Chicago Fest

The second annual Chicago Fest, a festival of American independent films, continues Friday through Sunday, June 11 through 13, at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State. Tickets are $5, except for the closing program on Sunday, which is $25 and includes a

postscreening awards party. A $25 pass admits you to six screenings (not including the closing program); for more information call 773-525-4559.



The 1997 first feature of writer-director Richard Murphy is laborious whimsy about a neurotic and insecure Hollywood superstar (coproducer Cheryl Pollak) who walks off the set of a movie in progress, rents a suburban house incognito, and tries to learn a more modest trade from three men she encounters by chance (a swimming pool cleaner, a door-to-door salesman, and a delivery boy), bringing a little light to their lives in the process. At times the strained writing smacks of theater-of-the-absurd acting exercises, and the editing is both fancy and fussy, but I enjoyed Ron Perlman’s laid-back salesman. With Stephen Gregory, Dan O’Donohue, Holland Taylor, and Udo Kier. (JR) (Noon)

The Kindness of Strangers

Maro Chermayeff directed this documentary about people whose lives intersect when organs are donated for transplant. On the same program: Taking Hy, a short by Michael Spitz. (1:40)

The Item

Four felons, contracted by an anonymous client through the Internet, journey to a secluded island to retrieve a mysterious package. Dan Clark wrote and directed this suspense film. On the same program: Dillinger in Paradise, a short by John Henry Richardson. (3:45)

Charmed & Dangerous

A misogynist becomes the love object of a virulently misanthropic woman in this sexual satire written and directed by Brad Wallace. On the same program: Making Change, a short by Georgia Irwin. (6:45)

Pure Killjoy

A serial killer is terrorizing Los Angeles; Fred Derf, who may or may not be capable of murder, has just moved there, hot on the heels of his estranged girlfriend. He dreams of doing stand-up but spends most of his time stuffing envelopes at home, having quasi-violent flashbacks, and hanging out at a bar where the patrons discuss the killer’s MO with such gusto we’re supposed to suspect all of them. The only really disturbing thing about this enervating noir is that it seems like a cry for help. Written and directed by Aaron Downing; with Gregg Rubin. (LA) On the same program, three shorts: Roy Unger’s Requiem, Ji-Hoon Park’s Salute, and Marcos Siega’s Stung. (9:00)


Love 101

“Films with an independent point of view” is this festival’s catchphrase, though I can’t imagine what differentiates this competently made teenage sex movie from other competently made teenage sex movies, apart from the absence of a studio logo at the beginning. Maybe it’s the independent sense of humor expressed in writer-director Adrian Fulle’s dialogue: “Women are like Democrats, man. You can’t live with them, but you can sure get fucked by them.” Just as you have to rule out the existence of female Democrats to find this funny, you’ll probably have to rule out the existence of independent films unencumbered by studiothink to find this even halfway bearable. Once you’ve accomplished that, you may or may not find that the skillful camera work and adequate performances–by Michael Muhney, Mary Kay Cook, Jon Collins, Jim Slonina, Heidi Mokrycki, and Jeff Anderson–enhance this familiar tale of sexual rivalry between roommates and sexual confidence triumphing over insecurity, complete with elevator music. (JR) (Noon)

Cabrini Connection

Short videos by young people from the Cabrini Connections program. (1:00)

Man Woman Film

Cameron Pearson wrote and directed this black comedy about a political novelist who suffers a mental breakdown after forgetting to take his epilepsy medication. (1:40)

The Return of Paul Jarrett

Jarrett, a nonagenarian World War I veteran, returns to France in search of the ground where he fought the kaiser’s troops; Clark Jarrett directed this feature-length video documentary. On the same program, two shorts: John A. Taylor and Brent Sims’s Silence, and Daniel M. Kanemoto’s A Letter From the Western Front. (2:05)

Row Your Boat

This New York street drama provides a likable vehicle for rocker Jon Bon Jovi, who plays a petty thief torn between love and a life of crime. Fresh out of prison, the thief falls for a young immigrant woman (Bai Ling of Red Corner) who’s the trophy wife of a Chinese industrialist, and the gawky innocence of their illicit romance contrasts with the gritty activities of the small-time gang led by the thief’s brother (William Forsythe). Much of that plotline is an indie rip-off of Mean Streets, as the gang runs afoul of a brutal Asian mob, and the film is hampered by an easy, tear-jerking conclusion. But writer-director Sollace Mitchell wrings a certain amount of tension from the thief’s dilemma, Ling turns in a refreshingly intelligent performance, and Phil Ramone’s angst-ridden sound track is a plus. (TS) On the same program: The Cowboy and the Ballerina, a short by Mark Joseph Isham. (3:15)

