Monthly Archives: August 2018

Cutest Film Society on Earth Opens Season with Imported 35mm Print of The Smallest Show on Earth on Sept. 3!

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $10 •  Advance Tickets Here

Monday, September 3 @ 7:00 PM
THE SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH
Directed by Basil Dearden • 1957
This British gem about a young couple (Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers) who inherit a movie theater is strangely underseen considering how much cinema-dwellers love to see themselves on screen. Upon discovering they are not the proud new owners of the Grand (a sparkling modern cinema spied from their taxi window) but of a nearby derelict gothic dump the locals call “the fleapit,” the pair reluctantly decide to reopen said dump after their lawyer convinces them it may push the Grand’s owner to buy them out. The staff of the fleapit is a bickering triad of fantastic character actors. Peter Sellers (Mr. Quill, projectionist), Margaret Rutherford (Mrs. Fazackalee, cashier), and Bernard Miles (Old Tom, usher) are living embodiments of the building itself—shabby, full of loose screws, and impossible not to adore. McKenna and Travers gamely succumb to the joys and pains of running a decrepit single screen: elaborate concessions sales schemes, customers who pay in pork chops, and the eternal problems of management vs. projection. (“My equipment’s more important than your rats!” is a classic grievance.) This love letter to movie houses and their occupants will be felt keenly by anyone who watched a multiplex go up around the corner from their local neighborhood cinema and wished that once, just once, it would mysteriously burn to the ground. (RL)
80 min • British Lion Films • 35mm from Pinewood Studios, imported by Rialto Pictures
Short: “Cinema Time Capsule” (Scott Norwood, 2013) – 5 min – 35mm

—–

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $11 •  Advance Tickets Here

Saturday, September 8 @ 11:30 AM / Music Box Theatre
CITY GIRL
Directed by F.W. Murnau • 1930
Live accompaniment by Music Box house organist Dennis Scott
F.W. Murnau’s sojourn in Hollywood was brief, lasting for just three features, but in that span the Teutonic master of silent cinema managed to transform American movies. Sunrise was his landmark moment but his less-discussed American studio swan song City Girl, the warmest of his surviving films, deserves a place alongside his most beloved and long-canonized works. Evolving from a project initially conceived as a poetic paean to the production chain of bread, Murnau reconfigured his decidedly experimental concept into an endearingly simple love story between Minnesota country boy Lem (Charles Farrell), come to the big city to sell his family’s wheat crop, and Chicago waitress Kate (Mary Duncan), yearning for a new start and an end to the loneliness of urban life. Lem weds Kate and brings her home to the farm, but tensions arise with Lem’s family, who don’t look kindly upon Kate’s city girl ways. Filming his city scenes on extravagant studio sets and his farm scenes on location in the wilds of Oregon, Murnau imbues both with a blissful sense of discovery, collapsing simple urban-rural dichotomies and inventing the career of Terrence Malick in the process. Initially seen widely in an abbreviated, part-talkie version that most involved considered an embarrassment, Murnau’s original silent cut proves a wondrous thing, unspooling with the rapture of a rush through the wheat. (CW)
88 min • Fox Film Corp. • 35mm from Fox Library Services
Short: “[Untitled Home Movies]” (Joe Antos, Circa 1936) – 12 min – 16mm

 Check out the full schedule here!

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Unconscious Abounds in Lady in the Dark – 35mm Screening on Aug 29 – New Season Begins Sept 3

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $3

Wednesday, August 29 @ 7:30 PM
LADY IN THE DARK
Directed by Mitchell Leisen • 1944
While the movies and Freud ascended roughly in parallel and often worked towards similar ends (they don’t call Hollywood “the dream factory” for nothing), rare has been the picture that takes psychoanalysis as its outright guiding principle, and rarer still is the one that attempts to envision the process as a series of glossy Technicolor production numbers. Lady in the Dark, CFS favorite Mitchell Leisen’s unmusical of the unheimlich, presented an opportunity for Hollywood to grapple with the burgeoning influence of Freud in the cultural sphere by dressing up all the symbology mumbo jumbo with beautiful gowns, saccharine string accompaniment, several tons of dry ice, and more color gels than a Dario Argento picture. Ginger Rogers stars as the buttoned-down editor of a successful fashion magazine who visits a headshrinker after a series of crippling migraines and troubling dreams have her questioning the direction of her career and love life. Using each session as an opportunity to stage increasingly elaborate dream sequences-cum-off kilter musical numbers (including one circus-themed showstopper featuring humanoid rabbits, a singing elephant, and an audience of oversized eggs), Lady in the Dark may not present a particularly cogent perspective on the pitfalls awaiting the modern career woman but it does find great attraction and meaning in the spectacle of the inexplicable. (CW)
100 min. • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Cartoon: “Book Revue” (Robert Clampett, 1945) – 7 min – 16mm

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And before you know it, our new season begins. There’s no stopping the hits!

