Chicago Underground Film Festival

The fourth annual Chicago Underground Film Festival runs Wednesday, August 13, through Sunday, August 17, at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont. Tickets for all programs are $6, with the exception of the opening-night feature, which is $15, the 2:30 and 3:45 Sunday programs, which are $10 each, and the 6:00 Sunday program (“John Waters’s Shock Value”), which is $20; a $50 pass will admit you to all festival screenings and events, and a $25 pass will admit you to five regular programs. For more information call 773-866-8660.


Love God

Frank Grow’s effects-laden, MTV-paced independent feature follows Larue, a young man suffering from “compulsive reading syndrome,” as he’s prematurely discharged from a mental institution and takes up residence in a seedy rooming house. Everyone else in the film is crazy too: Dr. Noguchi, who has his own theory of evolution, keeps a giant primordial worm that escapes into the sewer system and emerges from toilets to attack the unwary; Larue’s neighbors include a young mute woman who uncontrollably throws herself upon him and her cleanliness-obsessed mother. The numerous effects, rapid cutting, and fast-moving, handheld close-ups seem designed to keep the pace lively, but everything is pitched at the same level of hysteria, and the whole thing looks like a parody of a student-film parody of a campy grade-Z horror film. If seeing characters shriek and writhe while covered in blood sounds appealing, this is for you. (FC) (7:00)


Flaming Creatures

See Critic’s Choice. (6:00)

Sore Losers

Writer-director J. Michael McCarthy may have provided an antidote to the blockbuster Men in Black with this lurid SF action comedy. The plot–a marvelously rabid diatribe about alien psychokillers sent to earth every generation to wipe out the latest incarnation of hippies–seems to refer to dozens of movies and comic books I haven’t seen or read. But that didn’t diminish the intensity of this exploitation joyride along desolate highways and through eerie forests, with pit stops in garish nightspots for clumsy stripteases and in small-town alleys for showdowns between self-conscious cool guys who carry guns or toothpicks as if it didn’t matter which–all revved up with miraculously persuasive cheesy special effects. A sound track featuring several bands accompanies Darin Ipema’s glorious cinematography, making this picture downright danceable but much more than audio-enhanced eye candy. If McCarthy weren’t so marginalized, many filmmakers could be modeling their work on his layered lyricism instead of Quentin Tarantino’s canned vacuousness. On the same program, Petula & Freddie, a 1996 animated short by Ingrid Yegros. (LA) (5:30)

Short films, program one

Short works by Keith Schofield, Jennifer Cluck, Mark Hejnar, Cindy Kleine, and George Kuchar. (7:15)

Running Time

Bruce Campbell is a freshly minted ex-con who can’t resist the temptation of another heist even though it’s obvious that everything that can go wrong will. This escapade, written and directed by Josh Becker, concentrates on cinematographic finesse–extralong takes are put together in ways you won’t notice unless you’re looking for them–but the romantic subplot and the fine though theatrical performances make this more than just a showcase for camera tricks. On the same program, Writer’s Block, an animated short by Eric Heroux. (LA) (7:45)

Short films, program two

Short works by Jennifer Reeder, Lisa Hammer, Saskia Jell, Julianne Berg and Patrick InZetta, and Rob Thompson. (9:00)


This standard-issue documentary about the eighth annual Cannabis Cup competition is dominated by talking heads–uninspiring interviewees who list the pros and cons of the menus and ambience of various hash-slinging coffeehouses in Amsterdam. Additional footage of the Hemp Fashion Expo attempts to push political buttons a little more directly by featuring speakers who say things like “Let our people grow” without a trace of humor. Bland and self-righteous, this 1996 film, produced, written, and directed by Doug Wolens, may be useful as a guide for tourists who want to know the best places to go Dutch. On the same program, MPG: Motion Picture Genocide, a short by Robert Banks Jr., who turns found footage into a powerful exhortation to consider the impact of some pervasive cliches in narrative moviemaking. (LA) (9:30)

Straight to You–Nick Cave: A Portrait

Nanni Jacobson’s 55-minute video is described by festival programmers as the only authorized documentary about musician Nick Cave; it contains concert footage of the Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds, as well as interviews with Wim Wenders, Blixa Bargeld, and Henry Rollins. On the same program, Charles Gatewood’s True Blood, Charles Pinion’s I Get Ideas, and Patty Chang and Anie Stanley’s Paradice. (10:45)

Half Spirit: The Voice of the Spider

A stunningly complex, deeply dramatic narrative told in flashback by a woman (Catherine Ussel) in a sterile cell who’s writing the story on her body as it unfolds in nonlinear spasms before our eyes, this 1995 cinema poem by Henri Barges nimbly reveals layer upon layer of visual and aural associations that invoke the profound without a shred of pretension. Each of the central characters–the woman, two men, and a disembodied voice–is a murderer in one way or another, and their relative ethics and the way the narrative causes them to vie for our sympathy converge in a powerful vicarious experience that’s so full of meaning it makes longing, love, doom, and death seem palpable and not mutually exclusive. (LA) (11:00)