2010 film series


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel (2007)
Tuesday, 10 August, 2010
“Julian Schnabel’s skill as a painter informed his previous two films, Basquiat and Before Night Falls, and it’s even more evident in this profoundly moving adaptation of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s best-selling memoir. A celebrated editor for French Elle, Bauby suffered a stroke that left him completely paralyzed except for his left eye, and he learned to communicate again only by blinking the letters of the alphabet, a method devised by his physical therapist. For the movie’s first half Schnabel shows everything from the invalid’s perspective, using a warm color palette for flashbacks of his family and glamorous lifestyle and a combination of bleached colors and stark lighting for the hospital scenes. As Bauby, Mathieu Almaric makes an astounding physical transformation; the strong supporting cast includes Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie Josée-Croze, Max von Sydow, Niels Arestrup, Isaach de Bankolé, and Olatz Lopez Garmendia.” PG-13, 112 min. Capsule by Andrea Gronvall from the Chicago Reader

The Spirit of the Beehive, Victor Erice (1973)
Tuesday, 10 August, 2010
The Spirit of the Beehive (El espíritu de la colmena) is widely regarded as the greatest Spanish film of the 1970s. In a small Castilian village in 1940, in the wake of the country’s devastating civil war, six-year-old Ana attends a traveling movie show of Frankenstein and becomes possessed by the memory of it. Produced as Franco’s long regime was nearing its end, The Spirit of the Beehive is a bewitching portrait of a child’s haunted inner life and one of the most visually arresting movies ever made.” Capsule from the Criterion Collection

The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman (1957) TWO SCREENINGS
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
“Disillusioned and exhausted after a decade of battling in the  Crusades, a knight (Max von Sydow) encounters Death on a desolate  beach and challenges him to a fateful game of chess. Much studied,  imitated, even parodied, but never outdone, Bergman’s stunning  allegory of man’s search for meaning, The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde  inseglet), was one of the benchmark foreign imports of America’s  1950s art-house heyday, pushing cinema’s boundaries and ushering in  a new era of moviegoing.” Capsule from the Criterion Collection

Beau Travail By Claire Denis (1999)
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
“A gorgeous mirage of a movie, Claire Denis’ reverie about the  French foreign legion in eastern Africa (1999, 90 min.), suggested  by Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Foretopman, benefits especially  from having been choreographed (by Bernardo Montet, who also plays  one of the legionnaires). Combined with Denis’ superb eye for  settings, Agnes Godard’s cinematography, and the director’s  decision to treat major and minor elements as equally important,  this turns some of the military maneuvers and exercises into  thrilling pieces of filmmaking that surpass even Full Metal Jacket  and converts some sequences in a disco into vibrant punctuations.  The story, which drifts by in memory fragments, is told from the  perspective of a solitary former sergeant (Denis Lavant, star of  The Lovers on the Bridge) now living in Marseilles and recalling  his hatred for a popular recruit (Gregoire Colin) that led to the  sergeant’s discharge; the fact that his superior is named after  the hero of Jean-Luc Godard’s Le petit soldat and played by the  same actor almost 40 years later (Michel Subor) adds a suggestive  thread, as do the passages from Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy  Budd. Most of all, Denis, who spent part of her childhood in  Djibouti, captures the poetry and atmosphere–and, more subtly,  the women–of Africa like few filmmakers before her. A masterpiece.”  Capsule by Jonathan Rosenbaum from the Chicago Reader

Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains, Gonzalo Arijón (2008)
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
“A haunting tale of suffering and survival, this French documentary  revisits the 1972 plane crash in the Andes that killed more than a  third of the plane’s 45 passengers and left the living with no  other recourse but to eat the dead. Director Gonzalo Arijon  interviews nine of the survivors, illustrating their testimony  with silent reenactments, and even brings some of them back to the  crash site to relive their ordeal. Their recollections are so  vivid and honest that one understands how the world beyond their  desolate mountain peak might fade away, leaving only the hard  facts of life and death. Despite all the horror and anguish, the  film ends on a note of serene acceptance, deep gratitude toward  the dead, and wonder at the unlikely miracle of life. In Spanish  with subtitles.”  Capsule by J. R. Jones from the Chicago Reader

Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett (1977)
Wednesday, 18 August, 2010
“The first feature (1977) of the highly talented black filmmaker Charles Burnett, who set most of his early films in Watts (including My Brother’s Wedding and To Sleep With Anger); this one deals episodically with the life of a slaughterhouse worker. Shot on a year’s worth of weekends for under $10,000, this remarkable work is conceivably the single best feature about ghetto life. It was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry as one of the key works in American cinema—ironic and belated recognition of a film that, until this recent restoration, had virtually no distribution. It shouldn’t be missed. With Henry Gayle Sanders.”  Capsule by Jonathan Rosenbaum from the Chicago Reader

Man with the Movie Camera By Dziga Vertov (1929) + experimental shorts
Wednesday, 18 August, 2010
“Dziga Vertov’s 1928 Russian film amounts to a catalog of all the tricks the movies can perform. As a newsreel cameraman travels through a city (actually an amalgam of Moscow and Odessa), Vertov transforms the images captured by his camera through a kaleidoscope of slow motion, superimposition, animation, and wild montage effects. Vertov’s motives were impeccably Marxist-Leninist—he wanted to expose the materialism behind an illusionist medium—but his film set off a storm of debate among his colleagues, who accused him of the bourgeois crime of “impressionism.” The film’s real influence did not emerge for another 40 years, when it was taken up by American structuralist filmmakers on one side of the Atlantic and by French neoleftists on the other. The film remains a fascinating souvenir, though its flourishes are now fairly familiar.” Capsule by Dave Kehr from the Chicago Reader