Capsule Summaries from the Chicago Film Festival review- 3 greats from the Fifty-first International

 

The Fifty-first Chicago International Film Festival which ran from October 15 through October 29, 2015, was first and foremost an extravaganza of movies! From short subjects to documentaries, from local products to international offerings, directed by courageous independent as well as seasoned filmmakers, the festival had it all! All films were shown at the AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois Street, Chicago. Below are brief summaries of three special films from different categories, each enthralling in their own special way.

The audience

 

 

From the category of “Highlight Films”, released in Canada on October 23, 2015, and due to be released in the United States on January 15, 2016, “Remember” is a tense and mesmerizing Canadian drama starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau as two aged Holocaust survivors living in a nursing home who join together in an amazing escapade to hunt down a Nazi torturer, a plan whose real purpose and direction is hidden until the very end.  Along the way, the mentally challenged Plummer discovers more than one individual who shares the name, but not the secret identity of the hidden war criminal. The encounters with each, the behind-the-scenes manipulation by Landau, and the anguish and mental state of the involved families are most poignantly and even horrifyingly amplified. Directed by Atom Egoyan and written by Benjamin August, this memorable film is a masterpiece of twists and turns, pathos and redemption. It is also filled with many important clues that lead to the ultimate dark denouement, and which this reviewer spent a lot of time rehashing with other excited moviegoers in an effort to flesh out the plot. Christopher Plummer gives an outstanding performance as a man for whom memory, the past, and purpose are dimmed by dementia and exegesis.

Director Atom Egoyan

 

The category “Cinema of the Americas” yielded “To My Beloved”, a Portuguese language film made in Brazil, directed and written by Aly Muritiba.,  and starring Fernando Alves Pinto and Lourinelson Vladimir. This is a disturbing tale of sexual tension complicated by grief, loss, uncertainty and personal constraint. It’s the story of a man recently widowed, raising his son alone, who sorts through his beloved wife’s belongings and ultimately discovers her homemade sex tapes. He sets out to find the man in the tapes, and so begins a personal odyssey of loss, betrayal, hatred and ultimately, of restraint.  He succeeds in tracking down an ex-con, and can’t refrain from insinuating himself into this man’s life, even to the point of leaving behind his own son. The interactions between the two, their drawn-out and frustrating circular dance, the protagonist’s flirtation with the need to inflict physical violence on his perceived rival, all render this adventure into unwonted jealousy a riveting portrait of obsession.

To My Beloved

 

Of the many great independent films shown at the Festival, a “City and State” contender was the compelling movie, “A Light Beneath Their Feet”, directed by Valerie Weiss, written by Moira McMahon, and released October 10, 2015. Starring Taryn Madding (audiences will certainly recall her as the Dickensian-worthy character of “Pennsatucky” from “Orange is the New Black), and Madison Davenport as a mother and her soon-to-leave-for-college daughter, this is a masterful and psychologically spot-on portrayal of the vicissitudes of bipolar disorder and the effects of it’s throes on the life of family. There is also a subplot involving a dysfunctional family whose father is Manning’s psychiatrist  (played to perfection by Kurt Fuller) and his daughter, who is involved in a sexual triangle with the youthful protagonist and her love interest, a young man who has himself been the victim of an affair with a former teacher. Finally, there is the dad’s newly pregnant wife, and that young family’s interactions with Davenport’s character rounding out a complex, intelligently drawn and insightful portrait of a modern extended family faced with a sick member in a much sicker society.

A Light Beneath Their Feet

 

 

The Festival provided viewers with many scintillating opportunities for thought and entertainment. The above were only three of them.

The cast at the Theatre

 

 All photos of the theatre by Timothy M. Schmidt; all other photos courtesy of The  Fifty- first Chicago International Film Festival 

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