Brazen Hymns | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A genuine rarity--a 40-minute experimental film in 35-millimeter and Dolby sound--this intriguing and arresting opus by D.B. Griffith shifts between "straight" documentary and drama as five allegorical, autodidactic outsiders (a clown, a butcher, a weeping priest, a doomsayer, and a man with a beak who speaks to birds in their own language, subtitled in English) emerge from landscapes of buildings and industrial sites in Chicago and Gary, each traveling a little further into the film's wasted terrain. Shuttling back and forth between color and black-and-white stock, the film constitutes a kind of grim historical narrative, with an effective score by Josh Abrams that sometimes seems to emerge from sound effects. The cast includes local filmmaker Tom Palazzolo and musicians Bobby Conn and Douglas McCombs. In contrast, I couldn't make much out of Nicholas Elliott's 35-millimeter film Sue's Last Ride (17 min.); shot mainly in Slovenia, it combines a desultory narrative with Super-8 footage of a performance by the Dirty Three, an Australian band. Palazzolo's brand-new 16-millimeter film Rita on the Ropes (9 min.) was unavailable for preview. All three works are receiving their Chicago premieres, and admission is free. Cinema Borealis, 1550 N. Milwaukee, fourth floor, Friday through Sunday, December 14 through 16, 8:00, 773-278-4940.

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