The 49th Chicago International Film Festival, running from Thursday, October 10th through Thursday, October 24th, has the best line-up to hit the Windy City in ages. Indie Outlook will be covering various key pictures and filmmakers throughout the festival, shedding light on titles that deserve to not get lost in the crowd. Here are twenty of this year’s most enticing titles—ten are marquee attractions, ten are garnering buzz under the radar…
ON THE MARQUEE
Amarcord (Italy/France, Federico Fellini)
Fellini’s much-imitated 1973 masterpiece will screen as part of this year’s “Comedy, Italian Style” series. If you haven’t seen Giuseppe Rotunno’s cinematography on the big screen, you’re in for a treat.
Saturday, October 19th 4pm
August: Osage County (USA, John Wells)
Chicago playwright Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning smash about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family gets the full-on Oscar baiting treatment with a powerhouse cast led by Meryl Streep.
Tuesday, October 15th 7:30pm
Blue is the Warmest Color (France, Abdellatif Kechiche)
The steamy, three-hour cut of this controversial Palme d’Or winner has miraculously made the journey to American cinemas with every single frame intact. Adèle Exarchopoulous and Léa Seydoux star as two young lovers.
Saturday, October 12th 6:30pm
The Book Thief (USA/Germany, Brian Percival)
On the heels of delivering an extraordinary performance at the mere age of 11 in “Monsieur Lazhar,” Sophie Nélisse shares the screen with Geoffrey Rush in this adaptation of Markus Zusak’s acclaimed WWII-era novel.
Tuesday, October 22nd, 7pm
Dracula 3D (Italy/France/Spain, Dario Argento)
Argento, the celebrated director of “Suspiria,” is scheduled to attend this screening of his new 3D adaptation of the Bram Stoker classic, featuring his daughter Asia (naturally) and a heaping helping of blood-spattered fangs.
Saturday, October 19th 11pm
The Immigrant (USA, James Gray)
Usually opening night selections are high on the star power and low on quality. Not so this year, as the brilliant Gray (“Two Lovers”) attends a screening of his period drama starring Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix.
Thursday, October 10th 6pm
Inside Llewyn Davis (USA, Joel & Ethan Coen)
Closing out the festival is the hotly anticipated 16th feature from the Coen Brothers, set in the pre-Dylan folk era of the ’60s. Star Oscar Issac is scheduled to attend. Winner of the Grand Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Thursday, October 24th 7pm
Kill Your Darlings (USA, John Krokidas)
After a decade of awkward adolescence marked by box office wizardry and overhyped onstage nudity, Daniel Radcliffe appears to take a revelatory artistic step forward in this moody biopic of Allen Ginsberg.
Friday, October 11th, 8:15pm
Nebraska (USA, Alexander Payne)
Bruce Dern won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his portrayal of an alcoholic father in yet another bittersweet road trip from Payne (“About Schmidt”). Dern will be on hand for the screening, which is reason enough to buy a ticket stat.
Wednesday, October 16th, 7pm
12 Years a Slave (USA, Steve McQueen)
My most anticipated film of this year’s Oscar season is the third feature from McQueen, an astonishingly gifted visionary in multiple mediums. This fact-based account of a free man’s 12-year enslavement promises to be the anti-“Django.”
Sunday, October 13th 7pm
UNDER THE RADAR
At Berkeley (USA, Frederick Wiseman)
Clocking in at roughly four-hours, this portrait of University of California, Berkeley, at a time of financial crisis may prove to be a tough sit for many. But the director, master documentarian Wiseman (“Titticut Follies”), will keep cinephiles hooked.
Sunday, October 20th 6:30pm
The Battle of Tabatô (Guinea-Bissau/Portugal, João Viana)
A music-filled, surrealistic meditation on the reverberations of Guinea-Bisseau’s war-laden history. Certainly promises to be one of the festival’s most intriguing selections. Director Viana will be at both screenings.
Saturday, October 12th 4pm; Sunday, October 13th 7pm
Borgman (Belgium, Alex van Warmerdam)
After galvanizing critics at Cannes, this offbeat thriller is poised to cause quite a stir at CIFF. Jan Bijvoet stars as a mud-caked vagrant who infiltrates the lives of a wealthy suburban couple.
Saturday, October 12th 10pm; Monday, October 21st 3pm; Wednesday, October 23rd 8:15pm
The Harvest (USA, John McNaughton)
The magnificent Chicago-bred character actor Michael Shannon will join John McNaughton, director of “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” for this screening of their latest collaboration, a horror film co-starring Samantha Morton.
Saturday, October 19th 8:30pm
Heli (Mexico, Amat Escalante)
Garnering notoriety for its shocking level of violence, this uncompromising exploration of the drug trade in Mexico scored a Best Director prize for Escalante at Cannes. A vital film, as long as you can peek between your fingers.
Saturday, October 19th 9:30pm; Monday, October 21st 8:30pm
Medium Cool (USA, Haskell Wexler)
Wexler, the groundbreaking cinematographer who shot much of Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” will attend a screening of his 1969 classic shot during the historic Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Saturday, October 19th 3:30pm
The Missing Picture (Cambodia/France, Rithy Panh)
With so few existing images of the Cambodian genocide, director Panh creates his own in this impassioned work fusing clay figures with archival footage. Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes.
Tuesday, October 22nd, 6:15pm; Wednesday, October 23rd 8:30pm
The Notebook (Austria/France/Germany/Hungary, János Szász)
Though this unsentimental account of teenage twin boys struggling to survive in a countryside ravaged by WWII sounds like the opposite of a crowd-pleaser, it has won the support of critics and audiences at various festivals.
Thursday, October 17th 2:30pm; Friday, October 18th 5:45pm; Saturday, October 19th 6:15pm
Salvo (Italy, Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza)
Earning raves at Cannes, this character study is bolstered by an attention-grabbing premise: a cold-blooded mafia hit man starts to have a change of heart after encountering the blind sister of his latest target.
Sunday, October 20th 6:15pm; Tuesday, October 22nd 8pm
Stray Dogs (Taiwan/France, Tsai Ming-Liang)
The stunning Taiwanese director of “The Hole” and “The Wayward Cloud” spins a delicate tale of a poverty-stricken father desperately attempting to care for his two children while living in an abandoned building on the outskirts of Taipei.
Friday, October 11th 8:30pm; Sunday, October 13th 12:30pm
For a full festival schedule or to purchase tickets, visit the official CIFF site. Indie Outlook creator Matt Fagerholm will discuss festival highlights with critic Alison Cuddy on Vocalo 89.5’s Morning AMp show at 9:30am Friday, September 27th.