Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

Festival 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute inaugurates its new location at 164 N. State with a 24-hour marathon of films shot or set in Chicago, beginning Friday, June 1, 6:00. Tickets for individual screenings in the marathon are $5, $3 for Film Center members. The series continues Saturday, June 2, 8:00, through Saturday, June 23; tickets for these screenings are $7, $3 for members. For more information call 312-846-2800.

FRIDAY, JUNE 1

In Old Chicago

This 1938 spectacular finds 20th Century-Fox poaching on the MGM turf of historical melodrama; sober sprawlers like this were never what the studio did best, and under Henry King's direction there is little of the old Fox pep. Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, and Tom Brown are Mrs. O'Leary's three sons; Alice Faye has a turn as a torch singer. With Alice Brady, Andy Devine, Brian Donlevy, and Phyllis Brooks. 95 min. (DK) (6:00)

The Untouchables

While lack of feeling is ascribed more often to Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma qualifies more as a detached formalist. Here the relative absence of directorial emotion works hand in glove with the slickness and cynicism (as well as craft) of this big-scale 1987 adaptation by David Mamet of the 60s TV series, shellacked with a grandiloquent Ennio Morricone score. The results are watchable enough, with a particularly adept use of Sean Connery, Chicago locations, and period details. But De Palma's vulgar habit of copying and thereby reducing sequences from better directors is even more offensive when he turns to Eisenstein instead of the usual Hitchcock; his Odessa Steps hommage to Potemkin is the worst kind of kitschy student exercise. There's much more of Kevin Costner (as Eliot Ness) here than there is of Robert De Niro (as Al Capone), though Costner is quite effective in setting the Reaganite law-and-order tone. Still, it's a pity to have Charles Martin Smith eliminated so early in the proceedings. 119 min. (JR) (8:10)

Candyman

Like so many post-Val Lewton horror films, this 1992 feature starts out promisingly while the plot is mainly a matter of suggestion, but gradually turns gross and obvious as the meanings become literal and unambiguous. A University of Illinois grad student (Virginia Madsen) doing a dissertation on urban folklore--specifically on a legend about a killer with a hook (Tony Todd) associated with the Cabrini-Green public housing project--ventures into the project for interviews and photographs and gets more than she bargained for, etc, etc. Adapted by writer-director Bernard Rose from a short story by executive producer Clive Barker that originally had an English setting, this depends for much of its shock and suspense on demonizing ghetto life beyond its real-life horrors, which is another way of saying that it exploits white racism to produce some of its kicks. Philip Glass contributed one of his monotonous hack scores; with Xander Berkeley and Kasi Lemmons. 93 min. (JR) (10:40)

SATURDAY, JUNE 2

Cooley High

Uneven but generally funny and lively memories of growing up black on Chicago's west side in the mid-60s, styled after American Graffiti and directed by Michael Schultz from an autobiographical script by Eric Monte (1975). With Glynn Turman, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Garrett Morris, Cynthia Davis, Corin Rogers, and Maurice Leon Havis. 107 min. (JR) (12:40 am)

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

This gory slasher movie was made in Chicago in 1986 but held in limbo until 1989 because of its disturbing content. Very capably acted (by Michael Rooker, Tracy Arnold, and Tom Towles), written (by Richard Fire and John McNaughton), and directed (by McNaughton), this, like every other slasher movie, has its roots in Psycho. The tensions developed here are more behavioral and psychological than those essayed by Hitchcock, though the insights into the personality of a compulsive killer are at best partial and perfunctory. What mainly registers is the nihilism of the warped ex-con (Rooker) and his dim-witted friend and accomplice (Towles), who joins him in a string of senseless murders, which the film makes chillingly believable. Certainly not for everyone, but if slasher movies are your cup of tea this is a lot better than most, and the use of Chicago locations is especially effective. 90 min. (JR) (2:50 am)

Mickey One

This 1964 film is so obscure that contemporary critics dismissed it as a colossal bit of self-indulgence by director Arthur Penn and star Warren Beatty. Scripted by Alan Surgal, it's a variation on Kafka's The Trial, with Beatty as a second-rate nightclub comic on the run from a nameless threat (which may or may not involve the syndicate and some gambling debts). Quintessential Penn, far easier to read now than it was then, and even funny in spots. 93 min. (DD) (4:40 am)

His Girl Friday

Most of what Robert Altman has done with overlapping dialogue was done first by Howard Hawks in this 1940 comedy, without the benefit of Dolby stereo. (The film, in fact, now circulates mostly in extremely poor public-domain prints that smother the glories of Hawks's sound track.) It isn't a matter of speed but of placement--the dialogue almost seems to have levels in space. Hawks's great insight--taking the Hecht-MacArthur Front Page and making the Hildy Johnson character a woman--has been justly celebrated; it deepens the comedy in remarkable ways. Cary Grant's performance is truly virtuoso--stunning technique applied to the most challenging material. With Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy, a genius in his way too. 92 min. (DK) (6:30 am)

