HollywoodChicago.com RSS   Facebook   HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter   Free Giveaway E-mail   

Feature: 2013 Chicago International Film Festival Highlights, Part One

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – The 49th Annual Chicago International Film Festival starts tonight, October 10, 2013, with a tribute to Roger Ebert and the premiere of James Gray’s “The Immigrant,” starring Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard. Wasting no time, there are at least a dozen flicks this weekend that could grab your attention. It’s one of the strongest CIFF line-ups in memory, with a few nearly-certain Oscar candidates next to some films that are unlikely to play again in Chicago any time soon.

We have a great mix of options for you in the first five days of the fest (10/10-14) in our first of three highlight pieces put together by Brian Tallerico, Patrick McDonald, and, making his HC debut, Nick Allen. The first page features films we’ve actually seen and recommend while the second features films over the same period that looked interesting that we either couldn’t get to or the publicity machine failed to allow us access to view. In chronological order. Get out your calendar and buy some tickets. (Initials in parentheses after each capsule indicates critic who wrote it.)

Walesa: Man of Hope
Walesa: Man of Hope
Photo credit: CIFF

“Walesa: Man of Hope”

Lech Walesa is one of the greatest social leaders of the 20th Century, and this Polish interpretation of his life is honorable and honest. Robert Wieckiewicz portrays Walesa in a balanced and measured way, projecting the leader’s humility in the face of Poland’s tumultuous history from 1970 through 1988. Walesa is a man of instinct in this film, someone who has little book education, yet with a brilliant gift for motivating his working class colleagues, and precipitating a change heard around the world. Directed by famed Polish filmmaker Andrej Wajda, who really understood Lech Walesa, the man. (PM)

Friday, 10/11, 5:30pm
Sunday, 10/13, 2:15pm
Wednesday, 10/16, 3:20pm

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
Photo credit: CIFF

“The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete”

Chicagoan George Tillman Jr. brings his latest drama to CIFF on the same day it opens in Chicago theaters, although you won’t be able to see it at 600 N. Michigan with Oscar-winning star Jennifer Hudson. She’s gives an effective supporting performance here as the drug addict mother of Mister, a headstrong young man trying to navigate the waters of urban living in New York City in 2013. Drugs, crime, cops, and an education system that has failed him serve as background for a lively, energetic piece that reminds one of Spike Lee’s tales of urban youth. (BT)

Friday, 10/11, 6:30pm

“Kill Your Darlings”

Kill Your Darlings
Kill Your Darlings
Photo credit: CIFF

John Krokidas’ film was divisive at Sundance and Toronto but those who love it seem to feel very strongly about what works about it. Consider me in that camp. Daniel Radcliffe continues to disprove the critics who thought he’d be stuck finding roles after Harry Potter by perfectly capturing the search for identity that comes when young people start carving their own paths instead of going down the ones laid out for them. This young person just happened to become Allen Ginsberg. Radcliffe is good and Krokidas crucially brings the piece a jazzy, rebellious attitude overall but “Darlings” is driven by a spectacular supporting performance by future star Dane Dehaan. A uniquely cast ensemble filled out by fascinating actors like Ben Foster, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen, and Jack Huston lends the entire piece the feel of something you haven’t quite seen before. It’s a coming-of-age story told from a different angle and we need more of those. (BT)

Friday, 10/11, 8:15pm

American Vagabond
American Vagabond
Photo credit: CIFF

“American Vagabond”

This is a notable documentary, the other side of the coin regarding families and gay acceptance in America. The film tells of the rejection of James Temple as he comes out to his family, in a small town in California. He runs away with his lover Tyler to San Francisco, but it doesn’t turn out to be the gay mecca they hoped for. Homeless and broke, the pair come back to their small town, and deal with the fallout from their escape. Director Susanna Helke extends the story a bit too much, using static and moving background shots against narration. The story is exceptional, but it felt padded. (PM)

Friday, 10/11, 8:30pm
Sunday, 10/13, 2:15pm

Stray Dogs
Stray Dogs
Photo credit: CIFF

“Stray Dogs”

