Melancholia

This year the Chicago International Film Festival has settled on the marketing slogan “What the World Is Watching.” Which world might that be? According to the overseas box office figures for 2011, the world is watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Kung Fu Panda 2, Fast Five, and The Smurfs. Check out the top 50 international grossers and you’ll see only four movies that aren’t Hollywood products.

Given these numbers, you might be tempted to view the global movie market as an example of American cultural hegemony. But it’s even worse than that: when a nation can monopolize nearly every available screen, movies inevitably become an instrument of state power. One of the more revealing films I’ve seen from this year’s festival is the Serbian documentary Cinema Komunisto, which shows how Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia used the state-run Avalon Studio to produce an endless series of World War II epics and create a brainwashing historical narrative for his people. Hollywood blockbusters trade mainly in fantasy, but they can engage in the same sort of mind control: the 14th-highest-grossing movie on earth this year is the World War II-themed Captain America: The First Avenger.

Well, if someone’s going to dominate the world’s imagination, better a free society like the United States. At least we can be trusted to question our own values and challenge our own institutions. Case in point: the heartrending documentary On the Bridge, another offering in this year’s festival. This courageous movie captures the waking nightmare of American soldiers who’ve come home with post-traumatic stress disorder, and exposes the Veterans Administration’s scandalous neglect of these men and women, who, by one estimate, commit suicide at the rate of 8,000 a year. It’s the kind of movie that could be made only in America. Oh, wait a minute—On the Bridge was produced in France.

The ubiquity of American movies is the main reason one should make a beeline to the Chicago International Film Festival, which offers local premieres of 150 features from nearly every corner of the world. They may not be what the world is watching, but they represent a valuable opportunity for us to watch the world.

The festival opens Thursday, October 6, with a screening of The Last Rites of Joe May and personal appearances by director Joe Maggio and star Dennis Farina; see the listings for details. It closes Thursday, October 20, with a screening of The Artist, a comedy about the end of the movies’ silent era, starring Jean Dujardin (best known for the OSS 117 spy spoofs).

Following, in alphabetical order by day, are reviews of selected films making their Chicago premieres through Thursday, October 13 (though repeat screenings after that date are also noted). For reviews of films premiering Friday, October 14, through Thursday, October 20, see next week’s issue. Navigate by day with the menu below; reviews are written once and subsequent showtimes link back to that review.

Special events are listed here

Thursday, October 6
Friday, October 7
Saturday, October 8
Sunday, October 9
Monday, October 10
Tuesday, October 11
Wednesday, October 12
Thursday, October 13
Friday, October 14
Saturday, October 15
Sunday, October 16
Tuesday, October 18

VENUE Unless otherwise noted, all films screen at River East 21, 322 E. Illinois.

ADMISSION Unless otherwise noted, all tickets are $13 ($10 for students, seniors, and Cinema/Chicago members). A ten-admission pass is $120 ($90 for members), and a 20-admission pass is $230 ($170 for members). Weekday matinees through 5 PM are $5. Special packages for opening- and closing-night galas.

ADVANCE SALES In person: Cinema/Chicago, 30 E. Adams, suite 800 (weekdays 10 AM-6 PM) or River East 21 (daily noon-8 PM; beginning October 7, one hour before the first show until the last film has begun). Online: ticketmaster.com/chicagofilmfestival (individual tickets only) or chicagofilmfestival.com. By phone: 24 hours in advance at 312-332-3456, weekdays 10 AM-6 PM.

FOR MORE Call 312-332-3456 or go to chicagofilmfestival.com.

Thursday, October 6

The Last Rites of Joe May Released from the hospital after a seven-week battle with pneumonia, an aging tough guy (Dennis Farina) returns to his apartment on Chicago’s near-west side and discovers that his landlord has tossed all his belongings and rented his unit to a single mother and her little girl. (“I thought you were dead,” shrugs the landlord, uttering the movie’s most repeated line.) With only a few hundred bucks standing between the old man and the street, he accepts the mother’s offer to share the apartment temporarily and winds up grouchily bonding with the girl and valiantly protecting the mother from her abusive boyfriend, a police detective. New York writer-director Joe Maggio has made some good Cassavetes-style indies (Virgil Bliss, Milk + Honey), but this male weepie is ridden with cliches (Farina’s character tends to a pigeon coop on his roof, for God’s sake) and climaxes with a predictable act of self-abnegation. With Gary Cole. —J.R. Jones 105 min. Farina, Maggio, and other cast members will attend the screening, presented as the festival’s opening-night program. Tickets are $30-35 for Cinema/Chicago members and $35-40 for nonmembers; VIP tickets are $150 and include a postscreening reception. Thu 10/6, 7 PM. Harris Theater.


