A day-by-day guide to the Chicago International Film Festival.
* Recommended titles
3:15pm Blue Dir. Ryan Miningham. 2009. 110mins. USA. A boxer tries to overcome his criminal past.
3:30pm Partners Dir. Frédéric Mermoud. 2009. 93mins. France/Switzerland. A hot love affair between two teens leads to death.
4pm Case Unknown Dir. Feliks Falk. 2009. 102mins. Poland. This tale of a psychiatrist who brings a patient home to his family walks a tense tightrope—horror, supernatural or thriller?—before slackening in the second half. —Rebecca Maughan
4:15pm Don’t Let Me Drown Dir. Cruz Angeles. 2009. 105mins. USA. Brooklyn teenagers eke out surprisingly endearing relationships under the heavy (and heavy-handed) shadow of September 11. —Julia Kramer
4:30pm Sweet Rush Dir. Andrzej Wajda. 2009. 84mins. Poland. After longtime Wajda star Krystyna Janda’s husband died during production, Wajda and Janda reworked the movie’s story of aging and grief to give it a self-reflexive framework. Ambitious but not particularly coherent, it stands in relation to Wajda’s heyday as Saraband does to Ingmar Bergman’s. —Ben Kenigsberg
* 5pm The Girl on the Train Dir. André Téchiné. 2009. 105mins. France. Téchiné brings an exquisite mix of thriller-like tension and psychological probing to this story of a troubled young woman who tells a terrible lie with serious consequences. —Hank Sartin
5:45pm Made in China Dir. Judi Krant. 2009. 87mins. USA. A confident but dim American kid attempts to sell his novelty item in China, where he’s apparently surprised to find that English is not the native language. Imagine Wes Anderson without wit, timing or a competent editor.—Ben Kenigsberg
6pm Bellamy Dir. Claude Chabrol. 2009. 110mins. France. Gerard Depardieu stars in this lighthearted detective story.
6:15pm Rain Dir. Maria Govan. 2009. 93mins. Bahamas. A teenager tries to survive living in the ghettos of Nassau in the Bahamas.
* 6:30pm Hipsters Dir. Valery Todorovsky. 2008. 125mins. Russia. Can you resist a crowd-pleasing Russian musical about teens in ’50s Moscow who fight the politburo by slicking back their hair and dancing? We tried but gave up after ten minutes; many will swoon instantly.—Ben Kenigsberg
6:45pm Ricky Dir. François Ozon. 2009. 90mins. France/Italy. A single woman’s life is thrown into chaos when she has a baby.
7:30pm Red Cliff Dir. John Woo. 2008. 146mins. China. Chinese warlords battle for control of the empire. Woo’s original cut, being shown in two parts in Asia, is four hours long. This condensed version is stunning to look at but feels a bit rushed.—Hank Sartin
8:15pm Revenge Dir. Paulo Pons. 2008. 105mins. Brazil. What’s the connection between a tempestuous romance in Rio de Janeiro and the rape of a woman in the country? This thriller teases out the answer.
9pm Give Me Your Hand Dir. Pascal-Alex Vincent. 2008. 80mins. France. Twin brothers journey to their mother’s funeral and learn things about themselves along the way.
9:30pm Mother Dir. Bong Joon-ho. 2009. 129mins. South Korea. This festival favorite isn’t as controlled as Bong’s Memories of Murder, but its story of a mother (Kim Hye-ja) attempting to save her slow son from a murder rap compensates with a constant stream of surprises.—Ben Kenigsberg
10:30pm The Rapture of Fe Dir. Alvin Yapan. 2009. 78mins. Philippines. Someone is sending a woman baskets of black fruit. Is it her husband? Her young lover? Or someone else?
