They said it couldn’t be done, but with Inherent Vice Paul Thomas Anderson has made a film adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel that actually feels like reading Pynchon. Not only that, but he’s pulled off what might be the Lawrence of Arabia of stoner comedies. Vice contains about as many weed jokes as two or three Cheech and Chong movies combined, and moreover, it puts them in the service of a densely realized history lesson. I dive into Anderson’s ambitious achievement in this week’s long review.
Vice isn’t the only ambitious movie to open in Chicago this week. Leviathan, the latest from Russian writer-director Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Return, Elena), transforms a straightforward political satire into something like a biblical epic; and Selma, which goes into wide release today after playing at the River East for a week, dramatizes the historic marches Martin Luther King led through Alabama in 1965.
We also have new reviews of: Almost There, a Kartemquin-produced documentary about outsider artist Peter Anton, screening in the Siskel Center’s annual Stranger Than Fiction series (Anton and directors Aaron Wickenden and Daniel Rybicky will attend screenings on Saturday and Sunday); Predestination, a loopy sci-fi movie from Australia, which I wrote about for the blog on Tuesday; Remote Area Medical, a documentary about a nonprofit organization that provides aid to people without access to health care; and The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, a loose sequel to the 2012 British horror film.
There are lots of swell repertory screenings this week. The Siskel is showing a new digital restoration of Marcel Carné’s Le Jour se Lève (1939) all week, and 35-millimeter prints of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960) and A Woman Is a Woman (1961) on Saturday (the latter screens again Thursday). Doc Films is showing Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) tonight, the Czech New Wave classic A Report on the Party and the Guests (1966) on Sunday, The Crying Woman (1979) (part of their Jacques Doillon retrospective) on Monday, Ivan Reitman’s Stripes (1981) on Tuesday, Federico Fellini’s I Vitteloni (1953) on Wednesday, and on Thursday, a double bill of Jacques Becker’s classic prison-escape drama Le Trou (1958) and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s Black Narcissus (1947). The Logan Theatre has midnight showings of The Big Lebowski (1998) and A Fish Called Wanda (1988) tonight through Monday, and midnight shows of Ruthless People (1986) tomorrow and Sunday. (Incidentally Paul Thomas Anderson cited Ruthless directors Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker as major influences on Inherent Vice.)
Lastly, tonight at 7 PM the Nightingale hosts the Chicago premiere of Vessel, a new experimental documentary about Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, a doctor who provides abortions at sea for women with no legal alternative.