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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Max Ophuls's five best films

Posted By on 05.31.15 at 08:00 AM

The Earrings of Madame de . . .
  • The Earrings of Madame de . . .
This weekend, the Music Box wrapped up its series "Weepie Noir: The Dark Side of Women's Pictures" with a 16-millimeter screening of Letter from an Unknown Woman, the great melodrama by master filmmaker Max Ophuls, whose unfortunately brief career yielded one of cinema's richest and most resonant filmographies. He is, of course, known for his baroque style and brilliant long takes, but as Francois Truffaut explained in his obituary of the director, "He was not the virtuoso or the aesthete or the decorative filmmaker he has been called. . . . Like his friend Jean Renoir, Ophuls always sacrificed technique to the actor." That's true—however, at the risk of sounding presumptuous, I think characters, particularly female protagonists, interested Ophuls far more than actors. He calibrated every filmmaking decision to the minds, desires, and lives of the people in his films, so much that his camera became an extension of their being, visualizing a hidden quality that literary critics describe as "interiority." I also don't think Ophuls "sacrifices" anything—his style is built into his artistic mission. He once said, "The camera exists to create a new art and to show above all what cannot be seen elsewhere, neither in theater nor in life," a notion exemplified in his best films. You can see my five favorite Ophuls films below.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

A hip Friday night princess heads to East Room

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 04:30 PM

Street View is a fashion series in which Isa Giallorenzo spotlights some of the coolest styles seen in Chicago.


How I love Amara's look—always so urban and earthy. (See more of her style in a previous post here.) Plus her hair! This time when I ran into Amara, she was about to go party at East Room and couldn't look more appropriate for just about any occasion. Nothing's more versatile than a maxi denim jacket. She embellished hers with a charming puppy brooch, matched its collar with a tucked-in top, and instantly became a hip Friday night princess.

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A Trenchermen bartender makes a porky peach-soda float

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 03:35 PM

When Andy Rivera of the Publican challenged Trenchermen's Rachel Rodeghiero to create a cocktail with pork stock, she didn't want to just use the liquid in a drink. Instead, she and pastry chef Sierra Smith made pork ice cream. Using a quart of pork stock didn't impart quite enough piggy flavor, so they tried another batch with the addition of pork jus.

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Monday's MusicNow concert salutes John Zorn and Evanston native Myra Melford

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 03:00 PM

Myra Melford
  • Bryan Murray
  • Myra Melford
The final concert of the season in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNow series happens on Monday night, marking the end of the curatorial efforts here by Anna Clyne and Mason Bates. The pair have functioned as Mead Composers-in-Residence at the CSO for the past five years, and part of the job involves programming this new-music series—they're going out on a high note, with work by some composers who deftly straddle the worlds of jazz, improvised music, and new music.

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Blythe Danner grows old angrily in the deceptively genteel I'll See You in My Dreams

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 01:00 PM

Blythe Danner and Martin Starr in Ill See You in My Dreams
  • Blythe Danner and Martin Starr in I'll See You in My Dreams
What's most appealing about I'll See You in My Dreams, which is currently playing at the Landmark Century and the River East 21, is that it doesn't feel like a movie for retired, upper-middle-class women—it feels like a movie about retired, upper-middle-class women. We're currently witnessing a wave of films about well-to-do baby boomers learning to grow old gracefully (I wrote about the phenomenon last year when I reviewed the Fanny Ardant vehicle Bright Days Ahead), but most of the ones I've seen have been too occupied with flattering their target audience to offer any real insights on the subject. Yet Dreams doesn't present its heroine, Carol, as an audience-identification figure—the film, a multidimensional character study, encourages a certain critical distance from her. Carol might learn a thing or two about aging by the movie's end, though all of her problems aren't eliminated (as is often the case in the boomers-in-retirement subgenre). What matters is that we learn a thing or two about her.

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Transient Artisan Ales makes slow beer that sells out quick

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 12:30 PM

Transient founder Chris Betts with some of the barrels in which his beers acquire their special qualities
  • Transient founder Chris Betts with some of the barrels in which his beers acquire their special qualities

As much as it must suck to make beer that nobody cares about, making beer that rivets the attention of bottle-trading nerds comes with its own aggravations. Count yourself lucky if you've never seen a full-grown man whining like a spoiled child in an attempt to guilt a brewer or shop manager into parting with a small-batch bottle that's reserved for someone else.

The expensive and interminable rigamarole of the Dark Lord Day bottle line is one way for a brewer to cope with demand that far outstrips supply. But most craft-beer producers don't have the staff or the infrastructure to take that route, even if they want to. Chris Betts of Transient Artisan Ales runs a subscription service instead, in part to help ensure that his most loyal customers get their fair share.

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Electronic-psych artist Tobacco plays the Bottle tonight and Do Division tomorrow

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 12:00 PM

Ultima II Massage
  • Ultima II Massage
Do Division weekend kicks off this afternoon, and along with the street fest comes a bunch of great aftershows happening at Empty Bottle and Subterranean. Tonight, Tobacco will be headlining a sold-out show at the Bottle, and today's 12 O'Clock Track is "Video Warning Attempts," off of his 2014 release Ultima II Massage. Perhaps best known as the front man of Pittsburgh-based experimental-rock collective Black Moth Super Rainbow, Tobacco (born Thomas Fec) has carved out a supercool solo career over the past handful of years, creating twisted electronic psych. Primitive drum machines lay down a dragged, smeared rhythm while layers of warm analog synths and sci-fi robotic voices push things into outer space. Ultima II Massage almost sounds like a superdruggy version of Daft Punk—it's calculated and alien, but it's more likely to put you into a woozy haze than make you move your feet. Check out "Video Warning Attempts" below.

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Did you read about Laura Kipnis, cannabis, and Hipster Runoff?

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 11:38 AM

The mystery of cannabis
  • Courtesy Thinkstock
  • The mystery of cannabis
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, alarm, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

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Suicide is painless in Amour Fou, plus more new reviews and notable screenings

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 11:30 AM

This week's cover story is an excerpt from my just-published book The Lives of Robert Ryan, a biography of the Chicago-born actor who starred in The Wild Bunch, The Dirty Dozen, Bad Day at Black Rock, and The Set-Up—the last of which which I'll introduce on Sunday at the Music Box. A Q&A follows with Matthew Hoffman of Park Ridge Classic Film and Lisa Ryan, the actor's daughter. Elsewhere in this week's issue, Ben Sachs reviews Amour Fou, the latest from Jessica Hausner (Lourdes), about the suicide pact between the tormented Prussian writer Heinrich von Kleist and an aristocratic woman dying of cancer. It screens all week at Gene Siskel Film Center.

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Donnie Trumpet and Chance the Rapper's new album hit the Web last night without any warning

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 10:54 AM

The cover of Surf
  • The cover of Surf
Last night Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment—the band he plays in with Chance the Rapper, Nate Fox, and Peter Cottontale—dropped their highly anticipated album Surf for free via iTunes. Chance is the most prominent member of the Social Experiment, which served as his backing band when he toured on his fantastic 2013 mixtape Acid Rap, and while his distinctly coiled raps, yips, and tender coos are all over Surf, the album is fronted by Donnie Trumpet, aka former Kids These Days trumpet player Nico Segal.

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