• [The Daily] Chicago 2017

    By David Hudson

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    The Chicago International Film Festival opens tonight with Reginald Hudlin’s Marshall and runs through October 26, when it closes with Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which won the Golden Lion in Venice (reviews).

    “Some biopics go for sweeping and exhaustive, trying to cram an entire life into a tidy two hours or so,” writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times.Marshall smartly opts for modest. With economy, a bit of gauzy nostalgia and likable performances, it revisits an early episode from the life of Thurgood Marshall, the civil rights lawyer who became the first African-American to hold a seat on the Supreme Court. From the 1940s to the early ’60s, he argued 32 cases before the court, winning most.” For Eric Henderson at Slant, Marshall “is a baldly populist gesture, aimed at reminding its audience that there are always exceptions to the crypto-fascist rule. And as it positions its namesake as a faultless rabble-rouser, the film similarly embraces its own blunt conviction. Is it out to win anyone's heart and mind? No, and the most depressing thing about the film is its vague insinuation that the moment for doing just that long ago passed.”

    The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips gets personal recommendations from CIFF artistic director Mimi Plauche (Ruth Mader’s Life Guidance and Atsuko Hirayanagi’s Oh, Lucy!), Michael Kutza, CIFF founder and programmer (Ferenc Török’s 1945, Maciej Sobieszczański’s The Reconciliation, and Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country), and programmers Anthony Kaufman (Joao Moreira Salles’s In the Intense Now, Matt Porterfield’s Sollers Point, and Errol Morris’s Wormwood), Alissa Simon (Peter Bebjak’s The Line and Oded Raz’s Maktub), Sam Flancher (Samuel M. Delgado and Helena Giron’s Plus Ultra), and Alex Vazquez (Giddens Ko’s Mon Mon Mon Monsters).

    Previewing a solid round of anticipated titles for Newcity, Ray Pride notes that “not too many of the hundred or so features at the fifty-third edition of the festival founded in 1964 by Michael Kutza are likely to be seen again on screens as large as those at the River East location.”

    “While there’s plenty of national and international talent on display throughout the festival, there is also a handful of noteworthy films by local directors,” writes Michael Smith for Time Out. “Chief among them is El Mar la Mar, a haunting and poetic documentary by Joshua Bonnetta and recent Chicago transplant/Northwestern University professor J.P. Sniadecki (The Iron Ministry) that examines life along the border of the U.S. and Mexico.” And “Stephen Cone (Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party), one of Chicago’s best and most prolific directors, returns to CIFF with Princess Cyd, another coming-of-age tale involving the conflict between flesh and spirit. . . . Last but not least, local movie buffs are likely to get a kick out of The Replacement, an ambitious sci-fi/comedy short by the husband-and-wife team of director Sean Miller and producer Naz Khan.”

    At RogerEbert.com, Peter Sobczynski previews no fewer than forty-five titles but then really zeroes in on five: Raymond Depardon’s 12 Days, “a quietly powerful and occasionally heartbreaking look at the complexities of mental illness”; Brett Morgan’s Jane, a “moving and entertaining look at the life and work of a truly remarkable woman,” Jane Goodall; Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying (see the New York Film Festival reviews), Claire Denis’s Let the Sunshine In (NYFF), and Philippe Garrel’s Lover for a Day (NYFF).

    “This year's fest offers an especially strong documentary slate,” note Jacob Oller and Scott Pfeiffer, segueing into their list of ten recommendations at the Chicagoist: The Shape of Water; Let the Sunshine In; Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning The Square (NYFF); Anahita Ghazvinizadeh’s They, “an ambient portrait of a transgender teen, J, facing an end-of-childhood medical decision: to transition or not”; Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s The Endless, “[o]ne of the most intellectually stimulating films of the year”; Guillaume ‘Run’ Renard and Shojiro Nishimi’s Mutafukaz, “[a]nimation like you’ve never seen before”; Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik’s Spoor, which “plays as both an unsettling mystery and an unabashed call to green revolution”; Aki Kaurismäki’s The Other Side of Hope (NYFF); François Jacob’s A Moon of Nickel and Ice, a “haunting, visually stunning documentary”; and Natalia Garagiola’s Hunting Season, “a coming-of-age film of blood, acne and chapped lips that reminds us of the imperfect flesh and bone we share with the living things around us.”

    In the Chicago Sun-Times, Bill Stamets recommends They, The Square, Joachim Trier’s Thelma (NYFF), Jonas Carpignano’s A Ciambra (Cannes), Joanna Kos-Krauze’s Birds Are Singing in Kigal (about “the post-trauma plight of a Polish ornithologist . . . and a slain colleague’s daughter who she rescued from the Rwandan genocide”), Chad Freidrichs’s The Experimental City (a “catchy profile of Athelstan Spilhaus, a headstrong urbanist who envisioned a futurist never-built folly in rural Minnesota”), Life Guidance, Matthias Heeder and Monika Hielscher’s Pre-Crime (“Persuasively paranoid”), Boudewijn Koole’s Disappearance, about “a last homecoming of a photojournalist, the estranged daughter of a concert pianist”; a program of shorts; a “moving documentary shorts from Kartemquin Films”; and Let the Sunshine In.

    “As part of the fest's Black Perspectives Program, actress Alfre Woodard will be given the Career Achievement Award,” notes Eloise Marie Valadez for the Times of Northwest Indiana. “The fourth annual Roger Ebert Award will be given to an emerging filmmaker,” and there’ll be tributes to Patrick Stewart and Vanessa Redgrave.

    Update, 10/14: The Reader’s posted its round of capsule previews: Fred Camper on Nancy Buirski’s The Rape of Recy Taylor (NYFF) and Spoor; Marilyn Ferdinand on Laura Schroeder’s Barrage with Isabelle Huppert and Scott Smith’s Chasing the Blues; Patrick Friel on The Line, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s Sicilian Ghost Story (Cannes); Andrea Gronvall on Kathleen Hepburn’s Never Steady, Never Still and Thelma; J.R. Jones on Marshall, Pre-Crime, The Square, and 12 Days; Leah Pickett on Mutafukaz and Sion Sono’s Tokyo Vampire Hotel; Jonathan Rosenbaum on Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966), Agnès Varda and JR’s Faces Places (NYFF), André Téchiné’s Golden Years, Last Flag Flying, Let the Sunshine In, and Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958); and Ben Sachs on director Kyle Henry and screenwriter Carlos Treviño’s Rogers Park, Daryl Wein’s Blueprint, Hong Sang-soo’s On the Beach at Night Alone (NYFF), and The Other Side of Hope.

    Update, 10/16: The new CINE-LIST has write-ups on several highlights.

    Update, 10/22: Jonathan Rosenbaum lists four “good things” about CIFF, four “bad things,” and writes about his “hopes and best wishes” for the festival: “The size and pluralism of the Chicago festival continues to be preferable to the absurd limitations of the one in New York, where in recent years all but a few selections already have commercial distributors before they’re even shown. . . . What remains to be done is to invest this pluralism with some critical shape and purpose.”

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