Chicago International Film Festival Overview-2012

Bound by Flesh
dir. Leslie Zemeckis

HiltonSisters

The documentary Bound by Flesh shines a spotlight on the first famous female conjoined twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton.  Given the current cultural popularity of what once were called Siamese twins, especially with the celebrity of Brittany and Abby Hensel and their television series on TLC, the release’s timing aids to illuminate their place in our collective history.

The way that Zemeckis presents the information is straightforward, using interviews of those who knew the twins and still photographs.  She gives us the facts without giving viewers a sense of her opinion and lets the research tell the story.  The film describes the twins’ lives from birth to death, their rise to celebrity and their humble endings in North Carolina, all peppered with moments of elation, fame, desperation, awe and sadness.  At the closing of the film, we are left to determine the tone of the documentary and also that of their lives.  In a strange way, I was reminded of the concluding scene in the Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke; the interpretation of what remains is based upon each viewer’s outlook on life.  It is hopeful?  Pitiful?  Glass half empty, or full?

The Final Member
dir. Jonah Bekhor & Zach Math

On paper, the Final Member is about the Icelandic Phallological Museum, or in layman’s terms, a penis museum.  The bare-bone facts are that the museum’s owner and originator has spent his life seeking out artifacts, aka the male reproductive organ, from every species on earth.  As you may have already begun to surmise, he seeks the final piece of the puzzle, the “final member,” the human penis.

The film, however, is not about penises.  True, you see a lot of penises, real ones and by way of art.  However, it is not a porno.  It does not titillate.  It does not glorify the male organ, portray it as grandiose or as the bringer of all life.  The film is actually about the curator’s life’s work; his family’s support and love; love of one’s country; Passion (with a big P) for one’s craft and even love for the preservation of native animal life.  It’s a true testament to the filmmakers’ ability to weave the facts into something beautiful that could otherwise be done so distastefully.

Holy Motors
dir. Leos Carax

HolyMotors

How does one exactly describe Holy Motors?  I’m reminded of a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills episode.  RuPaul was at one of Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurants and tells plastic surgeon Paul something to the effect of, “we’re all in drag,” much to Paul’s confusion.  In nine different “scenes,” the main character, by way of changing his hair and make-up in a limousine, transforms into varying personae, including a leprechaun, an old man, a hip father, and a man married to a species other than human.  With just a simple change of hair color or wardrobe, Mr. Oscar transforms into a completely different role in society.  The director does a fantastic job of expressing the numerous selves that easy of us play, or rather, the drag that all of us wear through even a single day.

The Jeffrey Dahmer Files
dir. Chris James Thompson

Jeff

If you want the gore and the gossip; pictures of body parts; descriptions of brutal murders; details of Dahmer’s demise and the like, then you’re in the wrong theatre.

The Dahmer Files documentary accomplishes several surprising tasks other than your typical murder-mystery roller coaster ride.  It first gives you the perspectives of only three people who were integral parts of Dahmer’s life towards the end of his murderous career, and does so with restraint and subtlety, unlike the typical half hour crime docu-drama.  The three people interviewed are the police officer who obtained his confession, Dahmer’s neighbor, and the Medial Examiner who exhumed the remains from his apartment.  The link between all three subjects is that their accounts were nothing if not ingenuous and in the case of the police officer and neighbor, vulnerable and tender.

The film also offers you a slice of humanity in the most dismal of circumstances.  Somehow you don’t leave the threatre hating Dahmer but instead leave with a greater understanding of human kindness and empathy.

John Dies at the End
dir. Don Coscarelli

johndies

Be ready to embrace the strange, the silly and the ridiculous; this film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you should follow the same rule.  If you read any reviews during the film festival, you may have read the description, “Ghostbusters on acid.”  I would describe it as Ghostbusters injected with an absurd, adorable, and surprisingly solid story.

In a nutshell: two friends step into the paranormal world through happenstance and fight evil monsters that only they can see.  Again, the movie is goofy and little brain-work is involved, but that’s all part of it’s charm.  The story is fairly concrete and fleshed out for a horror-type of film, covering most of the whys and hows.  The two main actors are also perfect for their roles: the good-looking jock-type and the dark and somewhat brooding counterpart.  Mainstream comparisons could be to the gonzo comedy of the Wayans Brothers’ Scary Movie comedy series minus the cliche and flighty plots.

If you’ve ever caught yourself saying that you just want to see a movie that makes you feel good and laugh, then this one is for you.  If you’re a film snob sort, (eh, hem, White City Cinema) then this would definitely fall into the “guilty pleasure” category.

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2 thoughts on “Chicago International Film Festival Overview-2012

  1. michaelgloversmith says:

    Having seen all of these movies (with you, of course), I can only marvel at your skills as a writer of capsule reviews. You are so witty and concise. And, even though you took a swipe at me, I think you should be a film critic!

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