Cities In Cinema
September 8 – December 15
From September 8 through December 15, we offer a series of fourteen programs entitled “Cities in Cinema,” with weekly Tuesday lectures by Fred Camper, artist and longtime art and film critic for the Chicago Reader and many other publications. The series is presented in cooperation with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.
– Martin Rubin, Associate Director of Programming, Gene Siskel Film Center
This series explores connections between cinema and the modern city. The mechanized city emerged alongside cinema's origins, and some films, notably MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, suggest this parallel. The city is often present as a mechanism outside the characters’ control, most obviously in METROPOLIS. Cities may serve as backdrops for narratives (COLLATERAL), and as metaphors for the central theme of a narrative (L’ARGENT). Documentaries have focused on the inhabitants of the city (LE JOLI MAI), and experimental filmmakers have depicted it poetically (RAIN).
– Fred Camper
Admission to all “Cities in Cinema” programs is $5 for Film Center members; usual admission prices apply for non-members. Additional screenings of the films on Friday or Saturday do not include Prof. Camper’s lecture.
Man with a Movie Camera
Chelovek s kinoapparatom
1929, Dziga Vertov, USSR, 68 min.
The reputations of both Vertov and this film, his acknowledged masterpiece, have soared in recent years, with MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA voted the greatest documentary of all time in a 2014 Sight and Sound poll. The apotheosis of the “City Film” documentary movement of the late 1920s-early 1930s, MAN creates a composite City out of three cities (Moscow, Kiev, Odessa), starting in the dormant dawn and continuing into the sports-filled afternoon, before the chronological sequence breaks down in an ecstatic finale. One of the most dazzlingly edited films ever made, MAN is a statement on both the city and the act of filmmaking, the latter evoked in self-referential tropes that are playful and profound. 35mm print courtesy of Alloy Orchestra. Silent film with live piano accompaniment by Dave Drazin. (MR)
1927, Fritz Lang, Germany, 147 min. With Brigitte Helm, Rudolf Klein-Rogge.
"A delirious, dreamlike class parable whose dystopia still feels exhilaratingly modern." – David Fear, Time Out New York
Lang's spectacular vision of a futuristic city where workers are turned into machines has long been one of the enduring classics of film history, its mind-boggling visual design tied to a boldly allegorical story involving a ruthless plutocrat, his soft-hearted son, a mad scientist, the angelic leader of the oppressed workers, and her demonic robot double. A disastrous commercial failure, METROPOLIS was chopped almost in half soon after its original release, then gradually pieced together in a series of restorations, with a miraculous 2008 discovery of missing footage in Buenos Aires bringing it to nearly complete form. Silent film with original orchestral score. DCP digital. (MR)
1933, Frank Borzage, USA, 75 min. With Spencer Tracy, Loretta Young.
- Sat, Sep 19th 5:00pm
- Tue, Sep 22nd 6:00pm
"Few love stories have achieved the emotional intensity of MAN’S CASTLE." – Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
This episodic, humor-filled melodrama by master romanticist Borzage combines Depression desperation, pre-Code sexuality (including a moonlit skinny dip), and expressive, Murnau-influenced visuals. A penniless girl (Young) is taken under the wing of a cocky, commitment-shy vagabond (Tracy); the story centers on the difficulty of reconciling his frontier spirit with her civilizing domesticity (represented by a shiny new stove). Borzage creates a magical New York City out of studio sets and back-projections, with the shantytown Bagville-on-the-Hudson depicted as a down-and-out Eden susceptible to temptation and the occasional snake. 35mm.
PRECEDED ON TUESDAY BY
1929, Joris Ivens Netherlands, 14 min., silent, 16mm.
And a second short film, TBA.
1953, Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 95 min. With Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter.
A murderer confesses to a priest (Clift), who, under the seal of the confessional, cannot reveal this information when he himself is accused of the crime. I CONFESS was a key film in the reevaluation of Hitchcock’s stature that was initiated by French critics in the 1950s, and it remains one of his most fascinating and offbeat films. Stunningly photographed on location, it ranks with VERTIGO as one of Hitchcock’s most fully realized cityscapes, with the imposing architecture and steep streets of Quebec City serving as an expressive stage for spiritual struggle and martyrdom. 35mm.
PRECEDED ON TUESDAY BY
THE WONDER RING
1958, Stan Brakhage and Joseph Cornell, USA, 6 min., silent, 16mm
Artists and Models
1955, Frank Tashlin, USA, 109 min. With Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Shirley MacLaine.
