Daniel Espinosa’s Life may be a cut above the rest of your usual studio sci-fi schlock, but what does that even mean? For the intrigue of this blood-soaked odyssey is diluted through its glossy, magazine-editorial visual palette, a skull-clutchingly persistent score, and a screenplay that values broad characterization over specificity. I can’t tell you anything about the coterie that makes up this Alien-knockoff that isn’t some generalization bluntly emphasized by its lowest common denominator, by-committee screenplay: there’s the handicapped character, a misanthrope with a yo-yo, and Ryan Reynolds as your quote unquote comic relief. The women of the film are largely blanks slates that bare little to no tactile effect to Life’s narrative. That’s Life. Isn’t that’s all that needs to be said?Read More
Terrence Malick’s continued examination of the conflict between a spiritual ideal and reality resumes in his new film, Song to Song. The erudite director fixes his gaze on the Austin, Texas music scene where shades of red and blue, movement and stillness, and penury and luxury inform a dense text on the contradictory forces that propel people in and out of happiness. It is in equal measures his most fragmented work and his most narratively driven since at least The New World. And while it shares many of the thematic discomforts found in his previous narrative film, Knight of Cups, i.e; a petrifying fear of nothingness and a hollow longing for experience, it’s a notably more romantic and buoyant enterprise. While it’s unlikely to persuade Malick’s dissenters back into the fold, those who reveled in the romanticism of The New World may find something in Song to Song to admire.Read More
I wasn’t wrong about Oliver Assayas’ new film the first time I wrote about it; I just wasn’t quite as right as I should have been. Like with any great works of art, whether it’s with an album that requires more than one spin or a film that reveals something new about itself with subsequent viewings, Personal Shopper (Highly Recommended) proved far more rewarding on a revisit in a theatrical setting. And after screening at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where Assayas won as Best Director, it finally comes to Chicago’s Landmark Century and AMC River East this Thursday. I urge every Chicagoan to see Personal Shopper on the largest screen imaginable, as so much of its primal thrills are excised from its inspired sound design and sleek, finely detailed compositions - the kind of finer details that are ultimately lost when you’re watching the film on a laptop or cellphone. And for a film that ultimately advocates detaching yourself from those tiny, lonely illuminated screens in favor of looking at the broader and abstract world we inhabit, it’s to your advantage to experience the film in a communal setting on the big screen.Read More
I could suggest something insipid and say that I’m not the target audience for Ry Russo-Young’s Before I Fall. I’m a decade removed from my high school experience and perhaps just out of touch with the complications and concerns of your typical (upper-class, suburban, white) teenager. Gosh, this film made me feel old. Were teenagers always this terrible? I mean, they’ve always been the worst, but you say that (kinda) jokingly. Here’s a film that means it.Read More
Year in and year out, the Gene Siskel Film Center programs the best film festival the city has to offer. The Chicago European Union Film Festival, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, showcases a slate of fêted and U.S.-premiering films from all 28 EU nations, highlighting an impressive 62 features throughout the month of March. This platinum anniversary features a number of high-profile Chicago premieres, including Oliver Assayas’ Personal Shopper, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes' The Unknown Girl, and Bruno Dumont’s Slack Bay, in what's certain to be Chicago's cinematic event of the early year.
For a complete schedule, screening times, and ticket information, refer to the Gene Siskel Film Center’s website here.
Kartemquin Films in association with the Indo-American Heritage Museum, Apna Ghar, the National Alliance of Mental Health, the Independent Filmmaker Project Chicago, and the Eyes on India Festival present a week of screenings for Dinesh Sabu’s Unbroken Glass at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Beginning Friday the 17th through Thursday the 23rd, Sabu will be in attendance for post-screening Q&As in what’s certain to be a lively discussion, particularly in the wake of a Trump administration that more or less displays a disinterest in the continued benefits, (particularly in regards to the mental health) offered by the Affordable Care Act.Read More
The aerial shot of the New York City-scape that opens Chad Stahelski’s John Wick: Chapter 2 features the brief but unmistakable image of Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr projected aside a skyscraper. Stahelski, a stuntman-turned-director, pays tribute to the messiah of cinematic physicality, submitting a fever dream of violent giddiness that’s heart-delaying in its beauty. The lineage of reference here is not one ingrained in modern action filmmaking but rather, much like Mad Max: Fury Road and the debt it pays to films like Battleship Potemkin and The Phantom Carriage, rooted in the silent comedies of Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd; filmmakers that expressed their anxieties and wrath through the physical. The architecture of John Wick: Chapter 2 recognizes the foundation that the three silent comics, particularly Keaton, have on contemporary action filmmaking, and as such, Stahelski crafts something that’s all at once modern and timeless.Read More
Stewing about in this dystopian caldron of 2017, where our cultural decadence has made me involuntarily cognizant of a subset of society that, let’s just say, isn’t especially becoming, has made the act of writing gratingly difficult. Thing is, I need to get out of the political moment – a moment filled with the ABCs of alternative facts and bad hombres and carnage, all bellowed through the loudspeaker of a tiny-handed goblin cloaked in a butterscotch human-epidermis costume– and I need to get out of it in a hurry.
The Gene Siskel Film Center offers refuge for those looking to disconnect in the form of Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s latest film, Happy Hour (Highly Recommended). His five-plus hour opus screens for (just) two afternoons, this Friday and Saturday, and its booking at the downtown theater is a significant grab for a film that undoubtedly presents its own set of scheduling obstacles. But while its length will undoubtedly keep casual attendees at bay, I urge all cinephiles to experience Hamaguchi’s quaint and brazenly humanistic portrait on the big screen.Read More
Don’t trust a man on the subject of his parents. He’ll try to camouflage his experiences, unable to grapple with the reality that his perspective is arrested from childhood. He views his parents through the lens of a child and can’t will himself out of that reality, no matter how happy or unhappy his childhood may have been. That’s a critical obstacle to consider when approaching Mike Mills’ new film, 20th Century Women. It’s a (quasi)?- autobiographical account of Mills’ childhood, with a particular emphasis on the women that shaped his worldview. There’s a gleaming, nostalgic quality that speaks directly to our inability to confront our parents, particularly our mothers, without succumbing to wistfulness. But while Mills may be prone to romanticizing his milieu and characters, he contextualizes them within a historical framework.Read More
I thought it inadequate to consider Martin Scorsese’s Silence (Essential), which screens extensively at the Music Box Theatre this weekend, at too much length. The film is such a massive object, worth deeper consideration that only comes after additional viewings and a greater gestation period. My numerous drafts recounting my experience with Scorsese’s latest masterwork offered a deficient analysis of the film as a historical, spiritual, and even personal object; combining the three just came across as fragmented, lost, and in perpetual search of something elusive that may have escaped my grasp during my initial viewing.Read More