Chicago International Film Festival 2012 | CIFF reviews
Find out what you need to see October 18–25.
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.
* Recommended titles
1pm Color of Sky Dir. Dr. Biju. 2012. 117mins. India. A thief winds up stranded on an island where a man he’s tried to rob resides. Not available for review.
1pm Fuckload of Scotchtape Dir. Julian Grant. 2012. 84mins. USA. Scotchtape definitely presents a fuckload of cringe-inducing moments—from its amateurish acting to its poorly written and delivered voiceovers. (“Fags always have drugs,” the main character says with a barely post-pubescent rasp.) But the worst are the bizarre interludes in which the pretty-boy protagonist looks dead into the camera and lip-synchs to the sappy acoustic soundtrack. The recover-the-stolen-money plot gets lost about 30 minutes in.—Alec Moran
1:15pm A Secret World Dir. Gabriel Mariño. 2012. 87mins. Mexico. Teenage María suddenly leaves her mom’s house in Mexico City to go road-tripping, where she encounters strangers of varying degrees of pleasantness and creepiness. We watch María’s impassive face while a couple of men treat her as a sexual vessel, yet the film likewise sees her as little more than a mopey cipher.—Novid Parsi
2pm Everybody’s Got Somebody…Not Me Dir. Raúl Fuentes. 2012. 100mins. Mexico. Clunky title aside, this is a light-footed feature debut for Fuentes, who puts a sapphic spin on the Woody Allen–ish plot of a middle-aged intellectual romancing a teenager. Strikingly shot in black-and-white, the film has a stylistic playfulness that partially compensates for its fairly pedestrian love story.—A.A. Dowd
2pm Germania Dir. Maximiliano Schonfeld. 2012. 75mins. Argentina. An extremely tight-knit family of German extraction deals with change—specifically, selling the farm—in rural Argentina. The cinematography is lovely, but with the brief running time, a sense of place and culture never quite takes hold.—Ben Kenigsberg
3:15pm An Oversimplification of Her Beauty Dir. Terence Nance. 2012. 90mins. USA. The director, playing a character based on himself, analyzes an unrequited attraction through a prism of mixed media. Not available for review.
3:30pm Yuma Dir. Piotr Mularuk. 2012. 113mins. Poland/Czech Republic. A very small-potatoes true-crime saga gets a slightly bloated screen treatment in Mularuk’s overlong drama, which draws its title from both the 1957 version of 3:10 to Yuma—excerpted here—and a small German border town that a group of Polish punks begins looting after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Packed with nothing but unlikable characters, Yuma earns a couple of points for its almost complete lack of gunplay—a distinction in the gangster genre.—A.A. Dowd
3:45pm Once Upon a Time Was I, Veronica Dir. Marcelo Gomes. 2012. 90mins. Brazil. A Recife-based psychiatrist (Hermila Guedes) has trouble healing herself—in terms of both committing to a relationship and caring for her ailing father—in this rather schematic Brazilian feature.—Ben Kenigsberg
4pm The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni Dir. Rania Stephan. 2011. 70mins. Lebanon. This impressionistic memorial attempts to capture the essence of Egyptian actress Soad Hosni (1943–2001) using clips from her screen appearances. Stylistically, that makes for a striking antidote to the standard bio-doc, though you’d need a working knowledge of Egyptian cinema to fully appreciate it.—Ben Kenigsberg
4:15pm Fable Dir. Lester Hamlet. 2011. 92mins. Cuba. A Havana man falls for a prostitute. Not available for review.
5:30pm Empire Builder Dir. Kris Swanberg. 2012. 70mins. USA. With her husband (Swanberg’s actual spouse, filmmaker Joe) planning to join her in a week, a new Chicago mom (Kate Lyn Sheil) heads off to a mountain cabin. Soon she’s fantasizing about the construction worker (Bill Ross) rehabbing the place, a man who’s pretty much her white-collar hubby’s opposite. Sheil’s performance and well-choreographed long takes add delicate layers of suggestion, although the film sells itself short by going for the obvious punch line.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 5:30pm Our Children Dir. Joachim Lafosse. 2012. 111mins. Belgium/Luxembourg. Three is most certainly a crowd in Lafosse’s devastating look at a young married couple (Tahar Rahim and Émilie Dequenne) whose lives are intertwined with that of an elderly doctor (Niels Arestrup). The latter raised the husband, an Arab immigrant, since he was a lad—so why shouldn’t the kindly physician live with the now-grown man and his new wife and virtually control every aspect of their lives? Dequenne is the movie’s MVP; the way the Rosetta star goes from quiet suffocation to full-blown mental breakdown is nothing short of revelatory.—David Fear
6pm David Robinson: Silent Surprises Various dirs. Approx. 90mins. The director of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival will show a series of recently rediscovered works from before the sound era.
