CIFF 09: Kickoff, and Paranormal Activity
The Chicago International Film Festival kicks off tomorrow, and I could barely be more excited. How very kind of my windy metropolis to throw me a birthday bash every year, and this time to amplify that already transparent correlation by underscoring its own birthday: 145 films exhibited from 45 different countries to mark the festival's 45th year. Admittedly, I haven't bean-counted the program to make sure things really do stack up this elegantly. I am happy to be a sucker for the marketing staff and its pleasingly professed numerology.
I will not be attending the red-carpet opening-night gala screening of Motherhood, a comedy directed by Katherine Dieckmann, who got Paul Rudd looking so good in cold-weather clamming duds a few years back in Diggers. Even in this prodigiously exciting year for women directors, especially those who maintain artistic ambitions for commercial narrative film, regular readers know that I need even more incentives than that to watch Uma attempt comedy. Prime, sadly, is not as distant a memory for me as it might be for you. I did, however, marvel at this overheard conversation a few weeks ago at CIFF headquarters, as a staffer worked out some kinks in Uma's travel plans over the phone with some unseen agent:
Last name is "Thurman." First name "Uma." U-M-A. Yes, it's the actress... She's in movies. She was in Pulp Fiction... Do you see movies?... No, I don't think she was in that... Hmm-mm... Oh, yes, I think she was in My Super Ex-Girlfriend.
I'm not an Uma-phile, but she didn't deserve that. Thankfully for her, the festival is throwing a big show in her honor, endowing her with its Career Achievement Award. Meanwhile, I am reminded of what I almost always forget, which is how little the movies matter to a tremendous number of people. I even know some people like this, though I attempt to deny it, and goad them by inviting them along to things.
Anyway, failing any coverage of Motherhood, and slyly bridging from what I was just talking about into my festival pieces, I want to alert you to the one-time, Saturday-night CIFF screening of the increasingly-hyped but still elusive Paranormal Activity. As I promised in my first post about CIFF '09, I will almost entirely avoid imminent commercial releases within the CIFF program in lieu of filling you in on carryover hits from other festivals that I doubt you've been able to see yet, and some even more under-the-radar titles from around the world. So, as I commence with a full review of a title that I'm guessing will bloom into a fuller-scale, nationwide release sometime between now and Halloween, I urge you to seek out this movie, whether amid the Chicago Film Festival or in your own town, but not to anticipate many more CIFF dispatches that skew quite this commercial.
You'll know soon enough what you think, and what I think, about An Education and The Young Victoria and Antichrist (although, man, it hurt not to buy that ticket). For the next two weeks, I'll shine a light instead on less heralded films and filmmakers and on national cinemas from well beyond the beaten path of U.S. commerce. Admittedly, you'll be well within your rights to observe that Andrea Arnold and Bong Joon-ho and the rising tide of Romanian masters hardly amount to undiscovered talents or breaking news. But much of my docket should offer even fresher material to my readers than however I wind up responding to these relative celebrities of the cinephile world.
But first, we've got one nasty $%@# of a demonic malefactor to attend to...
Image © 2007 Blumhouse Productions, © 2009 Paramount Pictures. Paranormal Activity plays late in the evening on Saturday 10/10. Tickets will go fast, if they haven't already.