Friday, October 7

Day Is Done This austere experimental documentary from Switzerland will reward only patient viewers. Director Thomas Imbach, stationing his camera in a window that overlooks a drab area of Zurich, records parked cars, a towering smokestack, passing planes and trains, and the changing seasons. On the soundtrack snippets of Bob Dylan songs covered by other artists alternate with voice mails from the filmmaker’s friends, lovers, relatives, and business colleagues. Occasionally an image seems to comment on a phone message (a rebuke from an ignored girlfriend is followed by shots of a leggy female neighbor parading in and out of the frame). As the callers age, you realize you’re witnessing a time capsule, an oblique portrait of the artist as an absent man. In Swiss German dialect with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 111 min. Fri 10/7 and Mon 10/10, 3:40 PM.

The Giants Left unsupervised by their parents, two teenage brothers spend their summer getting stoned and causing mischief with a friend their age. Short of spending money, the brothers decide to rent their late grandfather’s house to a local drug ring whose members (among them the friend’s zombielike older brother) are grotesque caricatures of grown-ups—terrifying, capricious, and bossy. The premise is wafer-thin, but director Bouli Lanners (Eldorado) keeps this Belgian feature funny and lively with his deadpan humor and eccentric sensibility. This is essentially a child’s view of the world, which proves problematic whenever Lanners tries to tackle weightier themes; he aims for a European Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but comes uncomfortably close to a human Adventures of Milo & Otis. Though set in Belgium, the film was shot largely in neighboring Luxembourg; the tiny country’s unpeopled, verdant landscape becomes a character in its own right. In French with subtitles. —Ignatiy Vishnevetsky 85 min. Fri 10/7, 8:50 PM; Sat 10/8, 1 PM; and Tue 10/11, 4 PM.

The Holding A single mother (Kierston Wareing of Fish Tank) and her two daughters move to a small village in northern England to forget about an unspecified trauma, only to be seduced and terrorized by a handsome stranger (Vincent Regan) with a psychotic need to play daddy. Though gory and almost monotonously bleak, Susan Jacobson’s first feature is no crude exploitation item: the movie’s stance toward domestic violence is one of unequivocal revulsion, and its depiction of abuse exaggerates only slightly an all-too-common nightmare. The mostly unknown cast successfully maintains an atmosphere of unsettling intimacy; even when the drama devolves into chase scenes and torture, no character seems like a mere victim or monster. —Ben Sachs 93 min. Fri 10/7, 10:50 PM, and Sat 10/8, 10:30 PM.

Melancholia A mysterious planet heads straight for earth, threatening to destroy all human life. The same premise has animated numerous sci-fi adventures, but this elegant drama by Danish writer-director Lars von Trier (Dogville, Antichrist) applies it to more philosophical ends. Von Trier came up with the idea after his shrink pointed out to him that depressed people often react more calmly to a crisis than happy ones, because they already understand that life is nasty, brutish, and short. To that end, the filmmaker divides his story into two parts, named for a pair of siblings: Justine (Kirsten Dunst), who descends into catatonic misery as her malignant friends and relatives celebrate her wedding at a rented mansion, and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), whose cheery facade begins to crumble as the rogue planet grows ever larger in the sky. Apocalyptic visions are nothing new in cinema, but they’re almost always epic in scale; Von Trier’s innovation is to peer down the large end of the telescope, observing the end of the world in painfully intimate terms. With Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, and Stellan Skarsgard. —J.R. Jones 135 min. Fri 10/7, 8:30 PM.

Rabies Touted as the first Israeli horror film, this debut feature from writer-directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado is hardly horrifying, though it seems promising at first. A young woman plunges into a pitfall constructed by a mysterious psychopath; he’s asleep for most of the movie, but his trap sets off a bloody chain of events as various characters trying to rescue the woman—young tennis players lost in the woods, shady cops, a park administrator—take their arguments with each other too far and the violence becomes contagious. The metaphor of the title might have been more potent if the characters weren’t so flat, the killing so predictable, and the dying all redeemed from their momentary blindness with their last breaths. In Hebrew with subtitles. —Asher Klein 90 min. Fri 10/7, 11:15 PM, and Mon 10/10, 10:15 PM.


