Wednesday, October 03, 2007

43rd Chicago International Film Festival: Introduction

Next week is the Chicago International Film Festival. The Trib has a piece on colorful Kutza and Ebert contributed a modest write-up. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when Chicagoist recently wondered why the schedule wasn't out yet. (In my opinion they jumped the gun--the fest was on its normal timetable.) The comments (which you now have to click on "Show comments" to see fully) were, as usual with the Internet, disheartening and catty.

At any rate, my opinion of the Fest is about the same as ever, though it seems less international this year than most, and it's much more expensive. (And no one has commented on the missing critics' choice series, which was always one of my favorite sidebars.) CIFF is generally free of the commercial ickiness of Toronto, but also (partly as a consequence?) much of the excitement. More than a couple of the high-profile films it gets are (I would guess) prints that would normally be used for sneak previews for films that will open commercially within the month. Which brings up another issue: with the Oscars moved back a couple years ago, October has more than ever become the biggest month for grown-up films, more crowded than ever, so if there's one month we really don't need a festival, it's October. I wish it could be held in late summer, during the worst film year doldrums. General filmgoers could be excused for thinking they could put together a better film festival (and more cheaply!) at the cineplex screens down the hall. (In fact, last year I ditched one CIFF fiasco and went down the hall to see the film that ended up winning the Best Picture Oscar, The Departed.) [Update: evidence I'm not the only one who thinks October has become glutted.]

Still, though it brings few of the biggest buzz-generating titles on the fest circuit, CIFF always delivers more than you think it has on first inspection--and the internet has made it much easier to research films on the int'l fest circuit. I love the way the fest's depth (it's much bigger, if less choosy, than the NYFF) means you can talk to 5 different friends all going to see 10 films and discover none of you are seeing the same films.

My definite picks so far are: Hallam Foe, Control (turning out to be a big draw), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Witnesses (it's Techine, who I never miss), and The Last Mistress. I'm going to try to add You, the Living (after watching the director's Songs from the Second Floor last week) and Silent Light (which'll be my token slow artsy choice--I'm going to try Reygadas with what they say is his best rather than revisit Bela Tarr with his latest, which has gotten poor reviews so far).

If I had but world enough and time, I'd add: Before I Forget, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Chicago 10, The Flight of the Red Balloon, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Lars and the Real Girl, and Beaufort. Luckily, many of those are coming back, some of them (Devil, for example) very soon.

There are lots more highlights not quite to my taste: glitzier events with directors and actors (the Affleck brothers, Tilda Swinton, Marc Forster, John Sayles), lots more documentaries, and, egad, The Kite Runner. The ubiquitous Kite Runner.

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