Aug 14, 2007

Chicago Underground Film Festival

The 14th Chicago Underground Film Festival runs Wednesday, August 15, through Sunday, August 19, with screenings at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, and Elegant Mr. Gallery, 1355 N. Milwaukee. Tickets for all screenings are $7; a $50 pass admits you to ten sceenings. For advance tickets visit; for more information call 773-341-6727 or visit


Orchard Vale Interspersed with experimental fairy-tale segments using cutout animation, this ambitious, underlit first feature by musician Tim Kinsella mostly consists of postapocalyptic dysfunctional-family drama. Despite some striking music and edgy performances, the fact that terms like postapocalyptic and dysfunctional family spring so readily to mind makes the narrative armature feel more generic than it apparently wants to be. Packed with filmmaking ideas, Kinsella's strange object oscillates between stylistic and thematic concerns that rarely mesh, though a lively and busy surface is fairly constant. In other words, I was sometimes bored by the story but never by the movie. 99 min. (Jonathan Rosenbaum) arrow Chopin Theater, 8 and 10 PM.


R The Goodtimeskid Filmmaker Azazel Jacobs calls this "a story about stolen love and stolen identities shot on stolen film." He's the son of Ken Jacobs (Star Spangled to Death), with some of his pa's anarchic spirit, and because he apparently stole good 35-millimeter stock, he doesn't have to worry that much about the story anyway. The slender premise--two guys are named Rodolfo, one of whom gets renamed Depresso by the girlfriend of the other--seems mainly an excuse to hang out with these people, and it's a tribute to Jacobs's skill that this is enough. He knows how to put air around his characters, pace their movements, and chart their interactions in various locations, and when the heroine starts dancing at one point, she's so good that I wanted to cheer. 77 min. (Jonathan Rosenbaum) arrow Chopin Theater, 6 PM.

The First Lowering Short experimental and documentary videos. 82 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 6:15 PM.

Celluloid #1 Alternately grating and hilarious, Steve Stasso's independent feature is an acerbic send-up of American celebrity. Steve Buckley plays an unctuous movie director who's been coasting on his debut film for ten years; desperate to jump-start his career, he scores an interview with a drug-addled actress (Julie Atlas Muz) whose strong-arming agent keeps her on a short leash but can't prevent her coming apart on camera as the questions become increasingly personal. Stasso's narrative can be rough sledding, with the tension between the three principals pitched too high, but he savages the scuzzy complicity between celebrities and the media. 78 min. (Joshua Katzman) arrow Chopin Theater, 7:45 PM.

Everybody Is Hurting and On Deaf Ears Richard Sandler's video Everybody Is Hurting (2006, 52 min.) focuses on Manhattan during the 9/11 attacks and in the following weeks. His rather random cinematography and editing add little insight (yeah, 9/11 was bad). But some of his shots (posters seeking the dead) evoke the desolation, and the sequence at the video's center, an impromptu debate in Union Square Park, is more intelligent than one might expect--some of the speakers actually think U.S. foreign policy should be reconsidered. Josiah Bultema's pointless On Deaf Ears (14 min.) features diffident footage of street preachers and passing atheists offering their comments. (Fred Camper) arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 8 PM.

Each Time I Kill Legendary exploitation filmmaker Doris Wishman died in 2002 with this not-so-scary horror video mostly shot; it was completed four years later. A gawky, lonely teenager finds a magic amulet that promises her the ability to take for herself one physical feature of anyone she kills; after her parents die she starts using the amulet, with predictably bloody results and a neat final twist. It's rather mindless entertainment, and its commentary on overemphasizing women's looks seems obvious. But it's interesting for Wishman's strange, clunky pauses and weird cutaways to characters and objects--like it or hate it, it's got a personal style. 82 min. (Fred Camper) arrow Chopin Theater, 9:30 PM

R Milk in the Land Using stop-motion animation, archival footage, photographs, and contemporary interviews, directors Ariana Gerstein and Monteith McCollum look at the culture and politics that have shaped the milk industry. One especially frightening segment concerns the emergence of "swill milk" in New York in 1852, when dairy cows were fed used grain from whiskey distilleries and produced a bluish milk that caused disease and death, especially among children. Gerstein and McCollum contrast the droning efficiency of modern-day dairy farms with several renegade farmers who have returned to grass-fed cattle and unpasteurized milk. Their video is eye-opening but maintains an ethereal tone, greatly abetted by Mark Hadsell's songs and McCollum's carnivalesque score. 90 min. (Joshua Katzman) arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 9:30 PM.