Tsai Ming-Liang (“Goodbye Dragon Inn”) is well known in international circles for his incredibly deliberate pace but his latest will tax even the most patient viewers. As long as you’re warned that the nearly-silent opening take of a woman brushing her hair for roughly five full minutes is a tone-setter for what’s to come, “Dogs” is a haunting drama. The incredibly slow pace is thematically purposeful here in that I think Tsai’s film is about the numbing tedium of being homeless. It’s not that these people who live on the fringe of society are just hopeless but that they have no break from that hopelessness. There are no distractions, and Tsai lets you feel the soul-draining tragedy of day-to-day life. It’s a dark, depressing piece of work that features almost no dialogue or traditional narrative but you won’t soon forget it. (BT)

Friday, 10/11, 8:30pm
Sunday, 10/13, 12:30pm

Northwest
Northwest
Photo credit: CIFF

“Northwest”

With a grime that echoes the Euro-trashier early films of Nicolas Winding Refn, Northwest is a coming-of-criminality tale set within a chilly Danish underworld. Remarkable newcomer Gustav Dyekjær Giese plays Casper, a rising young thug who enlists the help of his younger brother (Oscar Dyekjær Giese) with rippling consequences. Co-written by Rasmus Heisterberg (co-writer for first The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo film adaptation) director Michael Noer’s hoodlum hierarchy film is cast with newcomer grit, especially from center focus Giese and his real-life brother. Along with sullen street scenes and gradual pacing, all lead Northwest to a tough rawness, making its unforgiving conclusion all the more crushing. (NA)

Saturday, 10/12, 2pm
Tuesday, 10/22, 6:30pm
Wednesday, 10/23, 6pm

Blue is the Warmest Color
Blue is the Warmest Color
Photo credit: CIFF

“Blue is the Warmest Color”

This extraordinary exploration of one woman’s relevant sexual emergence won the Palme d’Or – the top film award – at the Cannes Film Festival. Focusing on Adéle (Adéle Exarchopoulos) as she negotiates her love life by hooking up with Emma (Léa Seydoux). The sex is graphic, but it also provides a window into the passion of love and exploration through adolescence and young adulthood. It is also a discovery of how and who we are when we hook up into a serious relationship – what do we owe our lovers in fidelity and consequence? It’s long, and drags a bit, but is truly fascinating. (PM)

Saturday, 10/12, 6:30pm

12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave
Photo credit: CIFF

“12 Years a Slave”

The always-stellar Chiwetel Ejiofor leaps to the front of the Oscar race with what will be his breakthrough performance as Solomon Northup, a free man kidnapped and forced into slavery in Steve McQueen’s already-acclaimed drama. Ejiofor is riveting (and he’s matched by another incredible turn from Michael Fassbender) in this relentless tale of human struggle in unimaginable horror. McQueen pulls no punches, highlighting the daily horror of life as a slave in ways that we haven’t really seen on film before. I’ll go into deeper detail on my mixed feelings on some elements of the film next week in a full review but it’s definitely worth seeing. Be the first to do so in Chicago at CIFF. (BT)

Sunday, 10/13, 7pm

Hide Your Smiling Faces
Hide Your Smiling Faces
Photo credit: CIFF

“Hide Your Smiling Faces”

Some have criticized debut director Daniel Patrick Carbone’s excellent drama for being too reminiscent of David Gordon Green and Terrence Malick. As if THAT’S a problem. Carbone’s film will definitely remind you of “George Washington” and “Tree of Life” but it has its own tone as well in the way Carbone focuses on how death impacts adolescence. The days of young men having no care in the world, wrestling in the woods, and playing with whatever they find there, are shattered when one of them ends up at the bottom of a bridge. Two brothers at very different points in their youth respond with aggression and fear. It’s a captivating piece of work that heralds great things to come from its creator. (BT)

Monday, 10/14, 6:15pm
Wednesday, 10/16, 6:30pm
Tuesday, 10/22, 1:30pm

User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing

TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

Advertisement



HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter

archive

HollywoodChicago.com Top Ten Discussions
referendum
tracker