Monthly Archives: December 2011

Our First Screening of the New Year: Sullivan’s Travels on Jan. 4 at the Portage

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

Wednesday, January 4th
SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS
Directed by Preston Sturges • 1941
Frustrated with the output of his career to date, Hollywood lightweight John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) embarks on a ninety-minute pilgrimage to make a picture of real substance about human suffering and, against his studio’s wishes, leaves Hollywood as a tramp in search of loneliness, sorrow, and despair. Along the way he picks up a very broke, very gorgeous Veronica Lake (here echoing a tall, blonde bombshell version of Louise Brooks in Beggars of Life) and after being slapped in a southern chain gang for messing around in a railroad yard is bested by a church projectionist. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sturges’ most sarcastic film is also one of the greatest love letters to motion pictures themselves. Bosley Crowther called it “the best social comment made upon Hollywood since A Star Is Born,” but it’s also a tribute to nontheatrical screening spaces and the element of film-going that gives cinema its strongest sense of purpose: an audience. (JA)
90 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Cartoon: TBA

Go to our blog for a brand new appreciation of Sullivan’s Travels.

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Get Ready for Our New 2012 Schedule

An announcement:
Please note that there will be no screening on Wednesday, December 28. Even us programmer-projectionists need a holiday break.

Why not spend the end of the year perusing our new schedule? It runs from January 4 to April 15 every Wednesday (and a few weekends) at the Portage Theater and we think it’s a winner. (So does the Chicago Reader, which compared it Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma.)

What’s on it? The earliest film is a neglected but lovely W. C. Fields comedy from 1926 (years before America’s movie-goers had come to love Fields’s inebriated delivery-drawl) and the latest is Warren Beatty’s magisterial Reds from 1981, a heartfelt contemplation of the emotional challenges of political revolution.

In between, we’ve got an incredibly scarce film adaptation of a New Deal-era ‘Living Newspaper,’ an alternative and eccentric rendition of Philip Marlowe, two essential (and rare) melodramas of the 1930s, a ghostly western, the first commercial film that John Cassavetes directed, the only good film that Edward Dmytryk ever directed, the Loch Ness Monster, the sinking of the Titanic, and the parting of the Red Sea. And more.

Talk about fatale beauté.

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Here’s the first screening:

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

January 4th
SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS
Directed by Preston Sturges • 1941
Frustrated with the output of his career to date, Hollywood lightweight John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) embarks on a ninety-minute pilgrimage to make a picture of real substance about human suffering and, against his studio’s wishes, leaves Hollywood as a tramp in search of loneliness, sorrow, and despair. Along the way he picks up a very broke, very gorgeous Veronica Lake (here echoing a tall, blonde bombshell version of Louise Brooks in Beggars of Life) and after being slapped in a southern chain gang for messing around in a railroad yard is bested by a church projectionist. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sturges’ most sarcastic film is also one of the greatest love letters to motion pictures themselves. Bosley Crowther called it “the best social comment made upon Hollywood since A Star Is Born,” but it’s also a tribute to nontheatrical screening spaces and the element of film-going that gives cinema its strongest sense of purpose: an audience. (JA)
90 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from Universal
Cartoon: TBA

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The Projection Booth, the Radical Seat

Recently, David Bordwell devoted a post on his blog to a crucial but undervalued question: where do you sit in the movie theater?

Speaking for myself, I can’t fathom sitting anywhere but the first five or six rows, making some allowance, of course, for the design of the space. Many first and second row seats are too close, placed by bottom-line-minded corporate architects without any thought towards whether the full width of the screen is visible without distortion. The further one gets from the screen, the more the show begins to look like television, with comparable distractions priced into the equation. Much like the preference for watching TV with all the lights on, cinema screens viewed from the back of the auditorium tend to get lost in a mess of ambient light—exit signs, aisle markers, foyer spillover. There are definite, cheerfully imposed barriers between your body and the image. An anti-engagement.

Naturally, this taste makes for awkward social occasions. You try to describe your preferences in a non-incriminating way, waving towards the screen and simply saying that you like to sit close. Most people take this to mean ten rows from the back rather than five.  How do you compromise with a compromise? Continue reading

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Happy Holidays: Remember the Night at the Portage

Just posted! Check out next season’s schedule.

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

O U R   F I N A L   S C R E E N I N G   OF   T H E   S E A S O N !

December 21st
REMEMBER THE NIGHT
Directed by Mitchell Leisen • 1940
With the sort of wholehearted American kindness that seems possible only in a Preston Sturges Script (this was his last before he started directing that same year with The Great McGinty), Lee Leander, one of those tough-as-nails shoplifting types best played by Barbara Stanwyck, is bailed out of spending Christmas in prison by her prosecuting attorney (Fred MacMurray). The couple falls in love, but that doesn’t solve the problem of Stanwyck’s upcoming trial and MacMurray’s mother (Beulah Bondi), who worries that the young shoplifter will destroy her son’s hard-earned career. Leisen’s sense of emotional detail gives Sturges’ script a tenderness and depth only really found again in Sturges’ Christmas in July, and Stanwyck and MacMurray, who would star together again in Double Indemnity, The Moonlighter, and There’s Always Tomorrow, only add to that delicate balance. Our third favorite Christmas film, right after Meet Me In St. Louis and The Shop Around the Corner . . . it’s in very good company. (JA)

94 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm print from Universal
Short: “The Fairy Princess” (Margaret Conneely) – 16mm courtesy Chicago Film Archives

H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R !

P L E A S E   C O M E   B A C K   F O R   O U R   J A N – A P R   2 0 1 2   S E A S O N !

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Most Vampiric Gift of the Season:
Valkoinen peura (The White Reindeer)
This Sunday at Cinema Borealis!

