Monthly Archives: June 2013

Enter the House of Harrington – See Games and Read Harrington’s Memoir, the Latest Release from Drag City

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Northwest Chicago Film Society will not be screening films at the Portage Theater this week. We apologize for the inconvenience. This screening has been moved to the Music Box Theatre.

14A_HarringtonWednesday, July 3 @ 7:00pm at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave.
GAMES

Directed by Curtis Harrington • 1967
Newlywed socialites James Caan and Katharine Ross sure like them some games: their Manhattan brownstone is littered with Pop Art and pinball machines. (Their chic lifestyle was loosely based on the marriage of Harrington’s friends Dennis Hopper and Brooke Hayward.) But this couple is hardly prepared when exotic enchantress and traveling cosmetics saleswoman Simone Signoret proposes some new games that prove kinkier than pinochle. Occult rituals, mummification, and murder are all on the menu for this threesome in this widescreen, Day-Glo freak show from macabre master Curtis Harrington. After a quartet of avant-garde psychodramas, the dreamy independent feature Night Tide, and a quickie for Roger Corman cobbled together from Soviet sci-fi stock footage, Harrington finally had a chance to realize his boyhood dream of making a bona fide Universal monster movie. (He also managed to sneak in a cameo for his cat.) (KW)
100 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Preceded by: “Puce Moment” (Kenneth Anger, 1949) – 16mm – 6 min – Courtesy Canyon Cinema
“The Wormwood Star” (C. Harrington, 1955) – 16mm – 10 min – Courtesy Academy Film Archive

Tickets now available online at Brown Paper Tickets.

Co-presented by Drag City, publishers of Curtis Harrington’s posthumous memoir Nice Guys Don’t Work in Hollywood.

———–

And come back next week for the teeny-boppingest soap opera masterpiece from Otto Preminger

14B_Bonjour TristesseMonday, July 8 @ 8:00pm at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Rd.
BONJOUR TRISTESSE
Directed by Otto Preminger • 1958
Hoping to make amends to Iowa ingénue Jean Seberg after her critically reviled debut in Saint Joan, Otto Preminger cast her as the sullen Cecile in his adaptation of Françoise Sagan’s racy best-selling novel Bonjour Tristesse. A spoiled brat with a semi-incestuous fixation on her hard-drinking playboy father (David Niven, essentially continuing his performance from Preminger’s The Moon is Blue), Seberg plots to sabotage his grown-up affair with fashion designer Deborah Kerr. Teaming up with some of the key craftspeople of the classical French cinema (photographer Georges Périnal, composer Georges Auric), Preminger emerged with a bizarre and captivating hybrid: shot on location in color and CinemaScope on the French Riviera, Bonjour Tristesse credibly proposes the teenage soap opera as a form of high art. Screenwriter Arthur Laurents would attempt the same gambit three years later in his big-screen version of West Side Story, but no film comes close to Bonjour Tristesse in taking adolescent sexuality as the most consequential subject in the world. (KW)
94 min • Columbia Pictures • 35mm vault print from Sony Pictures Repertory
Preceded by: “Madeline” (Robert Cannon, 1952) – 16mm – 7 min

 

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How Many Reels Is That One Again?

13A_Heat LightningWe’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but can we draw any conclusions about a movie from its running time alone? More than just numerical data, a film’s running time often offers substantive clues to its presumed audience, production circumstances, and formal strategies. Speaking personally, I tend to be suspicious of any film longer than 75 minutes, unless it has the reckless chutzpah to exceed 160.

Our Wednesday feature, Heat Lightning, illustrates this doctrine perfectly. It lasts a scant 63 minutes, and boasts richer atmospherics and more finely-drawn major characters than many movies twice its length. Heat Lightning is economical in its construction, but also terse, blunt, and sketchy in its poetics. (And another bonus: for a programmer’s balance sheet, the fleetness of a short feature like Heat Lightning also translates into substantially reduced shipping costs—one clunky 35mm Goldberg shipping canister rather than two.) Continue reading

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Heat Lightning – Steamiest, Sweatiest Pre-Code Drama
Author Margaret Talbot in Person! Restored 35mm Print!