* 11pm Cropsey Dirs. Barbara Brancaccio. 2009. 84mins. USA. Not for nothing is CIFF showing this genuinely creepy essay film—which concerns three decades-old kidnapping cases and the insular culture of Staten Island—as a late-night show. Unsatisfying as investigation, it’s an intriguing example how to salvage a doc that didn’t pan out.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 11pm The House of the Devil Dir. Ti West. 2008. 95mins. USA. Standard baby-sitter-trapped-in-creepy-house yarn impressively emulates the look and acting styles of an ’80s horror film without falling prey to camp. The ending is a disappointment, but there’s suspense aplenty along the way.—Ben Kenigsberg
12:15pm Spy(ies) Dir. Nicolas Saada. 2009. 99mins. France/U.K. After an explosion in a French airport, a luggage inspector gets tabbed by an undercover agent to hit London in search of the terrorists. On the way, he finds love in a woman linked to the terrorists, which is when the atmospheric and slick thriller turns a bit too emo. —Jonathan Messinger
1pm Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl Dir. Manoel de Oliveira. 2009. 64mins. Portugal/Spain. More involving than some of the 100-year-old Portuguese master’s recent output, Eccentricities mixes a 19th-century courtship plot with modern(ish) surroundings. Intriguing for those accustomed to Oliveira’s minimalist, almost portraitist style.—Ben Kenigsberg
1:30pm Eastern Plays Dir. Kamen Kalev. 2009. 83mins. Bulgaria/Sweden. In Bulgaria, a teen gets drawn into a racist gang. Meanwhile, an aimless artist drifts through his life. The film withholds how these stories are connected to keep us interested, a plot trick that feels forced.—Hank Sartin
1:45pm Women in Trouble Dir. Sebastian Gutierrez. 2009. 94mins. USA. Playing like a string of dull Penthouse letters adapted for the big screen, this shallow, shiftless film centers on several ladies (think L.A. sex-industry types) who get confessional while in various states of duress and undress. —Jake Malooley
2pm Little Moscow Dir. Waldemar Krystek. 2009. 114mins. Poland. A Russian aviator and his wife are stationed in Poland in the late 1960s. She gets involved with a Polish soldier. This can’t go well.
2:30pm Red Cliff See Fri 9.
2:45pm Shorts 1: Illinois(e)makers Various dirs. and years. 79mins. USA. As you might guess, all the films in this program have an Illinois connection.
* 3pm About Elly Dir. Asghar Farhadi. 2009. 119mins. Iran. What starts superbly as a sort of Iranian L’Avventura—a baby-sitter drowns or runs away, and the parents who hired her have to decide whether they’re responsible—becomes disappointingly literal-minded when Farhadi starts providing answers.—Ben Kenigsberg
3:30pm Ricky See Fri 9.
4pm The Long Night Dir. Hatem Ali. 2009. 93mins. Syria. Three political prisoners are released after two decades. As they make their way home, their families have mixed emotions about their impending return. A few moments are very sharp, but there’s a bit too much repetitive angsty looking out of windows.—Hank Sartin
4:30pm The Maid Dir. Sebastian Silva. 2009. 94mins. Chile. To ease the burden of their live-in help, a family hires a second maid. Conflict ensues.
* 5pm The Athlete Dirs. Davey Frankel and Rasselas Lakew. 2009 93mins. USA/Ethiopia. Based on the true life story of Africa’s first Olympic gold medalist, The Athlete switches between incredible archival footage of the real Abebe Bikila in action with dramatic and gorgeously shot scenes starring Ethiopian Rasselas Lakew. It deserves a permanent place in the runner’s movie pantheon.—John Dugan
* 5:30pm The Girl on the Train See Fri 9.
* 5:45pm Vincere Dir. Marco Bellocchio. 2009. 128mins. Italy/France. The story of Mussolini’s first wife (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), whom he refused to acknowledge and eventually had committed. The movie essentially turns into Changeling in its second hour, but it’s a provocative mix of politics and melodrama by one of the lions of Italian cinema.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 6pm Hipsters See Fri 9.
6:30pm Give Me Your Hand See Fri 9.
6:45pm Partners See Fri 9.
7:30pm Chicago Overcoat Dir. Brian Caunter. 2009. 95mins. USA. An aging mob hit man (Frank Vincent) takes on one last set of executions so he can get out of the business. The cast does what it can with the all-too-familiar mob stereotypes, and the production values are high, but Caunter pulls the movie in several directions at once—character study one minute, comic-book assassin thriller the next. That’s rather jarring.—Hank Sartin
8pm The Messenger Dir. Oren Moverman. 2009. 105mins. USA. The hard job of informing deceased soldiers’ next of kin makes for some interesting drama, but when one of these messengers (Ben Foster) starts a romance with one of the widows to whom he brings the bad news, the drama feels forced and false.—Hank Sartin
8:30pm Love & Savagery Dir. John N. Smith. 2009. 96mins. Canada/Ireland. The landscape (Ireland’s geologically weird Burren) is haunting, but the romance between a visiting geologist/poet (yeah, we thought it was a stretch too) and a woman on the brink of entering a convent borders on Harlequin-romance territory.—Hank Sartin
8:30pm Looking for Eric Dir. Ken Loach. 2009. 116mins. U.K./France/Italy/Belgium/Spain. “Eric” being Eric Cantona, a beloved French soccer player who fantasy-mentors a postal worker à la Humphrey Bogart in Play It Again, Sam. (The difference is that Cantona plays himself, badly.) Pretty dull, but fans of Loach and Cantona seem to think there’s something there.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:45pm Cedar Boys Dir. Serhat Caradee. 2009. 106mins. Australia. Apart from exploring the little-depicted subject of Lebanese immigration in Australia, this gangland youth drama hits only the expected notes.—Ben Kenigsberg
9:15pm Raging Sun, Raging Sky Dir. Julián Hernández. 2009. 3hrs 11mins. Mexico. A young gay man looks for love in Mexico City.
