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CIFF Director Spotlight: John McNaughton presents The Harvest

The Chicago native returns to the cinema.


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The 49th Chicago International Film Festival

Director spotlights

Italian horror master Dario Argento presents Dracula 3D in person.

James Gray, director of We Own the Night and Two Lovers, presents The Immigrant.

Tsai Ming-liang's Stray Dogs follows in the tradition of Chaplin and Ozu.

The Harvest is the first theatrical feature in more than a decade by John McNaughton; a Chicago native, he's the man responsible for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), one of the most notorious movies ever shot here. His Mad Dog and Glory (1993) and underrated Normal Life (1996) are just as effective in their use of Chicago-area locations—these are gritty, feisty films, rich in the details of working-class life and the chatter of neighborhood bars.

Henry and Normal Life suggest Chicago storefront theater in their unsettling intimacy, and in fact McNaughton proved to be a fine theater director with Tennessee Speaks in Tongues for You (Or the 3 1/2-Character Play), which he staged for the Rhinoceros Theater Festival in 2006. The Harvest stars Michael Shannon, perhaps the most famous veteran of Chicago storefront theater in movies today. He and McNaughton seem like a perfect fit, and the movie's premise sounds like something both of them could sink their teeth into. Shannon and Samantha Morton play a married couple who isolate their infirm son from the outside world, drawing suspicion from a new neighbor. The production notes promise a cross between a psychological thriller and a more traditional horror film; whatever the results, they're likely to be creepy. The Harvest screens Saturday, October 19, 8:30 PM, with McNaughton and Shannon in person.

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