Music Box's 75th Anniversary Celebration | Festival | Chicago Reader

Music Box's 75th Anniversary Celebration 

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The venerable Chicago movie palace will commemorate its 75th year with three special programs. On Tuesday the theater will screen three features selected in a recent patrons' poll; a single ticket admits you to all three. The screenings of Sing-a-Long Wizard of Oz on Wednesday will be accompanied by costume contests. On Thursday the admission price for each screening is 75 cents. For more information call 773-871-6604.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

Metropolis

Fritz Lang's 1927 epic about class struggle in a city of the 21st century still has a lot of popular currency (thanks in part to Giorgio Moroder, who edited his own version and released it with a rock score in 1985), but it's never been a critics' favorite. This 124-minute version is the longest we've had since the German premiere, and though it's still a half hour shorter than the original (now lost), its unobtrusive use of intertitles to fill in the blanks makes it more coherent than it's ever been. The restoration clarifies the relationships among the hero (Gustav Frohlich); his late mother, who died giving birth to him; his father, the ruler of Metropolis (Alfred Abel); and the father's bitter romantic rival (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), an inventor who creates a robot in the mother's image. Later the robot is upgraded to impersonate the hero's heartthrob (Brigitte Helm), a radical preacher who helps organize the city's exploited workers. Lang cowrote the script with Thea von Harbou, his wife at the time, and however naive its pre-Marxist socialism may seem (especially in the dumb conclusion), its post-Freudian contours, explicated by the mother's story, are highly sophisticated. Metropolis is suddenly more relevant to the 21st century than 2001: A Space Odyssey, made over 40 years later, and its sense of the emotional confusion involved in creating robots predates that of A.I. Artificial Intelligence. The film looks fabulous, and Gottfried Huppertz's original score is another worthy addition. (JR) (5:00)

Rear Window

This may well be Alfred Hitchcock's greatest movie (1954). James Stewart plays an adventurous news photographer trapped in his Greenwich Village flat by a broken leg. Out of boredom he starts following the stories of his neighbors across the courtyard, all of which represent variations on the romantic issues of his own relationship with a former model (Grace Kelly) who's trying to goad him into marriage. When he deduces that one of his neighbors (Raymond Burr) may have murdered his invalid wife, he moves into high gear as an amateur sleuth. Reader critic Dave Kehr called this "the most densely allegorical of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces, moving from psychology to morality to formal concerns and finally to the theological. It is also Hitchcock's most innovative film in terms of narrative technique, discarding a linear story line in favor of thematically related incidents, linked only by the powerful sense of real time created by the lighting effects and the revolutionary ambient sound track." With Wendell Corey and Thelma Ritter at her very best. 112 min. (JR) (7:20)

Brazil

Terry Gilliam delivers on the promises of Jabberwocky and Time Bandits with this ferociously creative 1985 black comedy filled with wild tonal contrasts, swarming details, and unfettered visual invention--every shot carries a charge of surprise and delight. Jonathan Pryce is Sam Lowry (the name suggests Stan Laurel, and Pryce wears Laurel's expression of perpetually astonished innocence), a minor functionary in a totalitarian government of the near future; his only escape from the parodistically bleak urban environment (amusingly and resourcefully rendered by Gilliam through a combination of sets, models, and locations) is in his dreams, where he sees himself as a winged, heroic figure perpetually coming to the rescue of a ravishing blond. Of course, it isn't long before the blond (Kim Greist) walks into his waking life. Robert De Niro contributes a gruffly funny cameo as the one knight of honor in the ashen land: a guerrilla heating-duct repairman. With Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Peter Vaughan, and Bob Hoskins. (DK) The 142-minute director's cut will be shown. (9:40)

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8

Sing-a-Long Wizard of Oz

A restored print of Victor Fleming's 1939 classic, with the songs captioned for audience sing-alongs. In his capsule for the standard version of the film Dave Kehr wrote, "Thanks to innumerable childhood viewings, this is too firmly planted in my (pre)consciousness for me to find the proper critical distance. In many ways, it's stiff, ersatz, and anonymous in the usual MGM house style of the 30s (though King Vidor, one of several directors who worked on the project, does manage some graceful camera movement in the Munchkin scenes), but frankly I don't care. Those talking trees were a staple of my nightmares for years, and Margaret Hamilton is still my prime mental image of absolute evil. I don't find the film light or joyful in the least--an air of primal menace hangs about it, which may be why I love it." 101 min. (5:00, 8:00)

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

Blackmail

A woman murders her would-be rapist, setting up a delicate moral problem for her fiance, a Scotland Yard inspector. Historically if not aesthetically fascinating, this 1929 feature was Alfred Hitchcock's first sound film. Given the technical limitations (Hitchcock's star, Anny Ondra, couldn't speak English, and had to lip-synch with a British actress standing off frame), the aggressive experimentation with the sound track is remarkably effective. Like most of his British films, Blackmail is a sign of things to come rather than Hitchcock at his height, but it shouldn't be missed. 86 min. (DK) (5:15)

The Love Parade

See Critic's Choice. (7:00)

The Cocoanuts

An eminently watchable antique, this 1929 feature was the Marx Brothers' first film--a literal recording of their Broadway smash hit. Ponderous and not really a movie, it still shows the Marxes at their freshest. Of the two directors, Robert Florey and Joseph Santley, Groucho later remarked, "One of them didn't understand English, the other didn't understand Harpo." The cast includes the incomparable Margaret Dumont, Kay Francis, and Mary Eaton. Irving Berlin did the music. 96 min. (DD) (9:30)

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Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
Manic Mondays Frances Cocktail Lounge
November 20
Galleries & Museums
September 24

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