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Though Wellman probably didn’t intend his tonal shifts as such, they succeed in conveying the utter instability of American life during the Depression. So it’s fitting that this week’s revival of Wild Boys of the Road should be copresented by the progressive arts organization Portoluz as part of their Project WPA 2.0, an ongoing series of film screenings, concerts, lectures, and exhibitions that address the culture of the Great Depression or the current economic downturn.
Portoluz will present several more screenings this season with the Northwest Chicago Film Society, an organization that certainly knows its Depression-era cinema. The other films on the lineup are: Hal Ashby’s Woody Guthrie biography Bound for Glory (screening on 5/16); Elia Kazan’s 1960 Wild River (screening with the Depression-era short documentary People of the Cumberland, one of Kazan’s first film credits, on 5/30); Fritz Lang’s leftist 1938 musical You and Me (6/20), one of the director’s very weirdest (and that’s saying a lot), with songs by Kurt Weill; Frank Borzage’s 1932 After Tomorrow (6/27); Preston Sturges’s Christmas in July (7/11, natch); Julien Duvivier's La Belle Equipe (7/25), the one non-American movie on the slate; Hallelujah I’m a Bum, Al Jolson’s greatest film (8/8); and Cecil B. DeMille’s This Day in Age, which NCFS programmers promote as containing “the filthiest moments of pre-Code Hollywood” (8/22).