Chained for Life | Chicago Reader
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Chained for Life

Prefaced with a quote from Pauline Kael about why audiences prefer actors and actresses to be better looking than average, writer-director Aaron Schimberg’s second feature is an entrancingly bizarre and often humorous metaexploration of physical representation in movies. It follows the making of an unintentionally campy film helmed by a self-serious German auteur, styled in the vein of horror and exploitation films from decades past. The story of the film-within-the-film concerns a beautiful young blind woman who finds herself in a hospital full of so-called “freaks.” Jess Weixler (Teeth) stars as Mabel, a sighted person playing the blind woman. Adam Pearson (Under the Skin) plays Rosenthal, a man experiencing neurofibromatosis—one of several people with real disabilities who appear in the film—with whom both Mabel and her character become close. The film is perhaps overly ambitious in its mission to accomplish several objectives, ranging from critiquing cinematic representations of physically different people to both paying homage to and scrutinizing the filmmaking process. Nevertheless it’s effective on the whole, making for one of the most original independent films I’ve seen of late.

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