Monthly Archives: May 2017

Shinoda’s Pale Flower, Mother of All Yakuza Movies, Screens June 12 at the Music Box Theatre in 35mm

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

Monday, June 12 @ 7:00 PM
PALE FLOWER
Directed by Masahiro Shinoda • 1964
In Japanese with English subtitles
Masahiro Shinoda was only a few years into a remarkable five-decade directing career when he made Pale Flower, his most popular and enduring work and the yakuza film by which all others in the genre would be measured. Muraki (played by Ryo Ikebe, some years past his gentler turn in Ozu’s Early Spring) has recently been released from a three-year prison stint (for murder, naturally) and cannot help but throw himself, with studied indifference, into the scrum of Yokohama night-life. Meanwhile, the reckless and inscrutable Saeko (Mariko Kaga, giving Pale Flower‘s scariest and most internalized performance amidst her co-stars’ macho smoldering) has taken to haunting yakuza-overseen gambling dens, a notable and disruptive feminine presence in a stiflingly masculine underworld. Immediately drawn to one another, Muraki mentors Saeko in tehonbiki, their game of choice, as she attempts to stave off corrosive and self-destructive boredom and he attempts to keep his homicidal impulses at bay. A master class in widescreen composition from cinematographer Masao Kosugi with a score by legendary avant-garde composer Toru Takemitsu, Pale Flower matches its pitch black amour fou narrative with hard-as-nails stylistic pyrotechnics and lurid Baudelairean cinematic poetry. (CW)
96 min • Shochiku • 35mm from Janus Films
Preceded by: “Dance Squared” (Danse carrée) (René Jodoin, 1961) – 16mm – 4 min

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And join us later this week for something different:

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

Wednesday, June 14 @ 7:30 PM
CLUNY BROWN
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch • 1946
Lubitsch’s last completed film is everything one would hope for from one of Hollywood’s (and the Chicago Film Society’s) most beloved directors. Set in England on the verge of WWII, it’s a pithy commentary on class, with much of the film spent poking fun at the fumbling of British aristocrats and impotent liberals (“I’ve written a letter to the Times!” is one character’s earnest response to Hitler), while simultaneously managing to remain a weirdo romance. Destined to cross paths, two kindred misfits—Adam Belinski (Charles Boyer), a Czech intellectual hiding out from the Nazis (albeit leisurely), and Cluny Brown (Jennifer Jones), a bright plumber’s niece—both end up at the country estate of the wealthy Carmel family, Belinski as a guest and Cluny as a parlor maid. Belinski manages to charm his hosts with his knowledge of Shakespeare and purposeful ignorance of societal rules, while Cluny chips the china and goes on some soul-crushing dates with local pharmacist Jonathan W. Wilson (played beautifully by Richard Haydn). We pray Cluny isn’t lulled into the pharmacy life by Wilson’s mind-melting harmonium playing; just listen closely to the way Belinski says “Cluny” compared to Wilson’s clenched “Miiizzz Brown” and your ears will confirm where true love lies. It’s a film for anyone who’s ever been put in their place, ever felt out of place, or ever found their place in the arms of another. A strong supporting cast includes Una O’Connor, who literally snores her way through the film, and Helen Walker (Nightmare Alley) as a brassy society lady with all the best comebacks. (RL)
100 min • 20th Century-Fox • 35mm from Criterion Pictures, USA
Preceded by: Popeye the Sailor in “Plumbing is a ‘Pipe’” (Dave Fleischer, 1938) – 16mm – 8 min

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20th Anniversary Screening of Tsai Ming-Liang’s
Modern Masterpiece The River – May 30 in 35mm