10:50pm The Eclipse Dir. Conor McPherson. 2009. 88mins. Ireland. A widower and a pop novelist compete for the affections of a woman who writes supernatural fiction.
11pm The Revenant Dir. Kerry Prior. 2009. 105mins. USA. Amusing horror-comedy pays its debts to Buffy and ’80s cheese like My Best Friend Is a Vampire, although the final stab at political relevance feels unearned. We saw an unfinished version, so it may still have an afterlife.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 11:15pm The House of the Devil See Fri 9.
Noon Partners See Fri 9.
12:30pm Hipsters See Fri 9.
* 12:45pm The Girl on the Train See Fri 9.
12:45pm Chicago Overcoat See Sat 10.
* 1pm Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno Dirs. Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea. 2009. 94mins. France. This unmissable documentary presents fragments of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s unfinished 1964 film Inferno, using its out-of-control production as a metaphor for obsession. The clips alone are reason to see it, and one of the questions the movie poses is whether they’re better off in this form.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 1:30pm Girls on the Wall Dir. Heather Ross. 2009. 61mins. USA. This moving doc about girls at a juvenile detention center in west suburban Warrenville rehearsing a musical they wrote about their troubled pasts demonstrates the healing power of expressing their pent-up emotions and exposing their vulnerability. —Laura Baginksi
2:15pm A Frozen Flower Dir. Yoo Ha. 2008. 133mins. South Korea. To preserve his lineage, a 14th-century Korean king orders his right-hand man to impregnate the queen. Plays on genre conventions in interesting ways, but it’s also a bit of a mess.—Ben Kenigsberg
3pm My Neighbor, My Killer Dir. Anne Aghion. 2009. 80mins. USA/France. Aghion’s intimate doc takes on the fascinating subject of the Gacaca tribunals, in which Rwandans tried their own neighbors, but the presentation is exceedingly dry.—Ben Kenigsberg
3pm Love & Savagery See Sat 10.
3:15pm Cedar Boys See Sat 10.
3:15pm Looking for Eric See Sat 10.
3:30pm Beyond Ipanema Dir. Guto Barra. 2009. 80mins. Brazil/USA. A dry if comprehensive survey of Brazilian pop’s global wake, from Carmen Miranda to CSS. David Byrne figures heavily, natch. —Brent DiCrescenzo
5pm Roger Ebert Presents… Our pal Roger picks a film he thinks deserves special attention. The title is not announced in advance, so you’ll have to trust Roger’s taste.
5:30pm The Long Night See Sat 10.
* 5:30pm Cropsey See Fri 9.
* 5:45pm Tomorrow at Dawn Dir. Denis Dercourt. 2009. 96mins. France. As he did in The Page Turner, Dercourt delivers a carefully calibrated mix of psychological drama and thriller elements in this look at the subculture of historical reenactors.—Hank Sartin
6pm The Maid See Sat 10.
6pm An Education Dir. Lone Scherfig. 2009. 100mins. U.K. A memoir of early-’60s teenagehood and class snobbery in Britain is given a reasonably engaging treatment by Nick Hornby, who wrote the script, but lead Carey Mulligan steals the show.—Ben Kenigsberg
7:30pm The Messenger See Sat 10.
8pm Made in China See Fri 9.
8pm Eye of the Storm Dir. Eduardo Valente. 2009. 118mins. Brazil/Portugal. The lead-up and aftermath of a policeman’s accidental shooting of a hostage connects people of different classes. The jumbled chronology of this drama feels like the raison d’etre of the whole film.—Hank Sartin
8:15pm Sweet Rush See Fri 9.
8:30pm The Last Days of Emma Blank Dir. Alex van Warmerdam. 2009. 90mins. The Netherlands. Wheel-spinning dark comedy about a tyrannical matriarch and the family members who hate her, but the sardonic Dutch humor is good for a few laughs.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:45pm Mother See Fri 9.