 Check out the full schedule here!

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Alan Rudolph’s Unwashed Soap Opera Afterglow in 35mm, Plus Everyone’s Favorite Unwashed Comedians

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $3

Wednesday, August 22 @ 7:30 PM
AFTERGLOW
Directed by Alan Rudolph • 1997
While CFS maintains this program is firmly not nostalgic, we can still get a little sad thinking about long-gone Chicago venues where a Sony Pictures Classics release like Afterglow might have screened. (It’s been so long, SPC doesn’t even own the copyright anymore.) Here in 2018, Robert Altman protégé Alan Rudolph’s affectionate portrait of two couples’ dysfunctional marriages feels like it’s from a different planet entirely. A former B-movie actress (Julie Christie, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance) and a splendiferously greasy handyman named Lucky Mann (Nick Nolte), have been married for years, but have slowly drifted apart. In a futuristic yuppie condo a few kilometers away, Lara Flynn Boyle tries to convince her petulant stuffed-shirt husband Jonny Lee Miller to have a baby, and hires Nolte to build the nursery. Inevitably, Nolte and Boyle get in the tub together, and the rest is history. Asked if Afterglow was a romantic comedy, Rudolph answered: “It’s more of an unwashed soap opera. Or a serious farce. The whole film is designed to be simultaneously humorous and serious, familiar and strange. Just like real life.” (JA)
119 min • Sandcastle 5 Productions • 35mm from Chicago Film Society Collections, permission Moonstone
Short: The Three Stooges in “Corny Casanovas” (Jules White, 1952) – 16 min – 16 mm

 Check out the rest of the season here!

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They Don’t Make ’em Like This Anymore – Fortunately: Juleen Compton’s Plastic Dome of Norma Jean – 8/15

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $3


Wednesday, August 15 @ 7:30 PM
THE PLASTIC DOME OF NORMA JEAN
Directed by Juleen Compton • 1966
One of the strangest independent features of the 1960s, The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean plays like a sun-bleached, bubblegum messiah variant on A Hard Day’s Night or perhaps a Roger Corman AIP youthpic remake of Corn’s-A-Poppin’. Teenage clairvoyant/divining rod/beat poet Norma Jean (Sharon Henesy) and her boyfriend (Robert Gentry) order a plastic dome from a catalog, but before they can even unload the crate, their Ozark hoedown is spoiled by the appearance of a huckster boy band (whose members include a 25-year-old Sam Waterston!). The rock ’n’ roll mop tops co-opt the dome and try to turn it into a tent revival scam, an effort made easier when the mayor of Cablerock, Missouri, gets involved and springs for some spotlights. Norma runs away and takes refuge in an abandoned school bus at the town dump, where she meets a happy hobo and his beloved rabbit. Though comparatively obscure in film circles, Juleen Compton was a prominent member of the New York theater scene — a protégé of Clifford Odets and Lee Strasberg, the wife of Harold Clurman, and later the director of the Century Center for the Performing Arts.  Compton self-financed Plastic Dome and its predecessor, Stranded, her career in real estate and interior design, but never managed to break Hollywood’s glass ceiling. Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Century Arts Foundation. (KW)
82 min • Compton Films • 35mm from UCLA Film & Television Archives
Short: “Scarface and Aphrodite” (Vernon Zimmerman, 1963) – 15 min – 16mm from Film-makers Coop

 Check out the rest of the season here!

