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.
2:30pm Kshay (Corrode) Dir. Karan Gour. 2011. 92mins. India. This moody black-and-white tale of obsession struggles under the weight of overbearing symbolism, as a housewife pours out her lingering grief over a recent miscarriage into an infatuation with obtaining a statue of the goddess Lakshmi that she and her husband cannot afford.—Jessica Johnson
2:50pm Azhagarsamy’s Horse Dir. Suseendran. 2011. 122mins. India. A significant tolerance for Bollywood bombast is required for this bloated, high-decibel parable, in which a Tamil village contends with the disappearance of a statue needed for a drought-preventing festival. New 400 Theaters (6746 N Sheridan Rd).—Ben Kenigsberg
* 3pm The Jewel Dir. Andrea Molaioli. 2011. 110mins. Italy. Molaioli’s loose take on the machinations leading up to the controversial collapse of one of Italy’s most profitable companies is both a gripping corporate thriller and a timely encapsulation of the current climate of economic strife. Toni Servillo is extraordinary as the beleaguered CFO fending off inevitable destruction.—Derek Adams
3pm L.A. Raeven—Beyond the Image Dir. Lisa Boerstra. 2011. 74mins. The Netherlands. Boerstra profiles L.A. Raeven, two performance- and video-artist sisters. Not available for review.
* 3:15pm Good Bye Dir. Mohammad Rasoulof. 2011. 104mins. Iran. Arrested along with Jafar Panahi, Rasoulof takes on Iranian bureaucracy with this oblique, clandestinely completed, intermittently gripping feature, which follows a pregnant lawyer (Leyla Zareh) as she attempts to obtain a visa and perhaps an abortion, but finds herself unable to do much without her husband’s approval.—Ben Kenigsberg
3:30pm What Love May Bring Dir. Claude Lelouch. 2010. 120mins. France. The second Lelouch title in the festival (see From One Film to Another, Fri 7) follows a young woman through the first and second world wars. Lelouch will attend this screening. Not available for review.
4pm 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
5pm Salaam Dunk Dir. David Fine. 2011. 83mins. USA/Iraq. Looking beyond the images of war-torn Iraq, this documentary offers an uplifting account of a women’s basketball team from the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. The dedication of the young players is inspiring; their personal stories bring meaning to an otherwise by-the-numbers sports film.—Jessica Johnson
5:25pm Bunny Drop Dir. Sabu. 2011. 115mins. Japan. When salaryman Daikichi takes in his late grandfather’s six-year-old illegitimate daughter, Rin, moderately wacky high jinks and a sappy piano score ensue. While the sweet, convincing rapport between Daikichi and Rin yields some heartwarming moments, we wish this gentle call for work-life balance spent more time on single parents’ everyday challenges than tacked-on melodrama.—Lauren Weinberg
5:30pm Gandu Dir. Kaushik Mukherjee. 2010. 85mins. India. Gandu’s title character (the word means “asshole”) raps to the camera, steals money from his mother while she’s having sex and gets high with his rickshaw-driver best friend. This material wouldn’t be out of place in an allegedly edgy indie, but Mukherjee’s film gets points for energy and for venturing into what is, in Indian cinema, largely unexplored territory.—Alison Willmore
5:50pm Volcano Dir. Rúnar Rúnarsson. 2011. 99mins. Iceland. A newly retired, curmudgeonly janitor lets the mask slip while caring for his ailing wife. The volcano is strictly metaphorical; the film is seldom volatile or surprising.—Ben Kenigsberg
6pm Don’t Go Breaking My Heart Dir. Johnnie To. 2011. 115mins. Hong Kong. One of two new To films on the festival circuit this year, Heart comes billed as a lighthearted love triangle—a departure for the action director. Not available for review.
6pm An Evening with Ken Nordine The radio host and voiceover guru (he narrates the festival commercial every year) will discuss his career.
6:10pm Patang Dir. Prashant Bhargava. 2011. 93mins. India. Chicago-born Bhargava’s hypnotically shot story, set in the old city of Ahmedabad, India, amid the town’s giant, kinetic kite festival, drifts into a family drama about the division between new and old ways. The cinematography is an impressive mix of kaleidoscopic color and documentary grit, but the story lacks a similar punch.—Jonathan Messinger
7pm The Bully Project Dir. Lee Hirsch. 2011. 90mins. USA. Although it would take a heart of stone not to be moved by the litany of misery chronicled in this documentary on the frequently sadistic harassment of kids in American schools, The Bully Project amounts to little more than a feature-length PSA. A comprehensive magazine article would have been preferable to the movie’s infomercial-like presentation.—Richard Porton
7:30pm We Need to Talk About Kevin Dir. Lynne Ramsay. 2011. 112mins. U.K./USA. Morvern Callar director Ramsay’s first feature in nine years sorts through the fragmented memories of the mother (Tilda Swinton) of a school shooter; once the flashbacks kick in, it quickly devolves into a moronic, trivializing bad-seed drama. Fest VIP John C. Reilly’s part is way too small for what the film is trying to do.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 7:50pm Once Upon a Time in Anatolia Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan. 2011. 2hrs 30mins. Turkey. Down to its nighttime videography, Ceylan’s epic sometimes suggests Zodiac denuded of details—cops, a prosecutor and a doctor spend almost 90 minutes of screen time searching for a body in the Turkish countryside, with small talk and bureaucratic procedure taking precedence over any mystery proper. Also influenced by recent Romanian cinema and more striking on a formal level than it is immediately profound, the movie nevertheless feels like a major work for its maker.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:15pm Wild Bill Dir. Dexter Fletcher. 2011. 96mins. U.K. After eight years in prison, Bill Hayward returns home to find his sons abandoned by their mother. A Western-tinged gangster flick set in London’s East End, the film offers a spirited, mildly charming look at the psychology of leaving a life of crime and settling into a working-class family.—Amy L. Hayden
8:20pm Wetlands Dir. Guy Édoin. 2011. 111mins. Canada. After a family tragedy, a mother and son on a Quebec farm grapple with the fallout. The film is nicely shot—the Quebecois countryside gives it some novelty—but the attempts at dramatic restraint seem largely like affectation.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:30pm If Not Us, Who? Dir. Andres Veiel. 2011. 124mins. Germany. After Carlos, The Baader-Meinhof Complex and Good Morning, Night, we’ve reached a quota for biopics on post-’60s radicalism; this slick, politically disinterested entry, focusing on Red Army Faction founding figure Gudrun Ensslin, lacks a clear outlook.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:40pm Machete Language Dir. Kyzza Terrazas. 2011. 85mins. Mexico. Though visually it errs on the side of shaky-cam cliché, this tale of romance between two anarchist activists—Ray, a depressed writer, and Ramona, a punk-rock cutter—gives its leads some compelling depth of character. The film’s real subject is family: where the two came from and where they’re headed.—Erin Osmon
10:15pm The Whisperer in Darkness Dir. Sean Branney. 2011. 103mins. USA. Branney gives an old H.P. Lovecraft story the Good German treatment, lending it the look and feel of an unearthed genre classic from the Golden Age. As with Soderbergh’s experiment, the film never fully commits to the “limitations” of its retro aesthetic. Worse still, the unknown stars seem ill-equipped to mimic the acting styles of their Hollywood forebears.—A.A. Dowd