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

Tuesday, May 30 @ 7:30 PM
THE RIVER
Directed by Tsai Ming-liang • 1997
In Mandarin with English subtitles
By the late ’90s, director Tsai Ming-liang had established himself as one of the leading lights in Taiwanese filmmaking, a favorite with critics and adventurous film festival programmers alike. The River was the last film Tsai would make that would hew towards narrative convention while also embracing the radical slowness that would become a stylistic signature for him. While hanging around a movie set with a female acquaintance, Lee Hsiao-Kang (played by Tsai’s persistent leading actor and closest collaborator Lee Kang-sheng) is cast to play a dead body floating in the polluted Tamsui River. Almost immediately after the shoot is over, he begins to develop a mysterious illness, causing him physical pain and a great deal of emotional distress. Meanwhile, both his mother and father carry on affairs with men in between taking Hsiao-Kang to various medical specialists and spiritual healers. As with all of Tsai’s films, there are moments of strange, Keaton-inflected, nonverbal deadpan humor as well as a surfeit of water imagery and free-floating, quietly tumultuous, queer desire. Featuring an emotionally decimating ending stretch unparalleled in Tsai’s filmography (or most of cinema for that matter), The River earns its reputation as one of the greatest films of the ’90s. (CW)
115 min • Taiwan Central Motion Pictures Corporation • 35mm from Leisure Time Features

Preceded by: “sound of a million insects, light of a thousand stars” (Tomonari Nishikawa, 2014) – 35mm – 2 min

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Modern Masterpiece The River – May 30 in 35mm

May 22: See Popeye As It Was Meant To Be Seen — In Robert Altman’s Personal 35mm Print – One Nite Only

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

Monday, May 22 @ 7:15 PM
POPEYE
Directed by Robert Altman • 1980
Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall are Popeye and Olive Oyl in this unlikely and sublime live-action adaptation of the timeless Fleischer Studios cartoons. Paramount went all out on their 1980 mega-production, which involved building an entire village in Malta (“Popeye Village” still exists as a tourist attraction), though domestic grosses fell significantly short of expectations. Producer Robert Evans hoped to tame the barbarous Robert Altman as he had Roman Polanski (Chinatown) and Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather), but this was not the right film. Long overlooked in favor of more “serious” Altman pictures, Popeye, writes Scott Tobias, “is like a family-friendly re-imagining of McCabe & Mrs. Miller, moving the same mud-caked, dilapidated town from the Pacific Northwest to the Mediterranean seas without losing the anti-capitalist sentiment in the process.” The result is both heartfelt and manic, and exceedingly faithful to the original work. Why can’t all comic book movies be this great? With music by Harry Nilsson and Van Dyke Parks (later used to great effect in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love). Screening in a one-of-a-kind 35mm print from the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. (JA)
114 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from UCLA, Permission Paramount
Cartoon: Popeye the Sailor in “Goonland” (Dave Fleischer, 1938) – 16mm – 8 min
Advance tickets available on Brown Paper Tickets

Co-sponsored by CHIRP – Chicago Independent Radio Project

 

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May 16: Dorothy Davenport’s Linda with Live Accompaniment from Jay Warren – 35mm Archival Print

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

Tuesday, May 16 @ 7:30 PM
LINDA
Directed by Dorothy Davenport • 1929
With live organ accompaniment from Jay Warren!
When her husband Wallace Reid, “the world’s most perfect lover,” died in a sanitarium from complications related to his morphine addiction, actress Dorothy Davenport began producing what were essentially exploitation films, beginning with the now-lost 1923 anti drug feature Human Wreckage, the first in a planned “Sins of the World” series co-produced by Thomas Ince. Linda, her last silent picture and second for her independent production company, is more of a straightforward melodrama, but Davenport’s roots as a low-budget filmmaker make it all the more immediate and effective—it’s Human Wreckage without the drugs. Helen Foster is forced to marry an old lumber dealer (Noah Beery) by her evil father. Beery isn’t such a bad guy, it turns out, but Foster eventually flees to the city and falls in love with kindly doctor Warner Baxter. Originally distributed through a decentralized “states rights” system that almost guaranteed Linda would be left unscreened in the decades to come, Davenport’s film has been newly preserved by the Library of Congress. You’d be forgiven for not being familiar with this one, especially since the only post-1929 reviews so far are tweets from last year’s Capitolfest in Rome, New York. We trust @NitrateDiva, who calls Linda “a lyrical, outstanding melodrama ripe for rediscovery!” (JA)
75 min • Mrs. Wallace Reid Productions • 35mm from the Library of Congress
Preceded by: Laurel and Hardy in “The Finishing Touch” (Clyde Bruckman, Leo McCarey, 1928) – 35mm from Library of Congress – 19 min

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