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Chicago International Film Festival Releases Schedule

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 21, 2011 3:20PM

2011_9_21chifilmfest.jpg The 47th Chicago International Film Festival runs October 6-20, with more than 180 movies scheduled. Once again all screenings will take place at the AMC River East 21, a facility that's noticeably lacking in character but certainly possesses a certain convenience--there won't be any Lollapalooza-style dashing from venue to venue.

The lineup (available in a very handy PDF) kicks off with The Last Rites of Joe May, a drama set in West Town starring Dennis Farina. It's heartening to see a locally produced movie chosen for Opening Night rather than something banal from Hollywood (remember Elizabethtown?)

There are plenty of other movies with local ties. Brian Jun, whom we interviewed about Steel City a few years ago, is back with Joint Body, a noirish character study with a moody soundtrack. Speaking of moody soundtracks, Xan Aranda's documentary Andrew Bird: Fever Year follows the wunderkind during the last leg of a recent tour. Columbia College alum Braden King (the exquisite Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back) directs Here, shot in Armenia and starring Ben Foster. Chicagoan Prashant Bhargava’s first feature film Patang is in the lineup too, and there's a program of shorts from Illinois filmmakers. Seeing cult fave Cooley High receive a special presentation is certainly a delightful surprise.

Alas, the festival's strongest selections this year once again seem to be a number of films that will be getting a wide release in the coming months anyway. Now, there's nothing wrong with being able to say, "I saw it first!" (although, is anyone that anxious to see new 3-D version of The Three Musketeers?) But we would have liked to see some of truly can't-miss films that other festival audiences have seen; Nicholas Ray's We Can't Go Home Again, for example, or Shame, the followup to Hunger from Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender. Or any of the big winners at this year's Venice Film Festival.

But let's not grumble too much. At the top of our list of films to catch is We Need to Talk About Kevin, featuring Tilda Swinton as a suburban mom who must deal with the aftermath of her teenaged son's shooting rampage. The buzz has been red hot, with Xan Brooks declaring the film "extraordinary — a maternal nightmare fired by a narrative that's not so much fractured as liquid; blending and folding its time-frame to mesmeric effect." It also stars John C. Reilly, who will be on hand another evening during the festival for an onstage conversation. Other evenings feature appearances by Haskell Wexler, Joe Swanberg, and Braden King.

The festival's centerpiece is My Week with Marilyn, a drama starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh (!) as Laurence Olivier. Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse, Werner Herzog's capital punishment documentary Into the Abyss, the Dardenne Brothers' The Kid with the Bike, and of course David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method all look great too. Nick Davis has put together a solid summary of highlights that's worth bookmarking.

Festival passes are currently available and individual tickets go on sale tomorrow. The most popular screenings usually sell out quick, so don't delay.