The Breakfast Club

John Hughes's 1985 film seems meant to explain contemporary youngsters to yesterday's youth, and comes to the comforting conclusion that they're just as alienated, idealistic, and vulnerable as the baby boomers of the 1960s. The chosen format is the Broadway encounter group, in which a circle of cross-sectional characters (one from every major high school social group) get together to swap dreams and anxieties and come out with a better understanding of themselves and the world they live in; needless to say, these kids wouldn't so much as speak to each other in real life. With Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy. 97 min. (DK) (8:20 am)

Sons of the Desert

The shapeliest of Laurel and Hardy's features, this 1934 comedy fills out their accustomed two-reel format, not with dissociated bits and romantic subplots, but with some relaxed and creative character work. Stan and Ollie want to run off to Chicago for their annual frat convention, but they have to tell the wives that they're going to Hawaii to treat a rare tropical disease Ollie has come down with. With Mae Busch, Charley Chase, and Dorothy Christy; William A. Seiter directed. 69 min. (DK) (10:30 am)

The Great McGinty

Preston Sturges's first film (1940) is a gentle, perfectly crafted satire on American political corruption in which a party "voter" named McGinty (Brian Donlevy) becomes governor through the efforts of a corrupt political boss (Akim Tamiroff). Sturges was convinced that the American success story was a load of hooey (as they used to say back in the 40s), and that a bum like McGinty had just as much chance--and ability--to go to the top as anyone else. All you needed was luck and a bit of larceny. The perfect fusion of Sturges's wit and frenzy. 81 min. (DD) (noon)

Thief

The 1981 feature debut of Michael Mann (The Insider) is firmly aligned along the neo-macho axis of Scorsese, Cimino, and Schrader; it's an attempt to parlay a surly, alienated hero (James Caan) into an abstract existential force. But Mann's observations are trite, derivative, and frequently sentimental; by giving us a professional burglar who yearns for the suburban security of wife and family, he comes weirdly close to an amalgam of Taxi Driver and Kramer vs. Kramer. The visual style is strictly small screen: tight, head-bonking close-ups occasionally relieved by self-conscious pictorial effects. With Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, Jim Belushi, and Robert Prosky, who, as a fatherly crime boss, has the great wisdom to underplay in this exaggerated context. 122 min. (DK) (1:40)

Call Northside 777

Chicago newspaperman James Stewart investigates a murder in this 1948 feature. Director Henry Hathaway specialized in these true-life dramas in the late 40s and early 50s, filming as much as possible on the actual locations. His quiet, functional camera style suggests some of the classic simplicity of Hawks, although his skills never developed beyond those of a superior storyteller. Like most of his work, Northside is convincing, engaging, and ultimately forgettable. With Lee J. Cobb, Helen Walker, and Betty Garde; photographed by Joe MacDonald. 111 min. (DK) (4:10)

"About Last Night . . . "

Adapting David Mamet's play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, screenwriters Tim Kazurinsky and Denise DeClue have done an admirable job of turning an unfilmable piece into a polished commercial product (1986), yet so much of the flavor of the original has been lost that you wonder why they bothered with the Mamet in the first place. Mamet's play, about the romantic disappointments of a group of Chicago singles, depends on shocks of recognition--the sense that you've done that, you've said that--and to that degree it's deliberately banal. Mamet's poetic banality works well onstage, where there's no sense of a specific, real-world context that would make it seem bloodless or trite; on film, where the sense of reality is all but inevitable, the banality is, well . . . banal. The shocks of recognition are largely absorbed by the standard narrative structure that replaces Mamet's blackouts; the characters, instead of functioning as archetypes, look underwritten, half alive. As the envious, destructive best friends of the central couple, Jim Belushi and (especially) Elizabeth Perkins have the actor's know-how to fill in the gaps, but as the lovers, Rob Lowe and Demi Moore are hopelessly pallid. Ed Zwick directed, efficiently but without much creative drive. (DK) DeClue and Kazurinsky will attend the screening. (8:00)

SUNDAY, JUNE 3

Sons of the Desert

See listing for Saturday, June 2. (1:30)

The Untouchables

See listing for Friday, June 1. (3:00)

Mickey One

See listing for Saturday, June 2. (5:30)

TUESDAY, JUNE 5

Candyman

See listing for Friday, June 1. (6:00)

Thief

See listing for Saturday, June 2. (8:00)

THURSDAY, JUNE 7

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

See listing for Saturday, June 2. Director John McNaughton and producer Steve Jones will attend the screening. (6:00)

Cooley High

See listing for Saturday, June 2. (8:30)

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
The Best of Enemies Open Door Repertory Company
September 20
Performing Arts
Vanya on the Plains The Artistic Home
September 12

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories