• Chicago: City to See in ’63

In June I named the auditorium of the Museum of Contemporary Art the best underused screening room in Chicago. It seems I may have to revise that assessment—the museum recently screened a 35-millimeter print of Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, and it will host three separate film programs in January. On Tuesday at 6 PM, Chicago Film Archives will present a program called City to See, a collection of 16-millimeter documentaries about our lovely metropolis. The title comes from one of the works on the program, Chicago: City to See in ’63, an informational short produced by the Photographic Society of America to “encourage members to visit Chicago for the society’s annual conference in 1963.” The other selections, made between the early 60s and late 70s, include a few amateur documentaries, Tom Palazzolo’s Tattooed Lady of Riverview, and an industrial film for the Sperry and Hutchinson Company, “who operated the S&H Green Stamps retail loyalty reward program.” As other CFA programs have illustrated, the 60s and 70s were something of a golden age for home movies and industrial films (I’ve found some of the group’s prior discoveries in these areas to be more visually inventive than many recent theatrical releases I’ve had to review). This free program should be engaging as well as informative.

On Saturday 1/11 and Tuesday 1/14, the museum will present marathon screenings of Pablo Larraín’s loose trilogy about Chile in the Pinochet era: Tony Manero (2008), Post Mortem (2010), and No (2012). In a neat twist, the museum will screen the films in chronological order of when they take place—meaning Post Mortem, which climaxes with the autopsy of Salvador Allende in 1973, will precede Manero, which takes place in the wake of Saturday Night Fever. (It’s worth noting, though, that the films work fine individually and can be viewed in any order—you may want to split up the trilogy over two sittings.) Larraín is one of the most internationally recognized South American filmmakers today, and these films make it easy to see why. Instead of attempting a grand historical narrative, Larraín considers history from the inside out, focusing on outsiders and men behind the scenes to show how political developments play out in everyday life. Consistent throughout the films is a distinctive worldview that’s both grim and ironic, not to mention a sophisticated sense of form. Larraín gives each movie a different look in order to modify its tone—Manero, the most immersive of the three, plays out in the familiar 1.85:1 ratio; the more detached Post Mortem is in extreme wide-screen; and the media-savvy No, set at the end of the Pinochet dictatorship, was shot on videotape from the late ’80s to suggest a present-tense documentary.

Lastly, Chicago Film Archives and the Nightingale Cinema will present the multimedia performance piece Stress/De-Stress on Tuesday 1/28. The Nightingale first exhibited the work in summer of 2012; I wrote about it here. If you missed it back then, here’s your chance to see it on a bigger screen and for free, no less.