The return of the Chicago International Film Festival
Fall into film
10/05/2011 10:00 PM
Ah, fall — when the leaves turn autumn shades, the wind gains a slight nip, sweaters are removed from summer hiding places, and a touch of Hollywood and world cinema glamour hits Chicago shores when the Chicago International Film Festival sprouts back to life.
Now in its 47th edition, the festival offers the perfect opportunity to experience a variety of cinematic flavors from across the globe. Over 180 feature-length films and shorts from over 50 countries will be rolled out during the fest’s 15-day run at the AMC River East 21.
Festival founder and artistic director Michael Kutza and head programmer Mimi Plauché present another strong line-up that balances off-the-beaten-path films with mainstream fare. The selections are mouth-watering.
Buzzed arthouse films by David Cronenberg (A Dangerous Method), Lars von Trier (Melancholia), Bela Tarr (The Turin Horse, rumored to be the Hungarian master’s last film) and more sit comfortably amongst higher profile flicks such as Simon Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, Lance Daly’s The Good Doctor featuring Orlando Bloom as a sociopath physician, and a head-scratching special presentation of The Three Musketeers directed by video game adaptation maven Paul W.S. Anderson (of the Resident Evil franchise).
Films by acclaimed filmmakers notwithstanding, the Chicago-centric offerings are the standout. In a fitting tribute to its home city, the fest spotlights a plethora of films and filmmaker with Chicago ties, beginning with the opening night film.
Written and directed by Joe Maggio and produced by Stephanie Striegel and Bill Straus in association with Steppenwolf Films, The Last Rites of Joe May stars Dennis Farina (Get Shorty, Midnight Run, Snatch) and Steppenwolf ensemble members Gary Cole (Office Space) and Ian Barford in the story of an old school hustler (Farina) who returns to his West Town neighborhood after an extended hospital stay only to find himself aged out of the game. Maggio, Farina and additional cast members will be in attendance at the opening.
The West Side gets further coverage in a special presentation of one of the greatest films set and shot in Chicago, Cooley High.
Released in 1975 but set in the early ’60s, the coming-of-age classic about a group of high school seniors living in and around Cabrini-Green features some of the best location shooting of any Chicago film. The Near North Side urban decay fuses with a Motown soundtrack to beautifully evoke both the poverty and bittersweet happiness of the area’s residents.
The Chicago love continues with Andrew Bird: Fever Year, Xan Aranda’s portrait of the idiosyncractic Chicago-based musician Andrew Bird, whose violin and whistling-heavy pop masterpieces have led to indie stardom, and Patang, the debut feature from Chicago-born filmmaker Prashant Bhargava that follows a Delhi businessman back to his family home for a surprise visit.
The supreme Chicago celebration comes via special events honoring Chicagoans who have made their city proud across several generations: cinematographer Haskell Wexler (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff, In the Heat of the Night, Medium Cool, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Days of Heaven), actor John C. Reilly (Magnolia, Chicago, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), radio legend Ken Nordine (Word Jazz) and independent filmmaker Joe Swanberg (LOL, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Uncle Kent). All four will be present to discuss their careers and for Q&A sessions.