Preview: Second Week of 51st Chicago International Film Festival

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CHICAGO – As the 2015 edition of the 51st Chicago International Film Festival winds down into its second week, it continues wtih international and U.S. film offerings, plus additional festival favorites. All screenings are taking place at the AMC River North 21, 322 Illinois Street, Chicago, and the festival runs through October 29th. contributors Brendan Hodges and Patrick McDonald have been sampling the fest, and provides this preview to cover the second week of the event. Over 50 countries are represented, and many of the films from the U.S. and elsewhere will be Oscar contenders. Each capsule is designated with BH (Brendan) or PM (Patrick) to indicate the author.

“Feel the Illinoise – City and State Short Films”

‘Nomad,’ Directed by Local Filmmaker Bradley Bischoff
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

The Chicago International Film Festival also features short film programs in over eight categories. The City and State short films is the festival’s biggest celebrations, as local talent express their interpretations of the cinema art in short form. Titles are “Nomad,” “Chasm,” “Unknown Unknown,” “I Am the Passenger,” “Marlene,” “Nick Santore” “Retrocognition,” and “The Same River Twice.” Come support the local auteurs, coming to a theater in the future near you. (PM)

Friday, 10/23, 5:30pm

“Where to Invade Next”

Where to Invade Next
’Where to Invade Next,’ Directed by Michael Moore
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

Director and provocateur Michael Moore is back, with a new documentary that will again have people talking. His question is simple – for the large expenditure output that the United States uses for military defense, and the taxes we pay as citizens, how could we spend the money alternatively? For this, Moore goes around the world, highlighting the innovative social systems of other countries, who prefer to keep their countrymen happy and more productive. What is striking is Moore’s almost giddy optimism, as he opines that was once thought impossible (gay marriage, for example) is now the law. Couldn’t we apply that same hope for social evolution in America? Michael Moore will make an appearance on behalf of the film. (PM)

Friday, 10/23, 7pm
Sunday, 10/35. 12pm
Monday, 10/36, 3pm


‘Hitchcock/Truffaut,’ Directed by Kent Jones
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

A must see for classic film and Alfred Hitchcock admirers and French New Wave fans. Framed around the legendary 1963 interviews that New Wave Director Francois Truffaut did with the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock (which later became a must-have book), “Hitchcock/Truffaut” is a wondrous time capsule, and uses the actual taped conversations to advance the wealth of the Hitchcock career film highlights. The beauty of this overview, conceived and directed by Kent Jones, is the perceived innocence of the project, in a time when celebrity and movie culture was not so prominent. Truffaut is merely a disciple of Hitchcock, and it was his expansion to the book in 1966 that transformed Hitch into the deserved legend – this documentary is a welcome reminder of that breakthrough. Exquisite. (PM)

Saturday, 10/24, 5pm
Monday, 10/26, 6pm

“The 33”

The 33
‘ The 33,’ Directed by Patricia Riggen
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

For a film that is based on a true story, and the outcome is known, director Patricia Riggen was able to put together a terse and interesting narrative film about the 2010 incident involving 22 Chilean miners, who were trapped underground for 69 days after their workplace collapses. There are absolutely passionate performances by the mostly Latin cast, including a surprisingly deep turn by Antonio Banderas as the leader of the trapped crew. Although the beginning is amusingly like other disaster movies – the retiree, the expectant father, the outsider, the alcoholic – the film is actually more subtle, and contains some story surprises that director Riggen wisely uses to break up the claustrophobia of the men trapped in a hole. And surprise, there is brilliant French actress Juliette Binoche as a Chilean empanada maven. (PM)

Saturday, 10/24, 6pm

“In the Shadow of Women”

In the Shadow of Women
‘In the Shadow of Women,’ Directed by Philippe Garrel
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

Fans of Noah Baumbach will be right at home. Philippe Garrel’s “In the Shadow of Women” draws on the same sources of influence and pinpoints them to similar narrative ambitions – namely, there’s an oddball synthesis of Woody Allen and the French New Wave. Shot in beautiful black and white, “Women” follows a young married couple, both documentary filmmakers, who are mutually unfaithful. The unlikable man, Pierre, (Stanislas Merhar), can’t keep his paws off a beautiful film archivist (Lena Paugam) who, in turn, might be in love with him. PIerre’s wife Manon (Clotilde Courau) also has a man on the side, and all the usual conflicts follow. There’s the obligatory passive aggressiveness between the central couple, the expected fights between a man and his mistress about leaving the wife, and the inevitably sad revelations that always follow. Luckily, the crisp visuals and fine performances elevate well trodden territory to the point of being consistently engaging. The two women leading the picture are a particular joy to watch, presenting two dynamic, singular people with a level of nuance uncommon in by the book domestic dramas. (BH)

Saturday, 10/24, 8pm
Tuesday, 10/27, 7:45pm

“A Perfect Day”

A Perfect Day
‘A Perfect Day,’ Directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

Director Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s “A Perfect Day” is an imperfect film. Tonally uneven and without much driving the movie forward, this is labored if intermittently enjoyable viewing. The setting is ten year ago, set “somewhere in the Balkans” amidst a boiling cauldron of warring locals. Benecio Del Toro stars as Mambrú, a humanitarian aid worker given the lurid task of using his truck and some rope to pull a “fatso” stuck deep at the bottom of a well. The U.N. says the war is over, but this black comedy shows the impotent reach of international political hierarchy. Mabrú has his team, including a rock-and-roll Tim Robbins wearing a bandana, Mélanie Theirry as an idealistic new recruit, and Olga Kurylenko as the mysterious vixen from his past, as they travel from region to region in search of rope. Well intentioned and earnest, but flawed. (BH)

Sunday, 10/25, 8pm
Tuesday, 10/27, 7:45pm


Best of the Fest
Best of the Fest at the 51st Chicago International Film Festival
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

An incredible opportunity to take advantage of what audiences and festival facilitators consider the “Best of…” As the Hugo Awards are given tomorrow night, these films will also be included. Make sure you go on the 51st Chicago International Film Festival website (listed below) on or around Wednesday, October 28th – the final day before the festival ends – to get a full schedule for BEST OF THE FEST. (PM)

Wednesday and Thursday, 10/28&29, Various times

The 51st Chicago International Film Festival continues through October 29th, 2015 at the AMC River East 21, 322 Illinois Street, Chicago. Click here for film schedules, information and to purchase tickets. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editorial Coordinator, Writer

© 2015 Patrick McDonald,

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