New Sensory Cinema
January 27 - May 9
From January 27 through May 9, we offer a series of fourteen programs entitled New Sensory Cinema, with weekly Tuesday lectures by award-winning filmmaker and installation artist Melika Bass, Assistant Professor in the Department of Film, Video, New Media and Animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The series is presented in cooperation with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism. Additional screenings of the films on Friday or Saturday do not include Prof. Bass’s lecture. Admission to all New Sensory Cinema programs is $5 for Film Center members; usual admission prices apply for non-members.
— Martin Rubin, Associate Director of Programming, Gene Siskel Film Center
Our age of the pocket camera and handheld screen hails the contemporary body as a site of surveillance, capture, and voyeurism, but our screen-centric world often overlooks the sensations of bodies themselves. New Sensory Cinema explores fourteen films, all made in the last thirty years, in which the body acts as a territory of desire, a vessel of transformation, a site of return, and a mode of resistance to cinematic capture. Each movie offers a provocation of the senses — devotion, entrapment, obliteration, ecstasy, possession — in which the filmmaker pushes against the boundaries of genre to propose new cinematic forms.
— Melika Bass
Under the Skin
2013, Jonathan Glazer, UK/USA, 108 min. With Scarlett Johansson.
"Minds will be blown to the four winds...the trippiest film in any genre in a long while." — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
Glazer's first film since BIRTH (2004) is an unnervingly original mix of visionary sci-fi, erotic tension, and observational realism. Johansson is uncannily cast as an alien who alights in Glasgow, borrows an ectoderm from a fresh corpse, and prowls city streets and country roads in a Ford van, trawling for solitary men whom she lures to a black pool of oblivion. The pick-up scenes were mostly improvised with real passersby filmed by hidden cameras. This evocatively ambiguous film ingeniously inverts the gender dynamics of the stalker film, playing on male anxieties of vulnerability, but, as the alien visitor discovers, becoming too curious about her human prey can activate her own vulnerability. DCP digital. (MR)
2011, Alma Har'el, USA, 80 min.
"The most original documentary of 2011...an overwhelming experience." — Robert Savage, CineVue
Set on the edge of Southern California's desert debacle the Salton Sea, Bombay Beach is a rusting, carcass-strewn backwater that, as one reviewer put it, "brings to mind the remnants of a vacation resort in a post-apocalyptic world." This unique documentary focuses on three of the inhabitants — a black L.A. teenager seeking refuge from gang violence, a grizzled old-timer selling loose cigarettes, and a seven-year-old boy battling bipolar disorder — but its sensibility is closer to Terrence Malick, Terry Gilliam, and David Lynch than to the traditional documentary. Intimate, at times startlingly revealing portraits of the subjects (director Har'el, no tourist, spent over a year living with them) are expanded by sensuous magic-hour cinematography and choreographed dance routines (music by Beirut and Bob Dylan) that honor their imaginative inner lives. DCP digital. (MR)
Cemetery of Splendor
Rak Ti Khon Kaen / รักที่ขอนแก่น
2015, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/UK/France, 122 min. With Jenjira Pongpas, Banlop Lomnoi.
“Quietly incandescent…an unstemmable flow of beautifully unfathomable images, cinema as the stuff dreams are made of.” — James Lattimer, Slant Magazine
Winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or in 2010 for UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES, director Weerasethakul, an SAIC graduate, once again proves masterful in exploring the intersection of the human and spirit worlds through a film of delicate, sumptuous beauty. A few soldiers lie stricken by a mysterious sleeping sickness in a rural town’s veranda-like hospital. The film’s subtle theme of healing brought about with the help of otherworldly forces encompasses not just the prone figures in the beds, but characters including a hospital volunteer, a psychic, and an awakened soldier, all of whom will come to walk knowingly or unknowingly, with resident spirits. The real and the supernatural mix with casual concreteness and infusions of offhand humor under the placid spell of Weerasethakul’s mythic world view. In Thai with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
Gwoemul / 괴물
2006, Bong Joon-ho, South Korea, 120 min. With Song Kang-ho, Bae Doo-na.
"The Asian monster movie comes screeching and stomping into the 21st century with this entertaining, culturally loaded popcorn thriller from South Korea." — J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader
A master of wreaking havoc with genre conventions, Bong (MEMORIES OF MURDER, SNOWPIERCER) takes us on another wild ride when a monster created by American military chemical-dumping surfaces from Seoul's Han River and proceeds to chow down on the locals. Bong beefs ups this GODZILLA scenario with helpings of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and DR. STRANGELOVE, as he centers the story on a massively dysfunctional family attempting to rescue their schoolgirl daughter from the monster's lair and stingingly satirizes the buffoonish authorities who get in their way. In Korean with English subtitles. 35mm widescreen. (MR)
Post Tenebras Lux
2012, Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France, 115 min. With Adolfo Jiménez Castro, Nathalia Acevedo.
