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Movies Not To Miss (Or Skip) From the 46th Chicago International Film Festival

Because of my travels I was able to partake in half of the movie blitzkrieg assaulting Chicagoans the first week of our annual film festival. Disappointed, I was not. It was heartening meeting so many devotees (a euphuism for addicts) of film. It was reassuring that their were so many others more advanced in the 12 step program of compulsiveness than I;  bested by countless numbers who have seen movies I had never heard of; regardless of age I felt like a neophyte among the maestros, the wizards of movie viewers.

Coincidently the first three films I saw dealt with subjects leaving prison and their relationships with their parole or incarceration officers. “Stone” a USA entry has been previously reviewed, receiving Three Brutal Stars! Almost certainly Robert De Niro and Edward Norton will be recognized at Academy Award time.

“If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle” (Romania/Sweden), grows on you as you watch the desperation, frustration and ultimately fascinating conclusion as Silviu the upcoming parolee resolves his family crisis. Not an advocate of the hand held camera technique, it is effective in capturing the intimacy of the characters. Doubtfully, will this film receive world wide recognition but Director, Florin Serban should be applauded for his original scenario.

TWO & 1/2 SRARS!! 

“The Robber” (Austria/Germany), the final releasee in the trinity, is based upon a real life Austrian miscreant, Pump-Gun Ronnie, a unique individual who combines successfully his dual talents, robbing banks and running marathons. This film never quite actualized its tremendous potential; the running and robbing scenes are thrilling but an emptiness, inertia seeps in and steals its potency.

Not quite………..


“Tuesday, After Christmas” (Romania). Great expectations, never realized in this well acted tableau depicting the death of a marriage.


“Family Tree” (France) is the star of the week. The plot centers around imprisonment of a different mold; sentiments, secrets, death, love and lives flayed, destroyed and only partially restored. The theme revolving around a tortured man; a specimen, who survived the second world war. This movie is magnetic and pulls with indomitable force the viewer into the intimacy of this family, on the surface not ordinary, but far from extraordinary. Superb acting, sublime scenery, cloaked in the magisterial compositions of Richard Wagner render this film worthy of….


“The Matchmaker” (Israel), a sensitive, complex and highly emotional portrayal of altered lives after WWII. Director, Avi Nesher brings to life the dungeons of despair some rise above and others suffocate beneath. Yankale Bride is the matchmaker who finds the “love” you are not looking for but the “love” you need. He hires  young, innocent, but imaginative Arik to ferret and spy on potential clients. This palatable blend of comedy, history, tragedy and the fragility of man’s spirit render this film worthy of……….


“Black Swan” (USA) directed by Darren Aronofsky is explosive, searing, agonizing, and prodigal in its conception; those longing for the metaphysical, philosophical, dynamic will be gluttonously satiated. If you lust after the ballet, practiced it, acknowledge its commandments, relish its punishments, this movie with electrify you, terrify you and will violently tear any romantic illusions you might have suffered. Natalie Portman gives the performance of a lifetime; she is the metaphor for all ballerinas, but as Nina, she is imperial in her quest to shed her naivety, childhood protectiveness, shyness, vulnerability to be both the white and the black swan; Tchaikovsky would have melted with her devilish divinity! Barbara Hershey is heart breaking as Nina’s long suffering mother. Victor Cassel (Mesrine) as the corps director, Svengali, royally mesmerizing. Her prime competitor Lily ( Mila Kumis) is sexually seductive, gloating and deliciously tempting! “Black Swan “ will be the subject of movie groups throughout the land……


“Nannerl, Mozart’s Sister” (France) directed by Rene Feret is a good film, a sad film about an immeasurably talented fourteen year old girl living in a world where the genius of her brother Wolfgang is lionized, her musical gifts given short shrift. History is fraught with women striving to bring to fruition their capabilities, squelched by worlds of myopic men: Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) surpassed her father skills as a painter, Nannerl (Maria Anna, 1751-1829) encouraged to accompany her brother, but not allowed to rightfully blossom on her own; Amantine Dupin (1804-76) chose the pseudonym George Sand, to publish her literary marvels. It is miraculous that their endowments broke the chains of restriction and are chronicled today. The film is dark, not just in mood, but captured the flavor of a princely milieu, before electricity. Unfortunately induced the “judge” sitting next to me to sleep and snore for the duration of the film; my gentle prodding, totally ineffective.


Please send your choices for “must sees” during my brief hiatus.

For Now…………Peneflix 

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  1. Penelope,
    If u can, see the documentary Thunder Soul; about a music teacher in houston, tx in the 70’s. Wonderful! Thanks for all of your work. Best, Sheryl Markman

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