Southwest Pristine black-and-white cinematography offsets the griminess of a Brazilian fishing village in this magical-realist fable. After attending the deathbed of a pregnant woman, an elderly midwife rows a baby girl to her shack in the middle of a vast lake. When the child matures, she escapes to the mainland and, through her encounters with a bereaved family, passes from girlhood to old age in a single day. Director Eduardo Nunes raises many questions but answers none of them: whether the girl is the daughter, ghost, reincarnation, or final thought of the dead mother is left open to interpretation. The pleasures of the film reside in its dreamlike quality and languid pacing; the overall sensation is that of drifting, course unknown, like a boat on that possibly enchanted lake. In Portuguese with subtitles. —Andrea Gronvall 128 min. Fri 10/7, 8:15 PM; Sat 10/8, 12:30 PM; and Tue 10/18, 2:45 PM.

Saturday, October 8

The Forgiveness of Blood Joshua Marston’s follow-up to Maria Full of Grace (2004) lacks his debut feature’s sense of momentum and urgency; it’s intelligent, well-intentioned, and largely inert. A teenage brother and sister in rural Albania are left to deal with the repercussions after their father kills another man in an argument and flees; the sister is forced to take over the family’s bread delivery route, while the brother hides out in fear of a revenge killing. Marston, bringing an outsider’s eye to the terrain, packs the film with intriguing observations about machismo, gender roles, customs, and technology. But without any sustained tension, the movie’s creeping violence and alienation feel unmotivated; whenever Marston manages to find a rhythm—as he does in the climax—it only makes the rest of the movie seem more disjointed. In Albanian with subtitles. —Ignatiy Vishnevetsky 109 min. Sat 10/8, 8:30 PM, and Sun 10/9, 2:30 PM.

The Giants, 1 PM.

The Holding, 10:30 PM.

Le Havre In the northern French port city of the title, an elderly shoe shiner calls on his circle of working-poor friends to help him protect a young African refugee from getting deported. Aki Kaurismaki, making his first French feature since La Vie de Boheme (1992), presents his story as a modern-day fairy tale: the people in the community all know each other and every character proves reliably compassionate in a crisis. The film is especially comforting if you love old movies, as Kaurismaki does: his deadpan humor and deliberately flattened images evoke silent comedy, and his rosy depiction of proletarian camaraderie recalls the 30s and 40s work of Marcel Carné (particularly Le Jour se Leve). Many of the music selections and character names allude to Carné too. In French with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 93 min. Sat 10/8, 5:30 PM, and Sun 10/9, 3:30 PM.

The Kid With a Bike

The Kid With a Bike Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne—the French brothers who wrote and directed La Promesse (1996), Rosetta (1999), The Son (2002), L’Enfant (2005), and Lorna’s Silence (2008)—often come across as political filmmakers and often tell simple stories about the threshold between childhood and adulthood. The beauty of their films is that these two elements are so seamlessly fused: just as a boy becomes a man when he accepts his responsibility for others, a society becomes great when it accepts its responsibility to the least of its people. In this poignant drama a boy (Thomas Doret) abandoned by his feckless father (Dardenne regular Jeremie Renier) is taken in by a sympathic hairdresser (Cecile De France) but soon falls under the sway of a neighborhood delinquent who wants to exploit him for criminal purposes. The young protagonist yearns for a father figure, but the Dardennes have a surprise for us: their story is resolved not when he finds one, but when he finds it in himself to stand alone. In French with subtitles. —J.R. Jones 87 min. Sat 10/8, 5:15 PM, and Sun 10/9, 5 PM.

On the Bridge According to this French documentary, the suicide rate for U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is an unprecedented 8,000 per year, or 23 deaths every day. If 23 soldiers died on the battlefield in a single day, the story would be front-page news, but the awful psychic aftermath of these wars goes largely ignored. Documentary maker Olivier Morel limits his inquiry to six veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (plus the parents of a seventh who hanged himself), and he’s obviously chosen the right six: their testimony is honest, eloquent, and emotionally precise. They recall the carnage and cruelty they witnessed overseas and describe their near-surreal sense of emotional dislocation once they return to a clueless and complacent U.S. Their testimony is shocking and heartbreaking, but also infuriating: as one veteran explains, the armed forces have no help to offer traumatized soldiers between the two poles of the chaplain and the pharmacy. Another soldier, displaying the large assortment of psychotropic drugs he’s been prescribed, remarks, “This is my red badge of courage.” —J.R. Jones 96 min. Sat 10/8, 1:15 PM, and Sun 10/16, 6:30 PM.

