The festival continues from Friday, October 22, through Sunday, October 24, with screenings at the Music Box, 3733 N. Southport. Tickets can be purchased at the box office an hour before show time; they’re also available by phone (for a service charge) at 559-1212 and 644-3456. General admission is $7; $6 for students and seniors; $5 for Cinema/Chicago members. Shows before 6 PM are $5, $4 for students, seniors, and Cinema/Chicago members. For more information call 644-3456 (644-FILM). The reviews were written by Zbigniew Banas, Peter Brunette, David Overbey, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Barbara Scharres.


Clean, Shaven

A schizophrenic returns to his hometown looking for his daughter in this U.S. independent feature by newcomer Lodge Kerrigan. This film is being shown again as the festival’s “best first feature.” (Music Box, 7:00)

Farewell My Concubine

Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine, which has been called the Chinese Gone With the Wind, is an intelligent film concerned with complex issues of human behavior, artistic values, and historical interpretation; it is also absolutely accessible and richly entertaining. A film of epic sweep, portraying the turbulent period of Chinese history between 1925 and 1977, it is an intimate, passionate, sensitive love story focused on the full-throated emotions of three intense, tempestuous characters. At the beginning of the film Beijing is in the hands of warlords. The Kuomintang can do little to control them, and life is chaotic–except for the Peking Opera and its beloved stars. Two boys, best friends, are placed in training at the opera school, one destined to play female roles, the other male roles. Douzi at first resists a love affair with Shitou, who’s effective in heroic masculine roles but has neither the imagination nor the artistic drive of Douzi. As adults they become major stars in an opera called Farewell My Concubine, set in 200 BC, in which the faithful concubine dies for her king. The opera becomes the center of Douzi’s life, and he expects his onstage devotion to be returned by Shitou offstage as well. Shitou, however, never understands the vital connection that’s necessary for their emotional health and survival as men and as artists. He marries a prostitute who shares Douzi’s love for Shitou but isn’t capable of understanding the importance of the opera. The rest of their story is full of jealousy, betrayal, and sacrifice, as they’re swept into the upheavals of the world outside the opera, where betrayal and sacrifice are the order of the day. The three principal actors are faultless, but Leslie Cheung walks away with the film. (DO) This film is being shown again as the festival audiences’ favorite. (Music Box, 9:00)


Shorts Program:

Gold Hugo Winners

A program of prizewinning shorts in the following categories: student comedy (Brian Boyle’s The Toe Heel Polka), short drama (Steven D. O’Connor’s A Dark Dark Night), student animation (Jamie Maxfield’s Above Average), student drama (Josie Keys’s The Door), and animation (Nick Park’s The Wrong Trousers). (Music Box, 3:30)

The Escorts

Of the spate of new films, some made for television, on Sicilian judges and cops who’ve been murdered for opposing the Mafia, Ricky Tognazzi’s tense drama is by far the best. It doesn’t offer much insight or depth of emotion, but as a briskly paced political thriller it’s highly entertaining. The plot concerns four bodyguards of disparate backgrounds bonding to one another as they risk their lives to protect a magistrate investigating the Mafia assassination of a state attorney. The story of the investigation alternates with subplots about the private lives of the cops–each racked by guilt, family pressures, and the fear of death. The locations in and around Palermo are rendered with surprising feeling, adding a rich sense of place to a film that’s somewhat generic. (BS) This film is being shown again as the festival audiences’ second favorite film. (Music Box, 5:30)

Three Colors: Blue

Poland’s Krzysztof Kieslowski is one of the supreme stylists working in today’s cinema. In recent years he’s developed a distinctive manner of visual expression, relying heavily on filters, distorting lenses, and unusual camera placements to convey ideas and emotions not readily evident through dialogue alone. He specializes in fragile moral tales (his Decalogue series, The Double Life of Veronique), sketching the characters and situations only lightly to leave room for the viewer’s interpretation. The French-produced Three Colors: Blue is his most stylistically consistent and emotionally complete film yet. The plot line is rather simple, following a few months in the life of Julie (Juliette Binoche), a young woman who survives a car accident that claims the lives of her husband and daughter. Initially depressed and lonely, Julie slowly builds enough inner strength to accept her new situation and confront some unresolved issues. The story has a few surprising turns and plenty of hard choices for the protagonist, but it’s less what they are than how they’re crafted that defines the substance of this film. All technical aspects are impressive here, particularly the cinematography and music, the expressive use of which is another of the director’s trademarks. Three Colors: Blue is the first installment of a triptych based loosely on the three ideals of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, and fraternity. It was first shown at this year’s Venice film festival, where it shared the Golden Lion prize and Binoche won an acting award. The next two feature-length parts, White and Red, are slated to premiere at the upcoming Berlin and Cannes festivals. If the exquisite Blue is any indication, Kieslowski may well be on his way to an unprecedented win of cinema’s triple crown. (ZB) This film is being shown again as winner of the festival’s special jury prize. (Music Box, 8:00)


Francois Truffaut, Stolen Portraits

Hyperbolically billed at the Cannes film festival as “inaugurating a new cinematic genre, the essay on an auteur,” this homage to Francois Truffaut is really little more than garden-variety talking heads. Nevertheless, this film by Michel Pascal and Serge Toubiana (a former editor in chief of Cahiers du Cinema, where Truffaut the powerful critic first came into his own in the late 50s) is well put together and always entertaining, and the clips from Truffaut’s films are a delight. Crafted with love and admiration, it offers several new insights into the personal life of the director, including a fascinating revelation about his father made by French director Bertrand Tavernier. A must-see for Truffaut fanatics. (PB) This film is being shown again as the favorite documentary of the festival audiences. (Music Box, 4:00)

Younger and Younger

Percy Adlon (Bagdad Cafe, Sugarbaby) directed this U.S. feature about an eccentric self-storage tycoon (Donald Sutherland) in Glendale, California, who owns a castle, cheats openly on his wife (Lolita Davidovich), and awaits the arrival of his son, who’s in business school in England. (Music Box, 6:00)

The Piano

Sweetie and An Angel at My Table have taught us to expect startling as well as beautiful things from Jane Campion, and this assured and provocative third feature offers yet another lush parable about the perils and paradoxes of female self-expression. Set during the last century, this original story by Campion–which evokes at times some of the romantic intensity of Emily Bronte–focuses on a Scottish widow (Holly Hunter) who hasn’t spoken since her childhood, presumably by choice, and whose main form of self-expression is her piano playing. Arriving with her nine-year-old daughter in the New Zealand wilds, where she’s to enter into an arranged marriage, she gets off to an unhappy start when her husband-to-be (Sam Neill) refuses to transport her piano. A local white man living with the Maori natives (Harvey Keitel) buys the piano from him, and, fascinated by and attracted to the mute woman, agrees to “sell” it back to her a key at a time in exchange for lessons, with ultimately traumatic consequences. Not to be missed. (JR) (Music Box, 8:00 and 10:30)