UPDATE: Please note that the Music Box will be screening Violent Saturday from DCP, not 35-millimeter as originally reported, and that A Useful Life screens at the Cultural Center on Wednesday at 6:30 PM, not Saturday afternoon.
By this point, you’ve probably read your fill about Lee Daniels’s The Butler (or, as the studio wants us to call it, Lee Daniels’ The Butler), the star-studded historical pageant that’s currently this country’s number-one box office attraction. But I think the movie is a lot stranger—and a lot angrier—than many reviews are making it out to be; in this week’s long review, I expound on this argument and offer thoughts on Daniels’s unique body of work. I also preview this year’s edition of Noir City: Chicago, the Music Box Theatre’s annual festival of film noir. As I note in the overview, I think the jewel of the series is the
35-millimeter revival of Richard Fleischer’s Violent Saturday (1955). This underrated mash-up of noir and Peyton Place-style melodrama is chilling in its consideration of violence in human affairs; it’s also a masterpiece of CinemaScope photography, featuring one jaw-dropping composition after another.
This week’s issue also has new short reviews of: Austenland, a rom-com that marks the directorial debut of Napoleon Dynamite cowriter Jerusha Hess; Drinking Buddies, the biggest-budgeted feature to date from Chicago-based independent Joe Swanberg; Paranoia, a thriller about corporate espionage with Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman; and You’re Next, a pulpy horror movie directed by Adam Wingard, a frequent collaborator of Swanberg’s. Last but not least, we review three titles in the 19th-annual Black Harvest Film Festival, now entering its last week at the Gene Siskel Film Center: Four of Hearts, a drama about the hazards of group sex; Home, a New York-set feature about a schizophrenic preparing to leave a halfway house; and Destination: Planet Negro!, a send-up of cheap 50s sci-fi.
Best bets for revival screenings: On Saturday and Wednesday, the Siskel Center screens The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in its David Fincher retrospective; on Saturday and Sunday, the Music Box screens Sergio Leone’s Duck, You Sucker! in its spaghetti western series; Doc Films screens Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa Vie on Saturday and two films by Bruce Baillie, a major figure in U.S. experimental cinema, on Thursday; the Northwest Chicago Film Society presents Carl Dreyer’s masterpiece Day of Wrath on Wednesday night at the Patio; and on
Saturday afternoonWednesday at 6:30 PM, you can catch a free screening of Federico Veiroj’s A Useful Life, one of the flagship films of the Uruguayan cinema’s current renaissance, at the Cultural Center.