* 2:30pm About Elly
See Sat 10.
3:30pm New Voices From the Americas Panel It’s a panel of filmmakers from North, South and Central America discussing their craft.
3:45pm Rain See Fri 9.
4pm Northless Dir. Rigoberto Pérezcano. 2009. 93mins. Mexico/Spain. What at first appears to be a routine immigration drama is distinguished by its protagonist’s failure to cross the border, at which point it becomes a similarly familiar movie about community and generosity.—Ben Kenigsberg
4:15pm Eastern Plays See Sat 10.
5pm Cooking History Dir. Peter Kérekes. 2009. 88mins. Austria/Slovakia. This doc traces 20th-century military history through the cooking. Kérekes is heavy on staged action, making his subjects do quirky things for droll effect even as they tell stories of war. That makes for an entertaining contrast between the horrors of war and the practicalities of feeding an army.—Hank Sartin
5:30pm Gigante Dir. Adrián Beniez. 2009. 90mins. Uruguay/Argentina/Germany/Spain. A comedy so slight you worry it might fade off the screen, but decently entertaining as such. A supermarket guard develops a crush on a cleaning woman and stalks her through the security monitors.—Ben Kenigsberg
5:30pm The Last Days of Emma Blank See Sun 11.
* 6pm Vincere See Sat 10.
6pm Plastic City Dir. Yu Lik Wai. 2008. 118mins. Brazil/China. Chinese criminals play rough on the dangerous streets of São Paulo, Brazil.
6:15pm Sweet Rush See Fri 9.
6:15pm Beyond Ipanema See Sun 11.
* 7pm Antichrist Dir. Lars von Trier. 2009. 104mins. Denmark/Germany/France/Sweden/Italy/Poland. Half-prank, half–sincere exploration of the dissolution of a marriage, von Trier’s crazy whatsit aspires to scandalize an audience. Go with an open mind, don’t bring anyone squeamish and—our interview notwithstanding—don’t read too much about it.—Ben Kenigsberg
8pm A Place of One’s Own Dir. Lou Yi-an. 2009. 118mins. Taiwan/Hong Kong. The lives of an indie rocker and an aging origami expert become intertwined when a real-estate deal goes bad.
8pm Raging Sun, Raging Sky See Sat 10.
8:30pm Straight to the Heart Dir. Stéphane Géhami. 2009. 109mins. Canada. A career criminal falls in love and tries to go straight for the sake of his girl.
8:30pm Revenge See Fri 9.
* 8:30pm Tomorrow at Dawn See Sun 11.
8:45pm Case Unknown See Fri 9.
9:30pm The Thank You Girls Dir. Charliebebs Gohetia. 2008. 105mins. Philippines. A group of drag queens seeks fame and fortune by touring the Filipino countryside.
3:15pm Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl See Sat 10.
3:30pm Plastic City See Mon 12.
3:30pm Cedar Boys See Sat 10.
3:45pm Love & Savagery See Sat 10
4pm Prank Dir. Péter Gárdos. 2009. 93mins. Hungary. Masterful framing and a fetish for zoetropes mesmerize in what’s essentially Lord of the Flies set in a cloister. —Brent DiCrescenzo
4pm Made in China See Fri 9.
4:15pm Give Me Your Hand See Fri 9.
5pm Cooking History See Mon 12.
5pm I Know a Woman Like That Dir. Elaine Madsen. 2009. 103mins. USA. This doc celebrates strong women, including Rita Moreno, Eartha Kitt and Evanston Mayor Lorraine Morton. (Film Row Cinema, Columbia College, 1104 S Wabash Ave.)
5:45pm Straight to the Heart See Mon 12.
6pm Storm Dir. Hans-Christian Schmid. 2009. 107mins. Germany/Denmark. A prosecutor hunts for evidence to shore up her case on the atrocities committed in Bosnia.
* 6pm Police, Adjective Dir. Corneliu Porumboiu. 2009. 113mins. Romania. The most methodical pot bust in cinema history is actually just a pretext for an exploration of the role language plays in bureaucracy. It may seem slow, but wait until Vlad Ivanov (the abortionist in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) shows up in the final reel.—Ben Kenigsberg
6pm Eye of the Storm See Sun 11.
6:15pm Green Waters Dir. Mariano De Rosa. 2009. 89mins. Argentina. A father is the only one in his family not charmed by his daughter’s smooth-talking boyfriend in this thriller.
