Sunset in the City of God | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Sunset in the City of God



This weekend the School of the Art Institute will present "Nomads and Homesteaders," a symposium on the relationship of a film to its screening habitat, which includes this program of short works selected by Brian Frye of New York's Robert Beck Memorial Cinema. True to the Beck's programming, it includes films in three different gauges, most of them elegiac studies of landscapes. In Opus 53, an undated and mysterious film by Eric Anderson, the camera is mounted at the rear of a moving vehicle, constantly receding from ordinary rural scenes. In Ur-Haus (2000), Francois Boue obsessively studies a shack in the woods, his repeated images giving it a weird presence and power. In Scenic Tour of Brownsville Slum (1968), Mike Olshan presents an unedited camera roll of blighted Brooklyn in the 1960s, the camera's eye struggling to take in the awesome devastation; there's also a 1920s travel film on Tangier. Frye alters the impact of these films by placing them alongside more consciously poetic work: in his own Lachrymae (2000) fireflies make a cemetery seem otherworldly, and Steve Polta's abstract Minnesota Landscape (2000) directs our attention to the tiniest variations of darkness. The key film is Cargo of Lure (1974) by J. Hoberman (best known as a critic for the Village Voice); a long take shot from a boat on the Harlem River, it focuses on the junkyards and decrepit buildings of the Bronx embankment, and by the end of its 12 minutes what began as an observational document has become a dirge. Also showing: films by Stanley Swantz, Luke Sieczek, Astria Suparak, James Fotopoulos, Bradley Eros, Bruce McClure, and Paul Bollaro. 75 min. School of the Art Institute, 112 S. Michigan, room 1311, Sunday, April 1, 1:00, 312-345-3588.

--Fred Camper

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