Monthly Archives: January 2017

Where To?: Jim Jarmusch’s Late Nite Classic
Night on Earth — 35mm Screening

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

Wednesday, February 1 @ 7:30 PM
NIGHT ON EARTH
Directed by Jim Jarmusch • 1991
The fifth feature from Jim Jarmusch, patron saint of wandering souls, the heavily cosmopolitan Night on Earth is one of his three “vignette” films, sitting between Mystery Train and Coffee and Cigarettes. Taking place in five different cities around the world, each segment shows strangers in the night coming together in that most underrated of intimate spaces, the taxicab. Like most of Jarmusch’s films, Night on Earth is thematically huge and small at the same time; the phrase “Where to?”, uttered from the cab drivers to their fares, can and does elicit an infinite variety of answers, profound and otherwise. Night on Earth features a dizzying array of actors, including (but not limited to) Béatrice Dalle, Isaach De Bankóle, Roberto Benigni, Giancarlo Esposito, Rosie Perez, Gena Rowlands, and Winona Ryder, epitomizing early ’90s chic. (Jarmusch apparently chose the cities–Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki–based on who he wanted to work with.) With brooding cinematography by longtime Jarmusch collaborator Frederick Elmes (Blue Velvet, The Ice Storm) and a soundtrack by Tom Waits at his most guttural. Come for the actors and stay for the taxis, including Ryder’s 1981 Chevy Caprice Wagon, a true thing of beauty. (RL)
128 min •  JVC Entertainment Networks • 35mm from Janus Films
Film Stock: Eastman LPP (1991)
Preceded by: Alvin and the Chipmunks in “Finiculi Finicula” (1960) – 16mm – 3 min

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Night on Earth — 35mm Screening

Eat or Be Et: Nicholas Ray and Budd Schulberg’s
Wind Across the Everglades in Gatorific 35mm

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

Wednesday, January 25 @ 7:30 PM
WIND ACROSS THE EVERGLADES
Directed by Nicholas Ray • 1958
Dead in the midst of another brutal Chicago winter, we may look upon the vision of balmy South Florida seen in Nicholas Ray’s brilliantly haphazard environmentalist swamp western Wind Across the Everglades for a glimpse of all we’re missing: fever, drunken madness, and death by any one of the region’s plethora of toxic flora and fauna. Having just arrived in turn-of-the-century Miami, outspoken conservationist Walt Murdock (Christopher Plummer) is summarily hired as game warden for the Everglades and immediately tasked with going after a gang of poachers who are killing off the region’s birds and selling their feathers. A career-best Burl Ives leads the gang as Cottonmouth, named for the venomous snake kept in his pocket, who lives by the philosophy of “eat or be et”, and prides himself on being “swamp-born, swamp-fattened.” The all-location production of Wind Across the Everglades was notoriously tempestuous, with cast and crew members sick or soused for much of its making. Ray himself was fired before the film wrapped due to his erratic behavior and conspicuous heroin habit. While Wind Across the Everglades certainly bears the scars of its troubled makings, it remains a key film in Ray’s filmography. It’s hard to imagine a smoother shoot yielding a film so unique, vigorous, or full of life. (CW)
93 min •  Warner Bros. • 35mm from Warner Bros.
Film Stock: Kodak 2383 (2002)
Preceded by: “Weekend at Weeki Wachee” (1964) – 35mm – 12 min

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Wind Across the Everglades in Gatorific 35mm

One Movie Worth a Fight: Restoring The Front Page

In 1967, the newly-formed American Film Institute released a preliminary list of 150 significant feature films that were considered endangered, already lost, or thought to survive only in substandard copies. Lewis Milestone’s 1931 adaptation of The Front Page was among the titles at risk.

Based on the reviews that greeted The Front Page in 1931, it’s sobering to recognize that the survival of such a highly-regarded film could be in doubt scarcely four decades later. To put that in perspective, it would be as if no one could readily ascertain whether a single copy of a film like Reds or Atlantic City still existed in 2017.

