Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicago International Film Festival 2008 - Preview

Wondering what to see at the Chicago International Film Festival? Take some tips from a veteran fest-goer.

I think it was TimeOut Chicago that opined that the rookie mistake is to attend films that have distribution and are coming back soon in regular runs. That's actually rather sophomoric advice in my experience, because the truth is that if it's actually good, it almost always comes back eventually (though that's somewhat decreasingly true now with indie distributors dropping like flies). In other words, if you focus on films that won't be back, then you'll be watching some time wasters. My advice, if you're looking to see more than a couple films, is to get a nice balance between films likely to return and films that haven't been picked up yet. But the most important advice I can give is see what appeals to you. Don't just go by the critics. Look at trailers online. And take some chances.

Here's another pointer you won't get from the local papers: 600 N. Michigan is a terrible venue for foreign films. If you're used to stadium seating (and who isn't?), you're going to hate trying to read subtitles over people's heads at this outdated multiplex. Unless you're really tall or just really tolerant of discomfort, don't see subtitled films there. CIFF shows sell out, especially after the first weekend, and remember you're paying pricey ticket fees. Here is your mantra: the good ones will come back, the good ones will come back.

Films I've bought tickets for so far:
Julia - it's Tilda Swinton getting back to her edgier roots in a film with a crazy kidnapping plot; no local reviews so far, and it may not be back

Of Time and the City - Terrence Davies documentary about Liverpool has gotten rave reviews in Europe, and I've enjoyed other docs about places, like Los Angeles Plays Itself

Quiet Chaos - I'm taking a chance on this one, reviews are more mixed, but I have an interest in Italian film generally and liked Nanni Moretti in The Son's Room - may not come back

Revanche - Austrian thriller, excellent revs so far, just had its N.Am. premiere in August at Telluride, on the verge of being picked up for distribution

Tokyo Sonata - I've missed the boat on Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa so far; this is supposedly a turn away from the J-Horror work that established him, but it's reputed to be all the stronger for it

Films I want to see but am passing on - for now:
Christmas Tale - the other big French film at Cannes, dying to see this but couldn't fit this in my schedule, and IFC has picked it up

Two Lovers - this "loose rethink of Dostoevsky's 'White Nights'" had polarized critics, and having just (by coincidence) seen and loved Visconti's version I'm chomping at the bit to sample my first film by James Grey, but it's a Hollywood film, will be back early next year

Wendy and Lucy - been excited to see this, too, but it does have a limited release lined up in Dec. from the new (to me, anyways) Oscilloscope, who I'm betting will include Chicago

Let the Right One In - looks like this really cool-looking Scandinavian vampire movie is coming to Landmark within the next two months

The Chaser - I love South Korean cinema, but the mixed reviews on this film have me convinced to wait

Gomorrah - solid reviews for this Italian mafia flick, but I'm confident this will come back

The Good the Bad and the Weird - I'm very skeptical

I've Loved You So Long - critics say it's pretty good and mostly worth seeing for Kristin Scott Thomas, and after seeing her speak French in Tell No One I'm sold on it, but it's coming back to town very soon

The Secret of the Grain - frankly, I'm too excited about this Cesar winner to see it at 600 N. Michigan where I won't be able to read half the dialogue, so I'm taking my chances - please someone pick this one up!

Tokyo! - anthology films are often mixed bags, and early viewers have consistently said Gondry's segment is the best (he's back in form!), Bong disappointed, and Carax has polarized - I'm fans of all three directors

The Wave - this sounds good, based on a book about kids and cults that I had to read in high school, more interesting that's it's now been adapted in Germany

Sparrow - I'm not a huge Johnnie To fan so far, but maybe if it comes back I'll check it out

Ballast - coming to the Music Box very soon, wait and be comfortable

Timecrimes - sounds excellent, but I have a scheduling conflict

Avoid / Wait for DVD:
Cherry Blossoms - the Reader liked it, but everywhere else I've seen pretty bad reviews

24 City - consider me uncool, but this hyped-to-the-skies director is for hardcore artfilm types only - I'd rather watch such difficult material at home on dvd where I can puzzle it out at my leisure



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