The Chicago International Film Festival – CIFF – is over. It ended on Thursday, October 23rd, with the Closing Night screening of the new Jean Marc-Vallee (“Dallas Buyers Club”) where Reese Witherspoon plays a woman who treks over a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Likewise, all the festival staff, volunteers, attendees and special guests are now spread out a thousand different ways as well. As usual, I didn’t see as many film as I’d hoped, but at 17 films, I probably saw the most of any year I’ve ever attended – AND only one of them was a USA film. That’s something that’s never happened before. Just like any year, I wound up steering clear of any film that I knew would certainly get picked up. So, “St. Vincent”, The Imitation Game” and “Birdman” had to wait (although a review of “Birdman” is forthcoming), while select films with uncertain theatrical release dates received my time and attention.
produced by: Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman
directed by: Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: October 10, 2014 (limited)
For almost 30 years, Mark Landis has made a name for himself as one of the most prolific art forgers in the world. He’s replicated a variety of work from famous artists, from Picasso to Charles Schulz and winds up donating his copied art to museums, playing the role of a philanthropist donating the “found” artwork. He’s actually quite a good artist; in fact, he’s really something. With his nebbish demeanor, nearly shorn skull and jug handle ears, Landis is unmistakable and from the start of “Art and Craft”, as he meanders the aisles of Hobby Lobby, gathering supplies, his determined shuffle and mumbling draws us in.
On the first Saturday of the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF), I was fortunate enough to meet two kind, generous and talented individuals who were in town from Germany to promote their movie “Zurich”. I met director Frederik Steiner and his lead actor Liv Lisa Fries in the lobby of the JW Marriott and after introductions were made I was immediately struck by their friendliness. They stated how thankful they were for my write-up of their film and I must say – seeing a wonderful film and then a week later being told from the director and actor that they’re grateful for my favorable review of their film was pretty surreal. It doesn’t happen often. It’s actually never happened to me before, but I would wish the experience on any hard-working film critic.
Happy Anniversary to the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF), which turns 50 this year! It is North America’s longest running competitive international film festival. The festival organizers have been celebrating all year, with various screenings and events, but it all comes down to the two weeks in October, from the 9th through the 23rd. This is where the real celebration takes place. While there are special commemorative screenings such as “Breaking the Waves” and “Fanny and Alexander” as well as special guests like directors Taylor Hackford, Oliver Stone, Liv Ullmann and actors Kathleen Turner and Isabelle Hubert, the primary focus of CIFF remains the same as it has been for the past 50 years. That is, to provide an opportunity to discovery new talent from different lands or from right here in Chicago. This is where film enthusiasts in Chicago congregate with anticipation and excitement.
The Chicago International Film Festival commences tomorrow night with Liv Ullmann’s drama “Miss Julie”, leading to an impressive and exciting number of films from talents both new and old alike. Films begin screening to the public Friday, October 10th, and will continue to the festival’s closing night film, Jean Marc Vallée’s (“Dallas Buyers Club“) latest film “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon. The fall film festival circuit is a thrilling time of the year, not only because they often yield exciting early-looks at the films destined for Oscar glory (READ: “The Imitation Game”), but because of the magic of discovery. There’s a singular thrill to walking into a film with a name you’ve never heard before, made by unknown artists, and leaving the theater feeling like you struck gold. Witnessing the cinematic eye take form in unknown artists is gratifying, strangely hope-filled and central to what makes the festival experience so special. Enjoy the festival!