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Northwest Chicago Film Society will not be screening films at the Portage Theater this week. We apologize for the inconvenience. This screening has been moved to the Patio Theater.

13A_Heat Lightning
Wednesday, June 26 @ 8:00pm at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Rd.
HEAT LIGHTNING
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy • 1934
A sweaty, snarly helping of desert dreams and dead-end desire, Heat Lightning is a startling pre-Code drama. Aline MacMahon and Ann Dvorak play rugged sisters who run an auto garage-greasy spoon-flophouse trifecta in the middle of the Mojave, the only spot for miles around that serves bickering couples, satisfied divorcées, gangsters on the lam, and a whole car full of Mexican kids. Preceding the somewhat similar Petrified Forest by two years, Heat Lightning finds the New Deal optimism of Warner’s Busby Berkeley musicals thoroughly curdled in the arid blaze. (“Prosperity’s just across the border,” opines hood Preston Foster.) Features an impressive supporting turn from WB contract player Lyle Talbot as a jumpy bank robber who nibbles on his own necktie and murmurs “Holy cats” as if he was really cussing. (KW)
63 min • Warner Bros. • 35mm from the Library of Congress, permission Warner Bros.
Preceded by: Selected Cartoon – 16mm – 7 min

Margaret Talbot will introduce the film and sign copies of The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century, a biography of her father, Lyle Talbot.

13B_Margaret Talbot

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Author Margaret Talbot in Person! Restored 35mm Print!

When It Comes to IB Technicolor, Never Give A Inch:
Paul Newman’s Sometimes a Great Notion in 35mm!

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Northwest Chicago Film Society will not be screening films at the Portage Theater this week. We apologize for the inconvenience. This screening has been moved to the Patio Theater

12A_Sometimes a Great Notion
Monday, June 24 @ 8:00pm at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Rd.
SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION
Directed by Paul Newman • 1971
When the logging town of Wakonda, Oregon, goes on strike against a large lumber conglomerate, the nonunion Stamper family, headed by Paul Newman and his father Henry Fonda, keep working and quickly become the enemy of every now-out-of-work family in town. Shot on location along the Oregon coast, the film’s characters are dwarfed by the monolithic landscape and the buzzing of chainsaws, resulting in a leafy green palette that’s simultaneously terrifying and overwhelmingly beautiful. Based on Ken Kesey’s follow-up to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Paul Newman’s second film as a director has less in common with its experimentally structured source material than it does with working-class pre-Code films like Other Men’s Women and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, mixing hard-luck violence with genuine sympathy. With Lee Remick, Richard Jaeckel, and Michael Sarrazin. Showing in an original IB Technicolor print. (JA)
114 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from private collections, permission Universal
Preceded by: “The Voice Beneath the Sea” (Bell Labs, 1956) – 35mm Technicolor – 15 min

——–

And don’t forget our very special screening next Wednesday.

12B_Heat Lightning
Wednesday, June 26 @ 8:00pm at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Rd.
HEAT LIGHTNING
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy • 1934
A sweaty, snarly helping of desert dreams and dead-end desire, Heat Lightning is a startling pre-Code drama. Aline MacMahon and Ann Dvorak play rugged sisters who run an auto garage-greasy spoon-flophouse trifecta in the middle of the Mojave, the only spot for miles around that serves bickering couples, satisfied divorcées, gangsters on the lam, and a whole car full of Mexican kids. Preceding the somewhat similar Petrified Forest by two years, Heat Lightning finds the New Deal optimism of Warner’s Busby Berkeley musicals thoroughly curdled in the arid blaze. (“Prosperity’s just across the border,” opines hood Preston Foster.) Features an impressive supporting turn from WB contract player Lyle Talbot as a jumpy bank robber who nibbles on his own necktie and murmurs “Holy cats” as if he was really cussing. (KW)
63 min • Warner Bros. • 35mm from the Library of Congress, permission Warner Bros.
Preceded by: Selected Cartoon – 16mm – 7 min

Margaret Talbot will introduce the film and sign copies of The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century, a biography of her father, Lyle Talbot.

