Oscilloscope at Ten
February 2 - March 8
The film distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories was founded in 2008 by Adam Yauch, a cinephile and filmmaker better known as MCA of the legendary hip hop group Beastie Boys, and David Fenkel, who would go on to co-found the production and distribution company A24. Since Yauch's death in 2012, Oscilloscope has been headed by Dan Berger, the company's only other original employee.
Although its name and logo evoke campy 1950s sci-fi, Oscilloscope soon became noted for its adventurous and wide-ranging selection of cutting-edge independent films. The company's acquisitions have racked up seven Oscar nominations so far, but more important is its continued dedication to risky and under-the-radar projects.
Oscilloscope releases shown at the Gene Siskel Film Center include DEAR ZACHARY, TREELESS MOUNTAIN, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, MEEK'S CUTOFF, MOTHER OF GEORGE, THE FITS, LOST IN PARIS, and many more. We are pleased to celebrate the company's tenth anniversary with this series of five of our favorite O-Scope offerings.
Special thanks to Andrew Carlin of Oscilloscope Laboratories.
— Martin Rubin, Associate Director of Programming
Leading up to February 2, we'll be giving away amazing posters and t-shirts from Oscilloscope Laboratories! All drawings will be closed at noon on February 2, so enter now for your chance to win. Learn more about the different giveaways for each film by clicking through the individual films below.
2011, Ron Fricke, USA, 102 min.
★★★★ “A film composed of powerful images, most magnificent, some shocking...it is the kind of experience you simply sink into.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“Grand and vibrant...The structure is like that of a poem or sonata, a complex tissue of rhymes and motifs.” — A.O. Scott, The New York Times
SAMSARA is an immersive sound-and-image experience in the vein of BARAKA, which Ron Fricke directed, and KOYAANISQATSI, which he photographed. The title comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “the ever-turning wheel of life,” and the film whirls us through a torrent of stunning images, beginning and ending with an intricate sand mandala fashioned by Tibetan monks. In between, we get garbage-pickers in Brazil, mist-shrouded temples in Burma, post-Katrina wreckage in New Orleans, swirling pilgrims in Mecca, transvestite dancers in Thailand, majestic waterfalls in Angola, and much, much more. Although its patterns are suggestive and free-associational, they are far from random, artfully building a thought-provoking mosaic of contrasts and correspondences that evoke the manifold possibilities of life on earth, from the most troubling to the most transcendent. 35mm widescreen. (MR)
The Love Witch
2016, Anna Biller, USA, 120 min. With Elle Evans, Samantha Robinson.
“A rubicund marvel, and a deadpan madhouse comedy." — Ray Pride, Newcity
“Spellbinding…embraces the melodrama and vampy camp of ‘60s horror while also considering the easy conflation of love, desire, and narcissism.” — Leah Pickett, Chicago Reader
By means of sorcery, Elaine (Evans in a star-making performance), a newly arrived and newly widowed witchy temptress, hilariously has her fatal way with a succession of square-jawed hunks in a quiet Northern California town whose amenities include a strip club, a Victorian tearoom, and a highly suspicious Renaissance Faire run by the local witches’ coven. Director Biller (VIVA) pulls off an astonishing tour de force filmed in sumptuous 35mm, for an over-the-top retro experience that harks back to the heyday of the Italian giallo genre and the feminist sexploitation delights of Roger Corman protégé Stephanie Rothman (THE VELVET VAMPIRE). This sexy witch boosts her supernaturally seductive powers with concoctions whipped up in her lair, but somehow the objects of her affection fail to satisfy, calling for more drastic measures. 35mm. (BS)
Embrace of the Serpent
El abrazo de la serpiente
2016, Ciro Guerra, Colombia, 125 min. With Nilbio Torres, Antonio Bolivar.
"Majestic, spellbinding...Beautiful isn't a strong enough word to describe its scenes of the heaving waters of the Amazon." — Stephen Holden, The New York Times
"Unique and intoxicating, an art movie that grips like a thriller." — Tom Huddleston, Time Out London
An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, and Chicago Reader film critic J.R. Jones's pick for best film of 2016, EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT has been compared to APOCALYPSE NOW and AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD for its up-the-river-and-down-the-rabbit-hole trajectory, but Guerra's jungle odyssey has its own culturally and stylistically specific take on the spectacle of invasive whiteness in a darker world. Based on the travel journals of two real-life explorers, the narrative intertwines two different journeys, set thirty years apart and linked by the presence of Karamakate, the shaman of a dying Amazonian tribe. In both cases, he reluctantly helps a white explorer search for a rare plant with curative and hallucinogenic powers. In both cases, the journeys reveal the depredations of western capitalism and religion upon the jungle ecosystem and the doomed tribes that inhabit it. With its stunning black-and-white location photography and its mind-blowing climax (which rivals that of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, albeit on a much cheaper budget), EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT is a big-screen must. In Spanish and Amazonian tribal languages with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)
2016, Ceyda Torun, USA/Turkey, 80 min.
"Seductive, magical...Imagine your favorite online cat video, multiply by hundreds. KEDI is a ravishing beauty." — Ray Pride, Newcity
"Enchanting...I give KEDI four claws up." — Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
Life is close to cushy for the cherished street cats of Istanbul, as seen in this marvelously cat-action-packed look at the purring mascots that have roamed the streets of the ancient capital for millennia — protected, admired, and honored for their beauty and their skill as mousers. In a film that no card-carrying cat lover will be able to resist, director Torun alternates stories of the people who love these independent street-dwellers, offering food, nests and hidey-holes, with cat-eye views of life at ground level. Istanbul itself comes in for an atmospheric portrait, from the fabled waterfront to the colorful maze of historic streets. In Turkish with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
Wendy and Lucy
2008, Kelly Reichardt, USA, 80 min. With Michelle Williams, Walter Dalton.
“Short, simple, perfect…a lucid and melancholy inquiry into the current state of American society.” — A.O. Scott, The New York Times
“An illustration of how absorbing a film can be when the plot doesn’t stand in the way between us and a character.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Indie giant Reichardt’s taut, bluesy third feature is perhaps the most satisfying example of her distinctive style: spare in incident, rich in nuance, with a superb sense of place and an ability to immerse the political in the personal. Wendy (Williams in a piercingly understated performance), a taciturn loner accompanied by her dog Lucy, is headed to Alaska on the trail of a vague hope (“I hear they need people”), living out of her beat-up Honda Accord, nursing a meager bankroll, and collecting tin cans to raise cash. Her modern-day frontier odyssey stalls in a small Oregon town: her car breaks down, she is arrested for shoplifting, and Lucy goes missing. While waiting for the prognosis on her car, Wendy searches for Lucy, her options running out, her fate in the hands of strangers variously kind, callous, and terrifying. Though terse and unsentimental, the film’s muted melancholy cuts deep, and its reassessment of the American Dream resonates widely, from Old West pioneers to Depression-era hobos to Bush-era economic casualties. 35mm. (MR)