a better place, Ade is also smart enough to retain a hint of ambiguity. Ines is, after all, still working the same job, still peddling on the same cutthroat capitalist treadmill, only at another company. She puts Toni Erdmann’s false buckteeth into her own mouth but then takes them out again. Ines’ future, like that of our modern world, is uncertain. Did I mention this movie is hilarious?

Toni Erdmann opens in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre on Friday, January 27.


CHILDREN OF NATURE at Doc Films

I reviewed Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s Children of Nature for this week’s Cine-File list. It’s one of the most important Icelandic films ever made and it screens at Doc Films tomorrow night. I’m reproducing my capsule review in its entirety below.

children

Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s CHILDREN OF NATURE (Icelandic Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) – Tuesday, January 10, 7pm

Iceland has enjoyed a relatively robust and prolific film industry in recent decades, which is all the more surprising when one considers that the population currently hovers at an all-time high of barely more than 300,000 people. The godfather of Icelandic cinema is Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, a self-taught filmmaker who is almost single-handedly responsible for the country’s impressive movie boom in the 1990s and early 2000s. His breakthrough feature CHILDREN OF NATURE, the only locally produced film in 1991, was also the first Icelandic movie to be nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Fridriksson immediately sunk his unexpected international box-office grosses into buying additional filmmaking equipment and established the Icelandic Film Corporation, which produced dozens of distinctive features in the ensuing years. CHILDREN OF NATURE ranks for me alongside Leo McCarey’s MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW and Yasujiro Ozu’s TOKYO STORY as one of the cinema’s most powerful statement about the predicament of the elderly. It tells the story of Thorgeir (Gísli Halldórsson), a retiree who is virtually forced by his uncaring family into living in a nursing home in the capital city of Reykjavik. Upon arriving there, he unexpectedly meets his childhood sweetheart, Stella (Sigríður Hagalín), who tells him she doesn’t want to die in a retirement home. Thorgeir steals a jeep and the two escape to rural northwestern Iceland, with the authorities in hot pursuit, so that Stella might be able to see again the land of her childhood before she dies. Any plot description of CHILDREN OF NATURE, however, is bound to make it seem like the kind of cute Hollywood movie about the “life left in old dogs” to which it actually serves as a welcome antidote. One of the most evocative scenes in this beautiful meditation on life, love, and mortality occurs right before the couple flees to the countryside; Thorgeir strolls alone through Holavallagardur cemetery, a remarkable location where trees grow out of burial plots dating back to the19th century. Although a realist at heart, Fridriksson’s effortless ability in scenes like this to capture uncanny visual metaphors ends up paying mystical dividends: Bruno Ganz turns up in a surprise wordless cameo at the end in what seems to be a reprise of his angel character from Wim Wenders’ WINGS OF DESIRE. For those unfamiliar with the work of Fridriksson or Icelandic cinema in general, this is probably the single best place to start. (1991, 82 min, DCP Digital) MGS

More info at http://www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.


Martin Scorsese’s SILENCE

silence

The single biggest influence on Joel and Ethan Coen is probably the screwball comedy that flourished in Hollywood during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Ironically, their least successful films (e.g., The Hudsucker Proxy and Intolerable Cruelty) are the ones where they attempt to emulate the conventions of that beloved subgenre the closest. The brothers’ most fruitful work arises when the influence is more indirect — when the rat-a-tat patter of those glorious war-between-the-sexes love stories is crossbred with other genres entirely (e.g., the neo-noir/neo-western of The Big Lebowski or the musical biopic of Inside Llewyn Davis). I would argue that a similar dynamic is at work with Martin Scorsese and religion: Quintessential Catholic themes of temptation, sin, guilt and redemption have permeated his filmography since Who’s That Knocking at My Door in 1967. Yet confronting religious subjects directly and focusing on the lives of “saints” (as in The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun and, now, Silence) yields less interesting results than when he has examined those same themes through the lives of the “sinners” in Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull or The Wolf of Wall Street. As Harvey Keitel’s Charlie says in Mean Streets, in what are arguably the most important lines that Scorsese ever directed, “You don’t pay for your sins in church. You do it in the streets.”

