Chicago Latino Film Festival
Presented by the International Latino Cultural Center, the 27th Chicago Latino Film Festival runs Friday, April 1, through Thursday, April 14, at Instituto Cervantes, 31 W. Ohio; Landmark's Century Centre, 2828 N. Clark; River East 21, 322 E. Illinois; and Univ. of Chicago Doc Films, 1212 E. 59th. Tickets for most screenings are $11, and a festival pass, good for a dozen screenings, is $100; for students, seniors, the disabled, and ILCC members, tickets are $10 and passes are $80. Following are selected films premiering through Thursday, April 7; unless otherwise noted, all films are in English and/or subtitled Spanish. For more information call 312-409-1757 or see latinoculturalcenter.org.
The Attempt Veteran filmmaker Jorge Fons, whose nonlinear storytelling has made him a groundbreaking figure in Mexican cinema, spins several narratives around the 1897 assassination attempt on President Porfirio Diaz by the anarchist Arnulfo Arroyo. Subplots transpiring after the event highlight the government's corruption and the Mexican press's self-censorship, while extended flashbacks chronicle Arroyo's radicalization. Unfortunately Fons does no more with the story than if he had told it chronologically: the film plays like a collection of scenes shuffled by an expert card dealer. Despite all the political fervor onscreen, the drama is often surprisingly quaint. Fons fetishizes the period decor with a lot of warm lighting and close-ups of fabric, making his movie feel like an animated diorama. 125 min. —Ben Sachs Wed 4/6, 8 PM, and Fri 4/8, 8:45 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.
Embargo Like a short film stretched out to feature length, this low-key fantasy contains plenty of charming ideas but offers no organizing purpose to bind them together. A working-class inventor builds a state-of-the-art device for creating digital images of feet, only to have this quixotic invention made even more irrelevant by an oil embargo that wrecks the Portuguese economy. For every cliche about absent-minded scientists (the protagonist takes apart household appliances in his spare time, his wife complains of being neglected, etc.), director Antonio Ferreira deploys some fresh idea to keep the film interesting (particularly in the sound design, bringing music in and out unexpectedly). This is a mixed bag, but I found it agreeable enough. In Portuguese with subtitles. 80 min. —Ben Sachs Sun 4/3, 7:15 PM, and Tue 4/5, 6:45 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.
The Great Vazquez This madcap biopic (2010) dramatizes the life of the influential Spanish cartoonist Manuel Vazquez Gallego. Animated interludes feature characters from his comic strips, but apart from these and a few other cutesy conceits, director Oscar Aibar focuses more on Vazquez's sidelines as a swindler and bigamist; the result is tonally and chronologically confusing but also amorally funny. With a cigarette permanently dangling from his lip, Santiago Segura plays the artist as a compulsive con man who steals from one wife to give to another, who repeatedly fakes his father's death, and who refuses to pay for furniture out of principle. The actor's rascally energy keeps the film going even when Aibar threatens to derail it with his awkward handling of the more serious issues in Vazquez's life. In Spanish with subtitles. 106 min. —Ignatiy Vishnevetsky Fri 4/1, 7 PM, Univ. of Chicago Doc Films, and Sat 4/2, 7 PM, and Mon 4/4, 8:30 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.
R The Man Next Door This Argentinian feature is compelling for the way it responds to the ideas of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier: on the one hand, directors Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat create a rich mise-en-scene around a multi-tiered Corbusier home in Buenos Aires, but on the other, the story is a biting satire of his admirers. A pompous designer living in the aforementioned home goes ballistic after his eccentric next-door neighbor starts adding a window to his own house that looks directly onto the designer's living room. This dark comedy of manners is basically built around a single joke—that the upper-class architects who promote "open space" aren't much interested in sharing that space with others—but that joke is well told and the cast bustles with charm and energy. 101 min. —Ben Sachs Sun 4/3, 5:45 PM, and Tue 4/5, 6:15 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.
No Return Miguel Cohan directed this 2010 Argentinean drama about three men linked by a hit-and-run accident. 106 min. Screening as part of the opening-night program, with a reception afterward; tickets are $75. Fri 4/1, 6 PM, River East 21.
Password This Puerto Rican scare film about digital piracy (2009) is so laughably hyperbolic that it ranks alongside such classics of the genre as Reefer Madness (1936) and Rock: It's Your Decision (1982). An office drone (producer-screenwriter Luis Freddie Vazquez) tempts fate by getting involved in the bloodthirsty world of movie bootlegging, whose perpetrators sneak camcorders into multiplexes and live like cocaine kingpins. His next door neighbor, the saintly owner of a video store, tries to nudge him back to the right path with all the subtlety of a VD brochure. Jorel Ortiz's direction matches Vazquez's writing and acting in its ineptitude; the movie, with its unadorned sets, poorly mixed music, and amateurish camera work, bears an unsettling resemblance to porn. 97 min. —Ignatiy Vishnevetsky Sat 4/2, 4 PM, and Sun 4/3, 9:15 PM, Landmark's Century Centre.
Transit Love Yet another shaky-cam feature about the romantic frustrations of educated 30-somethings. If there's anything to distinguish this one, it's a better than average score (tunefully combining flamenco and chamber pop) and a generally resourceful use of bohemian locations in Buenos Aires. Otherwise this is the usual self-regarding stuff about how the rootlessness of 21st-century life keeps bourgeois types from having steady relationships. Director Lucas Blanco tries to paper over the thin material with a number of flashy devices, such as computer-generated maps that introduce the setting of almost every scene. More than simply distracting, they make the movie feel like an advertisement without a product. 91 min. —Ben Sachs Thu 4/7, 6 PM, Univ. of Chicago Doc Films.