It’s January, which means it’s time for “Stranger Than Fiction,” the Gene Siskel Film Center’s annual showcase of new documentaries. In this week’s Reader, we review two movies in the program, The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound and Kiss the Water (the second feature by Eric Steel, director of The Bridge). We also review Liv and Ingmar, a documentary about Ingmar Bergman’s on- and offscreen relationship with actress Liv Ullmann, which plays at the Siskel all week. This week’s long review covers yet another documentary feature screening at the Siskel, Frederick Wiseman’s epic At Berkeley, which I recently named my favorite movie of 2013. Wiseman (who turned 84 on Wednesday) is incontestably one of our country’s greatest living artists, and Berkeley is one of his most ambitious works to date. The movie may be four hours long, but don’t let that deter you—it has more to say about America today than anything else in theaters. Set aside the time and check it out.
This week’s issue also has new reviews of 47 Ronin, a big-budget Hollywood retelling of the famous Japanese legend; Aftermath, a historical mystery that generated a storm of controversy in its native Poland; The Great Beauty, the latest from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo, This Must Be the Place); and the Sundance Institute 2013 Shorts Program, a collection of (you guessed it) short films that played at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
On Monday Doc Films begins its winter calendar with A Bill of Divorcement (1932), an early George Cukor feature that begins a splendid series of early Katherine Hepburn vehicles. The college film society has some other swell revivals next week: the classic kung fu comedy Dirty Ho (1976) screens on Tuesday at 7 PM, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) screens on Thursday at 9:30 PM. The week’s other noteworthy revival screenings include: Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles and Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45, screening at the Music Box on Friday and Saturday at midnight; and Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out, which plays at the Northbrook Public Library on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30 PM.