The 49th Annual Chicago International Film Festival features a dizzying array of films representing the best of what filmmakers around the globe have to offer, from 3D thrillers, to subtitled foreign arthouse films and political documentaries. The festival is just a trip downtown on the El and showcases gems that might not ever be screened again, as well as screenings of soon-to-be blockbusters before their box office debuts. At the price of just $11, it makes for the perfect last-ditch dose of cultured city fun before the quarter wanes and academic mayhem encroaches. It only runs through Oct. 24, but that’s plenty of time to check your schedule and make plans to catch one of these six top picks.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m.
This Cannes favorite features the sort of quiet, loveably hapless protagonist couch-surfing his way through an early '60s Greenwich Village bathed in the blue light of winter and impending change directors Joel and Ethan Cohen have become known for. Davis (portrayed by up-and-comer Oscar Isaac, who is expected to attend the screening), guitar and orange cat in tow, confronts bitter ex-lovers (Carey Mulligan) and musical rivals (Justin Timberlake) as he stumbles toward some semblance of folk music fame. The film makes for a funny, poignant portrait of both an artist and culture in limbo.
Like Father Like Son
Saturday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
The director of this Japanese film, Hirokazu Kore-eda, is already a firmly established master of depicting the intricacies of family life and children on screen: a common theme throughout Japanese cinema. However, in Like Father Like Son, Kore-eda takes a playful approach to this well-trodden territory that distinguishes it from all others as two families discover their 6-year-old sons have been switched at birth. The resulting story had Cannes audiences alternately tittering and tearing up, so it’s sure to entertain.
Friday, Oct. 18 at 1 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 20 at 11:20 p.m.
In this 21-minute short film by School of the Art Institute of Chicago student Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, the emotional turmoil of life as a sixth grader in the wake of parental divorce bubbles to the surface as the film’s protagonist gets her ears pierced. Girls will enjoy reliving this much more poetically rendered rite of passage, and the film’s artistry is apparent. Needle made it all the way to Cannes and won the prestigious Cinefondation student film competition section.
Thursday, Oct. 17 at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 19 at 5:30 p.m.
Paris is where even the most tragic individuals can’t help but fall in love, right? Le Week-End might make you think again. When the film’s aging, dispassionate married couple (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) retreats from England to the City of Lights, they find their issues only amplified against the city’s romantic backdrop. Luckily, a run-in with a chic expat friend (Jeff Goldblum) promises at least some sort of change. With Notting Hill, director Roger Michell showed his adroitness for weaving on-screen relationships as complex as the characters’ connection to the city itself, so this tale of marital strife in the rues of Paris is sure to dazzle.
The Unknown Known
Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. and Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Those with a penchant for the political won’t want to miss what’s sure to be a revelatory, entertaining docudrama. In The Unknown Known, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld grapples with his role in the Iraq War and his ensuing legacy. Errol Morris is known for his masterful, nuanced documentaries of complex issues, so even those who lean more toward film than politics are sure to find this one worth a watch.
Saturday, Oct. 19 at 11 p.m.
Italian horror movie maestro Dario Argento pushes his spooky, spatially-playful repertoire to its logical conclusion in his newest, three-dimensional thriller. If it’s anything like Argento’s Deep Red (1975), in which an eerie concert hall hosts a clairvoyant on the trail of terror, or 1976 supernatural horror Suspiria and its famous noosed woman, Dracula 3D should prove the director’s tendency toward the surreal. The director will make an appearance at the screening, so show up for a chance to see Argento in the flesh. Just in time for Halloween.