Cinema as Full-Blooded Sermon: Traffic in Souls Screens 3/21 in 35mm with Live Accompaniment from Dennis Scott

Music Box Theatre
3733 N. Southport Ave
Admission: $11

Saturday, March 21 @ 11:30 AM
TRAFFIC IN SOULS
Directed by George Loane Tucker • 1913
Live organ accompaniment by Dennis Scott
The earliest feature films to grace American screens were adaptations of stage productions or spectacles imported from Europe. It’s no wonder that Traffic in Souls, an all-American, effortlessly cinematic blend of thrills, melodrama, and social critique, would stand out like a flare in a tinder box. Promoted as a “full-blooded sermon” that allegedly dramatized the results of a highly-publicized 1910 grand jury investigation into sex trafficking chaired by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the film follows two sisters who work as shopgirls in a New York candy store: Mary (Jane Gail), who is dating police officer no. 4434 (Matt Moore), and Lorna (Ethel Grandin), who will soon be abducted and deposited at a brothel clandestinely operated by one of the city’s most vocal social reformers. The film’s political sensibility fits squarely within the social concerns of the Progressive Era, but the technology that moves the story forward and exposes the crime ring — dictagraphs, telegraphic pens, secret communication channels — pushes it into the realm of pulp espionage, a runty American cousin of the hyperbolic crime cinema of Louis Feillaude and Fritz Lang, cut to a frenetic tempo that rivals D. W. Griffith. An enormous hit that sold 30,000 tickets on Broadway in its first week of release, inspired a legion of imitators, and became the first feature film to be novelized, Traffic in Souls may be past its centenary, but it’s never stopped to catch its breath. (KW)
75 min • Independent Moving Pictures Company, Incorporated (IMP) • 35mm from Library of Congress

Preceded by: “Love, Speed and Thrills” (Walter Wright, 1915) – 13 min – 16mm

“a trashy, corny guilty pleasure” – Leonard Maltin


Coming Soon

Music Box Theatre
3733 N. Southport Ave
Admission: $11

Monday, March 30 @ 7:00 PM
SHY PEOPLE
Directed by Andrei Konchalovsky • 1987
Do you love Deliverance but find it too mannered and insufficiently attentive to mother-daughter dynamics? A lyrical cousin to John Boorman’s tight-lipped landmark of Southern sadism, Shy People is one of the most unclassifiable artifacts of ’80s cinema, a grindhouse melodrama rife with contradictions. The expansive vision of bayou life exudes a bathroom-stall graffiti vibe, but its international pedigree is second-to-none: intermittently ambitious Israeli exploitation mavens Golan and Globus, fresh off their first Oscar-nominated production, Runaway Train, sent that film’s Russian auteur Andrei Konchalovsky to shoot on location in Louisiana, working from a script by Roman Polanski’s frequent collaborator, Frenchman Gérard Brach, and topped it all off with a score from German electronica favorite Tangerine Dream. The cultural dislocation behind the camera is mirrored on screen, with Jill Clayburgh starring as a jet-setting Cosmopolitan journalist whose genealogy research sends her and daughter Martha Plimpton to a haunted swamp, with Louis Vuitton bags and The Cure paraphernalia in tow. There they meet distant relative Barbara Hershey and her unruly brood, who aren’t eager for a family reunion with unscrupulous city folk. Nestled among the trill of mosquitoes and speedboats and Chris Menges’s astonishingly humid ‘Scope cinematography is a surprisingly sensitive study of families and the work required to keep them above water. Hershey won a Best Actress citation at Cannes, but the cash-strapped producers dumped Shy People on the gator circuit for a quick buck. “With slightly different handling,” lamented Roger Ebert, “Shy People could have been a best-picture Oscar nominee.” (KW)
118 min • The Cannon Group • 35mm from Chicago Film Society Collections, permission Park Circus
Short: “Kudzu” (Marjorie Anne Short, 1977) – 16 min – 16mm

“one of the great visionary films of recent years” – Roger Ebert

“creates some healthy confusion about the usual arbitrary distinctions Americans make between art and entertainment.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum

Watch a trailer for SHY PEOPLE

See what’s coming up for the rest of the season!

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