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Weekend Viewing: Bike-In Theater at the Hideout

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 19, 2011 6:40PM

2011_08_branduponthebrain.jpg There's nothing quite like treating yourself to a drive-in movie. Beyond the nostalgia trip back to the 1950s, when well over a hundred drive-ins dotted the Illinois prairiescape (now fewer than a dozen remain), there's a relaxed, festive atmosphere can no better be approximated in a theater than the night sky above. If like us you usually thwarted by the two main obstacles for the urban type, a lack of a car and/or lack of resolve for a trip out to the suburbs, the Hideout may be just the place for you on Sunday night when the Chicago Short Film Brigade and Logan Square International Film Series present the Bike-In Movie Theater.

Pedal over by 8 p.m. to get a good spot for a free screening of Guy Maddin's wonderful, strange Brand Upon the Brain. The sound for the movie will be broadcast over low-frequency FM, and while a few radios will be broadcasting from the patio, attendees are encouraged to bring their own devices to tune in. The organizers indicate that they'll be using multiple frequencies to allow listeners to choose among different celebrity narrators, with options ranging from Laurie Anderson to Eli Wallach. We're not exactly sure how that is going to compare to the typically echoed soundtrack encountered at the drive-in, but it should be interesting. And of course, the Hideout should be a more than adequate concession stand for thirsty cinephiles looking to wash down any dissonance.

Describing a Guy Maddin film is a bit like describing a dream, never conveying the magic of the original experience. Brand Upon the Brain is no exception. Yes, a housepainter named Guy Maddin (played by Erik Steffen Maahs) returns to his childhood home to repaint a lighthouse/orphanage at the request of his dying mother, and mysteries are uncovered by a transvestite teenage sleuth, but the particulars of the unpredictable, surreal contours of the plot work better on the screen than in a capsule description. Maddin's high-contrast 8mm imagery seems to come directly out of his cranium, refracted through a kaleidoscope of film history with special attention to silent melodrama, and this is one of his better efforts.

The notion of a bike-in movie theater impressed us when a Chicago classic was exhibited that way in New York earlier this year, and its local incarnation looks to be even more intriguing. Brand was initially conceived as a theatrical event, with the Chicago premiere narrated live by Crispin Glover, Jason Staczek's incredible score performed live with the vocal stylings of a castrato, and live sound effects created by foley artists. We're happy to see The Hideout making its exhibition into an event once again.

The Bike-In Movie Theater is scheudled for 8pm at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave.