Friday, September 19, 2014

Chicago International Film Festival 50! - a Preview

The Look of Silence

The 50th Chicago International Film Festival will begin soon - who would have thought back in the 1960s that this event would have a 50th birthday celebration? But here we are, with opening night on October 9, featuring the premiere of Miss Julie, the latest film from Liv Ullman.

As this is the 50th festival, the organizers have put together an excellent array of films as always, but to honor this milestone, they have lined up an all-star collection of talent who will appear. Directors such as Oliver Stone, Taylor Hackford, Bob Rafelson and Ullmann will be in town for various events (Stone will appear at the screening of his director's cut of Natural Born Killers and Alexander: Ultimate Edition, both on October 12).

Among the films I'm most looking forward to is The Look of Silence, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. The director, who gave us the mesmerizing documentary The Act of Killing, which told the story of a few of the individuals who masterminded the government-sanctioned killings in Indonesia in the 1960s, has now made his followup to that film. This opus is about the brother of a victim who is still troubled by these events so much that he confronts one of the killers who bragged about his actions in that first film. I can't wait to see what Oppenheimer brings us with this work.

The Imitation Game, which won the People's Choice Award at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, is a story of justice denied. Directed by Morton Tyldum and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, the film details the true story of Alan Turing, a brilliant British mathematician who was a member of the team that broke the German Enigma code that helped turn the tide in World War ll. His work was celebrated, but a few years after the war, he was prosecuted for committing homosexual acts. Given Cumberbatch's marvelous screen acting these past few years, I'm very interested to see this work.

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles, directed by Chuck Workman, is a documentary about the genius filmmaker, who turned Hollywood on its head in the 1940s and '50s. The film traces his life from his childhood and includes thoughts on Welles from such cinematic luminaries as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Peter Bogdonavich. For years, Workman made short films that were shown at the beginning of the Academy Awards telecasts; these shorts were beautifully made, displaying a love for the cinema that too often was missing during those broadcasts. I can't wait to see how Workman approaches the life of Orson Welles.

Another documentary I am looking forward to is Algren, about famed Chicago author Nelson Algren. Directed by Michael Caplan, the film incorporates interviews with artists inspired by his work; there are also many Art Shay photographs from the 1950s and '60s.

Of course, as this is the Chicago International Film Festival, there will be a good deal of local talent on display, including numerous short films created by Chicago film students. One of the feature films that will premiere is St. Vincent, directed by Ted Melfi and starring Illinois natives Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy.

Finally, there will also be several classic older films that will be screened - some famous, others not so well-known. Why Be Good? is a 1927 film starring top box office draw Colleen Moore; here is your chance to see this film that was thought lost. Also showing at the fest will be Jamaica Inn (1939), one of Alfred Hitchcock's least known works; this starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara. Hitchcock expert John Russell Taylor will appear at this screening and will also appear at a special showing of the 1954 George Cukor classic A Star is Born, which has been restored to its original length and digitally remastered.

I can't wait for the festival to begin, as I know there are many films I want to see. Judging from the entire list of films (click here), there should be something special for every film lover! Congratulations to founder and artistic director Michael Kutza for five decades of tireless promotion of cinema in Chicago!