Daily Archives: October 18, 1996

The Chicago International Film Festival: Closing Weekend

As we go to press, I’ve seen about a third of the 30-odd programs being shown by the Chicago International Film Festival over its final weekend (not counting Hugo winners and audience choices), only three of which I’d place in the category of must-see: Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies, showing Sunday at Pipers Alley; Alex van Warmerdam’s The Dress, Saturday at the Three Penny and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Goodbye South, Goodbye, Saturday at the Music Box. The latter two movies haven’t been picked up, and even if they get distributors chances are they won’t reappear for another year.

I can add a few less urgent recommendations. William Wyler’s Roman Holiday (1953) was, oddly enough, a favorite film of Carl Dreyer; when the Danish government paid tribute to its greatest filmmaker by inviting him to program an art cinema in Copenhagen, he gave this black and white comedy, which won Audrey Hepburn an Oscar, the longest run. Keith Gordon’s Mother Night (also scheduled to open soon) is a flawed rendering of one of Kurt Vonnegut’s better early novels, but for my money better than most Merchant-Ivory adaptations, especially during its first half.

Thief and Heat (1995) are both effective Michael Mann thrillers–especially Thief, which is said to be showing in a newly restored “director’s cut”–and Wyler’s Funny Girl (1968), for all its schmaltz, has the undeniable benefit of Barbra Streisand in her early prime.… Read more »

Peggy and Fred in Hell: The Complete Cycle

Leslie Thornton’s remarkable, mind-boggling experimental feature-length cycle of short films which she’s been working on and releasing in episodes since 1981 is a postapocalyptic narrative about two children feeling their way through the refuse of late-20th-century consumer culture; the films employ a wide array of found footage as well as peculiar, unpredictable, and often funny performances from two “found” actors. Apart from one startling and beautiful color shot in the penultimate episode, Whirling, the whole cycle is in black and white. (Episodes that have been added since an earlier version of the cycle showed in Chicago six years ago include Introduction to the So-Called Duck Factory and The Problem So Far.) Highly idiosyncratic and deeply creepy, this series as a whole – which includes passages in both film and video, sometimes shown concurrently – represents the most exciting recent work in the American avant-garde, a saga that raises questions about everything while making everything seem very strange. Kino-Eye Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Friday, October 18, 8:00, 773-384-5533.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo still.… Read more »