"Mesmerizing, mysterious, willfully perverse... a deeply personal, intermittently hermetic exploration of innocence and sin, good and evil." — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
Winner of Best Director at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, Reygadas (JAPÓN, SILENT LIGHT) creates a highly unconventional narrative set in a landscape haunted by a startling personification of evil. Imagery both sumptuous and sinister sets up a mythic duel with the devil for Juan, a bullying well-to-do contractor who lives in rural seclusion with his wife and young children. The title translates as “light after darkness,” but moral gray areas dominate the distance between the spiritual and the carnal as Juan’s world unfurls threat in every human impulse and in every manifestation of nature. In Spanish, English, and French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
2010, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Greece, 95 min. With Ariane Labed, Yorgos Lanthimos.
"What a strange, moving, puzzling, funny, frustrating and ultimately absorbing film this is." — Rick Groen, Toronto Globe and Mail
Forsaking the romantic attentions of men in favor of reenacting nature documentaries with her dying father and grilling her best friend Bella on all manner of sexual practices, Marina (Labed) finds herself increasingly at odds with the dull, underpopulated Greek industrial town she lives in. When a new-to-town engineer (played by DOGTOOTH director Lanthimos) bests her at foosball, Marina begins to make furtive steps towards the adult relationships that have perennially eluded her. The breakout feature of director Tsangari and one of the most acclaimed films of the "Greek weird wave," ATTENBERG is as odd a duck as its protagonist — equally hilarious, tender, and unglued. In Greek, English, and French with English subtitles. 35mm. (CW)
It Felt Like Love
2013, Eliza Hittman, USA, 82 min. With Gina Piersanti, Ronen Rubinstein.
"Hittman's debut isn't just a brilliantly tactile study of the mounting sexual curiosity and frustration of 14-year-old Lila; it's also an important landmark in the oft-ignored subgenre of realistic movies about female adolescence." — Inkoo Kang, Los Angeles Times
Lila (Piersanti) is a virginal teenager living in Gravesend, Brooklyn, bouncing between killing time at the beach and plodding through hip-hop dance classes. Growing frustrated with her own sexual inexperience, she sets her sights on local hunk Sammy (Rubinstein), a college boy rumored to sleep around indiscriminately, towards whom she makes increasingly awkward and unwanted advances. Rather than embodying the clichés of teenage sexual awakening or youth in peril narratives, IT FELT LIKE LOVE presents its protagonist as something far rarer, a young woman with complicated motives intent on claiming her own sexual agency. One of the most exciting directorial debuts in recent years, IT FELT LIKE LOVE is as unsettling and as it is lushly sensual, recalling the whirlwind style of Claire Denis and the emotional frankness of Maurice Pialat. DCP digital. (CW)
You, The Living
2007, Roy Andersson, Sweden, 95 min. With Elisabeth Helander, Jörgen Nohall.
"The film is slow, rigorously morose and often painful in its blunt reckoning of disappointment and failure. It is also extremely funny." — A.O. Scott, The New York Times
A grade school teacher has an emotional breakdown in front of her class. A carpenter is tried and executed for a botched parlor trick. A frustrated barber enacts retribution on the scalp of a racist businessman. A longtime surveyor of the indignities of modern life, director Andersson (A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE) once again applies his familiar deadpan style to the assorted vignettes of his incisive, bleak, and very, very funny YOU, THE LIVING. Taking place on a series of impressively constructed sets and employing meticulously detailed models, YOU, THE LIVING is a wholly analog surrealist wonder, concealing a wealth of life and beauty under its perfectly drab surfaces. In Swedish with English subtitles. 35mm. (CW)
The Forbidden Room
2015, Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, Canada, 130 min. With Roy Dupuis, Clara Furey.
"A colossal symphony of cascading oddity." — Carson Lund, Slant
Since the 1980s, Winnipeg's Guy Maddin has been pillaging cinema's distant past to refashion its archaic aesthetics and temperaments into highly personal narratives of inadequacy and failure. Co-directed with protégé Evan Johnson, Maddin's most recent feature begins with a short PSA on how to take a bath, continues with an air-deprived submarine crew attempting to reach the titular forbidden room, and spins off into a series of bizarre, nested parallel narratives. Featuring cameos from Udo Kier, Charlotte Rampling, and a slew of other familiar faces, THE FORBIDDEN ROOM is Maddin as his overstuffed best. DCP digital. (Cameron Worden)
2001, Lucrecia Martel, Argentina, 103 min. With Mercedes Morán, Graciela Borges.
"A film that has an extraordinary cumulative power...Martel takes fundamental risks with form and style, and it pays off brilliantly." — Patrick Z. McGavin, Chicago Tribune
In the midst of drunkenly lounging beside her filthy swimming pool, bourgeoisie matriarch and all-around monster Mecha (Borges) falls on several broken glasses, necessitating a trip to the hospital and the perpetual assistance of her family thereafter. So begins Martel's debut feature, one of the masterpieces of contemporary Latin American cinema, which follows Mecha's children and distant relations as they navigate life in an uncomfortable, overcrowded house and the sticky title swamp that surrounds it. Martel's trademark disorientation and discontinuity are on full display here, as is her pessimistic view on the Argentinian middle class. 35mm. (Cameron Worden)