Silence is, of course, a film that every cinephile should see on the big screen at the earliest opportunity. Scorsese is one of America’s greatest living filmmakers and probably only he would have been capable of getting a big-budget art film like this financed by a major studio like Paramount. Yet, in spite of the fact that this decades-in-the-making adaptation of Shûsaku Endô’s novel about Jesuit priests in 17th century Japan is obviously a “passion project,” I cannot also help but feel that Scorsese is a fundamental mismatch with the material: he has always been an Expressionist at heart — a bold stylist with an infectious, punch-drunk love of voluptuous images, dazzling camera movements and brisk cutting — when the subject matter here clearly cries out for the austerity of a Carl Dreyer or the Tarkovsky of Andrei Rublev.  Scorsese’s mise-en-scene is exquisite as always, particularly in a scene that nods to the famous “phantom boat” sequence in Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu, and many passages towards the end are deeply moving (especially after one has adjusted to the miscast Andrew Garfield’s now-you-hear-it-now-you-don’t Portuguese accent). Yet the abiding impression is one of an opportunity lost: the “reveal” in the film’s impressive final image is achieved through what appears to be an operatic, typically Scorsesean camera movement combined with CGI. But a subtler, more offhand approach to this reveal would have been devastating — rather than merely impressive.

Silence opens in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre on Friday, January 6.


Top 10 Home Video Releases of 2016

My top 10 favorite home-video releases of 2016 (and 21 runners-up):

10. Cool Apocalypse (Smith, 2015, Emphasis Entertainment DVD)

10614204_725561084200360_3285685349821834571_n

I would be lying if I didn’t include my own first feature on this list. I love the package that Al Strutz of Emphasis Entertainment Group put together for the DVD-only release of Cool Apocalypse, which includes Pierre Kattar’s minute-long behind-the-scenes documentary and my own “director’s commentary” track in which I expound at greater length than I have anywhere else before on my influences, methods and intentions in making this little film. Thanks a million, Al!

9. The Assassin (Hou, 2015, Well Go USA Blu-ray)

assassin

Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s martial arts film about a female assassin, played by the great Shu Qi, whose personal life conflicts with her professional life when she’s ordered to kill her ex-fiance during the waning years of the Tang dynasty. This is one of the transcendent film experiences of recent years: a sword fight among ghostly birch trees and a climactic conversation on a fog-enshrouded mountaintop are among the instant-classic scenes. Cinematography of borderline-supernatural magnitude like this (courtesy of Mark Li Ping-Bing who shot on 35mm) deserves a stellar HD transfer and Well Go USA’s Blu-ray certainly delivers in that department. The disc is a little light on extras — there are just four short “featurettes,” all of which clock in at less than four minutes a piece — but we should all be grateful for any chance to see and hear Hou talk about his work.

8. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (Scorsese, 2005, Paramount Blu-ray)

I don't mind being shot man but I din't dig being told about it.png

2016 was a great year for America’s greatest living artist: Bob Dylan turned 75-years-old, released an acclaimed new album of standards for the second year in a row, logged 76 more dates on his Never-Ending Tour (including a co-headlining gig at “Desert Trip,” the biggest concert event of the year) and, oh yeah, won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Martin Scorsese’s definitive doc about Dylan’s early career – up through and including his earth-shaking European tour in 1966 – also got a spiffy “10th anniversary” re-release. The original version had only been available on DVD so Paramount’s new Blu-ray is a very welcome upgrade – with the D.A. Pennebaker-shot footage from Eat the Document looking better than those of us who first saw it via crappy VHS bootlegs would have ever thought possible. Among the plentiful extras is an insightful new interview with Scorsese in which he discusses at length his editing choices — including the film’s dazzling chronology-shuffling structure.

7. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (Ford, 1949, Warner Blu-ray)

she wore.png

For me, the second installment of John Ford’s celebrated “Cavalry Trilogy” doesn’t quite scale the artistic heights of the previous year’s Fort Apache but it is arguably the director’s most beautifully photographed color film and remains an essential work. Archivist Robert Harris wrote that this stunning new transfer was “taken from an IP derived from the original three-strip negatives, but so good, and with such accurate color (matched to an original nitrate), and perfect registration, that if I had to decide which way to go for the difference in cost, I’d do precisely what Warner Archive has done.” The accurate color is so crucial: the film features an expressive, boldly stylized use of color — nowhere more apparent than in the theatrical, blood-red sunset during John Wayne’s famous graveside monologue.

6. Napoleon (Gance, 1927, BFI Blu-ray)

napoleon

The way I feel about Abel Gance’s legendary Napoleon is the same way a former President of Columbia Records felt about Leonard Cohen’s music: I know that it’s great but I don’t know if it’s any good. It can be hard to reconcile the film’s dubious qualities – it is unquestionably pro-militaristic, nationalistic and hagiographic – with its status as a cinematic landmark and the apotheosis of Impressionism. Whether he’s capturing schoolchildren engaged in a snowball fight or French and English soldiers fighting for literally days on end in the wettest, muddiest battlefields this side of Kurosawa, Gance has the uncanny ability to use handheld camera (rare for a silent epic) and super-fast cutting to whip viewers into an emotional frenzy. Of course, the film itself is almost beside the point now: Kevin Brownlow’s restoration, nearly 50 years in the making and 5-and-a-half hours long, cobbles together prints from all over the world to very closely approximate what the film would’ve first looked like in 1928. It’s one of the all-time great restoration stories and every movie lover should make it a point to see this version.

5. Godard: The Essential Collection (Godard, 1960-1965, Studio Canal Blu-ray)

contempt

Studio Canal UK released this sweet box-set, combining five of Jean-Luc Godard’s most popular early features (Breathless, Une Femme est une Femme, Le Mépris, Alphaville and Pierrot Le Fou) to surprisingly little fanfare in February. All of the discs are stacked with welcome extras — vintage making-of docs, introductions by Colin MacCabe, interviews with Anna Karina, etc. — and feature impeccable transfers to boot (with the notable exception of Le Mépris, which has always looked problematic on home video). The real story here though is that Une Femme est une Femme and Alphaville are receiving their Blu-ray debuts and look and sound better than ever in 1080p. One is a widescreen, riotously colorful musical comedy, the other is a high-contrast, black-and-white, neo-Expressionist sci-fi/noir. But they both function as dual love letters to the cinema and to Godard’s then-wife and muse, Karina, still one of the most ravishing screen presences in all of cinema.

4. Dekalog (Kieslowski, 1988-1989, Criterion Blu-ray)

Dekalog pic1

Sell your old Facets DVDs if you still can! The mighty Criterion Collection did Krzysztof Kieslowski proud with this amazing set that combines new restorations and transfers of all 10 one-hour episodes of the director’s legendary television miniseries Dekalog with the expanded theatrical-release versions of episodes five and six (AKA A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love). While Kieslowski is probably still best known for the later “Three Colors” trilogy that saw him move to France and work with notable Euro-arthouse stars like Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy and Irene Jacob, the Dekalog remains his supreme masterpiece: Each episode is set in the same housing project in Warsaw and corresponds — to varying degrees of literal-ness — to each of the Ten Commandments. The series dares to ask the question: how might these Commandments serve as the basis for ethical dilemmas in the modern world? The episodes can be watched in any order and discovering the ways in which the different stories subtly intersect (a major player in one episode may turn up for a cameo in another) is fascinating to behold. Is it television or is it cinema? Who cares? As the Criterion jacket copy states, it’s one of the 20th century’s great achievements in “visual storytelling.”

