The Autobiography of Nicolai Ceausescu, screening this coming week at Gene Siskel Film Center, is a staggering three-hour compendium of documentary footage that filmmaker Andrei Ujica dug out of the national film and television archives of his native Romania. If you don't know anything about the communist leader's quarter century of despotism, you might want to hit the old Wikipedia, because the movie offers no narration or commentary, just a marathon of jaw-dropping—and, if you were there, undoubtedly soul-numbing—political pageantry.
Check out this week's issue for reviews of six new releases: Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary on the idiosyncratic photographer whose weekly spreads define the Style section of the New York Times; The First Grader, a drama about the 84-year-old Kenyan who took advantage of a national education initiative to learn how to read; In the Land of the Free..., a documentary about the Angola 3 that opens this year's Human Rights Watch Film Festival; Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, with Johnny Depp and company setting sail for another big payday; Priest, an action-horror hybrid with Paul Bettany as an ass-kicking Man of God out to waste some vampires; and The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, a documentary about the political folk-comedy duo from New Zealand.
Best bets in repertory this week: Charlie Chaplin's The Circus (1928), Sunday and Tuesday at Gene Siskel Film Center; Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972), Wednesday at Doc Films; Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), Sunday and Thursday at Film Center; Frank Borzage's Little Man, What Now? (1934), Wednesday at the Portage; and Jafar Panahi's Offside (2006), next Thursday at Doc.
Last but not least, there are two promising screening/discussion events this week: on Saturday at Irish American Heritage Center, former Reader staff writer John Conroy takes part in a panel following a showing of Steve McQueen's Hunger (2008), and on Friday afternoon at Music Box, legal professionals pick apart Sidney Lumet's courtroom drama The Verdict (1982).