Northwest Chicago Film Society Season Preview

Poster - Bridges at Toko-Ri, The_01Films are back in session as the Northwest Chicago Film Society has announced the schedule for its 15th season, with films being screened between September 7 and December 6.

Most screenings will take place on Wednesdays at the Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University (3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Building E). Special screenings will be held at the Music Box Theatre and the Chicago History Museum.

The season begins with Jane Campion’s Palm D’Or nominated directorial debut Sweetie (1989). This comedy / drama, co-written by Campion, looks at a dysfunctional Australian family and an, at times, annoying middle-aged daughter nicknamed Sweetie (Genevieve Lemon).

This year’s season is an eclectic mix of films ranging from Jean-Luc Godard’s experimental adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear (1987); the war time drama, The Bridges At Toko-Ri (1954) starring William Holden; a silent documentary about Indians living in Canada, The Silent Enemy (1930), which will have a live musical accompaniment; the Japanese family drama, Equinox Flower (1958) directed by Yasujiro Ozu; and the western The Hired Hand (1971), Peter Fonda’s directorial debut.

Here are our reviews for movies of particular interest.

The Bridges At Toko-Ri

This heavy melodrama, directed by Mark Robson of Peyton Place (1958) fame, follows a Navy fighter pilot (William Holden) during the Korean War. The pilot, who also served in World War II, becomes disillusioned with the nature of war and an assignment given to him–to bomb the bridges at Toko-Ri, which will most certainly cost him his life.

The movie is carried by Holden’s sympathetic performance and Fredric March’s as an older, wiser Rear Admiral but the movie take too long to establish its central conflict. For a war drama the movie, released a year after the war ended, lacks a patriotic feel, and goes for, sometimes, out of place comedic moments with Mickey Rooney in a supporting role.

Grace Kelly receives second billing but is almost invisible, appearing in two scenes. The Bridges At Toko-Ri was nominated for two Academy Awards and won one for its special effects.

Screening, Wednesday, September 14, 7:30pm at the NEIU Auditorium.

The Hired Hand

After the release of Easy Rider (1969), its two stars, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, both made their directorial debuts. For Fonda it was a western, with Fonda playing a man who abandoned his wife and child and years later decided to return to make things right.

This seldom seen or discussed film is definitely a curiosity piece but the languid pace of the movie, with its repeated slow motion dissolves and super impositions, may test some viewers’ patience.

Once again Fonda plays a man trying to “find” himself as the movie hits on themes of masculinity, moral responsibility and hints of homosexuality, that couldn’t be further explored until Brokeback Mountain (2005). Some have referred to The Hired Hand as an “anti-western,” but a better example of this, also released the same year, would be Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971). Both movies were shot by the legendary Hungarian cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond.

Screening Tuesday, October 11, 7:30pm at the NEIU Auditorium.

For a complete schedule of films and showtimes, visit the Northwest Chicago Film Society website here.

Alex Udvary
Alex Udvary