Music Box Theatre
3733 N. Southport Ave
Sunday, October 10 @ 11:30 AM / Music Box Theatre
Directed by William Wyler • 1929
Live musical accompaniment by Dennis Scott
In the 1920s Universal Pictures promoted its expensive films as “Jewels” and termed its very expensive ones “Super Jewels,” but everything else from the studio that wasn’t so designated may as well have fallen off a truck. If only every Universal release aspired to the panache and pluck of The Shakedown, a low-budget picture from a generic script that nevertheless delivers an emotional knockout. It’s also a terrifically dynamic showcase for William Wyler, who had hitherto been churning out made-to-order Westerns for the studio. James Murray stars as a young man who’s fallen in with a band of grifters who ramble from town to town, milking the locals by taking bets on rigged boxing matches. If hash house cashier Barbara Kent and railyard urchin Jack Hanlon aren’t reason enough to settle down, they nevertheless provide sufficient inspiration for Murray to turn the tables on his comrades. Murray and Kent starred, respectively, in The Crowd and Lonesome the previous year, and The Shakedown stands beside those films as an unassuming account of working-class life. Originally released in silent and “half-talkie” editions, both versions of The Shakedown were presumed lost until the former miraculously turned up at Cinefest, the film collector convention in Syracuse, New York, in the late 1990s. This 35mm copy is an optical blow-up from that sole surviving Universal Show-at-Home 16mm print. (KW)
65 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Preceded by: “The Best Mouse Loses” (Vernon Stallings, 1920) – 4 min – 16mm
**All visitors to the Music Box Theatre will need to show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test. This includes Chicago Film Society screenings. Please read their guidelines before purchasing tickets.**
Monday, October 25 @ 7:00 PM / Music Box Theatre
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
Preceded by: “Kudzu” (Marjorie Anne Short, 1977) – 16 min – 16mm *Encore Presentation!*
Check out some scans from our print collection on the CFS Vimeo page!
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