The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival is happening now (through October 26), and the Third Coast Review film team got a chance to screen many of the film selections in advance. Here, our last installment of what’s screening as the Festival winds down and what you should – and maybe shouldn’t – make time to see. For all our Festival coverage, follow this link.
The festival continues through Thursday, meaning there’s a whole weekend full of films and then some, and no Cubs games to keep you away from the cinema (too soon?). And just to keep things interesting, programmers have saved some real gems for the home stretch.
Each brief review below (in alphabetical order) is credited to the Third Coast writer—Steve Prokopy (SP), Lisa Trifone (LT) or Andrew Xu (AX)—who checked out the film.
Call Me By Your Name
One of the finest films you’ll see this year, the latest from Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) is a visually lush and emotionally burning story set in the summer of 1983 in a 17th century villa in northern Italy. The Perlman family is made up of intelligent, cultured, and restless souls, including 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet, who also stars in Lady Bird), son of a professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) and translator (Amira Casar). As he does every year, the professor hires an intern to help him out with his work, and this particular year, Oliver (Armie Hammer), who is working on his doctorate, fits the bill of both scholar and perfect male specimen. While Elio flirts with a local girl (Esther Garrel), he finds himself drawn to Oliver’s confidence and seemingly limitless knowledge, and the two spend a great deal of the summer together, swimming, sunbathing, cycling, and eventually, unexpectedly falling for each other.
Working from a screenplay by filmmaker James Ivory (based on the novel by André Aciman), Guadagnino treats this story of first love like he would any other, regardless of the gender of the two leads. Call Me By Your Name isn’t the kind of film where we’re waiting for that terrible moment when the two young men are discovered by closed-minded others; he allows them to slowly grow their friendship into a meaningful love affair. Elio’s age is something of an issue; although he is exceedingly mature and independent for his age, he’s also incapable of handling feelings this deep and complex, and it leads to a load of hurt at times. The movie never gets tawdry or salacious or silly; Guadagnino has certainly featured far more graphic sexual encounters in his films in the past. But the performances are rich and patient, while the story allows for unexpected revelations and attitudes to reveal themselves beautifully. The director’s use of location is almost too good to be true, and will likely make you want to book at trip to Italy immediately. Look for this title come awards season and to make many a Best of 2017 lists. (SP)
Call Me By Your Name screens Wednesday, 10/25 at 8pm. Actor Michael Stuhlbarg is expected to attend.
Following up his 2014 first-person POV horror hit Creep, director Patrick Brice and co-writer Mark Duplass return to give us the further adventures of Aaron, the strangely upbeat and weirdly friendly killer with a fondness for scary wolf masks and filming every minute he spends with his victims until the second he murders them. This time around, Aaron (Duplass, now bearded and with a stupid ponytail) lures web series host Sara (filmmaker Desiree Akhavan) via Craigslist, promising her money to film and edit a documentary about the life of a prolific serial killer with a body count approaching 30. Desperate to keep her struggling show going, Sara seems game to point the camera at Aaron and listen to him open up about his life as he considers what made him the man he is today—bad at making lasting friendships, awkward around women, and able to murder people who care about him without hesitation.
Creep 2 is less about the scares this time around and far more about getting into Aaron’s head and the tense back and forth going on between the two leads. Brice keeps the found-footage feel of the first film going without it seeming ridiculous, and the strange but effective bond that builds up between Aaron and Sara allows us to hesitantly root for this relationship to lead to helping rather than hurting. (Yeah, good luck with that.) Duplass plays off his good-guy persona to wonderful effect here, and he even manages to do a full-frontal nude scene without it feeling uncomfortably weird. I dug it as a bizarre character study, but as a horror film, it might let some people down. (SP)
Creep 2 screens Friday, 10/20 at 9:15pm and Saturday, 10/21 at 9pm. Director/co-writer Patrick Brice is expected to attend both screenings.
