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Lithuanian Cinema: Traditions and Transitions

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Presented by Facets Cinematheque, Lithuanian American TV, and the Lithuanian Consulate General in Chicago, this series of Lithuanian films runs Friday through Thursday, May 20 through 26, at Facets Cinematheque. Unless otherwise noted, all films are in Lithuanian with subtitles; for more information call 773-281-4114.

Vytautas V. Landsbergis will be in attendance for An Evening About Jonas Mekas, which includes his video documentaries Anthology of Jonas Mekas (65 min.) and New York Is My Dog (30 min.). "It's easy for some Americans to forget that experimental filmmaker and film proselytizer Jonas Mekas was once a Lithuanian peasant," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum. "And most of the charm and interest of these ramshackle portraits, both culled from the same 2004 shoot, is the spectacle of him speaking, drinking, pontificating, and cavorting like one in his familiar New York surroundings. (As Mekas explains, he views his Lower East Side neighborhood like a village.) There's a grab bag of clips from his diary films, in which he speaks English, but these fragments don't work very well outside their original contexts." (Wed 5/25, 7 PM)

Reece Pendleton calls Utterly Alone (2004, 90 min.) "an earnest but muddled account of the popular resistance movement against the Soviets' post-World War II occupation of Lithuania. The flimsy story centers on one of the movement's true heroes, Juozas Luksa (played by Saulius Balandis), beginning with his decision to join the resistance and concluding with his 1951 death in an ambush planned by the KGB. Director Jonas Vaitkus seems to have had a substantial budget, but in his eagerness to catalog the atrocities inflicted on the Lithuanian people he dispenses with any real plot or character development until the last half hour, opting instead for endless sequences of Soviet soldiers and local collaborators harassing and torturing peasants." (Sat 5/21, 7 PM; Thu 5/26, 9 PM)

None of the remaining programs was available for preview. Arunas Zhebriunas directed The Devil's Bride (Fri 5/20, 7 PM), a 1973 musical about "the eternal struggle between good and evil," and The Beauty (Sun 5/22, 3 PM; Mon 5/23, 6:30 PM), a 1969 drama in which a vain girl is cut down to size by a new boy in the neighborhood. In Kristijonas Vildziunas's 2002 drama The Lease (Fri 5/20, 9 PM; Sun 5/22, 7 PM), a middle-aged woman tries to cope with post-Soviet society. Algimantas Puipa directed the 1983 drama A Woman and Her Four Men (Sat 5/21, 5 PM; Tue 5/24, 7 PM), in which a fisherman and his two sons learn that a third son has drowned at sea. Three Days (Sun 5/22, 5 PM; Wed 5/25, 9:15 PM), the 1991 debut feature of Sharunas Bartas, is about two young people united by "loneliness and a search for the past." Directed by Vytautas V. Landsbergis, the 2001 video documentary Vilius Orvidas (Thu 5/26, 7 PM) profiles the title sculptor, who carved religious works out of stone and wood. And in Vytautas Zhalakevicius's 1963 drama The Chronicle of One Day (Tue 5/24, 9 PM), an academic sets off for Leningrad, where an old friend is to be buried. Completing the series are two shorts programs, one of documentaries (Mon 5/23, 7:45 PM) and another of works by young filmmakers (Sat 5/21, 9 PM).

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