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More Is More: Tsui Hark’s Green Snake Screens at the Music Box on August 13 – 35mm Archival Print

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $10 •  Advance Tickets Here


August 13 @ 7:00 PM
GREEN SNAKE
Directed by Tsui Hark • 1993
In Cantonese with English subtitles
Hong Kong pop cinema wasn’t exactly sober or sedate before the arrival of Tsui Hark, but once the master of renegade Cantonese genre fare hit the scene in the late ’70s, things got decidedly wilder and weirder. Tsui was 14 years and 22 films deep into his career as a director and had moved from punk rock outsider to studio mogul when he made his revisionist wuxia masterpiece Green Snake, a film that married the surface appeal of a special effects-heavy martial arts blowout with a colorful, hyperactive style and subversive sense of humor reminiscent of Frank Tashlin played at centuple speed. An update of the undying folk tale Madame White Snake, Green Snake features Hong Kong superstars Maggie Cheung and Joey Wong as a pair of sororal snake spirits hunted by a puritanical Buddhist monk after taking human form. Wong’s White Snake, whose human existence is validated by romantic love and motherhood, may have been the focus of the original story, but Tsui’s film is equally concerned with Cheung’s Green Snake, a character more comfortable eating rats and slithering through the marshes abutting her palatial estate than living among people. Tsui’s apparent working maxim of “more is more” pays off in spades here, as every overindulgent camera tilt and oversized snake prosthetic serve to push this outrightly ridiculous pulp concoction ever closer to the sublime. (CW)
99 min. • Film Workshop • 35mm from the Academy Film Archive
Preceded by: ’90s Hong Kong Trailer Reel

——

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $3


Wednesday, August 15 @ 7:30 PM
THE PLASTIC DOME OF NORMA JEAN
Directed by Juleen Compton • 1966
One of the strangest independent features of the 1960s, The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean plays like a sun-bleached, bubblegum messiah variant on A Hard Day’s Night or perhaps a Roger Corman AIP youthpic remake of Corn’s-A-Poppin’. Teenage clairvoyant/divining rod/beat poet Norma Jean (Sharon Henesy) and her boyfriend (Robert Gentry) order a plastic dome from a catalog, but before they can even unload the crate, their Ozark hoedown is spoiled by the appearance of a huckster boy band (whose members include a 25-year-old Sam Waterston!). The rock ’n’ roll mop tops co-opt the dome and try to turn it into a tent revival scam, an effort made easier when the mayor of Cablerock, Missouri, gets involved and springs for some spotlights. Norma runs away and takes refuge in an abandoned school bus at the town dump, where she meets a happy hobo and his beloved rabbit. Though comparatively obscure in film circles, Juleen Compton was a prominent member of the New York theater scene — a protégé of Clifford Odets and Lee Strasberg, the wife of Harold Clurman, and later the director of the Century Center for the Performing Arts.  Compton self-financed Plastic Dome and its predecessor, Stranded, her career in real estate and interior design, but never managed to break Hollywood’s glass ceiling. Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Century Arts Foundation. (KW)
82 min • Compton Films • 35mm from UCLA Film & Television Archives
Short: “Scarface and Aphrodite” (Vernon Zimmerman, 1963) – 15 min – 16mm from Film-makers Coop

 Check out the rest of the season here!

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Follow the Blue Bird of Happiness to the Music Box on August 11 – Maurice Tourneur’s Masterpiece in 35mm

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $11 •  Advance Tickets Here

Saturday, August 11 @ 11:30 AM / Live Organ Accompaniment by Dennis Scott
THE BLUE BIRD
Directed by Maurice Tourneur • 1918
Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1908 play The Blue Bird had already charmed audiences in Moscow, London, and New York by the time this magical adaptation reached the screen. The simple fairy tale of Mytyl and Tytyl, children who journey through enchanted lands in search of the Bluebird of Happiness, provided the ideal material for Maurice Tourneur, the French émigré who brought a wispy Pictorialist sensibility to the wilds of New Jersey. Aided immensely by the craftwork of Tourneur’s regular collaborators — the elaborate set design of Ben Carré, the expert trick photography of John van den Broek and Charles Van Enger — this delicate dream of a film excels in realizing the stranger aspects of Maeterlinck’s play with wide-eyed, guileless gusto: the spirits and fairies, the living souls of everyday objects like bread and milk, the Cathedral of Happiness, and more. The reviews were sensational, but The Blue Bird was roundly rejected by exhibitors as too arty for its own good. Seen now in a tinted preservation print, The Blue Bird fully earns the hyperbole of Photoplay a century ago: “It is so beautiful from beginning to end that it fairly stings the senses, awakening in the spectator esthetic emotions so long dormant, so seldom exercised, that the flashing light of the awakening is almost a surfeit of joy.” (KW)
80 min • Artcraft Pictures Corporation • 35mm from George Eastman Museum
Short: “Voice of the Nightingale” (Wladyslaw Starewicz, 1925) – 13 min – 16mm