6pm An Evening with Steve James A.V. Club critic Scott Tobias will chat with the Interrupters director.
6:15pm Shun Li and the Poet Dir. Andrea Segre. 2011. 100mins. Italy. Shun Li is a young Chinese woman working at a café in Venice, trying to save enough money to bring her son abroad. The “poet” is an aging Yugoslavian fisherman with whom she bonds. Their platonic love affair forms the crux of Segre’s quietly moving drama, which stumbles only in the contrived manner with which it inevitably separates its lonely protagonists.—A.A. Dowd
6:30pm Shadow Dancer Dir. James Marsh. 2012. 100mins. U.K./Ireland. Marsh (Man on Wire, Project Nim) brings a grounded, unpolished sense of reality to this atmospheric Belfast drama set in the early ’90s. Andrea Riseborough plays a single mom from a hard-line IRA family dead-set against the looming political settlement. The acting is impeccable, though the pace at times feels sluggish.—Cath Clarke
6:30pm Tchoupitoulas Dirs. Bill and Turner Ross. 2012. 80mins. USA. In a narrative work imbued with a strong documentary flavor, three boys wander New Orleans at night, providing a striking look at local revelry and culture. The impressionistic visuals aren’t quite enough to make up for the overarching feeling of drift.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 7pm Silver Linings Playbook Dir. David O. Russell. 2012. 117mins. USA. You’d think it would be possible to resist a movie in which a bipolar basket case (Bradley Cooper) cures what ails him through the love and aid of a Depressive Pixie Dream Girl (Jennifer Lawrence). But the never-better leads, Russell’s deft orchestration of overlapping shouting matches, large gads of Philadelphia flavor and Robert De Niro rousing himself for a change make this one of the crowd-pleasers of the year.—Ben Kenigsberg
8pm Marie Krøyer Dir. Bille August. 2012. 103mins. Denmark. The wife of Danish painter Peder Severin Krøyer (1851–1909) feels stifled in their marriage. His mental instability drives her away, but it also gives August’s perfunctory infidelity drama what little excitement it has.—Ben Kenigsberg
8pm Sea Shadow Dir. Nawaf Al-Janahi. 2011. 98mins. United Arab Emirates. Two teenagers—a boy desperate to get into the dating game, a girl anxious about the attention of her male neighbors—make eyes in the streets of Ras al-Khaimah. The film then splinters into parallel story lines, keeping these would-be sweethearts apart as they bristle under their parents’ tough love. The insight into Emirati gender relations is interesting; little else about this flatly earnest drama is.—A.A. Dowd
* 8:15pm Sister Dir. Ursula Meier. 2012. 97mins. Switzerland. Resilient and resourceful, young Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) moves between two worlds—the street-level apartment building where he lives with his deadbeat older sister (Léa Seydoux) and the mountaintop Swiss ski resort where he steals from the vacationing rich to support his broken family. Aided by cinematographer Agnès Godard, Meier deftly explores the character’s fracturing sense of self while grounding him in a vividly realized locale.—Keith Uhlich
* 8:30pm Coming of Age Dirs. Sabine Hiebler and Gerhart Ertl. 2011. 90mins. Austria. Hiebler and Ertl’s octogenarian love-and-death drama is equally frank about sex for seniors and the horrors of caring for someone terminally ill. (Fairly or not, it will draw comparisons to Michael Haneke’s Amour.) Christine Ostermayer and Karl Merkatz have undeniable chemistry; despite a few rushed and implausible plot developments, this is pretty powerful.—Hank Sartin
8:30pm Hemel Dir. Sacha Polak. 2012. 80mins. Netherlands. The title character, whose name means Heaven, drifts from pickup to pickup without ever finding satisfaction. It’s a sentiment viewers may relate to, as Hemel packs in sex scene after sex scene without providing much in the way of eroticism or interest. Baiting the art-house contingent, the movie attributes its protag’s chronic neediness to repressed family trauma.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:45pm Dreams for Sale Dir. Miwa Nishikawa. 2012. 134mins. Japan. A restaurant fire leaves a couple in a financial hole. Naturally, there’s no better way to fund the new place than for the husband to pimp himself out as an escort. Wait, what? Tonally screwy, Nishikawa’s not-quite-farce expends far too much time on far too little.—Ben Kenigsberg
9pm King Curling Dir. Ole Endresen. 2011. 75mins. Norway. You saw Goon? Now see it in Norwegian, with curling instead of hockey. Not available for review.