Monthly Archives: September 2016

Okay, You Mugs: Tay Garnett’s Ultra-Rare Pre-Code Political Satire Okay, America! Screens Oct. 5 in 35mm

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

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Museum of Modern Art / Film Stills Archive

Wednesday, October 5 @ 7:30 PM
OKAY, AMERICA!
Directed by Tay Garnett • 1932
Every starlet, politician, and high society arriviste fears the acid tongue of Larry Wayne (Lew Ayres), prominent radioland gossipmonger and author of the New York Blade’s “Broadway Broadside” column. Aided by girl Friday Sheila Barton (Maureen O’Sullivan), Wayne embarks on the first act of bona fide journalism of his career: tracking down the kidnapped daughter of a prominent White House cabinet member. All paths lead to Edward Arnold, the rat-a-tat racketeer who eyes a presidential pardon. A corker of a pre-Code melodrama from underrated stylist Tay Garnett (Her Man, One Way Passage), Okay, America! borrows the tics and catchphrases of real-life radio spieler Walter Winchell to give voice to the anxieties of a nation on the precipice. Like its New Deal contemporaries This Day and Age and Gabriel Over the White House, Okay, America! is a work that blurs the line between extralegal excitement and hellzapoppin’ incitement.  Does America need a fascist strongman to keep law ‘n’ order or would an entertainer-in-chief suffice? Remember to vote on November 8th! (KW)
78 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Film Stock: Kodak B+W (1999, Acetate)
Preceded by: “The Editor’s Notebook” (Wilding Pictures Productions, 1950) – 35mm – 30 min

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H.P. Carver’s The Silent Enemy with Live Organ Accompaniment by Jay Warren – Tinted 35mm Print

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

05-silent-enemy-600

Wednesday, September 28 @ 7:30 PM
THE SILENT ENEMY
Directed by H.P. Carver • 1930
Live organ accompaniment by Jay Warren
One of the last silent films released by a major studio—it contains one spoken monologue, which was sufficient for Paramount to promote it as the “all talking feature picture which required one year to film”—The Silent Enemy straddles the line between ethnographic documentary and sentimental fiction in the tradition of Nanook of the North. Inspired by the success of Cooper and Schoedsack’s Grass and Chang, safariing scions Douglas Burden and William Chanler endeavored to recreate and record the pre-Columbian lifestyle of the Ojibwa tribe of the Canadian Far North. Enlisting a professional Hollywood crew led by director H.P. Carver and cinematographer Marcel Le Picard, they spun a loose narrative allegedly drawn from 17th-century Jesuit histories of the region. The filmmakers’ devotion to authenticity went only so far; their cast was assembled from the “photogenic” ranks of First Nations people, with Ojibwa heritage preferred but not necessary. Their star, Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, who claimed mixed heritage, had already been thoroughly assimilated into modern life, working as a journalist and serving with distinction in World War I before being adopted as an honorary Blackfoot; Chief Yellow Rose, who delivers the opening monologue, was a Sioux whom the filmmakers met at the American Museum of Natural History. In spite of its limitations, this empathetic portrayal of hunger and strife on the plains (the titular Silent Enemy) remains powerful and pictorially distinguished. Long circulated in a mutilated version prepared for the educational market, the original version of The Silent Enemy, rescued by David Shepard during his tenure at the American Film Institute, remains a capstone of silent cinema. (KW)
84 min • Burden-Chanler Productions • Tinted 35mm from Film Preservation Associates
Film Stock: Eastman LPP (1992)
Short: TBA

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Don’t Trust Your Local Film Programmer

devils-insertWhich version of The Devils are you going to show on Monday?

We’ve been asked this question over the phone, in person, and on social media since announcing we’d be screening The Devils at the Music Box. And it’s a perfectly reasonable question, as there are at least four versions The Devils commonly cited: the 111-minute X-rated British theatrical cut; the 108-minute X-rated American theatrical cut; the R-rated American version (either 106 or 109 minutes) released on VHS decades ago; and a spectral cut that re-integrates footage discovered by the critic Mark Kermode.

Adding to the confusion, Warner Bros. prepared a digibeta transfer of The Devils over a decade ago and commissioned several DVD extras but never released a disc—bowing, at least in the imaginations of fevered Ken Russell fans, to a Vatican conspiracy or the resurgent Evangelical stirrings of the Bush era. The studio eventually licensed the transfer and extras to the British Film Institute, which released a Region 2 DVD that runs 107 minutes—but that’s not a new iteration, just a slightly sped-up version of the 111-minute British cut because the video is encoded at the 25 fps PAL standard.

So, which one are we showing?

The fact is, film programmers frequently operate in the dark about these matters and have limited means of seeking clarification. The print arrives at the venue a week before the show (at most), and long after calendars have been printed and disseminated.