Admiration for The Front Page was professed in publications high-brow, low-brow, and every brow in between. The Chicago Tribune’s spectral critic Mae Tinee proclaimed that “Lewis Milestone’s direction is the last word in snap: lines click, photography and sound are all to the good.  What this production lacks in nobility it makes up for in ‘It.’” Writing in Vanity Fair, Harry Alan Potamkin rhapsodized that “Milestone’s contribution in The Front Page is the first American contribution to the ‘philosophy’ of the sound-sight cinema. It puts forth the principle of pace set by the verbal element. The film itself is a tour de force, a vehicle which by its speed makes a superficial cargo appear profound.”

The Front Page earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, too, but the passion aroused by the film was perhaps best captured by Pare Lorentz’s column in Judge:

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Morning Post Editor Saves Hanged Man, Colleague:
The Front Page – Chicago Restoration Premiere in 35mm

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

Monday, January 23 @ 7:00 PM / Chicago Restoration Premiere
THE FRONT PAGE
Directed by Lewis Milestone • 1931
Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s 1928 play is one of the most durable comedies in the American repertory, and Lewis Milestone’s brash and brisk screen adaptation deserves a place of pride alongside it. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, this cynical valentine to the ink-stained wretches of the world chronicles ace reporter Hildy Johnson’s fitful efforts to get married, settle down, and leave his yellow profession behind. But Hildy’s hard-assed editor, Walter Burns, can’t lose his best scrivener, especially when the imminent execution of a Red rabble-rouser is worth its weight in column inches. The play would be adapted for the screen another half-dozen times (including formidable efforts by Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder), but Milestone’s 1931 version with Pat O’Brien and Adolphe Menjou comes closest to matching Hecht and MacArthur’s devil-may-care immediacy; it’s not a period piece, but a vulgar salute ripping through the air. Contemporary reviewers lavished The Front Page with superlatives: Harry Alan Potamkin anointed Milestone the first major cinema innovator since D. W. Griffith, and Pare Lorentz urged his readers to see this “extraordinary movie” before “Mr. Hays, Mr. Akerson, or the Republican Committee on Humor burn all the available prints.” No prints were burned, but we’ve had to suffice with a toned-down version prepared for European audiences from alternate takes — until now. Finally restored to the original American release version for the first time in decades, The Front Page is a pre-Code marvel with a machine-gun stride. (KW)
Restored in 2016 by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation. Restoration funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. Elements for this restoration provided by The Howard Hughes Corporation, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Fine Arts, Department of Film and its Howard Hughes Collection at the Academy Film Archive.
98 min • The Caddo Company • 35mm from Academy Film Archive
Film Stock: Kodak Lab: Fotokem
Preceded by: Betty Boop in “Admission Free” (Dave Fleischer, 1932) – 16mm – 7 min

Buy Tickets in advance on Brown Paper Tickets.

——

And join us again next week for our regularly scheduled program at:

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

Wednesday, January 25 @ 7:30 PM / NEIU
WIND ACROSS THE EVERGLADES
Directed by Nicholas Ray • 1958
Dead in the midst of another brutal Chicago winter, we may look upon the vision of balmy South Florida seen in Nicholas Ray’s brilliantly haphazard environmentalist swamp western Wind Across the Everglades for a glimpse of all we’re missing: fever, drunken madness, and death by any one of the region’s plethora of toxic flora and fauna. Having just arrived in turn-of-the-century Miami, outspoken conservationist Walt Murdock (Christopher Plummer) is summarily hired as game warden for the Everglades and immediately tasked with going after a gang of poachers who are killing off the region’s birds and selling their feathers. A career-best Burl Ives leads the gang as Cottonmouth, named for the venomous snake kept in his pocket, who lives by the philosophy of “eat or be et”, and prides himself on being “swamp-born, swamp-fattened.” The all-location production of Wind Across the Everglades was notoriously tempestuous, with cast and crew members sick or soused for much of its making. Ray himself was fired before the film wrapped due to his erratic behavior and conspicuous heroin habit. While Wind Across the Everglades certainly bears the scars of its troubled makings, it remains a key film in Ray’s filmography. It’s hard to imagine a smoother shoot yielding a film so unique, vigorous, or full of life. (CW)
93 min •  Warner Bros. • 35mm from Warner Bros.
Preceded by: “Weekend at Weeki Wachee” (1964) – 35mm – 12 min

