Chicago International Film Festival 2011: A day-by-day guide to week two
We review the second week's titles in a comprehensive roundup.
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.
1:45pm Kinyarwanda Dir. Alrick Brown. 2011. 100mins. USA. 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 of its subjects, but this attempt to tell smaller stories backdropped by enormous tragedy is admirable.—Jonathan Messinger
2:20pm 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
2:30pm The Return of Joe Rich Dir. Sam Auster. 2011. 95mins. USA. Not to be confused with opening night’s The Last Rites of Joe May, this hapless Chicago gangster flick plunders Scorsese’s greatest hits before making clear that it considers itself some sort of parody, in which a ne’er-do-well (Sam Witwer), hamstrung in this economy, attempts to make it in the mob. The tone is unstable and the editing (meatball wipes?) is amateur hour.—Ben Kenigsberg
3pm 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
* 3:30pm Top Floor, Left Wing Dir. Angelo Cianci. 2010. 93mins. France. A tense ride, Top Floor is also unusually funny for a hostage thriller. When an eviction attempt in run-down tenement housing outside Paris turns into a full-blown standoff, both father-son conflicts and the untenable circumstances of France’s Arab-immigrant population become impossible to ignore.—Ruth Welte
3:50pm American Translation Dirs. Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr. 2011. 90mins. France. Two impulsive young lovers in France take numerous rolls in the hay, which continue even after ze hunk reveals his dark secret. Indifferent videography and various character idiocies might be tolerable if it weren’t for the film’s appalling, amoral upshot: It essentially holds that being good in bed grants one a license to kill.—Ben Kenigsberg
4pm The Kid Who Lies Dir. Marité Ugas. 2010. 100mins. Venezuela. A 13-year-old Venezuelan boy searches for his mom. Not available for review.
4:05pm The Woman in the Fifth Dir. Pawel Pawlikowski. 2011. 83mins. France/Poland/U.K. Ethan Hawke plays an American professor who travels to Paris to win back his estranged wife and daughter; he quickly becomes involved in assorted intrigues that seem derived from a failed study of vintage Polanski. Hoping for a good ending? You lose.—Ben Kenigsberg
4:30pm New Directors: Camera Ready? Filmmakers in the festival discuss the beginnings of their careers and the difficulties of getting films made. At Columbia College Chicago (1104 S Wabash Ave, room 402).
5pm The Good Son Dir. Zaida Bergroth. 2011. 87mins. Finland. The brat kid of one of Finland’s biggest movie stars grows jealous when Mom shacks up with a new guy on their vacation. Eleventh-hour violence fails to compensate for the aimlessness of the rest.—Ben Kenigsberg
5pm Inshallah, Football Dir. Ashvin Kumar. 2010. 83mins. India. A Muslim Kashmiri teen attempts to obtain a passport from the Indian government to play soccer in Brazil, but his efforts are hampered by his father’s former militancy. The story has little room to breathe under the weight of the complicated conflict in the region, which requires so many explanatory title cards that the film becomes wearying to watch.—Laura Baginski
5:30pm 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
5:40pm Hotel Swooni Dir. Kaat Beels. 2011. 90mins. Belgium. At the titular hotel, an estranged mother and daughter reunite, a husband and wife grapple with adultery, and an immigrant boy separated from his father gets some help from the aforementioned daughter in this hackneyed connect-the-dots ensemble piece.—Ben Kenigsberg
6pm Return Ticket Dir. Teng Yung-Shing. 2010. 85mins. China/Taiwan. Executive producer Hou Hsiao-hsien’s stamp seems clear in the opening scenes, which offer an interesting sense of dislocation as a twentysomething woman (Qin Hailu) returns to Shanghai looking for work. The movie takes a mawkish turn once she signs on for an ill-fated scheme involving a beat-up bus, but the sense of economic anxiety is potent.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 6:10pm 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. 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
7pm An Evening with Haskell Wexler The legendary cinematographer and director (Medium Cool) will discuss his career.
* 7:15pm The Turin Horse Dir. Béla Tarr. 2011. 146mins. Hungary. What is base will always triumph over what is noble, so you might as well stop eating your potatoes and die. That’s the not-much-abridged philosophy of Tarr’s latest, although the eponymous animal, a horse once hugged by Nietzsche, understands it more quickly than the humans. Focusing on the daily routines of the equine’s owner and his daughter, this relentlessly bleak, almost self-parodic film is punishing even for someone who loves Tarr’s 7.5-hour Sátántangó. And yet, on a visual and conceptual level, it inspires a grudging admiration.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 7:30pm 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
8pm Coriolanus Dir. Ralph Fiennes. 2011. 122mins. U.K. Updating one of Shakespeare’s lesser plays for a modern context, Fiennes relies so heavily on gimmicks—modern war footage, explanatory newscasts—that the language never takes center stage. Vanessa Redgrave is a highlight as Coriolanus’s jilted mother.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:10pm Best Intentions Dir. Adrian Sitaru. 2011. 105mins. Romania. A man grapples with what to do after his mother suffers a stroke in this reportedly real-time thriller. Not available for review.
* 8:20pm The Slut Dir. Hagar Ben-Asher. 2011. 88mins. Israel. An impressive debut feature by Israeli actor and filmmaker Ben-Asher, who plays the eponymous lead, The Slut follows an earthy and sexually insatiable single mother of two young girls who is drawn into an affair with a good-looking returning local. The movie is revealing for what it says about sexuality, desire and severely regimented faith.—Patrick Z. McGavin
8:20pm Smuggler Dir. Katsuhito Ishii. 2011. 115mins. Japan. If you’ve seen one over-the-top seriocomic Japanese crime picture, you’ve seen them all. This latest variation, about a meek corpse smuggler who gets mixed up in a gang war, offers the usual blend of broad mugging and stylized mayhem. A few moments of well-choreographed carnage fend off narcolepsy.—A.A. Dowd
9pm Women and Children Dir. Daniel Mitelpunkt. 2011. 80mins. U.K. About to become a parent for the second time, a hapless sod goes looking for the teen son he abandoned with his first wife, and learns that parenthood is, you know, not bad. A laugh or two can’t compensate for the overarching slightness.—Ben Kenigsberg
10pm Cold Sweat Dir. Adrián García Bogliano. 2010. 80mins. Argentina. The chilly perspiration of the title is actually nitroglycerin, liberally applied by a pair of crazed, aging revolutionaries to the glistening skin of several unlucky ladies. The move-and-you-explode set pieces are reasonably suspenseful, but this is otherwise forgettable claptrap, hampered by ill-defined heroes and a grating techno score.—A.A. Dowd
10:40pm Juan of the Dead Dir. Alejandro Brugués. 2011. 92mins. Cuba. You might think zombie movies are played out at this point, but this impressively cynical, sporadically funny entry benefits from the relative novelty of having been successfully made in Cuba, even in spite of its acerbic social critique.—Ben Kenigsberg
10:40pm A Lonely Place to Die Dir. Julian Gilbey. 2011. 99mins. U.K. Those with a fear of heights would do best avoiding this thriller set in the Scottish Highlands. The steep inclines and unforgiving drops prove much more terrifying than the plot, which concerns a group of mountain climbers who stumble into a Deliverance-style obstacle course.—A.A. Dowd