Over the past few years I have been quietly helping my friend, the uber-talented filmmaker Rob Christopher (PAUSE OF THE CLOCK), produce the documentary ROY’S WORLD: BARRY GIFFORD’S CHICAGO. It is the only film I have produced that I didn’t also direct and, because my contributions have not been of the creative variety (my role was strictly limited to helping Rob overcome the various financial and logistical hurdles that every independent filmmaker faces), I can honestly say that I think it is a masterpiece. My sole reasons for agreeing to work on the film were 1) I am a great admirer of Barry Gifford (WILD AT HEART) as a writer and 2) I knew that Rob would be creating a true work of cinema, one whose aesthetic value would demand that it be seen on a large screen in order to be appreciated, in stark contrast to most of the works of “talking heads”-video journalism that pass for documentaries these days. When Rob first explained the concept of ROY’S WORLD to me, I instantly grasped that, like Dziga Vertov’s MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA, he was crafting a non-fiction film that would have multiple structures in place simultaneously and that the result would work on about five different levels.
Now that I have finally seen it, I can confirm it is possible to enjoy the movie on its most basic level: as a fascinating and detailed portrait of a vanished Chicago from the era immediately after World War II through the early years of Richard J. Daley’s political machine. But dig a little deeper and it’s possible to see that it also functions as an overarching depiction of one boy’s coming-of-age story during that time; an illustration of a series of separate stories brilliantly performed by a trio of well-known actors (Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor); an essay on how a writer uses the circumstances of his upbringing as the raw material for creating narrative fiction; and an experimental work that combines archival footage with animated sequences, and audio of actors’ voices and excerpts from an interview with Barry with an original score by master vibraphonist Jason Adesiewicz, to create a rich tapestry of image and sound. It is, in the truest sense, a “jazz movie,” one whose contrapuntal rhythms and ironic juxtapositions I hope will charm and haunt you as profoundly as they have me.
News of the World Premiere of ROY’S WORLD will be announced soon. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer below:
A while ago I mentioned on this very blog that I am producing Roy’s World, a feature-length documentary about the writer Barry Gifford that is being directed by my friend Rob Christopher. This innovative film, now deep in post-production, will consist almost entirely of archival footage of Chicago from the 1950s and 1960s and is being narrated by the great actors Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor. I’m happy to report that Rob and I will be co-hosting the inaugural “Filmmaker Friday” networking event at Stage 18 Chicago this Friday, July 13th, from 4:30-6:00pm. Any and all active IFP Chicago members are invited to come hang out with other members, find potential collaborators, and make connections. There may even be a little Roy’s World teaser unveiled at this event as well… We hope to see you there!
It is my great pleasure to announce I’ll be introducing a FREE screening of my friend Rob Christopher‘s fascinating 2015 meta-film Pause of the Clock at Transistor Chicago this Sunday, December 10. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Rob that I will be moderating. You can hear an archival conversation of Rob and I discussing the film on Episode 14 of my (now-defunct) White City Cinema Radio Hour podcast from 2016 here. You can learn more about the screening, including the venue address and showtime, on Transistor Chicago’s website here. The official synopsis of Pause of the Clock is below:
The year is 1995. Two college roommates, Dylan and Rob, are making a movie called Crueler Than Truth with a group of their friends in Colorado and Chicago. During the shoot Dylan stumbles upon Rob’s diary and secretly begins to read it. His unsettling discoveries about who Rob really is, combined with his own hidden attraction towards him, gradually mesh with the “film within the film” to create a fragmented reality. Filmed in 16mm in 1995-1996, and recently completed after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Pause of the Clock is a living time capsule 20 years in the making.
Also, this seems like a good occasion for a reminder that I am co-producing Rob’s latest film venture, a documentary about the great Chicago-born-and-bred writer Barry Gifford titled Roy’s World: Barry Gifford & Chicago. The film will be released in late 2018. For the latest news on this exciting project, please follow the official Twitter feed of our film here.
I couldn’t be more excited to announce that I am producing Roy’s World, a feature-length documentary by my friend Rob Christopher about the great Chicago-born-and-bred writer Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart). It will feature the voice talent of Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor as well as an original jazz score by Jason Adasiewicz. You can learn more about the film at the IFP Chicago site here. You can hear Rob and I discuss the film with Gary Zidek on his radio show The Arts Desk here. Finally, Chicagoans can catch Barry reading stories from his latest collection The Cuban Club at Constellation this Saturday, November 4 at 8:30pm. The event will also feature live music from Adasiewicz who will be playing selections from the Roy’s World soundtrack. You can learn more about the show at Constellation’s site here.
Also, I have a capsule review of George Stevens’ screwball masterpiece The More the Merrier in this week’s Cine-File. It screens at the Northbrook Public Library on 35mm next Wednesday, November 8 at 1pm and 7:30pm. You can read the full review below.
George Stevens’ THE MORE THE MERRIER (American Revival)
This superior example of the “genius of the Hollywood studio system” may not be as well known as screwball comedy classics like THE AWFUL TRUTH, BRINGING UP BABY or THE LADY EVE but is every bit their equal as a battle-of-the-sexes masterpiece. Connie Milligan (the glorious Jean Arthur) is a single, working woman living in Washington D.C. who ends up with two male roommates due to a World War II housing shortage. She finds herself bickering relentlessly with Joe Carter (Joel McCrea), the younger of the men, which, as any screwball fan knows, is a sure sign of romantic chemistry. The other man, the much older Mr. Dingle (Charles Coburn, who deservedly won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance), consequently finds himself playing cupid to his new roommates in what amounts to an enormously entertaining, extremely witty and perfectly paced 104 minutes. The thing that really makes THE MORE THE MERRIER stand out when viewed today though is its unabashed eroticism. A scene where Carter walks Milligan home late at night, temporarily forgetting that he’s also going to his own home, is almost unbelievably sensual in the way the characters flirt with each other and, moreimportantly, interact physically; while sitting next to one another on a stoop, McCrea, one of Hollywood’s most reserved and laconic actors, creatively paws at Arthur (who, at 42 years old, never looked sexier), seductively encircling her waist and neck with his hands as she half-heartedly feigns disinterest. THE MORE THE MERRIER was very well received in its time but is probably less known today only because George Stevens, the solid craftsman who directed it, is not an auteurist-approved figure. This is unfortunate because if a more erotic film was made in Hollywood in the 1940s I have yet to see it. (1943, 35mm) MGS
Episode 14 of the White City Cinema Radio Hour sees me interviewing Chicago-based filmmaker (and Cine-File critic, and my pal!) Rob Christopher about his debut feature film, PAUSE OF THE CLOCK, ahead of its local premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center on October 3. Christopher describes in detail how his intentions and methods evolved over the course of making this unique production, which was shot in 1995/1996 but not edited until 2015. The episode concludes with the two of us discussing our recent experience co-authoring questions for David Lynch for a Time Out article, as well as having a short rap about Christopher’s next film, a documentary about writer Barry Gifford. Listen here: http://www.transistorchicago.com/wccrh
Related: Pause of the Clock‘s website and Facebook page.
The fifth episode of the White City Cinema Radio Hour podcast is now online. I sat down to talk about the career of the great David Lynch with Chicago film critic and filmmaker Rob Christopher (whose debut feature, the 20-years-in-the-making Pause of the Clock, recently had a rapturous reception at its world premiere at the Denver Film Festival). Rob and I discuss Twin Peaks and Mulholland Dr., Lynch’s relationships with collaborators Mark Frost and Barry Gifford, and Lynch’s influence on Pause of the Clock. You can listen to the episode here.