3. Early Murnau (Murnau, 1921-1925,  Eureka!/Masters of Cinema Blu-ray)

thelastlaugh2

Aw yeah. Masters of Cinema did silent movie fans a huge favor by bundling together five of F.W. Murnau’s great early German films (The Haunted Castle, Phantom, The Grand Duke’s Finances, The Last Laugh and Tartuffe) into one stellar three-disc set. If I had to list the virtues of this Early Murnau box, it would be endless: All five films are making their Blu-ray debuts, all are based on meticulous restorations by the redoubtable F.W. Murnau Foundation, all are presented with the original German intertitles and feature optional English subtitles, there are copious extras, etc. While The Last Laugh is the (deservedly) best-known film of the bunch, what a joy it is to see an undervalued mini-masterpiece like Phantom looking so crazy and beautiful in 1080p. Murnau is a God of cinema, someone who knew how to put emotion into camera movement — in the same way that someone like William Faulkner knew how to put emotion into a string of words — and being able to witness that kind of cinematic expressiveness in the optimum quality it’s presented in here made me ecstatically happy. Now where’s The Burning Soil, damn it?!

2. Pioneers of African-American Cinema (Various, 1915-1941, Kino/Lorber Blu-ray)

withinourgates2

University of Chicago professor Jacqueline Najuma Stewart curated this incredible and extensive compilation of early movies by African-American filmmakers, all of which were made far outside of the Hollywood studio system between the mid-1910s and the mid-1940s. It’s an impressive act of restoration and reclamation that stands as one of the most significant home video releases ever. Spread across five Blu-ray discs are a dozen feature films and twice that many shorts — totaling 24 hours of running time altogether. This set includes newly restored works by such relatively well-known
“race film” directors as Oscar Micheaux and Spencer Williams as well as a wealth of exciting new discoveries by previously unknown filmmakers who immediately qualify as what Andrew Sarris once termed “Subjects for Further Research.” Chief among the latter are James and Eloyce Gist, husband and wife traveling evangelists whose surreal visual allegory Hellbound Train depicts Satan as the literal engineer of a train taking the world’s sinners to hell.

1. The Jacques Rivette Collection (Rivette, 1971-1981, Arrow Blu-ray)

CJfFiPxUsAEkNCk

There’s no way in hell anything else was going to top this list. Jacques Rivette has always been the most underappreciated of the major New Wave directors — mainly because his work has always been the most difficult to see. This imbalance was in large part redressed with Arrow Video’s mammoth box set, which was released 11 days before Rivette’s death in January. The centerpiece is Rivette’s greatest work, the near 13-hour-long Out 1, originally made for but rejected by French television. In this epic series Rivette intercuts the stories of two theatrically troupes rehearsing different Aeschylus plays with the stories of two con artists separately investigating a secret society with its origins in Balzac. The way Rivette gradually brings these various characters together — as if pieces on a giant chessboard — is alternately hilarious, terrifying and exhilarating. Only shown a handful of times theatrically and on T.V. over the decades, this cinematic holy grail was primarily seen by cinephiles in recent years as an illegal digital download of dubious quality with “fan-made” English subtitles. This new transfer boasts nicely saturated colors and beautiful film-grain quality via a 2K restoration of the original 16mm elements overseen by cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn. Also included is Out 1: Spectre, a four-and-a-half hour alternate version (not a reduction) of the original that stands as a major work in its own right; Duelle and Noroit, two delightful female-centric companion films from 1976 that function as mythological noir and pirate-adventure story, respectively; and the globe-hopping thriller Merry-Go-Round, an interesting but somewhat lesser work starring Joe Dallesandro and Maria Schneider. To pore over the contents of this set is to understand why Rivette is one of the giants of the medium. The Rivette renaissance will thankfully continue in 2017 as Cohen Media Group has acquired a whopping 10 more Rivette films for distribution.