Cinema Borealis – 1550 North Milwaukee Ave, 4th floor (NOTE: There is no elevator!)
Suggested donation is $10 – Seating is limited so please arrive early!

Sunday, December 18th – 6 pm & 8:15 pm
VALKOINEN PEURA (THE WHITE REINDEER)
Directed by Erik Blomberg • 1952
When her deadbeat Lapland Shepard husband takes off and leaves her hungry and heartbroken, Mirjami Kuosmanen (director Erik Blomberg’s real world wife) seeks the help of a local shaman who turns her into a white reindeer vampire. Adapted from a Finnish folk tale, the film is beautifully shot against staggering Finnish snowscapes and herds of reindeer who don’t have marital problems. The Finnish entry at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, Valkoinen peura won the award for Best Fairy Tale Film with Jean Cocteau as the president of the mostly French jury, and made its way to the US as The White Reindeer in 1957 as a limited release. Also on the bill tonight is a 16mm kinescope of the Space Patrol episode “A Christmas Party for Happy,” originally aired on Christmas Day 1954, and featuring (briefly) a reindeer-driven spaceship. (JA)
67 min • Junior-Filmi • 35mm Print courtesy of Douris Corp., special thanks to Tim Lanza

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Afraid of vampires (or reindeer-driven spaceships)? Don’t worry–we’ve got an altogether genial, lovely, and hilarious holiday treat for you, too:

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

December 21st
REMEMBER THE NIGHT
Directed by Mitchell Leisen • 1940
With the sort of wholehearted American kindness that seems possible only in a Preston Sturges Script (this was his last before he started directing that same year with The Great McGinty), Lee Leander, one of those tough-as-nails shoplifting types best played by Barbara Stanwyck, is bailed out of spending Christmas in prison by her prosecuting attorney (Fred MacMurray). The couple falls in love, but that doesn’t solve the problem of Stanwyck’s upcoming trial and MacMurray’s mother (Beulah Bondi), who worries that the young shoplifter will destroy her son’s hard-earned career. Leisen’s sense of emotional detail gives Sturges’ script a tenderness and depth only really found again in Sturges’ Christmas in July, and Stanwyck and MacMurray, who would star together again in Double Indemnity, The Moonlighter, and There’s Always Tomorrow, only add to that delicate balance. Our third favorite Christmas film, right after Meet Me In St. Louis and The Shop Around the Corner . . . it’s in very good company. (JA)
94 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm print from Universal
Short: “The Fairy Princess” (Margaret Conneely) – 16mm courtesy Chicago Film Archives

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Coming Soon: Huckleberry Finn
Chicago Premiere of the GEH Restoration!

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

December 14th
HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Directed by William Desmond Taylor • 1920
Those expecting a family-oriented silent comedy to embrace the full political and satiric scope of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn have reason to be disappointed. For everyone else, this highly condensed and compressed version of the novel yields many other pleasures: a winning lead performance by Lewis Sargent, beautiful location work (with the Sacramento River standing in competently for the Mississippi), breezy and efficient summertime direction from William Desmond Taylor, Paramount production values, and, above all, an abiding sense of the popular reverence that Twain enjoyed in 1920s America. Restored by the George Eastman House, inclusive of a veritable rainbow of tints and a meticulous recreation of the original intertitles. (KW)
75 min • Famous Players-Lasky • 35mm restored by the George Eastman House
With live accompaniment by Jay Warren!
Cartoon: Mississippi Hare (Chuck Jones, 1949) 35mm

Read about the film, the restoration, and our screening in the Chicago Tribune.

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And don’t miss our Xmas Gala at Cinema Borealis!

 

Sunday, December 18th – 6 pm & 8:15 pm
VALKOINEN PEURA (THE WHITE REINDEER)
Directed by Erik Blomberg • 1952
When her deadbeat Lapland Shepard husband takes off and leaves her hungry and heartbroken, Mirjami Kuosmanen (director Erik Blomberg’s real world wife) seeks the help of a local shaman who turns her into a white reindeer vampire. Adapted from a Finnish folk tale, the film is beautifully shot against staggering Finnish snowscapes and herds of reindeer who don’t have marital problems. The Finnish entry at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, Valkoinen peura won the award for Best Fairy Tale Film with Jean Cocteau as the president of the mostly French jury, and made its way to the US as The White Reindeer in 1957 as a limited release. Also on the bill tonight is a 16mm kinescope of the Space Patrol episode “A Christmas Party for Happy,” originally aired on Christmas Day 1954, and featuring (briefly) a reindeer-driven spaceship. (JA)
67 min • Junior-Filmi • 35mm Print courtesy of Douris Corp., special thanks to Tim Lanza

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From Purgatory to the Portage: Liliom
Rare 35mm Screening This Wednesday!

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

December 7th
LILIOM
Directed by Fritz Lang • 1934

The last film version of Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play before Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical adaptation, Carousel, forever altered the popular profile of the material, Liliom is a surprisingly coarse rendering of irrepressibly fantastic material. Charles Boyer plays the carnival barker Liliom, an argumentative loudmouth who loses his job and soon focuses his meager vocational energies on domestic abuse. His pregnant girlfriend Julie (Madeleine Ozeray) loves him in spite of it all, at least until a botched robbery sends Liliom to a bureaucratic celestial purgatory. The film itself proved almost as transient as the story it depicts: one of the less-than-a-handful of productions to emerge from Fox’s short-lived European operation, Liliom boasts the participation of a number of notable émigrés en route to America—director Fritz Lang, producer Erich Pommer, composer Franz Waxman, and cinematographer Rudolph Maté. In French with English subtitles (KW)

118 min • Les Productions Fox Europa • 35mm print from Criterion Pictures USA
Plus Selected Cartoons

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