The Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) kicks off at 6 p.m. tonight with a Gala opening night presentation featuring August Strindberg’s classic story “Miss Julie” at Chicago’s Harris Theater followed by a Golden Anniversary celebration at the Chicago Cultural Center.
“Miss Julie” Director Liv Ullmann, along with star Colin Farrell, Festival Jury Member Kathleen Turner, Festival Founder and Artistic Director Michael Kutza and “The Fugitive” Director Andrew Davis will be among the special guests at the red carpet ceremony.
The Festival brings a broad variety of offerings with over 150 titles from around the globe featuring full length films to shorts to documentaries along with an opportunity to see and hear directly from the people who’ve brought them to life. All this takes place over a 15 day period from today (October 9) through October 23.
This year’s 50th anniversary festival highlights a range of contemporary cinematic cultures across the five Nordic countries from tales of passion and murder to family-friendly childhood adventure along with cinematic classics from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
Even a dedicated film critic would have a problem seeing all the offerings. So the question is—what to see? Show Me Chicago has been screening some of the titles and reading about many others. We have put together a doable list of ten titles to give you a sampling of what’s on tap—with a little horror, a silent movie, some winners from other film festivals, a documentary and more.
Here are our picks:
1. “Why Be Good” directed by William A. Seiter (USA) and completely digitized was the top box-office draw of 1927 and a defining figure of the Roaring Twenties. Colleen Moore stars in this silent movie about a jazz-age romp with a poor flapper girl with a bad rep whose wealthy beau puts her virtue to the test. Long thought lost, the film was recently discovered and restored with its original score. North American premiere.
2. “St. Vincent,” a comedy-drama that features Chicago-area native Melissa McCarthy alongside Bill Murray and Naomi Watts.
3. “Winter Sleep” Turkey, France, Germany (Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan). Winner of this year’s top prize at Cannes, the latest masterpiece by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia) takes place in a remote, wintry Turkish village where a privileged ex-actor runs a small hotel with his much younger wife. An engrossing and penetrating character study—with evocations of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage—this gorgeously photographed epic drama is a searing journey into the complex mire of human relationships. Turkish with subtitles.
4. “National Gallery” is an exploration by master documentarian Frederick Wiseman of the relationship between painting and storytelling that takes the audience inside the inner workings of one of the world’s greatest art collections. Chicago Premiere.
5. “The Last Five Years” (USA Director: Richard LaGravenese) is based on the beloved Off-Broadway hit play that originated at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre in 2001. This faithful adaptation from writer-director LaGravenese (The Fisher King) tells of the tumultuous five-year relationship between Cathy (Anna Kendrick), a struggling actress, and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), a rising novelist. Told separately from each of their perspectives, exclusively through striking and heartrending songs, without any spoken dialogue, this by turns, uplifting and melancholy charmer is a musical love story for a new generation.
6. “Algren” USA (Director: Michael Caplan) explores the life of Chicago author Nelson Algren, featuring evocative images by world-class Chicago street photographer Art Shay, as well as interviews with Chicagoans Billy Corgan of “The Smashing Pumpkins” and award-winning filmmaker William Friedkin. World Premiere documentary.
7. “Miss Julie” Norway, UK, Ireland, France (Director: Liv Ullmann) takes place at a country estate in Ireland in 1890. Over the course of one midsummer night, the haughty Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain) and her father’s lowly valet John (Colin Farrell) charm and manipulate each other. By turns seductive and bullying, savage and tender, their intimate relationship leads to a desperate plan, culminating in a final act as sublime and devastating as anything in Greek tragedy. Director Liv Ullmann brings renewed vitality and emotional resonance to August Strindberg’s classic play of class, power and seduction. Opening Night Film. US Premiere.
8. Colin Farrell stars in this epic performance of Oliver Stone’s “Alexander: Ultimate Edition” on Sunday, October 12 at 7 p.m. (Oliver Stone will be in attendance). The film was originally released in 2004.
9. “Two Days, One Night” Belgium, France, Italy (Directors: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne). Actress Marion Cotillard teams up with neorealist masters Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne for this powerful slice-of-life drama about a factory worker who has 48 hours to save her job from being downsized. Like their previously acclaimed films (Rosetta, The Son), the Dardennes combine the high stakes of everyday life with a deeply felt humanism, as Cotillard’s character journeys door-to-door seeking help from her co-workers, each shouldering their own burdens, as she encounters encouragement and selfishness along the way. French with subtitles.
10. Even the most fearless horror film fan can expect to be scared by “The Babadook” directed by Australia Director Jennifer Kent. Sundance’s breakout horror hit, “The Babadook” tells the story of a troubled single mother, still grieving the sudden, violent death of her husband, who sees her already shattered world plunge deeper into madness when a two-dimensional monster from a mysterious picture book comes to life and relentlessly terrorizes her and her unruly son. Equal parts emotionally resonant and deeply horrifying.
Tickets for Opening Night of the 50th Chicago International Film Festival can be purchased online, by clicking here or by calling the Festival Hotline (312-332-3456), or in-person at the Festival Office (30 E. Adams, Suite 800). Film-only tickets are: Balcony: $50 ($45/members); Main Floor: $60 ($55/members). Cinema/Chicago members can use promo code OPEN50 and their current membership number for special rates. VIP tickets, which include a premium main floor seat and admission to the after party at Sidney Yates Gallery at The Chicago Cultural Center (77 E. Randolph St.), are priced at $150 per ticket.
All other Festival screenings will be held at the AMC River East 21 Theater (322 E. Illinois St.). For ticketing and pass information, click here.
A special free public presentation of “The Fugitive,” directed by Andrew Davis—who attributes his career to the Chicago International Film Festival—will screen in Pioneer Court (401 N. Michigan Ave.) on Friday, October 10 at 6:30 p.m.
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