Author Archives: Chicago Film Society

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Penultimate Film:
Veronika Voss – 35mm Screening at the Music Box

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

Monday, April 3 @ 7:00 PM
VERONIKA VOSS
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder • 1982
In German with English subtitles
Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s most unambiguously beautiful film was also the last one he lived to see released. Months after Veronika Voss premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it would win the Golden Bear, Fassbinder would be dead of a drug overdose and his penultimate film would take on autobiographical echoes. Veronika Voss draws from the life and mysterious death of German actress Sybille Schmitz, best known abroad for her work in Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr but notorious in her home country for remaining active in the German film industry throughout the Third Reich. Fassbinder tracks the final days of his titular character (played with otherworldly abandon by the phenomenal German TV actress Rosel Zech), a has-been movie star with a paralyzing morphine addiction, as she is besieged by parasitic medical professionals, carries on an affair with a local sports reporter, and attempts to mount a comeback in the German film industry of the 1950s. Recalling the heyday of American film noir, as well as the horror-tinged melodramas Sunset Boulevard and The Seventh Victim, with the addition of more than a smidge of pitch-black humor and a quietly droning soundtrack of country music hits, Veronika Voss is an icy, monochrome masterpiece, in love with classic cinema and at odds with the industry behind it. (CW)
104 min • Tango Film • 35mm from Janus Films
Short: TBA

Advance tickets available on Brown Paper Tickets

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Veronika Voss – 35mm Screening at the Music Box

That’ll Do, Pig: George Miller’s Disorderly and Psychedelic Babe: Pig in the City Returns on 35mm – One Nite Only

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

Monday, March 13 @ 7:00 PM
BABE: PIG IN THE CITY
Directed by George Miller • 1998
Plot takes a backseat in George Miller’s disorderly and psychedelic sequel, which has more in common with films like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and The Wizard of Oz than it does with its heartwarming predecessor. When circumstances force our little pink hero to leave his idyllic home for the city, he finds himself in a twisted Frankenstein of a place, a mix of Baz Luhrmann’s Paris and all the cities you’ve ever known. Babe is quickly severed from his companion Mrs. Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) and left to discover the city’s untold wonders (and horrors) alone. Bizarre characters abound in this bestial Mad Max: a pregnant chimp in a dress, a paraplegic Jack Russell Terrier (Adam Goldberg), a poodle the color of cotton candy, and a ghastly clown (played by Mickey Rooney, of course). It’s a film that delighted critics (it was Gene Siskel’s best film pick of 1998), horrified parents, and developed a deserved cult following since its release. One website that rates media for kids produced such choice parental reviews as “It’s dark, depressing, scary, sad…How ANYONE (let alone Roger Ebert) could say this is BETTER than the first, I will never know.” I think Bob the chimpanzee (voiced by the great Steven Wright) would respond, “It’s all illusory – it’s ill, and it’s for losers.” (RL)
97 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Preceded by: “The Dancing Pig” (“Le cochon danseur”) (Pathé Frères, 1907) – 16mm – 4 min

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Goy Meets Girl: Frank Capra’s Fable of Jewish-American Assimilation The Younger Generation – 35mm Screening

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

Wednesday, March 8 @ 7:30 PM
THE YOUNGER GENERATION
Directed by Frank Capra • 1929
Adapted from a play by Humoresque author Fannie Hurst, The Younger Generation is Columbia Pictures’s answer to The Jazz Singer, an altogether heartbreaking portrait of intergenerational conflict in New York’s Jewish community. Julius Goldfish (Jean Hersholt, namesake for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’s Humanitarian Award) is a modest man who lives on Delancey Street and earns his living by hawking kitchenwares from a pushcart. His son Morris (Ricardo Cortez) has his eyes set on tonier things; after demonstrating marketing acumen at an early age by turning a tragic tenement fire into a fire sale, Morris grows his father’s business until it becomes a respectable Fifth Avenue antique dealership. Faced with pressure to assimilate into Park Avenue society, our striver changes his name to the decidedly goyish Maurice Fish and proceeds to push away his family, particularly his sister (Lina Basquette) and her song-plugger boyfriend (Rex Lease). Originally shot as a silent picture, four talking sequences were added prior to release, if only to demonstrate the proper pronunciation of “Oy gevalt” to inhabitants of America’s Heartland. (KW)
84 min • Columbia Pictures • 35mm from Sony Pictures Repertory
Preceded by: “The Spider and the Fly” (1938) – 16mm – 12 min

Introduced by Nancy McVittie, Instructor in the College of Arts and Sciences at NEIU, and co-author of Fade to Gray: Aging in American Cinema

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Find Out What’s the Matter with Helen? in Curtis Harrington’s Macabre Masterwork of Moppets & Murder

