Preview of the 2010 Chicago International Film Festival

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For those of you who’ve read my blog through the years, you know I devote a couple of weeks in October talking about the films I’ve seen at the Chicago International Film Festival.  As an arts-conscious Chicagoan, it’s definitely one of the priceless perks of living in this great city.  Although there is a lot of heartburn with the graying of the audience demographic in many of our great, world-class cultural institutions, I’m thrilled to say that every year I’m at the Film Festival I see a diverse, younger demographic, with people who you’d expect to mob Lollapalooza lining up for the latest Daren Aronofsky pic, or better yet, for an obscure, wacky South Korean entry.  I griped about the slim pickings of last year’s festival, so I’m excited to see the slate of films that are coming our way beginning October 7, in my humble opinion, possibly the strongest selection of films I’ve seen since the early 2000s.

Aronofsky, whose The Wrestler was one of the highlights of the 2008 Festival (and whose endearing Q and A at the end of the screening made me want to pull every hair out of Rachel Weisz’s scalp), is back this year, anchoring a surprising group of high-profile, Oscar-bound films with his much-talked about The Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman as a prima ballerina descending into madness.  Danny Boyle’s much-buzzed 127 Hours is also screening.  It blew audiences away at the Telluride and Toronto fests, with its real-life story of a trapped hiker who saws his hand off to save himself, starring actor/performance artist/Francis fantasy love slave, James Franco.  Other high-profile fall and winter releases that are making their Chicago debuts in the Festival include Doug Liman’s Fair Game, with Naomi Watts as outed CIA agent Valerie Plame and Sean Penn as her whistleblowing husband Joe Wilson; Tony Goldwyn’s Conviction, with the woman-whose-name-shall-not-deface-this-blog, two time Academy Award winner (uggh) HS (ok, Hilary Swank) as a feisty lawyer who tries to free her wrongfully imprisoned brother;  and Julie Taymor’s sure-to-be-idiosyncratic version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with the fabulous Helen Mirren as a female Prospera.  I’m not going to any of these since I’m waiting for their upcoming commercial releases, but if you’re going, you better get your tickets now because these films are sure to sell out.

I’m ecstatic that several of the much-talked about films in the festival circuit are being shown in Chicago this year.  One of my cinematic goddesses, the beyond-brilliant Juliette Binoche, won the Cannes Film Festival Best Actress award for her role as a gallery owner on a road trip to the Italian countryside with a writer in Abbas Kiarostami’s elusive Certified Copy.  Binoche and Kiarostami working together?  Hard-core cinemaphiliacs are salivating.  I’m also intrigued by Australian director Michael Rowe’s Mexican film Leap Year, which was a succes d’scandale at Cannes with its graphic sex and violence, and of course promptly won the Camera D’Or prize, given to the best first feature film at the festival. I’m on the fence about seeing School of the Art Institute of Chicago alum Apitchang Weerasethakul’s Cannes Palme D’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, since the last film of his that I saw, Tropical Malady, nearly made me catatonic.  I’m definitely seeing other much-buzzed about Cannes festival entries, namely, Im Sang-soo’s The Housemaid from Korea, about, well, a housemaid who has an affair with her married employer, with a supposedly must-see explosive ending; and Mahamet Sateh Haroun’s A Screaming Man from Chad, about father-son conflict set in a country club with the country’s impending civil war in the background.

The great pleasure of the Festival for me is unearthing all these intriguing gems from filmmakers around the world which may not have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a commercial Chicago release.  Dutch filmmaker David Verbeek’s R U There supposedly combines film and the 3D social networking application Second Life (which I have used in my day job to hold and attend meetings, interesting). Koji Wakamatsu’s Caterpillar from Japan has been making the festival rounds as well, and it’s based on a short story that was banned in Japan because of its objectionable subject matter, about the tortured life of a quadriplegic war veteran and his bitter wife. Roberto Garzelli’s French film, The Sentiment of the Flesh, about an obsessive, gruesome love affair between an anatomical artist and a surgeon, allegedly had people puking in the aisles during its Montreal Film Festival screening (it won an award, though).  Classy.  And Mexican director Jorge Michel Grau’s We Are What We Are, possibly my most anticipated film in my festival schedule, is about a family of working-class cannibals who must survive in a recession- and poverty-wracked urban environment.  Does Glenn Beck make a cameo as an hors d’oeuvre?

Finally, I’m very intrigued by two entries getting late-evening screenings due to their subject matter.  Japan’s Takao Nakano takes the Japanese pink film genre to beyond-cosmos levels with Big Tits Zombie about strippers battling zombies, in 3D.  France’s art-house darling Christophe Honore has gay porn star Francois Sagat in his latest film, Man at Bath, about gay lovers who break up and then throw themselves into anonymous sex with other men.  Fabulous.  3D busty zombies and gay porn stars in a film festival?  This year’s Festival is going to take us on a wild, bumpy, rollercoaster ride, and I can’t wait!

Check out the Chicago International Film Festival website  (http://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/)  for all screenings  at AMC River East 21 from October 7-21.  Check the website as well for ticket prices, packages, non-film activities, and a pretty cool sounding Festival Filmmakers Lounge in Lucky Strikes where filmgoers can rest their weary or blown-away or euphoric or all of the above selves in between screenings.

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One Response to “Preview of the 2010 Chicago International Film Festival”

  1. Tyler Says:

    Hey movie lovers! Be sure to check out another blog discussing this historic Chicago event! http://bit.ly/d4NDs9

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