Climb Against the Odds

A dozen women–five of them being treated for breast cancer–prepare a three-week ascent of Mount McKinley in this video documentary by Karen Carlson and Steve Michelson. Olympia Dukakis narrates. (3:35)

Normal Life

Luke Perry and Ashley Judd star as a latter-day Bonnie and Clyde in this 1996 feature by John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). McNaughton will attend the screening. (5:30)

Fallen Arches

Writer-director Ron Cosentino shows here that he can do comedy, tragedy, and parody involving gangsters, punks, drunks, mothers, and sibling rivals. But this feature about a younger brother who, much to his older brother’s dismay, gets mixed up in the theft of a six-toed gangster’s custom-made footware seems less a movie than a resumé. (LA) On the same program: Made in New York #2, a short by Yongman Kim. (7:15)

The Invisibles

Ironically, the notion of irony is given major play in this thoroughly unironic talkfest, a lethal combination of naivete and pretension. Two expatriate junkies–a model and a rock star–hole up in a Paris apartment and exchange platitudes about the relationship between fame, self-esteem, art, and drugs. Nearly every line is a gem, but my favorite belongs to the musician:

“I did this save-the-rain-forest thing–I can’t even save myself.” Written and directed by Noah Stern; with Portia de Rossi and Michael Goorjian. (LA) (9:30)


Men in Scoring Position

Timothy Rhys directed this feature about “two 30-somethings slapped around by life.” (Noon)

The Cub Fan

Chicago native Bob Ray directed this video documentary about the only mammal more loyal than the canine. Bob Costas narrates. On the same program: Conspiracy J, a short by Steve Wood. (1:00)

Luminous Motion

A woman with a young son survives on the road by seducing and robbing men. Bette Gordon directed this 1998 feature based on Scott Bradfield’s novel The History of Luminous Motion. (1:40)

Wadd: The Life & Times of John C. Holmes

The notorious porn star is “laid bare” in this video documentary by Cass Paley. (3:00)

Foreign Correspondents

Mark Tapio Kines’s 1998 debut feature tells two stories involving pen pals that take place around the same time at opposite ends of California. In the first a reserved young woman in LA (Melanie Lynskey of Heavenly Creatures) conceals her true identity to correspond with the French boyfriend of her apartment’s previous tenant; in the second a British business student (Corin Nemec) travels to the Bay Area to meet his pen pal, a Bosnian refugee, and finds out about her marriage plans. Both Lynskey and Nemec’s characters are lonely hearts, emotionally withdrawn and impervious to the possibility of love, but Lynskey’s portrayal is better etched and more sympathetic than Nemec’s priggish Englishman. Neither story amounts to much in terms of logic or emotional resonance, and an epilogue connecting the two trivializes the sincerity of the woman’s odd obsession. But Kines’s visual sense and attention to detail are fairly adroit, and his graceful fades and camera movement suggest a gnawing mystery and a languorous desolation that almost compensate for the plot holes. With Wil Wheaton (the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation). (TS) On the same program: Sound Sleep, a short by Pagan Harleman. (3:20)

Chi Girl

Heidi Van Lier directed this dramatic feature about a documentarian, in Chicago to shoot the 1996 Democratic National Convention, who instead decides to make a film about a seductress he meets in a bar. (5:30)

White Boy

Racial antagonism propels this pseudo-Shakespearean tragedy set in working-

class Orange County. Director John Marino credibly depicts the dead-end milieu inhabited by charismatic young hustler Brian (Johnny Green) and the racist skinheads who recruit his impressionable brother, but the black dope dealers Brian hangs with, who eventually force a confrontation with the skinheads, are stereotypical boys in the hood. One character invokes Romeo and Juliet at the end of the film, but these rival factions aren’t the Capulets and the Montagues by a long shot, and the dialogue is Valley talk peppered with ethnic slang and racial epithets. Marino’s jittery mise-en-scene recalls the Fox TV series 21 Jump Street, with Green echoing Johnny Depp’s mix of swagger and vulnerability, while the sound track relies on pop oldies–most prominently Lynyrd Skynyrd–for mood and irony. With Jonathan Avildsen (frighteningly realistic as the skinheads’ nasty leader), Jan-Michael Vincent (typecast as a dissolute cop), and Allen Garfield (likewise, as a sleazy salesman). (TS) (7:15)