MOVIE: Never Here
DIRECTED BY: Camille Thoman
Never Here is not your typical thriller, but it kept me wound up for a majority of the time. Director Camille Thoman is obviously a fan of classic Hitchcock films, but instead of using the Jimmy Stewart-type lead, she has an impressive performance from Mireille Enos as an artists who takes her passion for impressionist art to the edge. She becomes the main suspect in an assault case that her boyfreind/agent (played by Sam Sheppard in his final performance) witnessed instead of her. It's a fascinating look at how our obsessions can drive us to extremes and cause us to lose ourselves.
MOVIE: Faces Places
DIRECTED BY: Agnes Varda & JR
I had never seen an Agnes Varda work before watching her newest film, Faces Places. Oh, and did I mention Varda is almost 90? That's right, the movie that I recommend the most for anyone attending CIFF is from the unstoppable French director. Her newest piece is a documentary film of Varda and photographer/artist JR traveling all over the French countryside, speaking to people of all kinds, taking their pictures, and creating magnificent pieces of art with their images. The film is a fascinating expression of love for all things in life. The magnetic Varda balances perfectly with JR's youthful interest for art. If you choose one movie from the CIFF lineup, make it Faces Places.
MOVIE: Princess Cyd
DIRECTED BY: Stephen Cone
If you still don't know who director Stephen Cone is, then go watch Henry Gamble's Birthday, and then get your tickets to see Princess Cyd. The Chicago based director is secretly one of the best the city has to offer these days. His writing is often rich with complex characters and brimming with powerful performances. His newest film allows audiences to discover rising star Jessie Pinnick and will bring more attention to a phenomenal performance by Rebecca Spence. Cyd (Pinnick) is soon to be off to college and trying to discover herself when she spends time at her aunt Miranda's (Spence) home in Chicago. It's an honest and heartwarming film where every character's emotions matter, because Cone truly develops everyone he introduces us to. It's a great independent film success.
DIRECTED BY: Shoujirou Nishimi & Guillaume Renard
If you take any chances this year at CIFF, you might want to check out the French animated film Mutafukaz. It's a strange one, but I was glad I stuck it out, taking place in a post apocalyptic world known as Dark Meat City. Angelino is a big headed boy, who lives in a roach infested dump, and looks like the Bic Pen character. His best friend & roomate is Vinz, a skeleton with a flaming head. What Angelino begins to find out is that he is a special boy with insane powers. He can see that some of the people of Dark Meat City are not really people, but weird monsters. There's a lot of inspiration from John Carpenter's They Live, but the animation is so out there that I am sure you have not seen anything like it.
DIRECTED BY: Robin Campillo
The French film BPM took home the Queer Palm and other awards at this years Cannes Film Festival. That's because it is a powerful picture about the men and women involved in the Paris ACT NOW advocate group, using their voices to wake people up to the AIDS epidemic in the gay community in the 1980's. At a robust two hours and twenty minute run-time, BPM is a long sit, but it is a roller-coaster of emotions. The direction from Robin Campillo is fantastic, with a beautiful balancing act between all the members of the group and then focusing on the loving relationship between Sean (Nahuel Perez Biscayart) and Nathan (Arnaud Valois). BPM is a powerful piece of cinema.
OPENING NIGHT: Marshall
DIRECTED BY: Reginald Hudlin
The opening film for the Chicago International Film Festival is one that has a lot of promise for awards season. Marshall is another biopic vehicle for Chadwick Boseman to display his powerful acting skills, but much like his prior films- 42and Get On Up, the screenplay put together for the story of Thurgood Marshall makes it a wasted effort. Instead of focusing on the life and troubled positions that the first African-American Supreme Court Justice was in, director Reginald Hudlin places Marshall in the background of a case where a black man has been wrongfully accused of rape. Audiences may find the film to be a powerful narrative, but I left wanting to find out more about Marshall. Read my full review HERE
The Chicago International Film Festival never ceases to amaze me with the caliber of talent and films they display every year. This time, in their 53rd year, they welcome an all-star collection of actors and directors, including the likes of Chadwick Boseman, Michael Shannon, and the legendary Vanessa Redgrave in attendance. As usual, the movies the CIFF team has compiled together are some of the best that Hollywood has to offer, including the Guillermo del Toro fantasy and award winning film- The Shape of Water, Dee Rees' Sundance favorite Mudbound, and Martin McDonagh's dark comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Of course, that's not all there is, and AMovieGuy.com wants to highlight some of the other events and movies happening at CIFF: :