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The Front Page – Chicago Restoration Premiere in 35mm

Credit Card Cinema: Robert Townsend’s Hilarious
Satire Hollywood Shuffle Returns in 35mm

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

02 Hollywood SHuffle 600

Wednesday, January 18 @ 7:30 PM
HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE
Directed by Robert Townsend • 1987
Bobby Taylor works for the Winky-Dinky-Dog stand but dreams of stardom and sets out for Hollywood despite the advice of his coworkers. A funny-as-hell, take-no-prisoners critique of Hollywood’s stereotypical portrayal of African Americans, Hollywood Shuffle was inspired by Chicago-born Robert Townsend’s own experiences in show business after his starring role in A Soldier’s Story: “I started getting calls for slaves, pimps, muggers, and rapists, and I said ‘I can’t do this…’ so I said ‘I’ll go do my own film. I didn’t go to film school, but I had seen enough bad movies to know what I don’t like.’” Made for $100,000 using Townsend’s savings and credit cards, Hollywood Shuffle’s energy is manic and infectious, so much so that it made its budget back fifty times over. The jokes still cut close to the bone, and, per the Washington Post, “should thoroughly embarrass those studios that routinely offer up badly made, multimillion-dollar disasters.” (JA)
82 min •  Conquering Unicorn • 35mm from Park Circus
Film Stock: Eastman LPP (1986)
Preceded by: “Uptown Saturday Night” Production Short – 16mm – 9 min

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Satire Hollywood Shuffle Returns in 35mm

From Boardinghouse to Angry Birds: The Adventures of Misfit Media

If you’re at all familiar with our activities at the Chicago Film Society, you probably know that we place special emphasis on the act of projecting motion picture film. At a point in cinema history when digital video has become the exhibition “norm,” we pride ourselves on providing a link to a pre-digital past and a critical framework to contextualize film images. Look at the first page of our program book or click on the About Us section of our web page and you’ll find this paragraph:

The Chicago Film Society exists to promote the preservation of film in context. Films capture the past uniquely. They hold the stories told by feature films, but also the stories of the industries that produced them, the places where they were exhibited, and the people who watched them. We believe that all of this history–not just of film, but of 20th century industry, labor, recreation, and culture–is more intelligible when it’s grounded in unsimulated experience: seeing a film in a theater, with an audience, and projected from film stock.

The argument that film remains a vital and important exhibition medium into the 21st century, even as cost-cutting measures drive it out of more and more cinemas, often takes a historicist angle that can breed misconceptions about the medium even as it elucidates the importance of the inherent historical memory found in media. Arguments for the value of presenting works of film art in their original media often focus on the ways that analog media can highlight the visual decisions and strategies of the technicians who authored the works. However, we at the Film Society are also interested in the authorship of exhibition, and in understanding the context of media through the marks left on its physical form by various production and exhibition histories.

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Experience Boardinghouse in All the Psychedelic Madness of Horror Vision – Music Box Midnights – 35mm Screening

