Here are some brief reviews of some of the movies I have seen at the 2020 Chicago International Film Festival.
KUBRICK BY KUBRICK
Directed by Gregory Monro
I am a big fan of documentaries about film, particularly ones about directors. Hearing directors talk about their work or hearing others who worked with them talk about their experiences is always a good watch that I use a learning experience. Kubrick by Kubrick is a perfect example of this kind of documentary, as the film looks at the works of the legendary Stanley Kubrick, but through his own words.
Director Gregory Monro used newly found interviews between Kubrick and film critic Michel Ciment, along with past interviews with cast and crew members of his films and other film scholars, to give us a picture of who Kubrick was as a filmmaker. Kubrick rarely did interviews while he was alive, so the stuff between he and Ciment is the most interesting. Hearing Kubrick talk about his movies, his beliefs, and his methods was riveting. The film isn’t very interesting on a visual level, but that didn’t matter much when you’re hearing Kubrick break down things like the natural lighting in Barry Lyndon.
They don’t cover every movie in his filmography (I wish we got some stuff on The Killing), but for what we got, Kubrick by Kubrick paints a clearer picture of one of the greatest to ever step behind the camera.
I’M YOUR WOMAN
Directed by Julia Hart
I’m Your Woman is a slow-burning 70’s crime film that offers us a vague, but great hook: what happened? That is what Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) is wondering when she gets woken up in the middle of the night to be informed that something happened with her criminal husband Eddie (Bill Heck) and that she and her baby are now in danger and that they must leave their home and put her trust in Cal (Arinze Kene), a man she has never met before before they are found. Who’s looking for them? What happened to Eddie? Where is Eddie? Who can you trust? These questions and many more are running through Jean’s mind, and ours, as the movie goes.
Director Julia Hart does an excellent job of putting us in the 70’s. The set designs, the outfits, and the hairstyling all put us in this time period and all look great. But Hart’s brilliance really shines in the slow unraveling of the plot and what is happening. As the movie goes on, Jean is putting together what has happened by information she is receiving from Cal and other people she comes into contact with and she begins to realize that Eddie may not have been the person she thought he was and that this situation is bigger than she thought. Brosnahan strips all of her Marvelous Mrs. Maisel charm to give a powerful performance as a woman learning to live on her own and realize her own strength. Kene is equally as good as the quiet, trusting Cal.
I’m Your Woman runs a big too long, but it’s worth the watch. The performances and crime story are enough to keep you interested even during its slower moments.
Directed by João Paulo Miranda Maria
Memory House marks the feature film debut for director João Paulo Miranda Maria and it is an impressive debut, though a puzzling one. Memory House is a beautiful looking, surreal look at oppression in Brazil that I just couldn’t wrap my head around fully.
Memory House looks at Cristovam (Antonio Pitanga), a native from the Brazilian hinterland, works in a milk factory in a former Austrian colony in Brazil. He feels lonely, ostracized by cultural and ethnic differences. One day, he discovers an abandoned house filled with objects that remind him of his origins. He slowly settles in this house. Curiously, more objects start to appear without explanation.
Pitanga carries this movie. In virtually every scene, we watch Cristovam go from a quiet, timid man who is constantly being attacked and mocked by locals to an animalistic man who forms a new identity. It’s compelling to watch, though some things happen that I’m still trying to figure out. There are moments of violence that truly shocked me and the ending of the movie will truly shake you.
Memory House is a snapshot of oppression in Brazil, which was insightful for someone who knew nothing about it and it’s led by a great lead performance and stunning photography. It is very strange, though, and the surreal nature of the film will make you scratch your head. But this is still an impressive debut film from a filmmaker with a strong voice.
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