For 50 years (the oldest competitive film festival in the United States) one man has reigned, commanded with prescience, inimitable courage and foresight at the helm; channeling its vision universally, fifty-two countries displayed their features in this year’s festival; fearlessly, a parameter-destroyer, a man whose indefatigable initiative has never waned, gifting viewers a perpetual avalanche of entertainment. Michael Kutza is film’s “man for all seasons” and Chicago is his dynamic domicile.
Exhausting, exhilarating; this was the finest fest in recent memory; seeing close to forty films, none received a rating less then a “3” (out of a “5” point system). Gluttonously, with amazing alacrity, I bounced, eventually crawled from one fabulous visual, erotic, historical experience to another. Pressed to pick the “best of fest”; (see previous “ruminations” for other choices) here’s a selection of those that resonated and like concrete, eternally entrenched in my memory:
“THE PRESIDENT” (Georgia, UK, France, Germany). One of the finest films I have ever seen; on so many levels its brilliance is unmatched: acting, directing, cinematography; the story of an overthrown dictator and his grandson, desperately blending into the terrain of those subjected to his tyrannical, torturous dictatorship; never losing his dignity while supremely, creatively trying to save his grandson; the President gains wisdom and humility. Fervently pray, this marvel of masterful filmmaking is distributed worldwide.
“IN SILENCE” (Czech Republic, Slovakia) Docudrama based on artistically- gifted Czechoslovakian musicians, singers, ballet dancers alienated, persecuted by the Nazis; a Holocaust film infused with lyricism, poetry, liquidity; a dance scene in the nadir of a young girl’s incarceration, the beauty of her spirit transcends the blight, incomprehensible hell of the concentration camp. A wonder of imaginative filmmaking lionizing those who died and survived.
“MR. KAPLAN” (Uruguay, Spain, Germany). Mr. Kaplan is an incredible, irascible Holocaust survivor, living with his family in Uruguay; at seventy-six, in the final chapter of his life, discovers a German trolling the sandy shores of Uruguay, suspects him of being a Nazi fugitive and the terrific, poignant, hilarious quest commences; “Mr. Kaplan” celebrates life, thriving at any stage.
“IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE” (Norway). Scintillating, titillating thriller of the highest caliber: vigilante justice reminiscent of Charles Bronson, Sylvester Stallone films; meted by actor Stellan Skarsgard as a snowplow driver avenging the death of his son; cunning, conniving, crushingly credible.
“THE 100 YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED” (Sweden). Gloriously satisfying. Circuitous, serendipitous romp of an archival bon vivant and those he collects on his uproarious journey; affirmation that life can be exciting, viable at the century mark.
I have seen the world in fourteen days; multitudes of gratitude graced upon the Chicago International Film Festival for a flight worthy of the hours in transit.