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Paul Newman’s Sometimes a Great Notion in 35mm!

Chicago Cinema and the Glass Ceiling

Talmadge_SimplexMacho Criticism (From the Seat of His Pants)
Last week WBEZ’s Alison Cuddy interviewed our Executive Director Becca Hall about ‘Chicago’s stunning lack of female film critics and abundance of female film programmers.’ This disparity should be readily apparent and familiar to any sentient person, but its roots and effects merit further discussion.

For better or worse, the dialogue undergirding film culture, here and elsewhere, is usually set by men. It’s something that you can feel acutely when reading a rave review of Nicolas Winding Refn’s hateful exercises in macho posturing or watching the contrived critic’s roundtable on the Pulp Fiction Blu-ray. (In the latter, Stephanie Zacharek provides a voice of reasoned dissent as the middle-aged boys club recites their favorite quotable moments from Tarantino’s anal anxiety breakthrough.) When critics try to address these issues head on, they often make matters worse, as when Mike D’Angelo stuck a blow against “robotic objectivity” in a recent Cannes dispatch. D’Angelo proudly attributed his preference for Blue is the Warmest Color over Behind the Candelabra to the fact that he’s “a straight male who’s indifferent to guy-on-guy action but had to keep adjusting his pants during the lesbian picture.”

The world of film critics (and film enthusiasts generally) suffers for its gender imbalance, much like related subcultures like record collecting. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, where the insular atmosphere discourages many women from participating in the first place. Continue reading

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The Crimson Kimono – Film Noir, Race Relations, and Samuel Fuller — This Wednesday in a 35mm Vault Print!

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Northwest Chicago Film Society will not be screening films at the Portage Theater this week. We apologize for the inconvenience. This screening has been moved to the Patio Theater

11A_Crimson Kimono
Wednesday, June 19 @ 8:00pm at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Rd.
THE CRIMSON KIMONO
Directed by Samuel Fuller • 1959
In downtown Los Angeles, a stripper is gunned down in the middle of the road, but what starts off as a terse, gritty thriller quickly becomes Sam Fuller’s most romantic effort, a melodrama wrapped in wolf’s clothing. Emotions run high in the grungy side streets of LA: Charlie (Glenn Corbett) and Joe (James Shigeta) are two inseparable LAPD detectives assigned to the murder case, but end up falling in love with the same key witness (Victoria Shaw) and nearly destroy their friendship. Despite being released with downright idiotic poster taglines like “Why Does She Choose a Japanese Lover?” The Crimson Kimono is also one of the most progressive movies of the ’50s. Charlie is white and Joe is Japanese American, but Fuller aggressively avoids a preachy commentary on race relations while making a film of unmatched emotional honesty. (JA)
82 min • Globe Enterprises • 35mm from Sony Pictures Repertory
Preceded by: Walter Catlett in “You’re Next” (Del Lord, 1940) – 16mm – 18 min

——-

If Samuel Fuller isn’t brawny enough for you, might we recommend next week’s feature?

11B_Sometimes a Great Notion
Monday, June 24 @ 8:00pm at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Rd.
SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION
Directed by Paul Newman • 1971
When the logging town of Wakonda, Oregon, goes on strike against a large lumber conglomerate, the nonunion Stamper family, headed by Paul Newman and his father Henry Fonda, keep working and quickly become the enemy of every now-out-of-work family in town. Shot on location along the Oregon coast, the film’s characters are dwarfed by the monolithic landscape and the buzzing of chainsaws, resulting in a leafy green palette that’s simultaneously terrifying and overwhelmingly beautiful. Based on Ken Kesey’s follow-up to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Paul Newman’s second film as a director has less in common with its experimentally structured source material than it does with working-class pre-Code films like Other Men’s Women and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, mixing hard-luck violence with genuine sympathy. With Lee Remick, Richard Jaeckel, and Michael Sarrazin. Showing in an original IB Technicolor print. (JA)
114 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from private collections, permission Universal
Preceded by: “Home Movies: Salmon Fishing” (Marc Terziev, 1967) – 16mm Kodachrome – 13 min

