Author Archives: Chicago Film Society

Pola Negri Brings Empire-Shaking Intrigue to Hotel Imperial – 35mm Print with Live Music by Dennis Scott!

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N Southport Ave., Chicago, IL 60613
Tickets: $11

Saturday, June 8 @ 11:30 AM
HOTEL IMPERIAL
Directed by Mauritz Stiller • 1927
Live organ accompaniment by Music Box house organist Dennis Scott
“Out of the riotous welter of war, love, and empire-shaking intrigue, roars this great melodrama—Hotel Imperial! Pola Negri’s greatest by far!” bellowed Paramount, emphasizing the salability of a film they likely feared exhibitors would be too quick to dismiss as a specialty item. The height of Hollywood’s polyglot cosmopolitanism from the most continental of studios, Hotel Imperial was based on a 1917 play from Hungarian writer Lajos Biro, directed by Swedish pioneer Mauritz Stiller, produced by German UFA exile Erich Pommer, and built around the peculiar glow of Polish star Pola Negri. The titular hotel stands as a bygone luxury in war-torn Galicia, with the Russian army advancing on Austro-Hungarian forces. An escaped Hussar (James Hall) finds refuge in the Hotel Imperial and poses as the establishment’s butler with the help of housekeeper Anna (Negri), who must fend off the amorous advances of a Russian general (George Siegmann) and keep her eyes on an infamous spy (Michael Vavitch). Stiller had achieved immense success in Sweden with films such as Sir Arne’s Treasure and The Saga of Gosta Berling, but it was seemingly only his involvement with the latter’s breakthrough star, Greta Garbo, that brought him to the attention of M-G-M. His stateside career was a series of false starts, pilfered projects, and studio clashes; within a year of Hotel Imperial, he would return to Sweden and die at age 45. This, his only extant American feature, is a rare glimpse of a cinema too fragile to last. (KW)
85 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from Library of Congress, permission Paramount
Short: “Cartoons in the Hotel” (Raoul Barre, 1915) – 10 min – 16mm

“[A] beautifully directed film that contains [Pola Negri’s] last role of substance.” — Village Voice


Music Box Theatre – 3733 N Southport Ave., Chicago, IL 60613
Tickets: $10

Monday, June 10 @ 7 PM
TRUST
Directed by Hal Hartley • 1990
If Frank Borzage had survived to see the end of the Reagan Era, hated television, took the gruff-but-gentle romance of Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young in Man’s Castle and set it in suburban, blue collar Long Island in 1990, he might have made a movie something along the lines of Trust. Adrienne Shelly plays Maria Caughlin, a high school senior whose mother (Merritt Nelson) accuses her of killing her father. When she meets Matthew (Martin Donovan), an electronics whiz who can’t hold down a job and lives alone with his abusive father, she’s looking for a place to stay, and the two heroes quickly find they have something the other one needs. An unflinchingly independent filmmaker who has managed to survive at least two sea changes in independent filmmaking, Hal Hartley made his second feature for around $1 million. Hartley’s signature use of highly stylized dialog and low-fi soundtrack, and Michael Spiller’s empathetic cinematography, are almost hypnotic, and Trust is as moving, subversive, and funny as it was in 1990, simply the kind of movie we have to show to you. Trust screens in a new 35mm print commissioned by CFS, special thanks to Hal Hartley/Possible Films and to Kim Young and Doug Ledin of FotoKem. (JA)
107 min • Zenith Productions • 35mm from Chicago Film Society Collections, Permission Possible Films
Short: “Going Out of Business” (Christopher Gamboni, 1985) – 15 min – 16mm courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public
Library for the Performing Arts.

“A romantic mirage from the ruins of the 1990s American independent movement, which still has fans if no financiers, TRUST is a treasure, an indelible document of misgivings and longing and fated love you should witness on the Music Box Theatre screen.” Ray Pride, New City

“CRUCIAL VIEWING: Still Hal Hartley’s finest hour, TRUST is heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny, often both at once.” Ben Sachs, Cine-File Chicago

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