Programmers rely on distributors, archives, and private collectors to supply film prints for public exhibition. We interface with studio bookers, who almost always have no physical access to the prints they send out. At best, they have notes about the prints, but not always. The prints are usually in another building on the studio lot or located in a storage depot hundreds of miles away, operated by a third-party logistics firm in Sun Valley or Long Island City. To verify the condition of a print, let alone the specific version it represents, bookers can order an inspection from the depot (which costs money and often overstates a print’s deficiencies) or they can rely on scattered remarks from previous venues. Of course, some venues fail to report prints that have been torn in half, while others phone in a detailed assessment of every scratch and speck of dirt (and expect a price adjustment for their trouble). In an era when some studios are eager to junk prints, every condition report is a provocation and potential death sentence. Continue reading

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Ken Russell’s Blasphemous Masterpiece The Devils
Rare 35mm Screening at the Music Box

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $7

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Monday, September 26 @ 7:00 PM
THE DEVILS
Directed by Ken Russell • 1971
Co-Presented by Odd Obsession Movies
Based on real events and Aldous Huxley’s 1952 novel The Devils of Loudun, The Devils is still regarded as one of the most controversial films of all time, at this point probably more for its garishness than its actual content (disclaimer: The Devils is a beautiful film, no matter what your washed-out pan-and-scan VHS dupe might tell you). Directed by Roman Catholic Ken Russell with production design by Derek Jarman (Jubilee, The Tempest), the film stars Oliver Reed as a 17th-century French priest who is accused of being in league with the Devil and possessing an entire convent of nuns – the unforgettable Vanessa Redgrave is Mother Superior. Despite overwhelming criticism and tussles with the British Board of Film Censors, Russell was awarded Best Director by the National Board of Review in New York. One of the film’s early champions was fellow midwesterner Father Gene D. Phillips, who immediately added the film to his curriculum at Loyola University Chicago. From Richard Crouse’s book Raising Hell: “Russell said that because the film is taught by Jesuits as if it were a good Catholic film, chances are it is.” (JA)
108 min • Russo Productions • 35mm from Warner Brothers
Film Stock: Eastman LPP (1991)

Preceded by: “The Red Spectre” (Segundo de Chomon, 1907) – 16mm – 7 min – Film print courtesy of The University of Chicago Film Studies Center

[ PRE-ORDER TICKETS THROUGH BROWN PAPER TICKETS ]

——

And then, back to NEIU on Wednesday …

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

05-silent-enemy-600

Wednesday, September 28 @ 7:30 PM
THE SILENT ENEMY
Directed by H.P. Carver • 1930
Live organ accompaniment by Jay Warren
One of the last silent films released by a major studio—it contains one spoken monologue, which was sufficient for Paramount to promote it as the “all talking feature picture which required one year to film”—The Silent Enemy straddles the line between ethnographic documentary and sentimental fiction in the tradition of Nanook of the North. Inspired by the success of Cooper and Schoedsack’s Grass and Chang, safariing scions Douglas Burden and William Chanler endeavored to recreate and record the pre-Columbian lifestyle of the Ojibwa tribe of the Canadian Far North. Enlisting a professional Hollywood crew led by director H.P. Carver and cinematographer Marcel Le Picard, they spun a loose narrative allegedly drawn from 17th-century Jesuit histories of the region. The filmmakers’ devotion to authenticity went only so far; their cast was assembled from the “photogenic” ranks of First Nations people, with Ojibwa heritage preferred but not necessary. Their star, Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, who claimed mixed heritage, had already been thoroughly assimilated into modern life, working as a journalist and serving with distinction in World War I before being adopted as an honorary Blackfoot; Chief Yellow Rose, who delivers the opening monologue, was a Sioux whom the filmmakers met at the American Museum of Natural History. In spite of its limitations, this empathetic portrayal of hunger and strife on the plains (the titular Silent Enemy) remains powerful and pictorially distinguished. Long circulated in a mutilated version prepared for the educational market, the original version of The Silent Enemy, rescued by David Shepard during his tenure at the American Film Institute, remains a capstone of silent cinema. (KW)
84 min • Burden-Chanler Productions • Tinted 35mm from Film Preservation Associates
Film Stock: Eastman LPP (1992)
Short: TBA

 

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Rare 35mm Screening at the Music Box

From the Studio That Brought You Breakin’: Jean-Luc Godard’s King Lear – Ultra-Rare 35mm Screening

