My favorite Czech film, and surely one of the most exhilarating stylistic and psychedelic explosions of the 60s, Vera Chytilova’s madcap and aggressive feminist farce explodes in any number of directions. Featuring two uninhibited young women who are both named Marie–whose various escapades, which add up less to a plot than to a string of outrageous set pieces, include several antiphallic gags, and a free-for-all with fancy food rivaling Laurel and Hardy that got Chytilova in lots of trouble with the authorities–this is a disturbing yet liberating tour de force from a talented director showing what she can do with freedom. A major influence on Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating, this is chock-full of female giggling, which might be interpreted in this context as the laughter of Medusa: subversive, bracing, energizing, and rather off-putting (if challenging) to most male spectators (1966). (Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Monday through Thursday, June 20 through 23, 7:00, 281-4114)
This is an intriguing mix of materials drawn from Video Data Bank’s What Does She Want series, which centers on art by women. Julie Dash’s Illusions, the only full-size film (as opposed to video) in the bunch, is an effective narrative about racism in 1942 Hollywood. The videos include Cecilia Condit’s nightmarish fairy tale fantasy Possibly in Michigan, Max Almy’s SF fever dream with fancy graphics Leaving the 20th Century, and Martha Rosler’s rather humorless Semiotics of the Kitchen. Rounding out the program are a TV ad for Kleenex and a promotional short for General Motors, both from the 1950s, and Carole Ann Klonarides and Michael Owen’s deadpan parody John Torreano: Art World Wizard, which incorporates some jazzy special effects. This is a mixed bag, like many such collections, but one that jingles. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Wednesday, June 8, 6:00, 443-3793)
From the Chicago Reader (June 1, 1988). — J.R.
Whether you like this or not — and it’s quite possible that you won’t — this has got to be one of the weirdest and most original movies around. Written and directed by former film critic and scriptwriter-turned-director Paul Mayersberg (The Man Who Fell to Earth), whose previous solo feature never hit these shores, this is produced by Julie Corman, wife of Roger, and harks back to a lot of 60s Corman productions in various ways, for better and for worse; it also may be the first U.S. exploitation film to show the influence of Raul Ruiz in its striking use of colors and color filters, and Jasper Johns springs to mind in relation to some of the set painting. Mayersberg’s starting point and putative focus is Isaac Asimov’s famous SF story, set on the planet Lagash, where it is always daylight, shortly before its civilization collapses; David Birney, Sarah Douglas, Andra Mylian, and Alexis Kanner head the cast, and much of the action and decor reflect a series of interesting solutions for representing an alien culture as cheaply as possible. If you’re looking for something different, make sure to catch this oddity. (JR)