The best new experimental work I’ve seen in ages, Bill Viola’s hour-long video (1991), shot in ravishing black and white, is like a string of epiphanies generated by lush and ambiguous encounters between the natural world (basically the American southwest) and the world of dreams and sleep. The minimal stereo sound track consists chiefly of Viola’s own breathing while he sleeps and the ticking of a clock; the haunting images encompass the death of Viola’s mother and the birth of his children as well as a good many surreal events that transpire underwater and in slow motion. If I had to come up with parallels, it would be necessary to grope in contrary directions–to the works of Stan Brakhage on the one hand and to Eraserhead on the other. But the musical pulse and flow of the images and their mesmerizing beauty throughout don’t deserve cross-references–they sing and vibrate with maximal intensity on their own. This gave me much more pleasure than any Hollywood movie I’ve seen this year. Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Saturday, June 26, 8:00, 281-8788.
An ode to fanatical French cinephilia in 1948–the generation immediately preceding the New Wave, to which writer-director Jean-Charles Tacchella (Cousin, cousine) belonged–this is a must-see charmer not only for crazed film buffs and Francophiles, but also for anyone wanting to follow the adventures of a passionate romantic trio of scruffy bohemians in their early 20s in a Paris that no longer exists. Like the New Wave figures who followed them, the young men in this milieu write about movies and aspire to be directors; as critic David Overbey put it, they live through film references: “They even take girls to bed talking about Howard Hawks’s women and wake up feeling like Bogart.” Much of the idealistic effort they display goes toward setting up a cineclub that shows rare films, though there’s also a certain amount of suspense involving a treasure trove of old movies the characters steal. Conventionally made, though potent and heartfelt in its feelings of personal nostalgia, this movie makes effective use of its cast of young unknowns: Thierry Fremont, Ann-Gisel Glass, and Simon de la Brosse (1987). Tacchella will introduce the film and answer questions afterward; cosponsored by the French consulate of Chicago. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Sunday, June 20, 7:00, 281-4114.
As a truthful account of the life of Tina Turner or as a faithful adaptation of her as-told-to autobiography I, Tina, this can’t be taken too seriously. But as a powerhouse showcase for the acting talents of Angela Bassett (who plays Tina Turner) and Larry Fishburne (who plays her abusive husband Ike Turner, the musician who discovered her) and as a potent portrayal of both wife beating and the emotions that surround it (in this case, professional envy on his part and stoic acceptance of abuse on hers), it’s quite a show. As with the even sillier Lady Sings the Blues two decades ago (Diana Ross’s ridiculous depiction of Billie Holiday), which harked back to a still earlier model of musical biopic, show-biz instincts tend to triumph here as common sense and fidelity to fact disintegrate, though the handling of place and period is slightly better than what one usually finds in such enterprises, and the slant of a woman screenwriter (Kate Lanier) is also highly welcome. Directed by Brian Gibson; with Vanessa Bell Calloway, Jenifer Lewis, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, and Khandi Alexander. Old Orchard, Ford City, Chestnut Station.