6:15pm Nothing Personal Dir. Mathias Gokalp. 2009. 90mins. France. Rumors of a buyout disrupt a company banquet, with everyone preparing for the back-stabbing and conniving they’ll need to get ahead.
* 7pm The Athlete See Sat 10.
8:15pm Little Moscow See Sat 10.
8:20pm The Be All And End All Dir. Bruce Webb. 2009. 100mins. U.K. When a teen learns he’s dying, his one wish is to get laid before he goes. He asks his best pal to arrange it, with gently comical results. It’s enjoyable enough, and though certain key dramatic moments are jumped over, the portrait of a teen friendship is endearing.—Hank Sartin
8:30pm Rain See Fri 9.
8:30pm A Frozen Flower See Sun 11.
8:40pm Gigante See Mon 12.
9pm Eastern Plays See Sat 10.
9:30pm The Rapture of Fe See Fri 9.
3:30pm Eye of the Storm See Sun 11.
3:45pm Gigante See Mon 12.
4pm Shorts 3: Rediscovery Various dirs. and years. 90mins. Various nations. We’re not sure when the shorts in this program were discovered or why they were subsequently lost, demanding a rediscovery.
4:15pm The Maid See Sat 10.
4:30pm Nothing Personal See Tue 13.
5:30pm A Place of One’s Own See Mon 12.
5:45pm Little Moscow See Sat 10.
* 6pm Lost Times Dir. Áron Mátyássy. 2009. 90mins. Hungary. The strength of this drama about a young guy caught between his own dreams and his responsibility for his autistic sister is the way Mátyássy gets us inside the heads of both characters, allowing us to imagine the limits of an autistic girl’s world in a small town, even while we ache for the sacrifices the brother makes.—Hank Sartin
6pm Mammoth Dir. Lukas Moodysson. 2009. 125mins. Sweden/Denmark. It’s another multi-story drama, this time involving a successful New York couple, their Filipino nanny, a Thai woman forced into the sex trade and, no doubt, a host of others.
6:15pm Nymph Dir. Pen-ek Ratanaruang. 2009. 94mins. Thailand. A stunning opening sequence suggests Ratanaruang is trying to imitate his acclaimed countryman, Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady). But then the movie morphs into a frustrating shaggy-dog story, which seems to be Ratanaruang’s preferred mode.—Ben Kenigsberg
6:15pm Daniel & Ana Dir. Michel Franco. 2009. 90mins. Mexico. Franco brings a chilly distance to this tale of rich siblings kidnapped and forced to have sex for an Internet video. This is just too cold to engage us in their trauma, instead feeling weirdly prurient as we watch them fall apart, as if the film were an extension of the pornographic video at its center.—Hank Sartin
6:30pm Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl See Sat 10.
* 6:30pm Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire Dir. Lee Daniels. 2009. 109mins. USA. In this Sundance-garlanded portrait of a teenager in late-’80s Harlem—pregnant with her second child by her father—the sublime shares equal time with the cringeworthy. Even with major flaws, you’ve never seen anything quite like this.—Ben Kenigsberg
8pm The Moon Inside You Dir. Diana Fabiánová. 2009. 75mins. Spain/Slovakia. Fabiánová questions the stigma surrounding menstruation, blending interviews, vintage educational films and animation in this lighthearted feminist documentary. —Lauren Weinberg
8:15pm Storm See Tue 13.
8:15pm Just Walking Dir. Agustín Díaz Yanes. 2008. 129mins. Spain/Mexico. Four woman plan to take on powerful drug lords.
8:30pm Green Waters See Tue 13.
8:30pm Face Dir. Tsai Ming-liang. 2009. 141mins. France/Taiwan/Belgium/The Netherlands. Tsai continues his French New Wave fetishism by casting a who’s who of Gallic cinema, and his approach to filming at the Louvre is both striking and counterintuitive. Probably better appreciated by longtime fans than first-timers.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:40pm Fish Tank Dir. Andrea Arnold. 2009. 124mins. U.K. As she demonstrated with Red Road, Arnold has considerable formal chops and a way with actors (in this case, newcomer Katie Jarvis). But even Michael Fassbender can’t save this coming-of-age drama from its own banality.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:45pm Shorts 2: Animation Nations Various dirs. and years. 82mins. Various nations. Yes, it’s a program of animated short films from around the world.
For updates on any schedule changes and ticket information, go to chicagofilmfestival.org.