By Brian Belack
Every year, the summer schedule at Doc Films proves itself interesting. With many of the regular attendees and volunteers gone for the quarter with much of the University community, the screenings are scaled back to Wednesdays through Saturdays, and there aren’t so many big-name blockbusters in the line-up. However, this ultimately makes room for some far more interesting and lesser-known films to come into the spotlight. Come to Doc this summer, and you’re guaranteed to see films you’ll likely never have the chance to see again. The films listed below are only a few of those being shown at Doc this month, and a full calendar can be viewed at www.docfilms.org or picked up in print at any showing.
The Least Foreign Films: A Survey Of Current Chicago Image Makers
Thursdays - 7 pm
It’s common to immediately associate filmmaking with Hollywood or New York, but the current Chicago film scene is just as vibrant as ever. Curated with the help of the Gene Siskel Film Center and the Cinema Culture, this series, a special at Doc Films this summer, features the work of local filmmakers in everything from animation and short exploratory pieces to found footage collages (including a night with films made entirely out of trailers for other films) and longer narrative features. Most of the films are fairly short and very experimental, ranging across formats of 16mm, 35mm, and video, and many of the screenings are accompanied by presentations from the filmmakers themselves.
The Life of Oharu
July 5 – 7, 9:30 pm
The Life of Oharu is quite possibly the most depressing film ever made. Kinuyo Tanaka rips your heart out with her performance as a woman living in 17th Century Japan whose life spirals out of control with each failed attempt to find love and happiness. As she falls from being the daughter of a respected samurai, to a daimyo’s mistress, to a courtesan, maid, shopkeeper’s wife, nun, beggar, prostitute, and finally exile, Oharu’s life becomes an analysis of the strict class-based world of historical Japan, where honor, personal and familial, rules all actions. Director Kenji Mizoguchi records this fall in his signature long takes and tracking shots, constantly pushing Oharu forward in life and refusing to give her any relief through cuts in between shots. Although Tanaka acted in films of all three major “Golden Age” Japanese directors (also Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu), it is her work with Mizoguchi that ensured her place in film history. Shown in Japanese with English subtitles.
July 10 – 7 pm
Andy Warhol is mostly known for painting Campbell’s tomato soup cans and hanging out with the Velvet Underground in New York, but among his many forays into other visual arts lies his work in experimental filmmaking. Kiss is a 50-minute film in which various couples in various pairings – man and woman, man and man, etc. – kiss for exactly 3.5 minutes each, toying with the viewer’s experience of real-time film depiction and how that can affect observation of the screen. One of the first films made at his Factory studio, Kiss was later followed by Warhol with other explorations of basic human activities like Eat and Sleep in an effort to deconstruct the mundane activities of life and force people to look upon them in a new light.
July 13 – 7, 9:15 pm
One of Bengali director Satyajit Ray’s most controversial films, Charulata was also his own personal favorite. The film, also known as The Lonely Wife, follows Charu, a housewife who tires of being neglected by her always-working journalist husband, Bhupati. Noticing her loneliness, Bhupati calls on his cousin Amal to spend time with Charu, but the relationship quickly develops into amorous infidelity. Called a “majestic snail” by the New York Times, Charulata is definitely a slow-burner rather than a fast-paced action flick, but Ray uses the slower speed expertly to intensely focus on Charu’s loneliness and develop her plight. Although rejected from the Cannes Film Festival when initially releases in 1965, Charulata recently screened as part of the Cannes Classics segment of the 2013 festival, in celebration of 100 years of Indian cinema.
October: Ten Days That Shook the World
July 19 – 7, 10 pm
A master of silent cinema and the most definitive Russian filmmaker of all time, Sergei Eisenstein is renowned the world over for his innovative “montage” style of editing, in which he would cut abruptly between disparate images to draw new ties and build intellectual associations. Produced by Eisenstein in collaboration with fellow filmmaker Grigori Aleksandrov on commission from the Soviet government, October represents a pinnacle of this “montage” style in its depiction of the 1917 October Revolution that created the Soviet Union. A staunch Soviet supporter, Eisenstein’s film glorified the Revolution and, due to the lack of footage of the real events, was later used as the definitive account of the Revolution by historians and other filmmakers, solidifying the film’s power as propaganda. Although the experiments in “montage” were initially denounced by the Soviet government as too intellectual for the mass audience, later critics have hailed October as a masterpiece of late silent cinema and one of Eisenstein’s most powerful films.
Mexican Bus Ride
July 24 – 7 pm
Surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel, most famous for the image of an eyeball being cut by a razor blade, as featured in his collaboration with Salvador Dalí Un Chien Andalou, made films for over fifty years, and in that time, he experimented with practically every single genre of film possible, making him one of the most diverse filmmakers in history. One of Buñuel’s many moves into comedic work, 1952’sMexican Bus Ride is the story of a man who must postpone his honeymoon in order to travel to his dying mother in a distant city and fight off his brothers scheming for large portions of her will. Buñuel’s surrealist mastery comes through in the titular bus ride, as the man must face countless twisted difficulties along his way. Shown in Spanish with English subtitles.
Lady Windermere’s Fan
July 26 – 7, 9:15 pm
The plays of Oscar Wilde are mostly praised for the witty dialogue of his characters, satirizing high society in Victorian England, so it may seem impossible for the 1925 silent adaptation of Lady Windermere’s Fan to do the original play any justice. However, director Ernst Lubitsch manages to do just that, and do it beautifully, through carefully constructed scenes and subtle gestures that capture Wilde’s satire with hardly a word necessary. The story itself is that of a woman, Lady Windermere, who leaves her husband when she believes he is having an affair with another woman, Mrs. Erlynne. As Lady Windermere struggles to find the truth, Mrs. Erlynne prepares to sacrifice herself and her reputation to save the marriage. Masterfully acted, the film remains one of the best Wilde film adaptations to this day.