Southwest, 12:30 PM.

Sunday, October 9

Cairo 678 Combining a naturalistic visual style with often-didactic dialogue, this docudrama by Mohamed Diab addresses the chronic problem of sexual assault in Egypt. Three women from different walks of life—a housewife, a thirtyish socialite, and an aspiring stand-up comic—suffer similar attacks and come together around a self-defense workshop. The movie fails to transcend Diab’s chest-beating rhetoric and implausible coincidences, but it’s never dull, thanks to some intense performances and a generally vibrant depiction of the title city (suspenseful scenes often take place in alleys or on crowded buses). Ultimately this most resembles the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams)—for better and for worse. In Arabic with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 100 min. Sun 10/9, 3:30 PM; Mon 10/10, 4:15 PM; and Wed 10/12, 5:50 PM.

Cinema Komunisto For cinephiles, one happy outcome of the Soviet bloc’s disintegration has been greater access to the film and video archives of various police states; this bounty recently yielded the three-hour Romanian documentary The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, and now there’s this Serbian documentary about Avalon Films, the state-run studio founded by Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia. Director Mila Turajlic never quite decides where she’s going with all her great material; what first appears to be a study of how Avalon misshaped the public’s sense of history largely gives way to an anecdotal narrative about Tito’s movie mania, with copious reminiscences from the dictator’s personal projectionist. But the subject is so rich that Turajlic can’t go far wrong. Particularly fascinating is the story of Avalon chief Ratko Drazevic, who masterminded a series of bloated international coproductions in the 1960s; these projects attracted numerous Western movie stars (Anthony Hopkins, Kirk Douglas, Sophia Loren, Orson Welles), but their real objective was to funnel Western currencies into the government’s coffers. In Serbian with subtitles. —J.R. Jones 102 min. Sun 10/9, 8:30 PM, and Mon 10/10, 4 PM.

The Forgiveness of Blood, 2:30 PM.

Le Havre

Le Havre, 3:30 PM.

The Kid With a Bike, 5 PM.

Like Crazy A vivacious young Englishwoman (Felicity Jones), attending college in Los Angeles, strikes up a passionate romance with the gentle teaching assistant for one of her classes (Anton Yelchin). But their love affair is interrupted when the woman, having foolishly overstayed her student visa, briefly returns to London and then finds herself barred from reentering the U.S. Written and directed by Drake Doremus, this indie drama starts off as a sexy little date movie, but once the lovers have been separated it grows steadily more complicated and mature: despite their best efforts to surmount the immigration snafu, life keeps moving onward, and before long each of them is tempted by career opportunities and other romantic partners in their respective cities. The question ultimately becomes not when they’ll be reunited but how long their love can endure before it’s hopelessly compromised by time and their own individual desires. With Jennifer Lawrence. —J.R. Jones 88 min. Yelchin, Jones, and Doremus attend the screening. Tickets are $16. Sun 10/9, 6 PM.

Salaam Dunk This slight documentary looks at the young Iraqi women who play basketball for American University in the northern city of Sulaimani, described by one school administrator as “the only safe place” in the country. Though the students have all been affected by the war, director David Fine, making his feature debut, devotes too much time to the sports cliches of Ryan Bubalo, the handsome young English instructor from the U.S. who coaches the team, and too little to the political vicissitudes of postinvasion Iraq. One affecting sequence hints at the movie that might have been: after the team discusses the conservatism of a team from Karbala, its coach is shown casually slapping one of his players in the face; shocked, she reacts with a flustered smile, but moments later the camera catches her wiping her eyes. In English and subtitled Arabic and Kurdish. —Sam Worley 83 min. Sun 10/9, 11:30 AM, and Tue 10/11, 5 PM.

Monday, October 10

Cairo 678, 4:15 PM.

Cinema Komunisto, 4 PM.

Day Is Done, 3:40 PM.

Rabies, 10:15 PM.