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Searching for Efraín Gutiérrez – An Interview with Chon Noriega

AmorChicano_PosterMuch has been written of the enormous strides made by genuinely independent cinema in recent years. In 2004, nearly every review of Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation cited its “budget” of $218 and touted its desktop iMovie roots as a harbinger of things to come. Theatrical distribution for no-budget personal documentaries didn’t last long. YouTube would launch within six months.

Nevertheless, digital moviemaking has been embraced as a uniquely democratic avenue, the kind of game-changer that fundamentally alters who makes and consumes media. The ease of digital production and dissemination cannot be denied, but neither should we assume that the film era presented insurmountable barriers to entry. If anything, the disappearance of analog workflows makes the achievements of the past all the more impressive. How did aspiring filmmakers ever master exposure, A/B roll cutting, synchronization, and magnetic sound recording? These technical hurdles were real, but they hardly stopped a flood of alternative media, dissident art, regional filmmaking, and genuine oddities from reaching the screen.

Efraín Gutiérrez is one of the least likely, most bewildering figures of the celluloid era. With minimal capital and technical experience, Gutiérrez managed to produce and distribute three features and one short film in the latter half of the 1970s—the first films to depict the Chicano community from the inside. The details of Gutiérrez’s career became the stuff of legend, particularly after the filmmaker’s 1980 disappearance. Some speculated that he’d been a drug runner or a hit man and financed his films through illicit means. The sympathetic critic Gregg Barrios made a case for Gutiérrez as a pioneering Chicano filmmaker while acknowledging the consensus view that his films were “sexist and racist diatribes that should be ignored and forgotten.” Continue reading

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Chicano Love Is Forever – A Brave Experiment in Bilingual Cinema – Restored by UCLA – This Wednesday in 35mm!

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Northwest Chicago Film Society will not be screening films at the Portage Theater this week. We apologize for the inconvenience. This screening has been moved to the Patio Theater

Chicano Love
Wednesday, June 12 @ 8:00pm at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Rd.
CHICANO LOVE IS FOREVER (AMOR CHICANO ES PARA SIEMPRE)
Directed by Efraín Gutiérrez • 1977
When Efraín Gutiérrez began making films in San Antonio, he had no technical experience, only a conviction that Hollywood stereotypes demanded an answer from the Chicano community. He boasted of never shooting more than three takes of any given scene and endorsed one writer’s suggestion that he was “a Chicano Ed Wood with a political conscience.” His first film, Please Don’t Bury Me Alive, earned $300,000 on the Spanish-language theater circuit, besting the exploitation pictures turned out by Mexican outfits and clearing the way for a genuinely regional independent cinema. Gutiérrez poured the proceeds into Chicano Love is Forever, a hard-hitting drama about the pressures facing a young married couple struggling through college and low-wage work. (Gutiérrez also plays the husband.) Presumed lost for almost twenty years until rediscovered by scholar Chon Noriega and restored by UCLA, Chicano Love is Forever is a vital landmark of bilingual social cinema. Preservation funded by the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States. (KW)
In English and unsubtitled Spanish. Co-presented with portoluz – Old/New Dreams
103 min • Chicano Arts Film Enterprises • 35mm from UCLA Film & Television Archive

Preceded by: “The Chicano Wave” (La Onda Chicana) (Efrain Gutierrez, 1976) – 35mm – 17 min
Preservation funded by the Ahmanson Foundation in association with the Sundance Institute and the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States. Courtesy UCLA.

——-
And don’t forget to come back next Wednesday for a very different kind of cross-cultural cinema!

