Broadly speaking, a film festival's programmers can handle news of a new lineup one of two ways: all at once, or nearly; or the drib-drab approach.
The Chicago International Film Festival goes for the dribs and drabs. The 48th edition of founder and artistic director Michael Kutza's festival starts things off with a couple of dozen titles, with dozens more to come. The festival will be Oct. 11-25, mostly at AMC River East 21, with a gala opener at the Harris Theatre at Millennium Park.
Among the known-knowns are several strong pictures that premiered this year at the Cannes Film Festival. "Beyond the Hills" is the latest from "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" director Cristian Mungiu, inspired by a true story of an exorcism in rural Romania that went poorly.
Other Cannes competition titles coming to the Chicago festival include the latest from Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami, "Like Someone in Love," telling a Tokyo story of subtle intrigue and gathering storm clouds, and "Holy Motors," from French wild hare Leos Carax. The latter was unfairly shut out of the awards at Cannes; whatever else Kutza, programming head Mimi Plauche and their associates are lining up, it's unlikely to split audiences more dramatically than Carax's audacious musing on role-playing and the theatrics of everyday life.
Documentaries this year in Chicago include "As Goes Janesville," Brad Lichtenstein's account of the General Motors plant closing in that Wisconsin city (much in the news, because of the Republican vice presidential nominee and his Janesville roots). "Caesar Must Die" from the Taviani brothers ("Night of the Shooting Stars") received a very warm reception at the Berlin festival, among others, and depicts the rehearsal process undertaken by a Roman prison production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." The word is excellent on it.
Others announced this week:
"Benji," a U.S.-made documentary about Chicago high school basketball phenom Ben Wilson and his untimely death.
"The Cleaner," from Peru, a low-key drama of the apocalypse.
"Coming of Age," from Austria, a love story.
"Consuming Spirits," from the U.S., Chris Sullivan's animated fantasia set in what the festival notes are calling "backwoods gothic Americana."
"Don't Click," from South Korea, a cautionary horror movie about a forbidden online video and its effects on those stupid enough to ignore the film's title.
"In Their Skin," from Canada, about a weekend in the country that ends more violently than its vacationing characters would prefer.
"The Jeffrey Dahmer Files," from the U.S., a documentary about the notorious serial murderer.
"Keep the Lights On," from director Ira Sachs, a well-regarded tale of an ongoing relationship that began as a one-night stand.
"Marie Kroyer," from Danish director Bille August, about a famous painter's wife and her crisis of fidelity.
"A Modest Reception," from Iran, about two people whose money giveaway project leads to humiliations unforeseen.
"Out in the Dark," an Israeli/U.S. co-production, about a budding relationship between a Palestinian student and his Israeli lawyer boyfriend.
"The Scapegoat," an adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier mystery.
"The Sessions," a U.S. film starring "Winter's Bone" Oscar nominee John Hawkes, about a man confined to an iron lung who, at 38, undertakes a personal project to lose his virginity.
"Shameless," from Poland, a brother-sister drama haunted by the past.
"Tey," from Senegal, about a man whose last day is upon him, and he knows it
"Valley of Saints," a co-production of India and the U.S., focusing on a romance unfolding on Dal Lake in Kashmir
More titles to come early next month. Go to chicagofilmfestival.com for more information.
Movies on the radio: In honor of the recent Sight & Sound poll, with extreme reluctance and endless second-guessing, Michael delivers a list of his greatest/most essential/favorite films this week on "Filmspotting," co-hosted by Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen. 11 p.m. Friday. and midnight Saturday, WBEZ-FM (91.5).
The VistaVision version, truly epic in length, can be heard via podcast on filmspotting.net.