Tuesday, October 11

The Bully Project Children have always been bullied at school, but they haven’t always been bullied so badly that they go home and hang themselves. For this well-meaning but nebulous video documentary, Lee Hirsch profiles five teen and preteen victims of bullying and records their parents’ efforts to get some disciplinary action from complacent principals and administrators. The video has merit as a consciousness-raising exercise, yet Hirsch seldom gets face time with any bullies or their parents, and he tends to ignore the complicated social and psychological patterns that feed the problem (noted but never explored, for instance, is the fact that bully-victim relationships are sometimes curdled friendships). The video frames bullying as the school equivalent of a law-enforcement issue, pointing the finger at lazy officials. Yet as any middle school student can tell you, the enabling factor is usually the other kids, who vicariously enjoy the cruelty and then turn pious when someone gets hurt. —J.R. Jones 90 min. Hirsch will attend the screening. Tue 10/11, 7 PM.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart The vibrant color, fluid camera movement, and intricate production design in the films of Johnnie To (Exiled, Sparrow) mark the Hong Kong director as one of the few contemporary artists who merit comparison with Vincente Minnelli. This joyous romantic comedy, codirected by To’s frequent collaborator Wai Ka-fai, particularly recalls Minnelli in the way decor reflects the characters’ emotional states. The story is an old-fashioned love triangle about a businesswoman torn between a shy architect and her go-getter boss, and To uses Hong Kong’s steel-and-glass skyscrapers to convey not only the characters’ outsize desires but the public repercussions of their mistakes. Their world seems so alive with possibility that you might expect them to break into song; instead they stage elaborate dumb shows for each other in the bay windows of their offices. In Cantonese and Mandarin with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 115 min. Tue 10/11, 6 PM; Wed 10/12, 9 PM; and Fri 10/14, 8 PM.

The Giants, 4PM

Good Bye

Good Bye A pregnant lawyer in Iran, eager to join her journalist husband in exile, tries to come up with a pretense for leaving the country even as the authorities monitor her every move. Mohammad Rasoulof wrote and directed Iron Island (2005) and The White Meadows (2009), both allegorical fantasies about modern-day Iran, and though this drama is more explicitly realistic, the ambience is no less otherworldly. He frequently isolates his heroine with spotlight effects and dark, cloaking shadows, creating a palpable feeling of desperation even during scenes of apparent calm. The movie is remarkable for its daring; Rasoulof completed it in semisecrecy while appealing a six-year prison sentence for “anti-regime propaganda.” In Farsi with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 105 min. Tue 10/11, 3:15 PM; Thu 10/13, 7:30 PM; and Sat 10/15, 2:10 PM.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia The title conjures up Sergio Leone, but this Turkish drama by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Three Monkeys) has more in common with an actual bedtime story, in that you may be asleep before it’s over. A trio of cars roll through the undulating countryside on a law-enforcement expedition; among the passengers are a prosecutor, a medical examiner, a police detective, and a handcuffed suspect who’s promised to lead them to the buried remains of the man he murdered. Some 80 minutes of screen time have elapsed before they finally locate the corpse, at which point Ceylan brings them all back to their town, narrows his focus to the prosecutor and medical examiner, and introduces enough maddeningly obscure clues to undercut the police narrative of the crime. This last gambit goes a long way toward redeeming the movie, but not enough to compensate for the first half, which evokes the endurance tests of the Romanian new wave (e.g. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) but lacks their hypnotic visual stasis. In Turkish with subtitles. —J.R. Jones 150 min. Tue 10/11, 7:50 PM, and Thu 10/13, 6:10 PM.

Salaam Dunk

Salaam Dunk, 5PM.

Wednesday, October 12

Cairo 678, 5:50 PM.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, 9 PM.

Return Ticket Hou Hsiao-hsien served as executive producer for this slight 2010 drama, which cultivates a strong sense of milieu with its Shanghai setting yet still manages to be about nothing in particular. A driven loner (Qin Hai Lu), regrouping after the failure of her clothing business, moves to the city and starts an unlicensed bus service with two men from her hometown; meanwhile her landlady struggles to connect with an ungrateful daughter. Each character is allotted one goal, one motivation, one defining trait, and one emotion; this tidy design helps director Teng Yung-shing, a veteran of TV commercials, produce a quick sketch of an insular migrant community, but it also makes his film thin and formulaic. This feels like half a movie, with the other half synopsized in a lengthy end title. In Mandarin with subtitles. —Ignatiy Vishnevetsky 85 min. Wed 10/12, 5:30 PM; Thu 10/13, 6 PM; and Sat 10/15, 1:15 PM.


Smuggler After a string of lighter films (The Taste of Tea, Funky Forest: The First Contact), Japanese director Katsuhito Ishii returns to the violent gangster milieu of his debut feature, Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (1998). Ishii has worked in animation as well as live action, and his cartoonish imagination is still plenty active, particularly in the Chester Gould-like gallery of supporting characters (my favorite is an elderly yakuza gofer who dresses like an extra on Sanford and Son and refers to hit men as “meanies”). But an unexpected cruelty runs through the movie as well, culminating in a lengthy torture scene that will have some viewers running for the exits. Between the extremes of silliness and gore, this is an intermittently satisfying genre exercise. In Japanese with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 114 min. Wed 10/12, 8:30 PM, and Thu 10/13, 8:20 PM.