10B_Crimson KimonoWednesday, June 19 @ 8:00pm at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Rd.
THE CRIMSON KIMONO
Directed by Samuel Fuller • 1959
In downtown Los Angeles, a stripper is gunned down in the middle of the road, but what starts off as a terse, gritty thriller quickly becomes Sam Fuller’s most romantic effort, a melodrama wrapped in wolf’s clothing. Emotions run high in the grungy side streets of LA: Charlie (Glenn Corbett) and Joe (James Shigeta) are two inseparable LAPD detectives assigned to the murder case, but end up falling in love with the same key witness (Victoria Shaw) and nearly destroy their friendship. Despite being released with downright idiotic poster taglines like “Why Does She Choose a Japanese Lover?” The Crimson Kimono is also one of the most progressive movies of the ’50s. Charlie is white and Joe is Japanese American, but Fuller aggressively avoids a preachy commentary on race relations while making a film of unmatched emotional honesty. (JA)
82 min • Globe Enterprises • 35mm from Sony Pictures Repertory
Preceded by: TBA

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Buried Alive and Lovin’ It: Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole
The Comedy So Black It Might Be Carcinogenic

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Northwest Chicago Film Society will not be screening films at the Portage Theater this week. We apologize for the inconvenience. This screening has been moved to the Patio Theater

09A - Ace in the HolePatio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Road
Monday, June 10 @ 8:00pm
ACE IN THE HOLE
Directed by Billy Wilder • 1951
After being fired from his last eleven jobs, Kirk Douglas takes that left turn in Albuquerque and convinces the local newspaper editor to hire him on the spot. When he leaves town to cover a rattlesnake competition, Douglas discovers a bigger headline in an abandoned silver mine: the owner of a nearby trading post has been pinned down by fallen timbers. The reporter makes the news, keeping his victim in the mine for days while he creates a media frenzy and charges the public twenty-five cents to get into the surrounding area. Billy Wilder’s gritty, twisted, and menacing follow-up to Sunset Blvd. was hardly what American audiences wanted or expected. (A panicked Paramount withdrew the film and reissued it under the new title The Big Carnival with little success.) Wilder could make you laugh or cry as well as anyone, but Ace in the Hole is a firm kick in the gut. (JA)
111 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from Paramount
Preceded by: Selected Cartoon – 16mm – 7 min

———-

And now for something completely different …

09B - Chicano Love is ForeverPatio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Road
Wednesday, June 12 @ 8:00pm
CHICANO LOVE IS FOREVER (AMOR CHICANO ES PARA SIEMPRE)
Directed by Efraín Gutiérrez • 1977
When Efraín Gutiérrez began making films in San Antonio, he had no technical experience, only a conviction that Hollywood stereotypes demanded an answer from the Chicano community. He boasted of never shooting more than three takes of any given scene and endorsed one writer’s suggestion that he was “a Chicano Ed Wood with a political conscience.” His first film, Please Don’t Bury Me Alive, earned $300,000 on the Spanish-language theater circuit, besting the exploitation pictures turned out by Mexican outfits and clearing the way for a genuinely regional independent cinema. Gutiérrez poured the proceeds into Chicano Love is Forever, a hard-hitting drama about the pressures facing a young married couple struggling through college and low-wage work. (Gutiérrez also plays the husband.) Presumed lost for almost twenty years until rediscovered by scholar Chon Noriega and restored by UCLA, Chicano Love is Forever is a vital landmark of bilingual social cinema. Preservation funded by the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States. (KW)
In English and unsubtitled Spanish. Co-presented with portoluz – Old/New Dreams
103 min • Chicano Arts Film Enterprises • 35mm from UCLA Film & Television Archive

Preceded by: “The Chicano Wave” (La Onda Chicana) (Efrain Gutierrez, 1976) – 35mm – 17 min
Preservation funded by the Ahmanson Foundation in association with the Sundance Institute and the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States. Courtesy UCLA.

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The Comedy So Black It Might Be Carcinogenic