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Chicago International Film Festival 2015: Hitchcock/Truffaut, by Aaron Pinkston

24 Oct

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In 1966, a landmark meeting between two of the greatest film icons took place in a series of interviews. At the time, Alfred Hitchcock was the biggest director in Hollywood. He had released all but his last three films, fresh off pre-Cold War thriller Torn Curtain and his landmark run that included Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho and The Birds. François Truffaut had most of his career ahead of him, though he was already a big name in world cinema with incredible trio of films to open his career: The 400 Blows, Shoot the Piano Player and Jules and Jim. Coming from a criticism background and a deep love of the British filmmaker, Truffaut set out to uncover the truth that Hitchcock was more than a pulp storyteller. The result was Hitchcock/Truffaut, one of the great film books ever written, and the subject of Kent Jones’s new documentary.

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Chicago International Film Festival 2015: Where to Invade Next, by Aaron Pinkston

23 Oct

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In the six years since his last film, Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore has seen a lot of problems: banking failures, overpopulated prison systems, police brutality, a widening gap between the rich and the poor, etc. etc. etc. Where to Invade Next is his way to tackle many of these issues and more, with a clever high concept idea. Because American militarization has stepped into conflicts for foreign resources (primarily oil), Moore thought he would do the same – invade countries to steal their intellectual resources that could make American society better. Where to Invade Next opens in an alternate reality where the U.S. military leaders come to Moore admitting that they’ve made mistakes over the past few decades and they need help. That may sound fairly self-aggrandizing, but the overall tongue-in-cheek, playful nature gives Where to Invade Next a very entertaining spark.

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Chicago International Film Festival 2015: Chronic, by Aaron Pinkston

21 Oct

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Tim Roth stars in Michel Franco’s Chronic as a home care nurse who works with terminally ill patients. Over the course of the film, David works with four different patients (though only three have more than one scene) that serve to segment the film. The first is a woman with AIDS, followed by an older man suffering from a debilitating stroke and a middle-aged woman with aggressive cancer. As you would expect from this set-up, Chronic is an incredibly bleak film. Roth’s steady performance and a few directorial choices make Chronic an interesting film, but a slight narrative holds it back from really clicking.

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Chicago International Film Festival 2015: 45 Years, by Aaron Pinkston

17 Oct

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Like Andrew Haigh’s brilliant debut feature Weekend, 45 Years takes place primarily between one couple over a brief passage of time. Here, however, the couple has already spent a life together. The week before their 45th wedding anniversary, Geoff Mercer receives a letter with news about a friend he knew before meeting his future wife Kate. This random occurrence dramatically affects Geoff and his marriage, opening the past and its secrets. Leading up to their celebration, the couple address old memories and emotions that they have never opened to each other over their long years together. 45 Years is a small but impactful story about the ever-changing qualities of love.

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Chicago International Film Festival 2015: Dheepan, by Aaron Pinkston

16 Oct

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If you’ve heard the title Dheepan, it is most likely because of its Palme d’Or win at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival – which according to most film writers on the scene was a huge surprise. With that in mind, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect of Dheepan. Would it be a wholly awards-grabbing cynical piece of artertainment or a good but not better than its competition (the critical favorite Son of Saul, for example)? Knowing that Jacques Audiard was the man behind Dheepan, I shouldn’t have doubted the film. It is indeed a rich and complex film with a new perspective on a hot topic.

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Chicago International Film Festival 2015: Mia Madre, by Aaron Pinkston

15 Oct

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The opening film of the 51st Chicago International Film Festival is Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre, an emotional mother-daughter-tale-slash-movie-making-farce hybrid. Mia Madre stars Margherita Buy as a successful film director working on an ambitious social message film involving factory worker’s rights. As she has to deal with an incompetent crew, uncooperative extras, and a hotshot American actor, her mother’s serious illness turns her life upside down.
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Chicago International Film Festival Part IV, by Aaron Pinkston

22 Oct

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The Missing Picture, dir. Rithy Panh, Cambodia and France

Between the years of 1975 and 1979 Cambodia was under governmental control by a group called the Khmer Rouge, an offshoot of the Communist party that had already taken control of neighbor Vietnam. Led by Pol Pot, the group committed a number of atrocities that affected the country for many years after the Khmer Rouge lost power. Estimates claim that about four million people (nearly half of the population) were killed from war, rebellion, mass murder and man-made famine. The Missing Picture is filmmaker Rithy Panh’s attempt to fully confront his personal trauma while telling the people’s collective story.

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Chicago International Film Festival: Part III, by Aaron Pinkston

18 Oct

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Despite the Gods, dir. Penny Vozniak, Australia

In 1993, Jennifer Chambers Lynch directed and released her first feature film, Boxing Helena. Despite being nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at that year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film went on to become a great critical failure, currently with only a 19% Rotten Tomatoes score and bad enough to win the Golden Raspberry for worst director of the year. I haven’t seen Boxing Helena, but I can’t help to think that part of this hate comes from Lynch’s background — as the daughter of film grandmaster David Lynch, there must have been extra attention put on her work and when the output wasn’t to a certain level, it was condemned. The film’s reputation wasn’t helped by a public legal battle with A-list stars Madonna and Kim Basinger when both actresses backed out of the lead role. After what must have been a traumatic experience, Lynch wouldn’t direct another film for 15 years. This context pushes right into Penny Vozniak’s documentary Despite the Gods, which chronicles Lynch’s experience making her third film, a Bollywood horror-comedy-musical which Lynch describes as a movie about “a snake that turns into a woman who turns into a snake.”

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Chicago International Film Festival: Dracula 3D, by Aaron Pinkston

17 Oct

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Dario Argento is a film figure that has, to a degree, transcended his genre. Though some of his conventions and aesthetic are maybe closer to the current “torture porn” subgenre, his films are loved by both horror fantactics and those drawn more to art films. He’s the breed of genre filmmaker that can make a 3D horror film that premieres at Cannes — there are few people you can say that about. I’ve never been much of a fan of this brand of Italian horror films. I’ve given Bava and Fulci plenty of opportunities to work for me, but it never really has. Argento, however, stands out. His films take the gore effects crucial to the movement and makes them beautiful, but he also creates great mysteries with characters that can build a connection with the audience. That said, I haven’t seen anything Argento has directed since his 1996 film The Stendhal Syndrome, and the word on the street is that I’m not missing much.

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Chicago International Film Festival: Part II, by Aaron Pinkston

14 Oct

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Domestic, dir. Adrian Sitaru, Romania

Another comedy from the ever-growing Romanian New Wave, Domestic balances really intelligent and daring filmmaking with a sharp wit. Though the national film movement is still more associated with gloomy dramas, the comedies I’ve seen from Romania (see my review from the European Film Festival of Dan Chisu’s Chasing Rainbows) have been exceptionally good, as well. Domestic takes place in an apartment complex, looking into the lives of three families and their domestic situations.

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