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

Wednesday, March 1 @ 7:30 PM
WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?
Directed by Curtis Harrington • 1971
After their sons are convicted of a grisly murder, Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters flee the death threats and small-town scorn of Depression-era Braddock, Iowa, and make their way to Hollywood. Galvanized by the success of Shirley Temple, Reynolds decides to open a dance academy for “moppets with ambitious moms,” while repressed evangelical Winters, who hasn’t seen a movie since King of Kings, endlessly thumps out “Goody Goody” on the piano. Reynolds quickly woos a Texas gazillionaire, but Winters can’t surrender to the California sun, finding ever-present reminders of past traumas. A superlative entry in the hag horror cycle penned by the subgenre’s originator, Henry Farrell (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte), What’s the Matter with Helen? was a perfect project for Hollywood historian, avant-garde wunderkind, and exploitation maven Curtis Harrington. The supporting cast boasts assorted crazies (Timothy Carey as a hobo) and macabre Orson Welles collaborators (Dennis Weaver as Reynolds’s paramour, Agnes Moorehead riffing on radio evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, and Micheál MacLiammóir as the elocution coach who believes “your moppets must learn to speak distinctly, as well as shake their fat little legs”). Despite the release being sabotaged by a half-assed, spoiler-packed marketing campaign, Harrington cited Helen as his personal favorite among his films. (KW)
101 min • Filmways Pictures/Raymax Productions • 35mm from Park Circus
Preceded by: Thelma Todd & Patsy Kelly in “Beauty and the Bus” (Gus Meins, 1933) – 16mm – 18 min

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Forget Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent:
Here’s the Original Law and Order in 35mm

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

Tuesday, February 21 @ 7:30 PM
LAW AND ORDER
Directed by Edward L. Cahn • 1932
Before John Huston directed his father Walter to an Academy Award in The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Huston père et fils collaborated on an equally stark frontier morality play—Law and Order, a loose retelling of the Wyatt Earp saga. Walter Huston stars as Frame Johnson, the man who “cleaned up Kansas and killed thirty-five men, one for each year of his life.” Upon his arrival in Tombstone, he reluctantly takes up the mantle of town marshal, only to learn that his new constituents hold niceties like the rule of law in low regard. Scripted by John Huston from a W. R. Burnett novel, Law and Order is further enlivened by the prowling, energetic camera sense of Edward L. Cahn, a longtime editor and apprentice of Paul Leni and Paul Fejos who began his solo directorial career with this film. Curator Dave Kehr and filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier have recently touted the vigor of Cahn’s early work, but the late historian William K. Everson sang the praises of Law and Order as far back as 1962, citing it as the only sound Western to match the “documentary-like austerity” of William S. Hart’s magisterial silent efforts. Avoid the 1952 Technicolor remake with Ronald Reagan! (KW)
75 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Preceded by: “Willie the Kid” (Robert Cannon, 1952) – 16mm – 7 min

 

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Here’s the Original Law and Order in 35mm

“An Oasis of Estrogen Ennui” – Faye Dunaway in Jerry Schatzberg’s Puzzle of a Downfall Child – 35mm Screening

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

Wednesday, February 15 @ 7:30 PM
PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD
Directed by Jerry Schatzberg • 1970
The first feature from Jerry Schatzberg, the Bronx-born fashion photographer who contributed to Vogue and Esquire and shot the album jacket for Blonde on Blonde, is the kind of purposefully obtuse, awesomely ambiguous, sharp-as-a-stiletto psychological melodrama that could only have emerged from early ’70s Hollywood.  A character study of troubled fashion model Lou Andreas Sand (Faye Dunaway, stunning), Puzzle of a Downfall Child assays a fragmented, nonlinear narrative style to match the mindset of its profoundly unreliable narrator. It plays like an art house version of Valley of the Dolls, as if directed by Alain Resnais. (The masterful editing is the work of Evan Lottman, who would evoke a similar sense of unease in The Exorcist and The Muppets Take Manhattan.) Recalling her career from her beachside cottage after a nervous breakdown, Lou sketches a journey marked by professional betrayal and sexual predation from mentors (Viveca Lindfors), suitors (Barry Primus), and ad execs (Roy Scheider). Written by Five Easy Pieces scribe Carole Eastman under her usual pseudonym Adrien Joyce, Puzzle remains notable, in the words of film blogger Ken Anderson, as “an oasis of estrogen ennui in the testosterone-laden desert of male-centric ’70s films romanticizing male identity crises and masculine existential moments-of-reckoning.” Long regarded as a classic in France but practically invisible in the US, this beguiling Puzzle deserves to be unlocked. (KW)
104 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Short: “Confessions of a Stardreamer” (John Canemaker, 1978) – 16mm – 9 min