——
Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $10 •  Advance Tickets Here


August 13 @ 7:00 PM
GREEN SNAKE
Directed by Tsui Hark • 1993
In Cantonese with English subtitles
Hong Kong pop cinema wasn’t exactly sober or sedate before the arrival of Tsui Hark, but once the master of renegade Cantonese genre fare hit the scene in the late ’70s, things got decidedly wilder and weirder. Tsui was 14 years and 22 films deep into his career as a director and had moved from punk rock outsider to studio mogul when he made his revisionist wuxia masterpiece Green Snake, a film that married the surface appeal of a special effects-heavy martial arts blowout with a colorful, hyperactive style and subversive sense of humor reminiscent of Frank Tashlin played at centuple speed. An update of the undying folk tale Madame White Snake, Green Snake features Hong Kong superstars Maggie Cheung and Joey Wong as a pair of sororal snake spirits hunted by a puritanical Buddhist monk after taking human form. Wong’s White Snake, whose human existence is validated by romantic love and motherhood, may have been the focus of the original story, but Tsui’s film is equally concerned with Cheung’s Green Snake, a character more comfortable eating rats and slithering through the marshes abutting her palatial estate than living among people. Tsui’s apparent working maxim of “more is more” pays off in spades here, as every overindulgent camera tilt and oversized snake prosthetic serve to push this outrightly ridiculous pulp concoction ever closer to the sublime. (CW)
99 min. • Film Workshop • 35mm from the Academy Film Archive
Preceded by: ’90s Hong Kong Trailer Reel

 Check out the rest of the season here!

Posted in News | Comments Off on Follow the Blue Bird of Happiness to the Music Box on August 11 – Maurice Tourneur’s Masterpiece in 35mm

UFOria – A Down Home Comedy That Out of This World! Rare 35mm Screening on Tuesday, August 7 at NEIU

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $3

Tuesday, August 7 @ 7:30 PM / NEIU
UFORIA
Directed by John Binder • 1985
What to do with an imminently sweet, critic-pleasing romantic comedy about the love between a supermarket checkout lady and a Waylon Jennings lookalike that tackles belief in God and flying saucers with great care and sensitivity? Bury it, apparently. Despite strong notices from pretty much every critic who saw it in 1985 (including a four star rave from Roger Ebert), UFOria failed to make any waves upon release and its subsequent scarcity on home video has kept the film from the adoring public it so clearly deserves. A never-sexier Fred Ward stars as layabout small-time crook Sheldon, who falls head over heels for the deeply religious and UFObsessed Arlene (Cindy Williams) after she catches him shoplifting beer. The two end up in bed together pretty quickly and soon enough they’re playing house. When Arlene begins developing premonitions of a coming extraterrestrial visit, Sheldon is forced to contend with his own skepticism and the craven advances of a revival tent preacher (Harry Dean Stanton, well within his comfort zone) looking to exploit his paramour. Reminiscent of no less than Dreyer’s Ordet (or would that be UFOrdet?) in its unadorned view of the miracle of love, UFOria may not have set the world on fire upon initial release, but that won’t stop it from finding apostles one repertory screening at a time. (CW)
93 min. • Melvin Simons Productions • 35mm from Universal
Short: “The Divine Miracle” (Daina Krumins, 1973) – 6 min – 16mm from Canyon Cinema

————

But that’s not all!

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $11 •  Advance Tickets Here

Saturday, August 11 @ 11:30 AM / Live Organ Accompaniment by Dennis Scott
THE BLUE BIRD
Directed by Maurice Tourneur • 1918
Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1908 play The Blue Bird had already charmed audiences in Moscow, London, and New York by the time this magical adaptation reached the screen. The simple fairy tale of Mytyl and Tytyl, children who journey through enchanted lands in search of the Bluebird of Happiness, provided the ideal material for Maurice Tourneur, the French émigré who brought a wispy Pictorialist sensibility to the wilds of New Jersey. Aided immensely by the craftwork of Tourneur’s regular collaborators — the elaborate set design of Ben Carré, the expert trick photography of John van den Broek and Charles Van Enger — this delicate dream of a film excels in realizing the stranger aspects of Maeterlinck’s play with wide-eyed, guileless gusto: the spirits and fairies, the living souls of everyday objects like bread and milk, the Cathedral of Happiness, and more. The reviews were sensational, but The Blue Bird was roundly rejected by exhibitors as too arty for its own good. Seen now in a tinted preservation print, The Blue Bird fully earns the hyperbole of Photoplay a century ago: “It is so beautiful from beginning to end that it fairly stings the senses, awakening in the spectator esthetic emotions so long dormant, so seldom exercised, that the flashing light of the awakening is almost a surfeit of joy.” (KW)
80 min • Artcraft Pictures Corporation • 35mm from George Eastman Museum
Short: “Voice of the Nightingale” (Wladyslaw Starewicz, 1925) – 13 min – 16mm

