Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 in Review: No Compromise?

Last year we presented a two-part analysis of trends and achievements from the preceding twelve months of cinema. Here’s this year’s edition. — Ed.

Nothing But a Man, the independent feature from 1964 about apartheid conditions in the American South, plays in a new print at the Gene Siskel Film Center this weekend. It’s worth seeing for many reasons, but let’s focus on one detail. It opens with a peculiar credit, made no less disconcerting by the intervening five decades; instead of announcing itself as the product of a film studio, television station, or the star’s vanity label, Nothing But a Man cites the DuArt Film Laboratories as its putative producer.

This is, of course, literally true—DuArt developed the latent image recorded on the original camera rolls and then struck intermediate elements that facilitated the release prints distributed to theaters. In the most industrial sense, they produced the object to be consumed. (Amy Taubin suggests a less totalizing explanation in Artforum: Irvin Young, brother of Nothing But a Man producer/cinematographer/co-writer Robert M. Young, ran DuArt and probably offered free or steeply discounted lab services to the shoestring production.) Continue reading

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New Year, New Cinema: Some Like It Hot in 35mm
This Wednesday at the Portage Theater

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

Wednesday, January 2 @ 7:30pm
SOME LIKE IT HOT
Directed by Billy Wilder • 1959
Some Like It Hot begins with a fake funeral and concludes with preparations for a sham wedding, and in between no social convention escapes open ridicule. Part gangster drama, part bosomy musical, but thoroughly a sex farce driven by very serious ideas about conformity and freedom, Some Like It Hot remains beloved the world over. After Chicago speakeasy saxophonist Tony Curtis and bass player Jack Lemmon accidentally witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the duo are left with a choice: abscond to Urbana for a college dance, or catch the train to Florida with Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators. The only hitch: Sweet Sue’s is an all-girl outfit. So far so good, but how does a man masquerading as a woman seduce hard-drinking ukulele goddess Marilyn Monroe? Suffused with Wilder’s blunt émigré’s suspicion of genteel institutions (what other film would out the Friends of Italian Opera as a mob front?), Some Like It Hot shares with its radical cousin Glen or Glenda a pervasive and deeply affecting sense that gender is a scam. The fact that Curtis and Lemmon’s half-assed, haggish drag act proves sexually irresistible to half the state of Florida is one of this comedy’s more corrosive aspects. (KW)
122 min • United Artists • 35mm from Park Circus
Cartoon: Bugs Bunny in “The Big Snooze” (Robert Clampett, 1946) – 16mm – 7 min

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Happy Holidays from NWCFS!
Ring in 2013 with the Modern Miracle of Cinema

Psst! Have you heard about the new Northwest Chicago Film Society schedule? It runs through April 24, 2013 at the Portage Theater. It has planes, trains, trucks, rockets, and Elvis Presley. Also: Lupita Tovar in the Spanish version of Drácula, pictured above with her favorite pooch. Check out the full program.

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Here’s the first screening of the season:

Wednesday, January 2 @ 7:30pm
SOME LIKE IT HOT
Directed by Billy Wilder • 1959
Some Like It Hot begins with a fake funeral and concludes with preparations for a sham wedding, and in between no social convention escapes open ridicule. Part gangster drama, part bosomy musical, but thoroughly a sex farce driven by very serious ideas about conformity and freedom, Some Like It Hot remains beloved the world over. After Chicago speakeasy saxophonist Tony Curtis and bass player Jack Lemmon accidentally witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the duo are left with a choice: abscond to Urbana for a college dance, or catch the train to Florida with Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators. The only hitch: Sweet Sue’s is an all-girl outfit. So far so good, but how does a man masquerading as a woman seduce hard-drinking ukulele goddess Marilyn Monroe? Suffused with Wilder’s blunt émigré’s suspicion of genteel institutions (what other film would out the Friends of Italian Opera as a mob front?), Some Like It Hot shares with its radical cousin Glen or Glenda a pervasive and deeply affecting sense that gender is a scam. The fact that Curtis and Lemmon’s half-assed, haggish drag act proves sexually irresistible to half the state of Florida is one of this comedy’s more corrosive aspects. (KW)
122 min • United Artists • 35mm from Park Circus
Cartoon: Bugs Bunny in “The Big Snooze” (Robert Clampett, 1946) – 16mm – 7 min

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The Spoken Cinema

Can anything else be said about The Night of the Hunter? After a BFI monograph, two book-length accounts of its production, an exhaustive Criterion Collection edition, and numerous critical appreciations, one fears not. Robert Mitchum’s monologues are quoted with giddy abandon and the spectral image of Shelley Winters underwater is recalled with undiluted emotional immediacy. James Agee’s screenplay (long ridiculed by associates who outlived him) is now released under the banner of the Library of America—an honor that the screenplay basically aspired to long before such a collection existed. Continue reading

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You’ll L-O-V-E This One: Robert Mitchum in
The Night of the Hunter — A New Christmas Classic?

