It would be something of an overstatement to call Robert Aldrich an overlooked filmmaker. Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), and The Dirty Dozen (1967) remain well-known, and at least two of his other films—Emperor of the North (1973) and The Longest Yard (1974)—were regular fixtures on network TV for decades. But if you know Aldrich from only those titles, you’re missing out on one of the most interesting and challenging filmographies in U.S. narrative cinema. From his earliest movies (Apache, Vera Cruz) to some of his last (Twilight’s Last Gleaming), Aldrich employed tough, efficient genre storytelling to advance a caustic view of American society. On Monday the Northwest Chicago Film Society will screen his 1972 western-cum-Vietnam-War allegory Ulzana’s Raid; it’s the subject of this week’s long review. We also have a short review, by Andrea Gronvall, of The Spectacular Now, which considers the movie’’s humanist bent, and a critic’s choice, courtesy J.R. Jones, of the harrowing documentary The Act of Killing.
This week’s issue also has new reviews of: The Butler, a historical epic by love-him-or-hate-him director Lee Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy); The Canyons, a collaboration between love-him-or-hate-him director Paul Schrader (Hardcore, Affliction) and love-him-or-hate-him author Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero); The Day of Two Noons, an experimental feature by local filmmaker Mike Gibisser; Expose Me, Lovely, an only-in-the-70s hybrid of Raymond Chandler and hard-core pornography (I posted something about it yesterday); Hannah Arendt, a biopic about the philosopher by Margarethe von Trotta (which screens only in Highland Park this week; it will open at the Gene Siskel Film Center in October); In a World . . ., a comedy that marks the directorial debut of actress Lake Bell; Jobs, a biopic about the Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs; Kick-Ass 2, a sequel to the 2010 comic book adaptation; Prince Avalanche, David Gordon Green’s return to low-budget art house filmmaking; Sabata, a cult-classic spaghetti western starring Lee Van Cleef; and two strong narrative features playing in the Siskel Center’s Black Harvest Film Festival, the Jamaican-set melodrama Home Again and the U.S. period piece The Retrieval, which concerns the capture of runaway slaves.
Best bets for repertory screenings (apart from Ulzana’s Raid): tonight at the Des Plaines Theater the Silent Film Society of Chicago presents F.W. Murnau’s Faust (1926) with live musical accompaniment; on Saturday night Doc Films screens one of John Ford’s greatest films, the Eugene O’Neill adaptation The Long Voyage Home (1940); on Wednesday at the Patio the Northwest Chicago Film Society revives Diamond Jim (1935), an early screenwriting effort by the great Preston Sturges; and the Siskel Center continues its David Fincher series with Zodiac (2007) and Panic Room (2002) and screens a new print of Jean-Luc Godard’s second feature, Le Petit Soldat (1960). Check the theater’s website for showtimes.