50th Chicago International Film Festival Report: Reviews 11-15

Chicago Film Festival Screening #11 Review:
“Maestro” (France) directed by Lea Fazer

maestroA charming and delightful French comedy based on the supposed goings-on of Eric Rohmer’s last film and his casting choice of an unknown young male actor. As an actor, I loved this film, since it is about the nature of turning a seemingly disastrous low-budget film into something special. It’s funny, charming, sexy, familiar, and will make you want to fall in love the way an early Hugh Grant movie does. And the scenes with the dog are hilarious…what more do you need?
Trailer here.

Chicago Film Festival Screening #12 Review:
Shorts: Animation

animated shortsSo this Shorts program featured ELEVEN short films and while most were accomplished, a few really stood out…and a couple I would not be surprised to see come nomination time (links lead to full film or trailer):
1) “Mend and Make Do” – A clever and lovely visual companion to the VO of an elderly British woman looking back on her life and love. The kind of animated short the Academy loves.
2) “Driving” – A hilarious treatise on road rage!
3) “Yearbook” – As with “Mend…”, there’s nothing better than a good monologue set to animation. The feel-good, but never saccharin, short of the bunch.
4) “Recycled” – Made from thousands and thousands of photo’s found in Bejing’s many trash landfills. No narrative, but insidious in it’s ability to make our lives feel even more ephemeral than they already do.
5) ‘Coda” – An Irish lament at the moments just after death. I didn’t love it, but I fully expect the Academy will.

Chicago Film Festival Screening #13 Review:
Shorts: Docs

The Doc Shorts featured six excellent films (links lead to full film or trailer):
1) “One-Year Lease” (USA) told the tale of a couple’s first NY apartment using nothing but voice mails from their crazy landlady. Hilarious.
2) “The Supreme” (Poland) was a sensational Polish short about the _66980193_66980188construction of the largest styro-foam statue of Pope John Paul ever constructed. BEAUTIFULLY shot, and alternately respectful and irreverent about the subject.
3) “Ghost Train” (Australia) was an incredibly affecting and heartbreaking story of an old man losing his wife to dementia. This will/should be nominated. Beautifully filmed and was a box-of-tissues kinda film in a matter of 20minutes.
4) “A Paradise” (Cuba) looks at the effects of teen suicide in a specfic district of modern-day Cuba. Also heartbreaking, but not as lasting.
5) “Crooked Candy” (USA) was a small confection about a Bulgarian man who smuggles in Kinder Toy Eggs in to the States. Cute, but not very substantive.
6) ‘Vegas” (UK). An overlong look at the real Vegas from the POV of three different residents…a homeless man, a Sheriff whose job is to evict deadbeats and an 18-year-old who dreams of becoming the next Dean Martin. Will effectively ruin your next Vegas vacation.

Chicago Film Festival Screening #14 Review:
“Mr. Kaplan” (Uruguay) directed by Álvaro Brechner

This comedy from Uruguay about a Jewish septuagenarian who escaped mr_kaplan_stillto South America from Poland just before the Holocaust and wishes to make his mark on the world before he dies, is SO CLOSE to being excellent. It’s funny, has great characters and an unforgettable third act, but something is missing. I think the director hoped that it would be more zany and farcical…but it’s always a step too earnest to do so. Oh, it’s definitely worth seeing, but throughout it’s ninety minutes, you keep waiting for it to take off and it never quite does – until the very end, when it is at its most serious.
Trailer here.

Chicago Film Festival Screening #15 Review:
“The Look of Silence” (Denmark, Indonesia, Norway, Finland, UK) directed by Joshua Oppenheimer

The-Look-of-Silence-FeaturedThis, the follow-up/sequel to last year’s nominated “Act of Killing”, takes a look at the same mass executions that took place in Indonesia in the mid-sixties, from the point of view of a single victim’s family. Whereas the original was utterly unique and extraordinarily effective in evoking every possible response a human can feel, this is more languid, much less surprising and, as a result, less affecting. By itself this is a very, very good doc, but, alas, it is intrinsically connected to “Act of Killing”, and, as a result, it left me considerably less shaken. Regardless, see them both.
Trailer here.

Originally written 10/12-10/17/2014

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