I realized only after this week’s issue went to press that I’d employed near-identical phraseology in my long review of Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster, which opens today in wide release, and my capsule review of David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which is opening at the Music Box. In both reviews, I describe the movie’s lush stylization as a smoke screen for lack of meaningful ideas. I didn’t intend to repeat myself—I wrote the Saints capsule about a month ago and forgot about it by the time I watched The Grandmaster. Also, I should add that not all smoke screens are created equal. I consider The Grandmaster to be an honest failure, in which a great artist enters new creative territory and reaches a dead end. Saints, on the other hand, is one of the phoniest movies I’ve seen in a long time, a collection of cinematic mannerisms lifted shamelessly from the films of Terrence Malick.
As for movies we like, in this week’s section we spotlight Tender Muscles: Films by Charles Fairbanks, a program of experimental videos playing Saturday night at the Nightingale with Fairbanks in attendance, and The World’s End, the new Edgar Wright-Simon Pegg comedy that opened last week.
We also recommend several revival screenings that are happening around town this week. Tomorrow, Sunday, and Wednesday the Gene Siskel Film Center will screen the first two parts of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy—Before Sunrise and Before Sunset—to complement their weeklong run of Before Midnight. Tonight and Tuesday, the Siskel will present Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, with professor Laurence Knapp lecturing after the Tuesday screening. On Wednesday at 1 and 7:30 PM, the Northbrook Public Library will screen the original-release version of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed with live musical accompaniment. That same night, the Northwest Chicago Film Society will present Ernst Lubitsch’s One Hour With You at the Patio Theater. And tomorrow night, Doc Films closes its summer calendar with a 35-millimeter print of Gus Van Sant’s debut film, Mala Noche.
Getting back to new releases, this week’s issue has new reviews of: American Made Movie, a documentary about the U.S. manufacturing industry; The Attack, an adaptation of the international best seller about an Arab doctor living in Israel whose wife becomes a suicide bomber; Closed Circuit, a British legal thriller starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall (the British actress from Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Town, not the Northwest Chicago Film Society programmer); Off Label, a documentary about the pharmaceutical industry; and Saturday Morning Mystery, a horror-comedy that riffs on the old Scooby Doo cartoons.