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $9

01A Boardinghouse 600Friday, January 13 & Saturday, January 14 @ 11:59 PM
BOARDINGHOUSE
Directed by John Wintergate • 1982
Co-presented by Odd Obsession, Chicago Film Society, and the Music Box Theatre
A decade after a series of unexplained deaths occurred on the property, new age meditation specialist and psychic warrior Jim Royce has inherited the ominous Hoffman house and opened it as a residence for “unattached and beautiful” women. Soon enough, people begin dying in gruesome and mysterious ways and it’s up to Jim and one of his psychically gifted tenants to go to battle with the dark forces attached to the house. The brainchild of new age workshop leaders and rock musicians Johnima and Kalassu Wintergate (playing the leads, with Johnima also writing and directing) and prominently featuring the music of their band Lightstorm (who’ve recently been feted with a greatest hits compilation courtesy of Drag City Records), Boardinghouse found the couple’s spiritual concerns inscrutably butting up against the excesses of sex and violence endemic to the independent horror marketplace. Possessed with a bizarre energy all its own, as well as an arbitrarily deployed “Horror Vision” gimmick, Boardinghouse manages to never coast or sit still throughout its runtime, ping-ponging between stalk-and-slash fakeouts, psychedelic video effects-laden freakouts, and legitimately eerie paranormal creep-outs. The first horror film to be shot on oh-so-80s analog video, Boardinghouse is an essential piece of lunatic cinema, complete with requisite high levels of gore and camp and presented in an archival 35mm print! (CW)
98 min • Blustarr • 35mm from the American Genre Film Archive

——

And join us again next week for our regularly scheduled program at:

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

02 Hollywood SHuffle 600

Wednesday, January 18 @ 7:30 PM
HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE
Directed by Robert Townsend • 1987
Bobby Taylor works for the Winky-Dinky-Dog stand but dreams of stardom and sets out for Hollywood despite the advice of his coworkers. A funny-as-hell, take-no-prisoners critique of Hollywood’s stereotypical portrayal of African Americans, Hollywood Shuffle was inspired by Chicago-born Robert Townsend’s own experiences in show business after his starring role in A Soldier’s Story: “I started getting calls for slaves, pimps, muggers, and rapists, and I said ‘I can’t do this…’ so I said ‘I’ll go do my own film. I didn’t go to film school, but I had seen enough bad movies to know what I don’t like.’” Made for $100,000 using Townsend’s savings and credit cards, Hollywood Shuffle’s energy is manic and infectious, so much so that it made its budget back fifty times over. The jokes still cut close to the bone, and, per the Washington Post, “should thoroughly embarrass those studios that routinely offer up badly made, multimillion-dollar disasters.” (JA)
82 min •  Conquering Unicorn • 35mm Park Circus
Preceded by: “Uptown Saturday Night” Production Short – 16mm – 9 min

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Calling All Geeks: Unforgettable Carnival Noir Nightmare Alley Inaugurates New Season – 35mm Screening

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

01-nightmare-alley-600

Wednesday, January 11 @ 7:30 PM
NIGHTMARE ALLEY
Directed by Edmund Goulding • 1947
Tyrone Power bought the rights to William Lindsay Gresham’s novel Nightmare Alley out of a desire for a role with more psychological depth than his usual swashbucklers, an aspiration more than fulfilled in this brutal film noir. (It was probably hard for a man to don the mask of Zorro after returning from the horrors of World War II.) Power plays small-time carnival barker Stan Carlisle, who begins his descent after witnessing the most sinister of sideshow acts: a “geek” who bites the heads off live chickens. Stan reacts with both horror and fascination, and thus begins his unintentional journey to find out exactly how a man could sink to such depths. He uses a tragic accident to convince Zeena (Joan Blondell) to teach him the code for a mind-reading act that once had her and her husband Pete (Ian Keith) at the top of the vaudeville game. With the help of Molly (aka Elektra the electric chair wonder, played by Coleen Gray) and a crooked psychologist (Helen Walker) willing to offer up her patients’ secrets, Stan turns his mentalist stage act into something much more ambitious, providing “spiritual comfort, whatever the cost,” to members of Chicago high society. (Perhaps in another story Stan might have gone on to create Dianetics.) Nightmare Alley was a flop upon its release due to its unsavory subject matter and the studio’s open dislike for the property, but it remains a nasty and unforgettable film. Nightmare Alley stumbles briefly in an attempt to insert a moral message that the original novel lacked, but don’t worry–even these half-hearted attempts can’t help Stan (and us) escape the screams of the geek and the bottom of the bottle. (RL)
110 min • 20th Century-Fox • 35mm from Criterion Pictures, USA
Cartoon: “Make Me Psychic” (Sally Cruikshank, 1978) – 35mm – 8 min

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