 Check out the rest of the season here!

Posted in News | Comments Off on UFOria – A Down Home Comedy That Out of This World! Rare 35mm Screening on Tuesday, August 7 at NEIU

Parental Discretion Strongly Irrelevant: Curt McDowell’s Peed Into the Wind & Shorts in Restored 16mm – Aug 4

Chicago Filmmakers – 5720 N Ridge Ave., Chicago, IL 60660
Tickets: $8

Saturday, August 4 @ 8 PM / Chicago Filmmakers
PEED INTO THE WIND
Directed by Curt McDowell • 1972
Unafraid to broach any taboo or flaunt any personal sexual proclivity, Curt McDowell’s cinema was dedicated to freeing the minds and bodies of the underground through stupid jokes and frank depictions of people fucking. Beginning his filmmaking career at the San Francisco Art Institute as a student (with benefits) of avant-garde legend George Kuchar, McDowell imported a great deal of his mentor’s camp sensibility into his own work but grounded the bad puns and flagrant melodramatics with a grungy sexual honesty that found liberation in exhibition. The first film of his to resemble something of a traditional narrative feature (he made the droning, abrasive Lunch for the hardcore market the same year), Peed Into the Wind stars McDowell himself as rock ’n’ roll hero Mick Terrific, an openly gay singer who nurses a shameful secret attraction to women. Absurdity abounds as McDowell proves there is no depth he won’t sink to for a laugh in his quest to put Mick through the sexual wringer. We’re proud to present the film George Kuchar likened to a “clogged toilet” and declared to have “the releasing power of an enema” in a beautiful new 16mm print, lovingly restored by the Academy Film Archive. (CW)
60 min. • 16mm from Canyon Cinema
Plus short films by Curt McDowell: “Kathleen Trailer (for Underground Cinema 12)” (1972, 1.5 min), “A Visit To Indiana” (1970, 10 min), “Truth For Ruth” (1972, 4 min), “Ronnie” (1972, 7 min) – 16mm

————

And coming next week:

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $3

Tuesday, August 7 @ 7:30 PM / NEIU
UFORIA
Directed by John Binder • 1985
What to do with an imminently sweet, critic-pleasing romantic comedy about the love between a supermarket checkout lady and a Waylon Jennings lookalike that tackles belief in God and flying saucers with great care and sensitivity? Bury it, apparently. Despite strong notices from pretty much every critic who saw it in 1985 (including a four star rave from Roger Ebert), UFOria failed to make any waves upon release and its subsequent scarcity on home video has kept the film from the adoring public it so clearly deserves. A never-sexier Fred Ward stars as layabout small-time crook Sheldon, who falls head over heels for the deeply religious and UFObsessed Arlene (Cindy Williams) after she catches him shoplifting beer. The two end up in bed together pretty quickly and soon enough they’re playing house. When Arlene begins developing premonitions of a coming extraterrestrial visit, Sheldon is forced to contend with his own skepticism and the craven advances of a revival tent preacher (Harry Dean Stanton, well within his comfort zone) looking to exploit his paramour. Reminiscent of no less than Dreyer’s Ordet (or would that be UFOrdet?) in its unadorned view of the miracle of love, UFOria may not have set the world on fire upon initial release, but that won’t stop it from finding apostles one repertory screening at a time. (CW)
93 min. • Melvin Simons Productions • 35mm from Universal
Short: “The Divine Miracle” (Daina Krumins, 1973) – 6 min – 16mm from Canyon Cinema

 Check out the rest of the season here!

Posted in News | Comments Off on Parental Discretion Strongly Irrelevant: Curt McDowell’s Peed Into the Wind & Shorts in Restored 16mm – Aug 4