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Movies of Songs Of Love

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 22, 2005 12:50PM

“If you’re sad and like beer, I’m your lady.”

It’s easy to fall madly in love with a woman who speaks such poetry. 2005_04_22_saddestmovie.jpg And when those words fall from the lips of Isabella Rossellini, Chicagoist just melts. Of course, no woman is that simple and neither is The Saddest Music in the World, which is part of a series of free screenings over the next week at the University of Chicago by Nuveen Visiting Filmmaker Guy Maddin.

In the film, Rossellini plays a brewery owner who holds a contest to see which country has the saddest music in the world (our vote: Togo). Her theory is that sad people will drink—and buy— more beer. Anyone who’s ever been in a Chicago tap room knows this is true. While this plot (and the casting of Kids in the Hall’s Mark McKinney) might lead you to imagine this as a whimsical, if bittersweet, musical, the film plays more like a 30s screwball comedy crossed with one of David Lynch’s fever dreams. After all, when’s the last time you saw a film featuring a nymphomaniac with amnesia who also has a talking tapeworm?

Doc Films’ look at Maddin’s films begins tomorrow at 2 PM with showings of his Cowards Bend the Knee and Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary. Then on Wednesday, the director joins the Maroons for Saddest Music in the World, which screens at 7 PM with a Q&A session to follow. Finally, the director waxes rhapsodic on “Goat Glands, Carpet Underlay, and Cinema Sat Backwards” in a lecture on Thursday at 5 PM. All events take place on U of C’s campus at the Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall. They’re free but seating is limited.

Another noteworthy film about a different kind of song contest arrives on Tuesday with the Chicago premiere of the Holocaust documentary Ponar. In 1943, before the destruction of the Vilna ghetto, a young boy named Alek composes a song with a lullaby melody that masks the call to action within its words. An inspirational film that follows the now-grown boy’s return to his homeland, it’s a reflection on the solace that arts and culture can provide to a people in crisis. Followed by a discussion with the film’s director, it screens on Tuesday at 6 PM in the Harold Washington Library's Cindy Pritzker Auditorium.