Chicago International Film Festival 2011: A day-by-day guide to week one
We review 70 titles in a definitive guide to the festival's first week.
All screenings take place at the AMC River East 21 (322 E Illinois St) unless otherwise noted.
For advance tickets, call 312-332-FILM, go to ticketmaster.com/chicagofilmfestival or stop by the festival office (30 E Adams St, Suite 800). For passes, go to chicagofilmfestival.com.
3:40pm Day Is Done Dir. Thomas Imbach. 2011. 111mins. Switzerland. Surely one of the most experimental titles playing in the fest, this doc-like thing pairs footage shot (mostly) from the roof of a Zurich apartment complex with 15 years’ worth of answering-machine messages. Sporadically striking, the film is too loosely organized to work as a pure formal exercise and too oblique to register as autobiography.—A.A. Dowd
4pm Ways of the Sea Dir. Sheron R. Dayoc. 2010. 78mins. Philippines. A somber but brisk addition to the plight-of-the-immigrant genre, this ensemble drama follows a group of desperate individuals—including several young prostitutes—plotting an illegal voyage from the Philippines to Malaysia. Despite the heavy subject, Dayoc paints with light strokes, trusting his capable cast of travelers with the dramatic lifting.—A.A. Dowd
4:10pm Léa Dir. Bruno Rolland. 2011. 93mins. France. A French student turns to stripping in order to afford a more prestigious university. Not available for review.
5pm The Screen Illusion Dir. Mathieu Amalric. 2010. 77mins. France. Amalric transplants Corneille’s 1636 play to the age of Xbox. As with modernized Shakespeare, the gimmick defies logic, but the cast deserves credit for seeming contemporary while spouting archaic dialogue.—A.A. Dowd
* 5:45pm King of Devil’s Island Dir. Marius Holst. 2010. 120mins. Norway/France/Sweden/Poland. Celestial bookends notwithstanding, this absorbing, purportedly life-based account of a 1915 rebellion at a Norwegian reform school makes for a conventional but satisfying prison-break movie.—Ben Kenigsberg
6pm From One Film to Another Dir. Claude Lelouch. 2011. 104mins. France. Crowd-pleasing French director Lelouch recaps his career in an essay film. He’ll attend the screening, too. Not available for review.
* 6pm Goodbye First Love Dir. Mia Hansen-Løve. 2011. 110mins. France/Germany. The third feature from Hansen-Løve (Father of My Children) is sure to win her many more fans. The film follows Camille (Lola Créton) over an emotionally tumultuous decade after the breakup of an impassioned teen relationship. This is how you portray adolescence onscreen.—Keith Uhlich
* 6:10pm Tomboy Dir. Céline Sciamma. 2011. 84mins. France. Gender deception is the name of the game in this puckish, autumnal comedy about a wiry, kempt-haired female 4th grader named Laure (a film-carrying Zoé Héran) whose physical resemblance to a boy leads (forces?) her to tell her peers that she is one. Beautifully written and directed by Sciamma (Water Lilies), her film is deceptively slight and perfectly judged.—David Jenkins
6:15pm Ticket to Paradise Dir. Gerardo Chijona. 2010. 88mins. Cuba. A young Cuban woman leaves home and her abusive father and ends up getting in too deep with fellow kids on the street. Not available for review.
6:30pm Mausam (Seasons of Love) Dir. Pankaj Kapoor. 2011. 2hrs 40mins. India. India, 1992: “The most handsome boy in Punjab” falls for a Kashmiri-Muslim lass. Over the next decade, our star-crossed lovers must bear the fallout of almost every major Indian and even global atrocity, each used as a convenient plot device to keep the lovers apart. Especially laughable are the Top Gun–style sequences with leading man Shahid Kapoor sporting a Cruise cut and Ray-Bans.—Anil Sinanan
6:40pm Take Me Home Dir. Sam Jaeger. 2011. 97mins. USA. Jaeger casts himself as a struggling NYC photographer moonlighting behind the wheel of an unregistered taxi. His real-life wife plays the married woman who hops in his cab and finagles a ride across the country. The leads have chemistry—let’s hope so, for the sake of their marriage—but the vehicle they’re trapped in hits every contrivance on the road-movie highway.—A.A. Dowd
8:15pm Southwest Dir. Eduardo Nunes. 2010. 128mins. Brazil. Shot in gorgeous black and white, Nunes’s magical-realist fable concerns a woman who lives out her entire life in the space of a single day. Neither its outlandish, Benjamin Button conceit nor its often-stunning visuals can lend the film a heartbeat; its solemnity grows wearisome almost immediately.—A.A. Dowd
8:20pm Leave It on the Floor Dir. Sheldon Larry. 2011. 109mins. USA. Shunned by his mom for being gay, a young man falls in with a group of drag queens and transgender performers in L.A.’s ballroom scene, finding love and friendship. Aggressively campy and earnest, Larry’s musical makes Rent look minimalist.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 8:30pm Melancholia Dir. Lars von Trier. 2011. 135mins. Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany. A bride (Kirsten Dunst) can’t cope with her wedding party; the end of the world is more her speed. Von Trier’s latest attempt to grapple with his depression (after Antichrist) boasts moments of astonishing beauty, and the first half—devoted to the catastrophic party—is a tour de force. The second half doesn’t quite seem fully developed. The point may be that the apocalypse feels like nothing.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:45pm Kinyarwanda Dir. Alrick Brown. 2011. 100mins. USA. Director Brown weaves together stories of the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath, focusing on characters from both the Hutu and Tutsi sides. The movie gets lost in trying too hard to connect all its subjects, but this attempt to tell smaller stories against the backdrop of enormous tragedy is admirable.—Jonathan Messinger
* 8:50pm The Giants Dir. Bouli Lanners. 2011. 84mins. Belgium. Dreamy portraits of unsupervised adolescence go down much smoother when the kids doing the gallivanting can act. The Giants’ latchkey heroes—two brothers and a local chum, left to fend for themselves in rural Belgium—are played by a believable trio of teenage troublemakers. Playful and naturalistic, the film laces its endless-summer wonder with a hint of impending danger.—A.A. Dowd
9:10pm Fat, Bald, Short Man Dir. Carlos Osuna. 2011. 91mins. Colombia. In this mundane animated film, notary worker Antonio Farfan finds himself exploited by his coworkers and family, but things begin to pick up when he joins a support group for shy people and gets a new boss who shares his most noticeable physical attributes.—Jessica Johnson
10:50pm The Holding Dir. Susan Jacobson. 2011. 93mins. U.K. In this talky but reasonably suspenseful potboiler, a desperate single mother shacks up with a mysterious stranger who claims to be an old friend of her dead husband; predictably, his motives prove less than pure. The performances and milieu are more compelling than the plot, which eventually conforms to hoary thriller conventions.—A.A. Dowd
10:50pm Love Actually…Sucks! Dir. Scud. 2011. 82mins. Hong Kong. Six racy, supposedly scandalous tales illustrate the title principle. The festival has this labeled as being for “mature audiences only.” Not available for review.
11:15pm Rabies Dir. Aharon Keshales. 2010. 90mins. Israel. Billed as Israel’s first slasher horror-comedy, Rabies overturns genre conventions to entertaining effect, setting a group of unconnected cops, a park ranger, tennis players and runaway siblings loose in a forest preserve with a psycho. The film’s unusual rhythms should be enough to keep audiences on their toes.—Alison Willmore