10 to see at Chicago International Film Festival
By BILL STAMETS For Sun-Times Media October 7, 2013 7:36PM
49TH CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
When: Thursday-Oct. 24
Where: AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois
Tickets : $14 ($11 for Cinema/Chicago members, seniors and students); $5 weekly matinees through 5 p.m.; $10 after 10 p.m.; multi-screening passes available.
Info: (312) 332-FILM; chicagofilmfestival.com
Updated: November 9, 2013 6:04AM
Usually a place to see mainstream blockbusters, the AMC River East 21 will have more subtitles than fireballs for the next two weeks.
As the site of the Chicago International Film Festival, the multiplex will screen the sort of fare usually seen at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Facets Cinematheque, Landmark Century and the Music Box.
New directors distinguish this year’s lineup of 135 features and 55 shorts. Auspicious first-time filmmakers outnumber known auteurs such as Jiri Menzel, Nanni Moretti, Jafar Panahi, Tsai Ming-Liang and Andrzej Wajda.
The opening night gala on Thursday at the Chicago Theatre is dedicated to Roger Ebert, the late Chicago Sun-Times film critic. VIP tickets for $150 include a red-carpet screening of James Gray’s “The Immigrant,” followed by a reception at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Viewers will get early looks at studio titles including “12 Years a Slave,” “August: Osage County,” “The Fifth Estate,” “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” “Nebraska,” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.” These Oscar-oriented dramas with star casts open in the months to come.
Documentaries are represented by noted directors including Claude Lanzmann (“The Last of the Unjust”), Frederick Wiseman (“At Berkeley”) and Errol Morris (“The Unknown Known”). Morris’ portrait of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is dedicated to Ebert.
Funny films old and new are part of a new Comedy Focus section. “That came from surveys from the audience: ‘Couldn’t you get some comedies besides all your deadly serious downer films?’ ” said Michael Kutza, founder and artistic director of the festival. “They’ve been saying it for years. We’re finally listening.”
Representing women is a recurring issue in films about African-American novelist Alice Walker, Roma poet Papusza in Poland, Miss World of 1998 from Israel, advocates for Muslim women’s rights, a Canadian woman painting women killed by a serial killer, and show gal Elaine Stritch celebrating her 87th birthday. Also on screen are Zoe Bell, Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Isabelle Huppert, Amy Morton, Samantha Morton and Meryl Streep.
Based on viewings of dozens of this year’s festival offerings, here are 10 worth watching:
“WALESA: MAN OF HOPE” (Poland): Andrzej Wajda reprises his “Man of Marble” and “Man of Iron” to portray a true Polish hero of the people. This valorizing biopic’s frame is an interview by Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci that cues flashbacks for the Solidarity leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner. 5:30 p.m. Friday, 2:15 p.m. Sunday, 3:20 p.m. Oct. 16.
“A THOUSAND TIMES GOOD NIGHT” (Norway): Juliette Binoche plays an impassioned photojournalist shooting a female suicide bomber in Kabul. Too close, she is injured and goes home to Ireland. Her daughters and husband endure her near-death calling. Erik Poppe explores the wrenching contradictions of a career woman in peril. 3 p.m. Saturday, 8:15 p.m. Monday, 12:40 p.m. Oct. 16.
“THE MAJOR” (Russia): A cop speeding to the hospital for his wife’s risky delivery kills a boy on a highway and there’s only one witness. Yury Bykov directs a Dostoyevskian procedural on corruption and conscience. 6:15 p.m. Saturday, 8 p.m. Oct. 15, 11:15 a.m. Oct. 19.
“BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR” (France): This intimate three-hour love story from Abdellatif Kechiche (“Games of Love and Chance”) tracks a high school student and an art school student over several years. It’s based on Julie Maroh’s 2010 graphic novel. She calls the explicitly lit erotics “a brutal and surgical display.” This Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival got an NC-17 rating. 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
“INFILTRATORS” (Palestine/UAE/Lebanon): West Bank native Khaled Jarrar extends his 2008 photography exhibit about a 26-foot-tall concrete security wall for a lyrical video ethnography on risky routes into Jerusalem. Night and day, Palestinians circumvent this Israeli barrier to find work, sell bread, visit family and get medical treatment. 8:35 p.m. Saturday, 8:20 p.m. Monday.
“LIKE FATHER LIKE SON” (Japan): Kore-eda Hirokazu (“Still Walking” and “After Life”) offers an exquisitely sensitive drama about two dads finding out their 6-year-old sons were switched at the hospital. A perfect piano score syncopates the poignant insights on offspring. The wise ending apparently varies from how Japanese families resolve actual cases of switched-at-birth children. 6 p.m. Oct. 16, 7 p.m. Oct. 19.
“THE VERDICT” (Belgium): Opening with a Camus quote about justice, this juridical thriller by Jan Verheyen tests principles of legal equality in a constitutional state. After a procedural error frees the killer of his wife and, indirectly, their young daughter, a white-collar worker exacts a brand justice derided as wild Western. 8:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 8:15 p.m. Oct. 17, 3 p.m. Oct 22.
“LE WEEK-END” (UK): Roger Michell directs Hanif Kureishi’s script delving into the marvelously nuanced romance of a British couple played by Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent. On a 30th anniversary jaunt to Paris, they run into a best-selling author from their radical past played by Jeff Goldblum. For a beautiful finale, this trio re-creates a singular dance number by Jean-Luc Godard. 8:30 p.m. Oct. 17, 5:30 p.m. Oct. 19.
“TRAPPED” (Iran): Parviz Shahbazi directs a rich tale of a young Iranian woman scamming her new med school roommate. An out-of-sorts generation in Tehran negotiates prospects for education, entertainment and emigration. 6 p.m. Oct. 19, 8:15 p.m. Oct. 21, 3:30 p.m. Oct 22.
“SOUL” (Taiwan): With entrancing cinematography, Chung Mong-Hong offers a disquieting fable of a young chef who appears to die on the job, but revives with “a wandering soul” in residence with fatal detours. His orchid-raising father attempts a home cure in fog-wreathed mountains. 5:30 p.m. Oct. 21, 8:45 p.m. Oct 22, 1 p.m. Oct. 23.
Bill Stamets is a Chicago freelance writer.