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

Wednesday, December 19th @ 7:30pm
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER
Directed by Charles Laughton • 1955
Like some Grimm Brothers edition of the Saturday Evening Post, The Night of the Hunter is the elemental gee-whiz wonder picture of the ‘50s—it really demands to be seen in a revival tent rather than a movie theater. Robert Mitchum delivers his career performance as Harry Powell, the wolf in preacher’s clothing who sets off to seduce a hanged man’s widow (Shelley Winters) and abscond with the money hidden somewhere in her homestead. Winters’s children (Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce) try to love their new pop, but his unrelenting severity and violent temper force the kids to flee for the countryside. Ostensibly set in the Depression, but unfolding at a perpetually present-tense intersection of American rhetoric and homespun myth, The Night of the Hunter bridges Sunday school lesson and psychological horror show. Between the shimmering photography of Stanley Cortez and the presence of Lillian Gish as a gun-toting granny, The Night of the Hunter reaches back into something genuinely primordial and automatically affecting. It’s also an underrated and oddly heart-warming Christmas movie that makes a singular case for persistence of love over wickedness. (KW)
93 min • United Artists • 35mm from Park Circus
Cartoon: Scrappy in “Holiday Land” (Columbia, 1934) – 35mm Technicolor – 7 min

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20th Anniversary Screening of Home Alone 2
This Sunday at Cinema Borealis! Two Shows!

Cinema Borealis • 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave, 4th Floor
Suggested Donation: $10

Sunday, December 16th @ 6:00pm and 8:30pm
HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK
Directed by Christopher Columbus • 1992
Accidentally abandoned by his family on Christmas in New York, Macaulay Culkin fends for himself against the Wet Bandits Harry & Marv. The miracle of Dolby Stereo brings an uncomfortable reality to the twisting of limbs, crunching of bones, and pulling of hair that Jules White never could have dreamed of, but the joke is that Lost In New York is the purest film Chicago native John Hughes ever put his name on. Where Ferris Bueller’s Day Off hides a thoughtless, mean-spirited agenda behind budding yuppie Matthew Broderick, Home Alone 2 is honestly manipulative, forthright, noble, and actually quite sweet. Look out for Eddie Bracken, who provides half of the moral backbone of the film as the owner of Duncan’s Toy Chest, better known to Chicagoans as the Rookery Building on 209 South La Salle St. This special 20th Anniversary screening will be presented in an original 35mm 1992 release print from our own collection. (JA)
120 min • 20th Century Fox • 35mm from Radio Cinema Film Archive

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Not enough Christmas for you? Come to our final screening of 2012 on Dec. 19!

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

Wednesday, December 19th @ 7:30pm
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER
Directed by Charles Laughton • 1955
Like some Grimm Brothers edition of the Saturday Evening Post, The Night of the Hunter is the elemental gee-whiz wonder picture of the ‘50s—it really demands to be seen in a revival tent rather than a movie theater. Robert Mitchum delivers his career performance as Harry Powell, the wolf in preacher’s clothing who sets off to seduce a hanged man’s widow (Shelley Winters) and abscond with the money hidden somewhere in her homestead. Winters’s children (Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce) try to love their new pop, but his unrelenting severity and violent temper force the kids to flee for the countryside. Ostensibly set in the Depression, but unfolding at a perpetually present-tense intersection of American rhetoric and homespun myth, The Night of the Hunter bridges Sunday school lesson and psychological horror show. Between the shimmering photography of Stanley Cortez and the presence of Lillian Gish as a gun-toting granny, The Night of the Hunter reaches back into something genuinely primordial and automatically affecting. It’s also an underrated and oddly heart-warming Christmas movie that makes a singular case for persistence of love over wickedness. (KW)
93 min • United Artists • 35mm from Park Circus
Cartoon: Scrappy in “Holiday Land” (Columbia, 1934) – 35mm Technicolor – 7 min

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Cinema By Other Means:
An Interview with Drew Dir About Manual Cinema’s Lula del Ray

“Film is Dead,” proclaimed one Logan Square art gallery last February, referring not only to the imminent end of film manufacture, but more broadly to moment when ‘film’ lost its currency and accuracy as short-hand for a diverse range of artistic activities. If everybody’s shooting on video/digital/data, then why persist in applying the genteel label of film to anything with the slightest genetic relation to sprocket-and-emulsion-based celluloid?

