The 25th Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival began last night at the Gene Siskel Film Center and continues through Sunday at Columbia College’s Ferguson Theater and the Music Box. As always, the highlights are plentiful and diverse, ranging from quasi-narratives to purely abstract works. In my overview of the festival, I devote more space to the former than the latter; but if I had the room, I would have given greater consideration to Phil Solomon’s Empire, the new pieces by the great Lewis Klahr, and the ineffable work in Saturday’s “Talk About the Passion” program. As it’s difficult to convey in words the visceral appeal of abstract art, perhaps it’s best I left those alone—in any case, I encourage you to check them out. As for purely narrative-driven movies, this week’s issue also has a short review by Andrea Gronvall of Laurence Anyways, the latest by French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan (Heartbeats).
It’s a good week for narrative cinema, all in all. In addition to Gronvall’s three-star review of Laurence Anyways, we recommend Afternoon Delight, an indie comedy by first-time writer-director Jill Soloway about a frustrated married couple who befriend a sex worker; Una Noche, another debut feature by a female writer-director about desperate teens in Havana; The Patience Stone, writer-director Atiq Rahimi’s adaptation of his acclaimed 2008 novel; and Red Obsession, a documentary about people who “invest” in bottles of wine. We also have new reviews of Double Door and Thirty Day Princess, two rare Hollywood titles from 1934 screening in the annual UCLA Festival of Preservation at the Siskel Center; Ecotopia, the first film in the Siskel’s annual Turkish film series; and Getaway, a fairly bizarre genre film starring Ethan Hawke. We don’t recommend any of these last four titles, but each one has its pleasures.
Best bets for repertory screenings: The Music Box is screening Stanley Donen’s Charade on Saturday and Sunday morning and an obscure Israeli cult item called An American Hippie in Israel (1972) on Friday and Saturday night; the Patio is screening a new 35-millimeter print of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven on Wednesday and a new DCP of Bonnie and Clyde on Thursday, both at 7:30 PM; the Siskel is screening Fritz Lang’s M on Friday and Tuesday, Robert Altman’s That Cold Day in the Park on Sunday and Wednesday, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (on 35-millimeter!) on Saturday and Monday; and Black Cinema House is screening an early race film, Scar of Shame, on Saturday at 6 PM with a live improvised score.
Last but not least, Passion,Brian De Palma’s first film in over five years, is getting its Chicago premiere at the Music Box. We would have reviewed it, but the release was announced just before press time. Like most people, I run hot and cold on De Palma, but I can say with certainty that anything by this idiosyncratic filmmaker will not be dull.