“The historic first teaming of Jerry Lewis and director Frank Tashlin jolts this glorious, Technicolor-soaked, gag-rich, fetish-crammed 1950s farce into the stratosphere.” – Paul Mavis, DVD Talk
Fifties comedy king Tashlin’s first Martin & Lewis film casts Dino as a skirt-chasing Rembrandt and Jerry as a comic-book fanatic whose nightmares provide straight-from-the-id material for the lurid adventures of Vincent the Vulture (“Half-boy! Half-man! Half-bird!”). Oozing with homoerotic subtext, intimations of the impending M&L break-up, and overt references to the era’s anti-comic book and anti-Communist hysterias--is it any wonder that this boldly colored, brilliantly conceived comedy hinges on the confusion of reality and make-believe? This original IB 35mm print from a private collection offers a rare opportunity to see the film in its full Technicolor glory. (MR)
1950, Luis Buñuel, Mexico, 80 min. With Alfonso Mejia, Robert Cobo.
“The most horrifying of all films about juvenile crime. The one masterwork on this subject, it stands apart from the genre by its pitilessness, its controlled passion.” – Pauline Kael, The New Yorker
After a long period in the wilderness following his early surrealist masterpieces, Buñuel reestablished himself as one of the world’s top filmmakers with this scalding, often startling masterpiece set in the slums of Mexico City. The story centers on two boys, the well-meaning Julio (Mejia) and the amoral predator Jaibo (Cobo in a legendary performance) who shadows Julio like his demon brother. Critiquing neorealism for what he considered its incomplete view of reality, Buñuel supplies the missing dimensions of dreams, fantasy, and the imagination--critic J. Hoberman called the result “neosurrealism.” In Spanish with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)
Note: On Saturday, LOS OLVIDADOS will be followed by an alternate version of the film's ending (3 min.).
Please note: This trailer does not have English subtitles. Our screenings of the film will be subtitled in English.
PRECEDED ON TUESDAY BY
VISIONS OF A CITY
1978, Larry Jordan, USA, 8 min., silent, 16mm
1952, Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 109 min. With Ingrid Bergman, Alexander Knox.
- Sat, Oct 17th 5:00pm
- Tue, Oct 20th 6:00pm
“The most profoundly humanist of Rossellini's pictures...Bergman is remarkable.” – Glenn Erickson, DVD Talk
EUROPE ’51 is the second in the series of five films that Rossellini made with muse Ingrid Bergman and that provided a model of personal filmmaking for the emerging critic-filmmakers of the French New Wave. Long out of circulation in the U.S., it is one of the Italian master’s most challenging works, boldly engaging psychology, politics, and religion as it distills the state of postwar Europe into the spiritual crisis of its protagonist, Irene. A superficial bourgeois woman, Irene is shaken to the core by a family tragedy, setting her on a path that brings her face-to-face with poverty, crime, soul-crushing factory labor, and imprisonment, and that could lead to redemption or madness...or both. In English. DCP digital. (MR)
1983, Robert Bresson, France, 85 min. With Christian Patey, Caroline Lang.
"Mind-blowing...L'ARGENT is like HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER recited in iambic pentameter." – Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine
Bresson's final film is one of his most powerful, a hair-raising sermon preached in detail shots, elliptical edits, and offscreen sounds. Based on a short story by Tolstoy, it details the consequences of the passing of a counterfeit 500-franc note, which sets in motion a chain reaction that destroys the life of an innocent truck-driver and leads to a mysterious and terrifying climax. The precision of Bresson's style has never been more beautiful or functional, and the film's double drive toward damnation and purification is overwhelming. In French with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)
Le Joli Mai
1963, Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme, France, 145 min. Narrated by Simone Signoret.
"Astonishing even today...one of the most influential movies that you have likely never seen." – J. Hoberman, Artinfo
Filtering elements of the City Film, Nouvelle Vague, and Cinéma Vérité through his own inimitable essayistic sensibility (critic Roger Tailleur called it “cine, ma vérité”), Marker (together with co-director/cinematographer Lhomme) presents a portrait of Paris in the spring of 1962. Far from a sentimental love letter, the film looks affectionately but often acerbically at a city adrift among the upheavals of massive urban renewal and the aftershocks of the recently concluded Algerian war. In English and French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
1956, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 144 min. With Ryo Ikebe, Keiko Kishi.
- Sat, Nov 7th 5:00pm
- Tue, Nov 10th 6:00pm
"Magnificent... seems utterly fresh and contemporary. This modest classic also conveys the claustrophobia of office life better than any other film I’ve seen." – Nora Sayre, The New York Times
Because its serious portrayal of the salaryman’s rat race (evoking Vidor’s THE CROWD and Kurosawa’s IKIRU) is atypical of director Ozu’s work, this has been one of his most underrated and rarely seen late films. Haunting sequences of office life and commuter trains highlight Ozu’s evocative white-collar blues about a young man who seeks escape from his stifling job and marriage by embarking on an affair with a vivacious typist named Goldfish. In Japanese with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)