It’s an important question, albeit one that might be posed a bit less antagonistically. After all, film gains about as much from being associated with gallery installations as video artists do from being confused for 16mm cinematographers. Greater medium specificity and more precise vocabulary ultimately help everybody. Continue reading

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Anatahan – Josef von Sternberg’s Pulsating Drama of
20 Men and a Girl! Rare 35mm Screening This Wednesday

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

Wednesday, December 12th @ 7:30pm
THE SAGA OF ANATAHAN
Directed by Josef von Sternberg • 1953
Discharged from Macao by Howard Hughes, Josef von Sternberg’s Hollywood career had come undone. The director embarked on a dream project that brought the exacting affection of his Marlene Dietrich vehicles to its logical and impossible conclusion. Anatahan follows a group of stranded Japanese soldiers as they decline into savagery, fighting for guns, power, and the island’s only girl, entirely unaware that war has ceased. The artificial society meets its match: Anatahan’s cast is wholly Japanese, but Sternberg’s brisk, fussy English voiceover narration supersedes all.  Filmed entirely in a Kyoto studio, Anatahan is some sort of monstrous apex of synthetic cinema, representing near-total control for the obsessive filmmaker, who intercedes not only with the sets and montage, but with the thoughts and actions of every human in the film. (Sternberg would subsequently lament his sole compromise: photographing real waves rather than fabricating the ocean. He also maintained that the film’s essence would survive even if projected upside-down and backwards.) Anatahan never found a non-cultist audience, prompting Sternberg to tinker—deleting dialogue and adding nude shots. At least Anatahan could boast a theatrical release several years before Jet Pilot, another fateful Sternberg-Hughes collaboration begun in 1950! (HM)
92 min • Daiwa • Restored 35mm from the Library of Congress
Cartoon: “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips” (Friz Freleng, 1945) – 16mm – 7 min

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Anatahan not your idea of a good slumber-parties-of-yore movie? Well, look what we’ve got on tap at Cinema Borealis at 1550 N. Milwaukee. Suggested Donation: $10.

Sunday, December 16th @ 6:00pm and 8:30pm
HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK
Directed by Christopher Columbus • 1992
Accidentally abandoned by his family on Christmas in New York, Macaulay Culkin fends for himself against the Wet Bandits Harry & Marv. The miracle of Dolby Stereo brings an uncomfortable reality to the twisting of limbs, crunching of bones, and pulling of hair that Jules White never could have dreamed of, but the joke is that Lost In New York is the purest film Chicago native John Hughes ever put his name on. Where Ferris Bueller’s Day Off hides a thoughtless, mean-spirited agenda behind budding yuppie Matthew Broderick, Home Alone 2 is honestly manipulative, forthright, noble, and actually quite sweet. Look out for Eddie Bracken, who provides half of the moral backbone of the film as the owner of Duncan’s Toy Chest, better known to Chicagoans as the Rookery Building on 209 South La Salle St. This special 20th Anniversary screening will be presented in an original 35mm 1992 release print from our own collection. (JA)
120 min • 20th Century Fox • 35mm from Radio Cinema Film Archive

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Get Lost

What do Upstream, The Devil’s Passkey, Mare Nostrum, The Last Moment, A Woman of Paris, London After Midnight, The Old Dark House, The Case of Lena Smith, and Little Man, What Now have in common? Continue reading

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John Ford’s Upstream – Chicago Premiere of the Restoration – See It Now or Wait Another 80 Years

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

Wednesday, December 5th @ 7:30pm
UPSTREAM
Directed by John Ford • 1927
With live organ accompaniment from Jay Warren!
Presumed lost for over eighty years, Upstream never garnered much of a reputation. Even avowed Ford partisan Peter Bogdanovich once declared that ‘the least of [Ford’s] Harry Carey westerns would have more interest today than such higher budgeted Fox specials as. . . Upstream.’ But there’s nothing high-flown or high-budget about this lovable mutt of a picture. (Ford’s name isn’t even listed in the credits.) It sketches the daily routine of a scruffy boarding house occupied by knife-throwers, tap-dancing brothers, and aspiring actors. One in particular, Eric Brashingham (Earle Fox), has plenty to aspire to: with his family name, he should be playing Hamlet on the West End, not returning the idle flirtations of housemate Gertie Ryan (Nancy Nash). When a desperate producer gives him a chance, Brashingham drops all thespian façade and reveals his true colors. Salvaged by New Zealand projectionist and collector Jack Murtagh, Upstream has been beautifully restored through the joint efforts of the New Zealand Film Archive, the National Film Preservation Foundation, Park Road Post Production, 20th Century Fox, and the Academy Film Archive. (KW)
60 min • Fox Film Corporation • Restored, tinted 35mm print from 20th Century Fox
Short: “New Zealand Now #3: Cattle Trail” (1955) – New Zealand National Film Unit – 35mm – 18 min

Not on DVD. Not on Netflix. Only available in 35mm. First Chicago Screening Since 1927!

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