Runners-Up (Alphabetical By Title):

3 Bad Men (Ford, 1926, Kino/Lorber Blu-ray)
Boyhood (Linklater, 2014, Criterion Blu-ray)
Cat People (Tourneur, 1942, Criterion Blu-ray)
Chimes at Midnight (Welles, 1965, Criterion Blu-ray)
Destiny (Fritz Lang, 1921, Kino/Lorber Blu-ray)
The Emigrants / The New Land (Troell, 1971-1972, Criterion Blu-ray)
The Executioner (Berlanga, 1963, Criterion Blu-ray)
The Exterminating Angel (Bunuel, 1962, Criterion Blu-ray)
Fantomas (Feuillade, 1913, Kino/Lorber Blu-ray)
The Immortal Story (Welles, 1968, Criterion Blu-ray)
In a Lonely Place (Ray, 1950, Criterion Blu-ray)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen/Coen, 2012, Criterion Blu-ray)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, 1971, Criterion Blu-ray)
Muriel (Resnais, 1955, Criterion Blu-ray)
Night and Fog (Resnais, 1963, Criterion Blu-ray)
On Dangerous Ground (Ray, 1951, Warner Blu-ray)
Paris Belongs to Us (Rivette, 1961, Criterion Blu-ray)
The Player (Altman, 1992, Criterion Blu-ray)
The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Collection (Fassbinder, 1969-1978, Arrow Blu-ray)
They Were Expendable (Ford, 1945, Warner Blu-ray)
A Touch of Zen (Hu, 1971, Eureka!/Masters of Cinema Blu-ray)


Long Way North at the Siskel / WCCRH Live!

longwaynorth

In today’s Cine-File listing, I have a new review of Long Way North, my favorite animated film of the year (barring Tower, a non-fiction film that mixes rotoscoped animation with live action). I’m reproducing the review in its entirety below:

Remi Chaye’s LONG WAY NORTH (New French Animation)

This delightful French/Danish co-production, the directorial debut of one Remi Chaye, sneaks into the Gene Siskel Film Center just in the nick of time to claim the title of best new animated film to play Chicago in 2016. LONG WAY NORTH is a rollicking adventure story that centers on Sasha (voiced by Christa Theret and Chloe Dunn), a 15-year-old girl in 19th century Russia who defies the wishes of her aristocratic parents and sets out for the North Pole to look for her grandfather, an explorer who went missing there while on an expedition during the previous year. The grandfather’s reputation is at stake since his ship, the Davai, was supposed to be “unsinkable” and his ill-fated mission has branded him a laughingstock and a failure. While the story is alternately poignant and thrilling, and likely to give young viewers a genuine and welcome dose of grrrl power, the real star of the show is the beautiful hand-drawn animation; Chaye got his start in filmmaking as one of the layout artists on Jean-Francois Laguionie’s THE ISLAND OF BLACK M’OR (2004), which LONG WAY NORTH resembles both in its conception as an almost Herzogian young-adult adventure on the high seas as well as in its early comic-book style of illustration, where clean lines and broad, clearly separated planes of color create bold and indelible graphic images. LONG WAY NORTH will screen at the Siskel in both its original French-language version with English subtitles and in an English-dubbed version. Check the venue’s website for detailed information on the showtimes of each version. (2015, 81 min, DCP Digital) MGS

*

On Sunday, December 18, Transistor Chicago will host the first ever LIVE recording of my White City Cinema Radio Hour podcast. This event, which is open to the public and BYOB, will feature me talking with fellow critics Jason Coffman (Daily Grindhouse) and Daniel Nava (Chicago Cinema Circuit) about the year in movies. All three of us will discuss our top five favorite films of the year — with commentary — as well as engage in what is sure to be a lively discussion of the most encouraging and discouraging cinematic trends in 2016. WCCRH listeners may recall that Jason and Daniel were on my year-end show in 2015 and that, miraculously, none of us had any of the same titles in our personal top fives. Will that happen again this year? Show up to Transistor in Andersonville this Sunday night to find out! I’ll be bringing homemade peanut-butter cookies and beer.


%d bloggers like this: