Movies Without Malls
EVANSTON REVIEW -- January 8, 2004 (excerpts)
David Drazin - PO Box 267831 - Chicago, IL 60626-7831 firstname.lastname@example.org
Local film screenings offer classic, foreign alternatives to mainstream fare
BY BRUCE INGRAM
Out here in the land beyond Howard Street, we're fortunate to have two theaters devoted exclusively to foreign, art and independent film: The Century Cinearts 6 in Evanston and the Landmark Renaissance Place in Highland Park.
Yet the best stuff, when it comes to movies you won't be seeing at the local multi-megaplex, often can be found in a handful of first-rate film series in our area. In many cases, they offer the rare opportunity to enjoy fine fare on the big screen that still can't be found on home video.
Here's where to look in the coming months for the best in foreign mainstream and art-house fare, class in classic Hollywood, the ladies of film noir, exiled European directors in the Hollywood studio system, new Taiwanese cinema, the greatest hits of Akira Kurosawa, post-film festival, pre-theatrical release art films from around the world, even not-so-silent cinema featuring a live performance of an original score by a seven-member ensemble.
Now beginning its third year, Block Cinema, a program of Northwestern University's School of Communication and the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art will screen 35 classic and contemporary films this winter in its 150-seat auditorium at 40 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern's Evanston campus. All screenings at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Tickets for most are $6, $4 for seniors and students. Prices vary for special screenings. $20 for a season pass.
"We serve several different purposes and have several different roles to play," said Block Cinema director Will Schmenner, a former director of the standard-setting DOC Films program at the University of Chicago. "The most general is to expose our audience to films they might not otherwise have seen. To my mind, that takes a combination of movies."
Schmenner's strategy: "Entice the audience with movies they know they love, whet their appetites with films they might have heard of but never seen, then surprise them with something new entirely."
After beginning as an annual international film festival featuring movies from a different country each year, the series became a series of four or five films each semester from a variety of countries when English and humanities professor Patrick Gonder began programming four years ago.
"I've always attempted to program the series in a way that runs counter to the stereotypical idea of foreign film," said Gonder. "In America we often see the art films from foreign countries but not the mainstream cinema, which is often wonderfully rich as well."
All films are open to the public with free admission at 7 p.m. Fridays in Room D100 or A162 of the College of Lake Country, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake. All non-English language films are subtitled. All films have adult content and are not considered suitable for children. Call (847) 543-2555.
One of Chicago's best-kept cinematic secrets for more than 30 years, the LaSalle Bank Classic Film Series screens 16 and 35mm prints of rarely seen Hollywood gems from 1915 to 1965 (with a fine selection of vintage short subjects and cartoons) at 8 p.m. Saturdays in the 298-seat auditorium on the second floor of the LaSalle Bank at 4901 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago.
The "Exiled in Hollywood" series featuring European directors working in America such as Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder. Parking is free in the lot behind the bank. Enter through the bank's rear door. Tickets are $5, $3 for seniors and children under 10. Call (312) 904-9442.
Chances are good there's an perfectly good film series at the public library near you. If that happens to be the Northbrook Public Library, however, you probably already know it's something special -- starting with the distinction of projecting all films from 16mm prints instead of video or DVD.
The Wednesday Classic Film Series was founded in 1975 and has been programmed for the last 16 years by multimedia manager Steve Gianni.
Gianni creates a new themed series of weekly classic films each month, with screenings at 1 and 7:30 Wednesdays in the auditorium at 1201 Cedar Lane in Northbrook. Saturday First Run Features offers new films before they are released on home video at 2 and 7:30 p.m. the second Saturday of each month. First Run Family Films are presented at 2 and 7:30 p.m. the last Saturday of each month.
Frequent contributors to the series include pianist Dave Drazin, who often accompanies silent films, and independent filmmaker Reid Schultz, who regularly serves as host and commentator. Admission is free. Call (847) 272-6224.
The element of surprise is an essential feature in this Saturday morning sneak-preview series in which subscribers never know what they're going to see but rarely are disappointed. All films are personally selected by former Variety reporter and Film Comment editor Harlan Jacobson and have a tendency to become the most celebrated foreign and independent films in any given year.
Past films seen first by Talk Cinema
subscribers include "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "About Schmidt," "Waking
Ned Devine," "Life is Beautiful," "The Piano," "L.A. Confidential" and
"Like Water for Chocolate." Screenings are hosted and moderated at 10 a.m.
Saturdays in AMC's Northbrook Court Cinema by film professors Ron Falzone
of Columbia College and Les Friedman of Northwestern, with expert commentary
and audience discussion following each film. The seven-film subscription
price for Jan. 10 and 31, Feb. 21, March 6, April 3 and 17 and May 1 is
$120. Call 1-800-551-9221 or visit www.talkcinema.com.