If you ever suspected that assholes are running the world, this 2002 documentary adapting producer and former actor Robert Evans’s autobiography, narrated with relish by Evans himself–the cinematic equivalent of a Vanity Fair article, complete with tuxes and swimming pools–offers all the confirmation you’ll ever need. A particularly telling moment occurs when Evans boasts about convincing his pal Henry Kissinger to attend a premiere just before flying to Europe on a diplomatic mission, leading one to speculate whether the world would be different today if Evans had become secretary of state and won the Nobel Peace Prize in the mid-70s and Kissinger had been pegged to play Irving Thalberg and a matador, then star in The Fiend Who Walked the West. Evans is equally proud of having produced Love Story and Chinatown, and his friendship with such comrades in arms as Kissinger and Peter Bart, the current editor of Variety, is further evidence or how wide–or how narrow–his talents are. He’s also not bad at impressions–whether he’s imitating Kissinger or his producer pals. Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein do a swell job of making this self-dramatization entertaining. 93 min.
The greatest film to date by poet, critic, curator, and director Jonas Mekas, this highly personal 1971 feature chronicles his first trip back to Semeniskiai, Lithuania, the village where he was raised, after an absence of 25 years. It’s a moving act of memory and self-scrutiny, reflecting in some respects the diary films he’s made since the 60s but clearly standing apart from them. Narrated by Mekas, the film opens with footage of his first years in America and closes with contemporary visits to a Hamburg suburb (site of a labor camp where he and his brother Adolfas spent a year during World War II) and Vienna (where he enjoys the company of several friends, including filmmaker-curator Peter Kubelka and critic Annette Michelson). But its centerpiece, entitled “One Hundred Glimpses of Lithuania, August 1971,” is the segment that shows his highly charged sense of film poetry at its most distilled and emotional. Essential viewing. 82 min. Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, 6500 S. Pulaski, Friday, July 12, 7:00, 773-582-6500.
Known less accurately as And Life Goes On…(to distinguish it from Bertrand Tavernier’s Life and Nothing But), this 1992 masterpiece by Abbas Kiarostami uses nonprofessional actors to restage real events. Accompanied by his little boy, a film director from Tehran drives into the mountainous region of northern Iran, recently devastated by an earthquake that’s killed more than 50,000 people. He searches through various villages for two child actors who appeared in Where Is the Friend’s House? (a 1987 Kiarostami feature), but what we find is more open-ended and mysterious: the resilience and in some cases the surprising optimism of people putting their lives back together, the beautiful landscapes, the alternating and overlapping viewpoints of the director and his son. A picaresque narrative with a profound sense of place and a philosophically weighted use of the long shot that occasionally calls to mind Tati, this haunting look at what does and doesn’t happen to people confronted by natural disaster won the Rossellini prize at the 1992 Cannes film festival, and it’s still one of the very best Iranian features I’ve seen. In Farsi with subtitles. 108 min. Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Saturday and Thursday, July 13 and 18, 6:00, 312-846-2800.