If you’re lucky enough to know from a relatively young age what it is you want to do with your life, putting all your time and energy into living that life seems like a no-brainer. So it is for Jane Goodall, subject of the winning new documentary about her life, career and legacy. In an era when a woman was expected to do nothing more than marry and make babies, she knew in her core that her future held something different; namely, that she’d find her way to Africa in order to be with the animals she so adored. Marriage and motherhood would eventually find her, but she made it all work (more or less) around her growing exploration of the life of chimpanzees in the wild. At a compact 90 minutes, director Brett Morgen (Cobain: Montage of Heck, On the Ropes), Jane is packed full of archival footage from Goodall’s time essentially alone in the jungle, biding her time while the chimps got comfortable with her. Now 83, she narrates much of her own story, gently guided here and there by Morgen’s questions. Part nature documentary, part portrait of a complex woman (daughter, scientist, lover, etc.) who until now has shied away from the spotlight, the film is a real-life heroine narrative and should be essential viewing for every young girl (and boy) with a dream. (LT)
Jane screens Monday, 10/23 at 6:30pm and Tuesday, 10/24 at 3pm. Director Brett Morgen is expected to attend the first screening.
Let the Sunshine In
I wouldn’t classify the latest from director/co-writer Claire Denis (Beau Travail, White Material) a romantic comedy, but Let the Sunshine In might be the closest she ever gets to one. Juliette Binoche plays middle-aged artist Isabelle, who is at a crossroads in her love life. She’s recently divorced, dating and/or sleeping with a small handful of men. Each one of them treats her with varying degrees of affection and respect, although none of them see to complete her in the way she’s been fashioned to believe they should, and this has left her somewhat empty. Not surprisingly, Binoche is flawless and hits all the right notes to make Isabelle both tragic and darkly funny, while the rest of the movie is a virtual parade of familiar French actors (including a closing credits monologue by Gerard Depardieu) moving in and out of Isabelle’s life and bedroom. Let the Sunshine In (co-scripted with author/playwright Christine Angot) puts all other “finding the right man” films to shame by acknowledging that such a search can be silly and futile, while never forgetting that people embark on such searches because it’s important to them. In the end, the movie takes a decided feminist stand on the idea of a significant other, but leaves open the possibility that our heroine still has one eye open. (SP)
Back in 1999, Claire Denis took American critics by storm with Beau Travail, a piercing examination of one man’s struggle to come to terms with new conceptions of masculinity. Now, in Let the Sunshine In, she tells the complementary tale of Isabelle (Juliette Binoche), a woman trying to make the most of new, sexually-liberated definitions of femininity by running from boyfriend to boyfriend. As a viewer, you’ll be hard-pressed not to like Binoche, who provides an affecting follow-up to the repressed housewife she portrayed in Three Colors: Blue. And if you look around her, you’ll find an absorbing story that effortlessly melds comedy with poignant, wistfully sensuous commentary on love’s simultaneous beauty and transience. Like Andrea Pallaoro’s Hannah (another CIFF film), Isabelle’s struggles eventually furnish an ironic, bittersweet testament to the challenges of being truly independent in modern-day society. (AX)
Let the Sunshine In screens Sunday, 10/22 at 5:45pm and Monday, 10/23 at 5:45pm.
The Whiskey Bandit
Bank robbers, especially the non-violent kind, have been the stuff of legend, both in film and in the real world for decades in the United States. They take on an almost mythological quality because we all secretly wish we could be so brazen as to takes piles of money without getting caught. So why shouldn’t this sliver of the American dream translate to other countries, or even to the mind of a Transylvania-born man named Attila (newcomer Bence Szalay) who moved to Romania, joined a hockey team, and eventually became the most famous and celebrated back robbers in the nation’s history. Oh, did I mention this is also a true story?
From writer-director Nimród Antal (Kontroll, Vacancy), The Whiskey Bandit tells Attila’s story from being bullied as a child to going to juvenile detention to being treated as a second-class citizen when he moves to Hungary. It all culminates in a notorious life as a bank robber that the nation somehow fell in love with in an era when anti-authoritarianism was all the fashion, in the wake of Nicolae Ceaușescu being overthrown. The film moves like lightning, features some fantastic action set pieces, and provides a fantastic platform for Szalay to be charming, funny and daring all at once. As if being an action star wasn’t enough, Attila is also dating a very nice young woman who knows nothing of his activities, so the film casts him as a romantic lead to boot. Clearly, this one packs a lot into two hours, and it’s a total blast. (SP)
The Whiskey Bandit will screen Saturday, 10/21 at 9:15pm and Sunday, 10/22 at 12:30pm. Writer-director Nimród Antal is expected to attend both screenings.