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Bob Furmanek & Ted Okuda Introduce Jerry Lewis’s
The Errand Boy in a Rare 35mm Screening

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

Wednesday, February 8 @ 7:30 PM
THE ERRAND BOY
Directed by Jerry Lewis • 1961
If I see if it says I go to a place, I go there, but if I don’t, ’cause then it won’t be clear… Paramutual Pictures is bleeding money and nobody can figure out where from, so studio head Tom ‘T.P.’ Paramutual (Brian Donlevy) hires Morty S. Tashman (Jerry Lewis)–“someone so stupid he won’t realize he’s eavesdropping”–as a spy. What follows is an episodic collection of some of Jerry Lewis’s best scenes: a heart-to-heart with a stuffed ostrich and a tiny clown, an elevator-as-sardine-can skit from hell, and a pantomime to the Count Basie Orchestra’s Blues in Hoss, Flat which has inspired several hundred YouTube parodies. An obfuscation of the English language and the rules of comedy, The Errand Boy turns Hollywood on its head, gleefully shaking out every nickel and jelly bean and tooting a gleeful “screw you!” to moviegoers who just don’t get Jerry Lewis. Hardcore Three Stooges fans will recognize Joe Besser in a small supporting role as a studio projectionist. (JA)
92 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from NWCFS collections, courtesy of Jerry Lewis.
Film Stock: Agfa Gevaert
Preceded by: Outtakes from The Ladies Man – 35mm – 4 min
Introduced by Jerry Lewis historians Bob Furmanek and Ted Okuda

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The Errand Boy in a Rare 35mm Screening

Life Ain’t No Candy Mountain: Punk Out with Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer’s Cult Weirdo Road Movie in 35mm

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

Monday, February 6 @ 7:30 PM
CANDY MOUNTAIN
Directed by Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer • 1987
The cult rock ‘n’ roll weirdo road movie of your dreams, the wildly underseen and very funny Candy Mountain somehow manages to be both a lark and a creative and thematic apotheosis for both of its codirectors, photographer/filmmaker Robert Frank and novelist/screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer. Mediocre musician and all-around jackass Julius (Kevin J. O’Connor) insinuates himself into a deal to track down legendary and reclusive guitar maker Elmore Silk, an oblique figure who has left a trail of disgruntled family members and forlorn ex-lovers in his wake. Julius finds that nothing about his assignment is easy as he loses vehicle after vehicle, drinks himself into a stupor, and meets innumerable deranged personalities (a great many of whom are played by notable musicians, including Tom Waits as a yuppie, Joe Strummer and Arto Lindsay as the world’s worst no wave band, and Dr. John as a wheelchair-bound psychopath) whom he invariably leaves frustrated, confused, or enraged. Given that Frank and Wurlitzer were best known, respectively, for the photography book The Americans and the screenplay for Two-Lane Blacktop, it should come as no shock that their feature film collaboration would so greatly concern itself with America’s preoccupation with the road and wayward notions of freedom. Nor should its deeply odd, dead-end splendor surprise us, given the tremendous creative brain trust involved. (CW)
91 min • Xanadu Films  • 35mm from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Preceded by: “Energy and How to Get It” (Robert Frank, Rudy Wurlitzer, and Gary Hill, 1981) – 16mm – 28 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, February 8 @ 7:30 PM
THE ERRAND BOY
Directed by Jerry Lewis • 1961
If I see if it says I go to a place, I go there, but if I don’t, ’cause then it won’t be clear… Paramutual Pictures is bleeding money and nobody can figure out where from, so studio head Tom ‘T.P.’ Paramutual (Brian Donlevy) hires Morty S. Tashman (Jerry Lewis)–“someone so stupid he won’t realize he’s eavesdropping”–as a spy. What follows is an episodic collection of some of Jerry Lewis’s best scenes: a heart-to-heart with a stuffed ostrich and a tiny clown, an elevator-as-sardine-can skit from hell, and a pantomime to the Count Basie Orchestra’s Blues in Hoss, Flat which has inspired several hundred YouTube parodies. An obfuscation of the English language and the rules of comedy, The Errand Boy turns Hollywood on its head, gleefully shaking out every nickel and jelly bean and tooting a gleeful “screw you!” to moviegoers who just don’t get Jerry Lewis. Hardcore Three Stooges fans will recognize Joe Besser in a small supporting role as a studio projectionist. (JA)
92 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from NWCFS collections, courtesy of Jerry Lewis.
Preceded by: Outtakes from The Ladies Man – 35mm – 4 min
Introduced by Jerry Lewis historians Bob Furmanek and Ted Okuda

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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