Judex | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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In this breezy, dreamlike 1917 French serial, an enormous pack of hounds runs with the car of the dorky title hero (Rene Creste) as he drives around the Paris suburbs in his flowing black cape, righting wrongs and generally taking care of business; one of these dogs even rings the gate bell for him at one of his stops. These glorious, goofy mutts are emblematic of what makes Louis Feuillade an even greater director of popular cinema than Spielberg or Lucas; his serials from the teens may be the greatest of all adventure films, representing the essence and peak of fantasy filmed on real locations. They are almost never screened in this country, so this is a major event. Judex is less sublime or mysterious than Les vampires (coming to the Film Center later this season) or Tih Minh (which is even better), though it was a much bigger hit at the box office and even spawned an inferior sequel. The surveillance camera/TV/mirror inside Judex's secret cave that relentlessly tracks the banker villain in his cell--and that reappeared in Lang's Mabuse, Orwell's Big Brother, and all the versions of Batman--is only one small piece of evidence for the argument that Feuillade, a genteel Victorian and a spiritual contemporary of Lewis Carroll, all but invented 20th-century paranoia. This lasts more than six hours and will be shown in two parts; I can't imagine there's a better movie playing in town. With the great Musidora, Yvette Andreyor, Marcel Levesque, and Bout de Zan, all Feuillade regulars. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, prologue and episodes 1 through 5: Saturday, May 21, 4:00; episodes 6 through 12: Sunday, May 22, noon; 443-3737.

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