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Starring Chicago!

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The Gene Siskel Film Center inaugurates its new location at 164 N. State with a three-week retrospective of films shot or set in Chicago, continuing Friday, June 8, through Saturday, June 23. Tickets are $7, $3 for Film Center members. For more information call 312-846-2800.

FRIDAY, JUNE 8

Meet the Parents

It's tempting to call this low-budget, independent 1991 feature by Chicago stand-up comic Greg Glienna (who directed and cowrote the script) the ultimate worst-case-scenario comedy. Glienna plays an unassuming young adman who drives from Chicago to Indiana with his fiancee (Jacqueline Cahill) to meet her folks (Dick Galloway and Carol Whelan) and sister (Mary Ruth Clarke, Glienna's cowriter). The cascade of nightmares that results may not always make you laugh, but you'll be impressed by the singularity of Glienna's dark approach. Some of the incidents work better than others--I could have done without the encounter with the fiancee's former boyfriend, and there are bits about the maniacally starstruck sister that seem overworked--but overall you're likely to be taken with the purity and relentlessness of this picture's vision. Remade in 2000 (to great commercial success) with Ben Stiller as the fiance and Robert DeNiro as the father. 75 min. (JR) Glienna and producer Jim Vincent will attend both screenings; the 6:00 screening will be introduced by Citysearch.com and former Reader film critic Dave Kehr. (6:00, 8:30)

SATURDAY, JUNE 9

Early Views of Chicago

A half-hour program of archival films, including 35-millimeter prints of the Edison shorts Armour's Electric Trolley, Corner Madison and State Streets, and Sheep Run (all 1897) and 16-millimeter prints of Conrad O. Nelson's Halsted Street (1932) and Maurice Bailen's The Great Depression (1934). Admission is free, and David Drazin will provide live piano accompaniment. (2:15)

Within Our Gates

It seems a pity that the controversial black film pioneer Oscar Micheaux (1854-1951) is known nowadays mainly for his technically rough and transgressive sound films, when films such as Body and Soul (1924) indicate that he was a highly skilled silent director who never made a successful transition to talkies. Within Our Gates (1919) premiered in Chicago in early 1920, was banned for its treatment of a southern lynching, and was lost for many years before being screened at the Spanish Filmoteca in Madrid and at the Chicago Blacklight film festival in 1991. 79 min. (JR) Film historian Arnie Bernstein will lead a discussion after the screening. (3:00)

A Dream of Kings

If the late Anthony Quinn hadn't existed, he would have had to be invented for this 1969 adaptation of Harry Mark Petrakis's novel about a zestful Chicago Greek struggling to raise the money he needs to take his dying son back to the homeland. With Irene Papas, Inger Stevens, Sam Levene, and Chicago's own Val Avery; directed by Daniel Mann (Come Back Little Sheba). 107 min. (DK) Petrakis will attend the screening, and his son, John Petrakis of the Chicago Tribune, will lead a discussion. (5:15)

Scarface

Howard Hawks's 1932 masterpiece is a dark, brutal, exhilaratingly violent film, blending comedy and horror in a manner that suggests Chico Marx at loose with a live machine gun. Paul Muni gives his best performance as the simian hood Tony Camonte, whose one redeeming virtue is that he loves his sister (Ann Dvorak, of the limpid eyes and jutting limbs). Hawks reverses the usual structure of the gangster tragedy: Camonte doesn't hubristically challenge his world so much as go with the flow of its natural chaos and violence. The supporting actors--Osgood Perkins, Karen Morely, Boris Karloff, Vince Barnett, George Raft (flipping his coin)--seem to have been chosen for their geometric qualities; the film is a symphony of body shapes and gestures, functioning dynamically as well as dramatically. 90 min. (DK) Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum will lead a discussion after the screening. (8:00)

SUNDAY, JUNE 10

Medium Cool

Haskell Wexler's McLuhan-esque essay on medium ethics (1969), centering on a young news cameraman (Robert Forster) who tries to retain his detachment as he's caught up in the events of the '68 Democratic convention. The movie has a lot on its mind--too much to be bothered with the niceties of narrative construction and character. The ideas expressed aren't original or very forceful, but there's an urgency in their expression that makes the film seem important and immediate. At its best it's a specific emotional response to a specific emotional situation, sharp if not lucid. With Verna Bloom and Peter Bonerz. 110 min. (DK) Journalist Studs Terkel will lead a discussion after the screening. (3:00)

Eight Men Out

Set in 1919, one year prior to the events of his previous film, Matewan, this 1988 John Sayles feature recounts the "Black Sox" scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox were persuaded by gamblers to dump the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Baseball fans might find this marginally absorbing; for anyone else it's as conscientious and stylistically pedestrian as Sayles's other films, and a mite overlong to boot. Sayles seems more comfortable with the ballplayers than with the gangsters; his handling of the narrative is more dutiful than inspired. On the whole this is well-intentioned--to the point of tedium. Sayles adapted Eliot Asinof's 1963 book of the same title; the competent cast includes John Cusack, Clifton James, Michael Lerner, Christopher Lloyd, John Mahoney, Charlie Sheen, David Strathairn, D.B. Sweeney, Richard Edson, Kevin Tighe, Barbara Garrick, Studs Terkel enjoying himself as journalist Hugh Fullerton, and Sayles himself playing Fullerton's pal Ring Lardner. 119 min. (JR) Mahoney will attend the screening. (6:00)

TUESDAY, JUNE 12

His Girl Friday

Most of what Robert Altman has done with overlapping dialogue was done first by Howard Hawks in this 1940 comedy, without the benefit of Dolby stereo. (The film, in fact, now circulates mostly in extremely poor public-domain prints that smother the glories of Hawks's sound track.) It isn't a matter of speed but of placement--the dialogue almost seems to have levels in space. Hawks's great insight--taking the Hecht-MacArthur Front Page and making the Hildy Johnson character a woman--has been justly celebrated; it deepens the comedy in remarkable ways. Cary Grant's performance is truly virtuoso--stunning technique applied to the most challenging material. With Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy, a genius in his way too. 92 min. (DK) Tribune film critic Michael Wilmington will lead a discussion after the screening. (6:00)

Medium Cool

See listing for Sunday, June 10. (8:30)

THURSDAY, JUNE 14

Love Jones

Starting with the wonderful black-and-white documentary footage at the beginning, this 1997 first feature by writer-director Theodore Witcher is a fresh and agreeable romantic comedy about two young black artists in Chicago--a photographer (Nia Long) and a writer (Larenz Tate)--whose relationship keeps foundering on issues of trust. Not every swerve in the plot is equally persuasive, and the narrative rhythm is choppy in spots, but the leads and costars are good enough to make these limitations secondary, and the sense of milieu in such spots as a poetry bar and a record shop gives this plenty of flavor. (The score by bassist Darryl Jones isn't bad either.) With Isaiah Washington, Lisa Nicole Carson, and Khalil Kain. 110 min. (JR) Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert will lead a discussion after the screening. (6:00)

Eight Men Out

See listing for Sunday, June 10. (9:00)

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