Thursday, October 13

Coriolanus Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus is seldom staged, yet its story of a professional warrior who proves unfit for democratic society seems as pertinent as ever. Ralph Fiennes, making his directing debut, has transposed the play from ancient Rome to present-day eastern Europe (with locations shot in Belgrade) and appropriated the cable-TV imagery of contemporary urban warfare (there are even breaking-news captions that explicate the military movements). It’s a great conceit—the scene in which Coriolanus is banished for his contempt of popular rule takes place during a live-audience TV talk show—yet Fiennes might have made this even more potent if he’d gone all the way and, instead of referencing the civil war in the disintegrating Yugoslavia, set the story in a truly militaristic society like the United States. The able cast includes Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jessica Chastain. —J.R. Jones 122 min. Thu 10/13, 8 PM.

Good Bye, 7:30 PM.

Inshallah, Football

Inshallah, Football The most powerful voice in this 2010 documentary belongs to Bashir Baba, a former Kashmiri militant who was held and tortured in the region’s notorious Papa II prison for two years in the early 1990s. His teenage son, Basharat, dreams of playing professional soccer in Brazil, but the father’s political past impedes the boy’s efforts to obtain a passport. Though this quest is the film’s ostensible narrative line, it’s resolved halfway through; ultimately director Ashvin Kumar is more concerned with the struggles all Kashmiris face, including brutal and arbitrary police action. Toward the end of the film Bashir recounts the surreal experience of having visited the cruelest of his jailers at Papa II, and a later scene shows him on the phone with his former torturer, expressing his understanding. In Urdu and Kashmiri with subtitles. —Sam Worley 83 min. Thu 10/13, 5 PM, and Sat 10/15, noon; also Sun 10/16, 8 PM, Univ. of Chicago Doc Films.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, 6:10 PM.

Return Ticket, 6 PM.

The Slut With her debut feature, Hagar Ben-Asher takes a nonjudgmental look at a promiscuous but well-adjusted single mother living in a small farming town. Ben-Asher plays the woman, and her casual, earthy performance creates an interesting tension with her unemphatic direction. The style, dominated by simple, tidy compositions, sometimes suggests an update of Chantal Akerman’s early features (Je, Tu, Il, Elle or Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles), though the primary theme is sexual liberation rather than sexual repression. In spite of the thoughtful approach to form, Ben-Asher displays neither Akerman’s sense of urgency nor her underlying toughness: the major plot development—the heroine’s transformative affair with a family-minded veterinarian—ultimately suggests an aestheticized version of a Hollywood rom-com. In Hebrew with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 83 min. Thu 10/13, 8:20 PM; Sat 10/15, 7:15 PM; and Sun 10/16, noon.

Smuggler, 8:20 PM.

The Turin Horse Since Damnation (1988), the films of Hungarian master Bela Tarr have been set in a muddy, windswept limbo where people lead meager lives against the backdrop of an encroaching darkness. His latest (and reportedly final) work pares down that world to its essence: an old man and his daughter go through their daily routines—fetching water from their well, dressing, eating potatoes, trying to feed a horse—at a decrepit, isolated cottage. Through Tarr’s meticulous vision, these ordinary hardships take on cosmic weight; this is tedium vividly rendered. Displaying little of the director’s trademark dark humor, the film isn’t for every taste, but the superb sense of atmosphere and Fred Kelemen’s gorgeous black-and-white camera work make for an intense and occasionally riveting experience. Tarr’s wife and editor, Ágnes Hranitzky, codirected. In Hungarian with subtitles. —Ignatiy Vishnevetsky 146 min. Thu 10/13, 7:15 PM, and Sat 10/15, 2 PM.

Friday, October 14

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, 8 PM.

Saturday, October 15

Good Bye, 2:10 PM.

Inshallah, Football, noon.

Return Ticket, 1:15 PM.

The Slut, 7:15 PM.

The Turin Horse, 2 PM.

Sunday, October 16

Inshallah, Football, 8 PM, Univ. of Chicago Doc Films

On the Bridge, 6:30 PM.

The Slut, noon.

Tuesday, October 18

Southwest, 2:45 PM.