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CIFF #3: Playing Monday

By Bill Stamets and Roger Ebert

Here are brief reviews of some of the movies playing Monday in the Chicago International Film Festival. Tickets are avalable online, or through TicketMaster, Admission is $13, or $9 for festival members).

“A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and The Warhol Factory” (United States) Danny Williams-- an experimental filmmaker and one-time lover of Andy Warhol-- disappeared in July, 1966. His niece Esther Robinson puts one theory in the title of her beautifully done documentary. After dinner with his mother, Williams drove to a Massachusetts beach and walked into the ocean to drown. Robinson recreates his life and speculates on his apparent suicide. Interviews with his mother and brother, along with Warhol’s aged coterie, suggest Williams was adrift in an art, amphetamine and party scene marked by vicious jealousy. Williams designed the June, 1966 light shows at Old Richard’s in Chicago where the Velvet Underground played in a “happening” called the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Although some scenesters in Warhol’s orbit hardly recall Williams holding a camera, Robinson shows excerpts from his exquisite 16mm. black-and-white films. They ought to outlast most others that came out of Warhol’s loft. (Bill Stamets)

“The Aerial” (Argentina) Esteban Sapir concocts a retro style for his outlandish fable about two children thwarting the evil Mr. TV. First this titan of industry stole the voices of everyone. Now he plots to steal their words too. Instead of intertitles, Sapir places his characters’ silent dialogue on the screen in moving type. Exclamations explode. Fans of "Brand Upon the Brain!" by Winnipeg wizard Guy Maddin will appreciate this effect. Other silent era touches include a black-and-white look and pantomine- style acting. There are nods to both Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and the video arcade game Dance Dance Revolution. If you caught Veit Helmer’s oddball "Tuvulu" at 1999’s fest, you will like this inventive allegory of totalitarianism from Argentina. In Spanish, with English subtitles. (Bill Stamets)

“Lovesickness” (Puerto Rico) The only festival entry from Puerto Rico is a comic look at love in the extreme. Luis Guzman plays a garden-variety cheater who runs off with his wife’s cousin and the family TV set. His 10 year-old son experiments in tongue-kissing with a first love. Over-loved by his mom, a man tries to marry a bus driver at gunpoint. A loving couple in a car bicker over chewing gum, so she exits the vehicle, tumbling head-over-heals down the highway. And a 70 year-old woman loves her both ex-husbands con brio. Director and co-writer Carlitos Ruiz Ruiz, a School of the Art Institute grad, alternates between cute and cutting for sitcom yuks. The executive producer of “Lovesickeness” is Benicio Del Toro, who stars in the fest’s “Things We Lost in the Fire.” In Spanish, with English subtitles. (Bill Stamets)

Control (UK) A haunting, sad, beautiful film based on the brief life of Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), lead singer of the Manchester band Joy Division. In elegant black and white, director Anton Corbijn records the singer’s rise to fame and descent into despair. Samantha Morton plays his bride in a teenage marriage; she is loyal and living, but Ian is unable to be married, or a singer, or anything else with much happiness. He begins with great dreams (files on his desk are labeled for Novels, Poems, etc), quotes Wordsworth by heart, skulks around the post-punk clubs, becomes the superstar of a small but adoring world, and suffers agonizing psychological distress. Recommended. (Roger Ebert)

The Last Mistress (France) A surprise from French director Catherine Breillat: A period costume drama, when she usually makes contemporary films with few or no costumes. Tells the story of a quietly ambitious young man (Fu'ad Ait Aattou) who hopes to marry a rich and beautiful aristocrat (Roxane Mesquida) but cannot force himself to break his ties with his possessive, devouring Spanish mistress (Asia Argento). Michel Lonsdale has a sly supportig role as the olderman who sees all, understands all. Elegant compositions, mannered dialogue, seductive charm. Recommended. (Roger Ebert)

"Michael Clayton" (US) A full review appeared Friday and is online at rogerebert.com. The movie opened a commercial run Friday at this theater and will go wide on Friday, October 12.

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