Cutting In Eight short experimental videos. 72 min. arrow Chopin Theater, 6 PM.

The Description of Bankruptcy Two short documentary videos about people struggling against corporations and governments. Robert Hack's Table Bed Chair outlines the plight of squatters in Amsterdam, while Kang-hyun Lee's Description of Bankruptcy (2006) highlights the problem of credit card debt in South Korea. 91 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 6 PM.

Thax Alex MacKenzie directed this documentary video portrait of Thax, the poet who performs before concerts at the Metro. 90 min. arrow Chopin Theater, 7:30 PM.

A Squeeze of the Hand Ten short experimental videos. 79 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 7:45 PM.

Viva This 2006 musical comedy film from Anna Biller is a 70s period piece that follows an unhappy wife on her journey toward sexual liberation. 120 min. arrow Chopin Theater, 9:30 PM.

Hooks to the Left Filmed using only a Nokia cell phone, this feature by Todd Verow traces a male hustler's globetrotting as he re-enters the world of prostitution after a ten-year absence. 80 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 9:30 PM.


Midnight, Aloft Four experimental short videos. 73 min. arrow Chopin Theater, 1 PM.

Surmises Eight experimental short videos. 79 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 1:15 PM.

Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa Jeremy and Randy Stulberg directed this documentary video about a ramshackle community that functions without electricity in the middle of a desert. 64 min. arrow Chopin Theater, 2:30 PM.

Begging Naked Directed by Karen Gehres, this documentary video tells the story of Elise Hill, a prostitute and drug addict who became an artist only to return to the sex industry when she ran into financial difficulties. 70 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 2:45 PM

All, Astrir Experimental, animation, and music videos. 83 min. arrow Chopin Theater, 4 PM.

The Sky Song An experimental feature by James Fotopoulos. 127 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 4:30 PM.

Likk Your Idols Angelique Bosio's French documentary chronicles the Cinema of Transgression movement in the 1980s. 70 min. arrow Chopin Theater, 6 PM.

His Mark Twelve experimental short videos. 76 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 7 PM.

Hell on Wheels Bon Ray directed this documentary video about the resurrection of roller derby as an international sport. 90 min. arrow Chopin Theatre, 8 PM.

A Bosom Friend Ten experimental short videos. 80 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 8:30 PM.

Go Go Motel Set in a go-go bar and a cheap motel, this video by Dan Bell follows the exploits of "strippers, hookers, bums, boozers, and skid-row criminals." 73 min. arrow Chopin Theatre, 10 PM.

Bacchanale John and Lem Amero's 1970 "adult arthouse film" will be screened with new audio by 50 different artists. 70 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 10 PM.


The Spirit-Spout Six experimental short videos. 73 min. arrow Chopin Theatre, 1 PM.

The Life Buoy Ten experimental short videos. 51 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 1:15 PM.

Random Lunacy: Videos From the Road Less Travelled Victor Zimet and Stephanie Silber's hour-long video profiles a family of buskers. Also on the program: Dana Levy's 45-minute Israeli video No Man's Language (2006). arrow Chopin Theatre, 2:45 PM.

Revolution Summer Miles Montalbano's video tells the story of a young woman searching for love and friendship in the city. 80 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 3 PM.

Galaxian Rebecca Myers curated this program of eight experimental shorts created with video-game technology. 90 min. arrow Chopin Theatre, 4 PM.

Urban Explorers: Into the Darkness Melody Gilbert directed this documentary video about urban explorers. 85 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 4:45 PM.

East 3 This British documentary video by Mr. Young explores the Arctic town of Inuvik, which is characterized by isolation and subzero temperatures. 80 min. arrow Elegant Mr. Gallery, 6:30 PM.

Blood Car Alex Orr directed this horror-comedy video set in a near-future where gas costs $40 a gallon and a schoolteacher invents a car powerred by blood. Also on the program: Jack Hammond's video short Disarm. 94 min. arrow Chopin Theater, 6:45 PM.

La Trinchera Luminosa del Presidente Gonzalo This video feature, directed by Jim Finn, is a fictional story about the Peruvian guerrilla organization Shining Path. 60 min. arrow Chopin Theater, 8 PM.


Related Posts


Post a Comment