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

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Wednesday, September 21 @ 7:30 PM
KING LEAR
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard • 1987
In retrospect, one wonders how an ’80s vintage, English-language Jean-Luc Godard Shakespeare interpolation could have turned out to be anything but a gloriously weird and obtuse misbegotten commercial prospect. Certainly the Cannon Group (storied producers of Bloodsport, Kickboxer, and Love Streams) thought they had a viable prestige product on their hands when they signed a much-ballyhooed napkin contract with the New Wave iconoclast, hiring Norman Mailer for a script that would go unused and later adding Burgess Meredith and Molly Ringwald as Lear and Cordelia. Instead, King Lear turned out to be almost certainly the most experimental major film adaptation of a Shakespeare work. Theater director Peter Sellars (who in his capacity as cowriter also assisted Godard in dismantling the play) plays William Shakespeare Jr. the Fifth who has been enlisted by the Queen of England and the Cannon Cultural Group to recover, through a sort of associative mysticism, the works of his great ancestor after they have been wiped from cultural memory following a nuclear disaster. His assignment brings him into constant orbit with the characters from Shakespeare’s play, as well as a strange group of researchers played by Julie Delpy, director Leos Carax, and Godard himself. A work of spectacular friction, King Lear is ultimately a Godard film through and through, averse to cogent narrative progression, richly beautiful, deeply intelligent, funny and ineffably moving. (CW)
91 min • The Cannon Group • 35mm from Park Circus
Film Stock: Eastman LPP, manufactured in France (1987)

Preceded by: “Bottom’s Dream” (John Canemaker, 1983) – 16mm – 9 min

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Holden, Kelly, and Rooney vs. World Communism in
The Bridges at Toko-Ri – 35mm IB Technicolor Print

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

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Wednesday, September 14 @ 7:30 PM / NEIU
THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI
Directed by Mark Robson • 1954
Existential dread induced by the possibility of dying a meaningless death for an arbitrary cause is not something one immediately associates with Cold War cinema of the 1950s, particularly not with fare as popular and successful in its time as The Bridges at Toko-Ri. All the same, it’s rare for a picture of its era to so bitterly and relentlessly puncture the myth that dying in war is a valorous and honorable act. William Holden anchors the film as Harry Brubaker, a naval aviator who is tasked with flying a strategically important mission to bomb the titular bridges. After his wife (Grace Kelly) and children visit him in Tokyo, Brubaker is thrown into a crisis, actively questioning his national and professional duties in the days leading up to the bombing. Filming in Yokosuka, Japan, and on the decks of various naval aircraft carriers, director Mark Robson evinces a strong eye for location shooting, proving adept at capturing the vibrant nightlife of postwar Japan as well as the labor required to launch and land airplanes at sea. While studded with bits of levity (supporting player Mickey Rooney’s diminutive, brawling helicopter pilot is a particularly fruitful source of comedy), The Bridges at Toko-Ri remains as intense and rattling an action picture as any to come out in its day, as well as a sober and unsparing look at the emotionally draining power of war. (CW)
102 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from NWCFS Collections, permission Swank
Film Stock: Eastman (IB Tech) 1959
Preceded by: “Schlitz Playhouse: Dual Control” (Paul Henreid, 1957) – 35mm – 30 min

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The Bridges at Toko-Ri – 35mm IB Technicolor Print

New Season Opens with Jane Campion’s Sweetie in 35mm

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2

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Wednesday, September 7 @ 7:30 PM / NEIU
SWEETIE
Directed by Jane Campion • 1989
The first feature film by director Jane Campion, Sweetie is the story of a family “falling apart like a wet paper bag.” On the advice of a tea-leaf reading psychic, Kay (Karen Colston) steals her presumed soul mate from the arms of a coworker. Soon Kay and Louis (Tom Lycos) are living the suburban dream outside Sydney, Australia, working nameless jobs and watching their sex life disappear into the candy-colored linoleum. Enter Dawn, a.k.a. Sweetie (Geneviève Lemon), Kay’s feral, sexually charged sister, and let the hair pulling and destruction of all things beloved commence. Perhaps Campion’s funniest film (with the exception of the unfairly maligned Holy Smoke!), Sweetie is a fever dream occupied by needy, selfish children being literally (thanks to cinematographer Sally Bongers) and figuratively backed into corners. Released four years before Campion became the first (and only, as of 2016) female filmmaker to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes (for The Piano), it contains both the poetry and depravity that can be traced throughout her later work. Always ready and willing to treat seemingly mad and irrational characters with deadly sincerity, Campion makes no exception for neurotic, tree-fearing Kay, as we watch her demons made flesh in the film’s final scenes. (RL)
97 min • Arena Films • 35mm from NWCFS Collections, permission Janus
Film Stock: Eastman LPP (1989)
Preceded by: “Hey Girls!” (Tom Palazzolo, 1990) – 16mm – 4 min – Courtesy of Chicago Film Archives

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