Quite possibly the “biggest deal” out of all the films being screened in the entire city of Chicago this month are part of a series entitled “Les Sixties” playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Film nerds would rightfully be quick to guess that the series covers films from the French film genre, La Nouvelle Vague (also known as the French New Wave). This series includes all of the following films: Contempt, The 400 Blows, Two or Three Things I Know About Her, Jules and Jim, Le Doulos, Six In Paris, Last Year At Marienbad and Cleo From 5 to 7.
Other series playing this month at the Siskel Center cover world cinema in the ’30s, abject expressionism, Russian cinema (of which the infamous Battleship Potemkin is a part of) and a handful of Derek Jarman films.
There will be weeklong runs of Kagemusha (directed by Akira Kurosawa), Viva and Beautiful Losers (directed by Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard). According to the Siskel Center, co-director Aaron Rose will be present for audience discussion, but only for two screenings.
In addition to all that, the Siskel Center will also be doing special, limited screenings of Hollywood Chinese and Johnny Dodgeball.
Check out siskelfilmcenter.org for info and showtimes. Check out the internet for info on any of the films mentioned above.
I don’t know what else I can say about Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis that every self-proclaimed “cool” and “with it” reviewer hasn’t already said…and in all honesty, I shudder at the thought of reading overtly in depth and “educated” reviews about it. If you don’t know anything about Persepolis, I’ll get to the point and suggest that you watch it while it’s still in theaters even before telling you what it’s about. You can run Persepolis through Google and look up tons of videos and reviews if you refuse to trust my recommendation, or you can just go straight to the site for it. This film earns my seal of approval with ease, not because it’s foreign, or because it’s animated, or because it’s based off Satrapi’s graphic novels of the same name (which I haven’t read), but because of it’s stylistically novel visuals, far from hollow humor and honesty.
I say that I shudder and recoil at the idea of reading reviews of this film because I worry that this will be reduced to bargaining chips to see who’s the most knowledgeable (read: “coolest”) critic on the block; no matter where said physical or metaphorical block may be. I can’t wait until I catch bits and pieces of conversations between art school jerk offs who are now fervent experts on the history of modern political turmoil of Iran all of the sudden. I foresee myself holding back from choking a twenty-something kid with their parents’ credit cards after hearing them say, “I can really identify with her life,” with a straight face. I’ll admit that I love jumping to conclusions, but I don’t think I’m too far off in envisioning scores of pretentious assholes raving about how good this is only until everyone else (ie their run-of-the-mill, suburban parents) finds out about it. At which point they’ll say of Persepolis, “I liked it, but I mean it’s not great but…” Though I do suppose this wouldn’t be the first time a film that’s somewhat off the radar of the American populace is embraced by less than well-rounded film nerds for that reason alone. That said, the film still below is from one of the funnier and unexpected pieces of dialogue in the film.
When caught wearing a “questionable” button, young Marjane tries to outwit her persecutors by saying:
“No, it’s not Michael Jackson! It’s Malcolm X!”
There were however, two things that caught my attention that I didn’t quite understand about Persepolis. #1) Marjane is seen “listening” to Iron Maiden while some other band plays through her speakers and #2) I could’ve done without the slam on the Japanese, no matter how “funny and lighthearted” it was supposed to have been interpreted. Maybe they ran into licensing issues with Iron Maiden? Maybe that was supposed to be some play on an “Iranian” version of Iron Maiden? I have no idea. As for the second, I can’t remember the dialogue, verbatim, but Marjane’s grandmother saying something along the lines of, “All those Japanese seem to do is gut themselves or make terrible monsters” after seeing Godzilla just doesn’t sit well with me. She could have just as easily been written in as saying something like, “Who do they think would watch that pile of crap?!” or “What was that director thinking? He’s nuts!” and it would’ve gotten the same point across. Throughout the entire film it’s as if Europe is being envied and emulated, and the inclusion of this one off remark confuses me entirely.
Persepolis was a Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film (meaning it didn’t win), and won the Jury Prize at Cannes along with Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light (Luz Silenciosa).