Preview: Week Two Films at 53rd Chicago International Film Festival

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CHICAGO – The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival is winding down, with the closing night film set for Thursday, October 26th, 2017 (“The Shape of Water”). But there are still many films to go until the end, and Jon Lennon Espino and Patrick McDonald of preview some choices for week two.

Each review is designated by (JE) Jon Espino and (PM) Patrick McDonald. For a PDF connection to the complete schedule, click here.


’Blade of the Immortal,’ Directed by Takashi Miike
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

Prolific director Takashi Miike has made 100 films, mostly in the last 20 years. His 100th feature, “Blade of the Immortal”, shows him in great form by delivering the same, entertaining, pulpy, over-the-top action we have come to expect from Miike. This film is less like his remake of “13 Assassins” and more like his previous film “Yakuza Apocalypse”. The sheer ridiculousness of this film, along with the ever-entertaining choreography, make the cinematic experience fun, if not a little mindless. The fast-paced, high energy of the film will make sure you aren’t bored for even a minute, and honestly, what more can you really want from a film? (JE)

Sunday, 10/22, 8:45pm

JANE (United States)

’Jane,’ Directed by Brett Morgen
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

This moving documentary follows the life of Jane Goodall, and how her childhood dreams turned into an important sociological examination at chimpanzees and the primal characteristics they share with us. Jane defies convention, refusing to lead a life of domesticity, and becoming a feminist icon in her own right. This documentary shows never before seen footage that allows Jane to tell her own story, not only giving us insight into the world of our ape descendants, but also a much deeper, more intimate look at the inspirational life of Jane. (JE)

Monday, 10/23, 6:30pm
Tuesday, 10/24, 3pm


’The Ballad of Lefty Brown,’ Directed by Jared Moshe
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

The western genre is alive and well with “The Ballad of Lefty Brown”. This film is almost a love letter to the genre, paying homage with every element and technique used. Sometimes they come off as heavy-handed and even eye-roll worthy, but what makes this film worthwhile is the unconventional choice of hero. Bill Pullman plays the simple, Forrest Gump-like character of Lefty Brown who goes seeking vengeance when his longtime friend is murdered. He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but his single-minded determination and loyalty should be enough to get the job done… or end in his death. (JE)

Monday, 10/23, 8pm

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (Italy/France/Brazil/U.S.)

’Call Me By Your Name,’ Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

In the summer of 1983, an American academic (Armie Hammer) arrives in Northern Italy to study with a notable professor (Michael Stuhlbarg), and ends up having a fling with the prof’s son (Timothée Chalamet). This sensitive first love story is deliberately paced, like a summer day, and never exploits the older man/emerging identity story. The conclusions are regally handled, especially the turn by Stulhbarg as a dedicated educator and devoted father. (PM)

Wednesday, 10/25, 8pm


’Sammy Davis JR: I Gotta Be Me,’ Directed by Sam Pollard
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

After seeing this film, I am convinced that Sammy Davis Jr. was one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th Century. The diminutive dynamo mastered so many arenas of performing – singing, dancing, comedy, drama, impressions and musicianship – and conquered most of the media available during his incredible 60 year career. Director Sam Pollard captures the man in all his complexities, especially as an African-American performer evolving through the stages of show business in the 1950s (segregation), 1960s (civil rights) and the 1970s on (black identity) with all of his perspectives, missteps and celebration. A must-see document of an American icon. (PM)

Although the film has finished its festival run, LOOK for this doc on PBS’s “American Masters”

READ MORE: “5 Ways to Love the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival,” click here. An interview with Artistic Director Mimi Plauché, click here. The Opening Night Red Carpet Slideshow/Interviews of “Marshall,” click here. A “podtalk” with the creators of the film, “Maktub,” click here. The Red Carpet for the filmed-in-Chicago, “Chasing the Blues,” click here. Another podtalk with the director and star of “Liquid Truth, click here.

The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival takes place through October 26th, 2017. THE BEST OF THE FEST, celebrating the award winners of the festival, will be on Wednesday, October 25th. Click here for films, film schedules, information and to purchase tickets. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2017 Patrick McDonald,

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